Pissaladiere is a sort of pizza's distant cousin, originated in Province, Southern France, said to have been brought to the region by Romans. Not sure if the Romans had a pizzaria back home in those days :p, but it was probably their flat hearth breads Romans used to make that gave the inspirations to the locals.....though I have read one or two articles by patriatic French who claimed it's their pissaladiere that gave the inspiration to the Romans for making pizza. :D
Anyway.... It is more bready than pizza and is topped with thinly sliced and fried onions (lots of it!!), anchovy and black olives. That’s it. Not much variation, really, but salty anchovy and black olives are wonderful contrast to meltingly sweet, caramelized onions. One of those dishes made of simple ingredients with not much room for improvement because it's so good already.
I love this so much and have been making this well over 20 years, in spite of my husband’s dislike of anchovy. A cook's perk = get to make whatver I want! :p And I've always made it in the classical way.
But when I went to Lighthouse Bakery School the pissaladiere we had for lunch was the one with a few twists…and very nice ones at it, too. Some tomatoes were cooked with the onion topping, which is a bit unusual for pissaladiere (though I wouldn’t say ‘never’), and also added capers along with more classic black olives. I was a bit dubious about them first, but it turned out to be one of the best pissaladieres I’d ever had. They used cold-retarded overnight-dough and their professional deck oven could reach the temperature my humble domestic oven couldn’t, so those are the helping factors, too, but the new (to me, anyway) combination of the toppings were rather good as well.
So last night I made it myself. Forgot to ask the formula for the dough at Lighthouse, so I improvised with my regular sourdough focaccia dough instead, with a few modifications. Also I was out of black olives, so I used small Turkish olives with beautiful tint of orange and subtle lemony aroma I’ve been in love recently instead.
Sourdough Pissaladiere, Inspired by Lighthouse Bakery
Starter (70% hydration) 70g
Strong flour 100g
T65 flour 100g (or 95g Plain flour + 5g WW)
(or alternatively, 195g AP + 5g WW)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 tbls
Water 140g (70%)
500g thinly sliced onions
1-2 cloves crushed and chopped garlic
Herbs (thyme, rosemary, bay leaf)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbls tomato puree (optional)
Anchovy, small olives, salted/brined capers (capers optional)
- Mix all the ingredients for the dough and autolyse for 30 minutes.
- S & F 3 times in the bowl every 40 minutes or so until medium gluten development.
- Put in the fridge and cold retard for overnight – 24 hrs.
- Take it out of the fridge and leave for 30 minutes -1 hr at room temperature.
- Letter-fold the dough to give extra-strength. (you need it, so that the dough can support the weight of toppings). Rest for 1 hr.
- Give another letter-fold. Rest until fully proofed.
- Spread the dough into 20-21cm X 30-31cm rectangular on a well oiled baking parchment. Make sure the edges are slightly thicker than the rest.
- Spread the onion toppings (See below for the recipe) evenly on top, leaving about 2 cm edges along the sides.
- Cover and leave for 1-2 hours until dough increase the volume and the edges get puffed up a little.
- Pre-heat the oven at the highest temperature with a baking stone set at the middle rack. (If you have two baking stones, set another one on the top shelf. The radiant heat it produces will give a wonderful result)
- When the dough is ready, and lay the anchovies in cross-cross pattern. Scatter olives and capers on top.
(Note on the toppings : Stone the olives if you’re feeling kind enough, especially if you're making this even though your husband hates anchovy. :p
Soak capers in water for a while to remove salt, if you like.
And if your anchovy fillets are quite large, you can cut them into two lengthways, so that the pissaladiere won’t get too salty. But believe me, you’ll need more anchovy than you’d think. Many recipes suggest to use a whole tin of anchovy for this amount of dough! )
(The time for a confession : I caramelized the onions too much!!! It should be lighter colour, just like this, before you add tomato puree)
12. Lower the temperature to 200C and slide the dough on to the hot baking stone. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the dough is browned and the edges of the onions are catching here and there in the heat.
13. Serve hot, warm or cold. Choice is yours!
It's lovely as a part of a meal with nice salad and soup, etc. But it also makes great canape if cut into small pieces, too. If you're serving this for a big dinner party, you can make this several hours in advance, cut them when it's cooled, and reheat it gently in the oven just before serving.
To Make The Onion Topping
- Warm the olive oil in a thick saucepan large enough to take all the onions. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and a little salt and pepper.
- Stir for a few minutes until the onions start to soften and become slightly translucent. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, lower the flame and cook gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring 2-3 times to prevent the onions from sticking and burning.
- When the onions are meltingly tender, add the tomato puree and sprinkle in the sugar. Increase the heat to caramelize the onions and boil down the liquid, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning.
- Take it off the heat, fish out the herbs and adjust the seasoning. Do not over-salt. (Think of all the salt in anchovy, olives and capers!)
Verdict : In spite of slightly over-caramelized onions, it turned out to be a really yummy pissaladiere. There many versions of pissaladiere dough, but generally it's something between pizza and focaccia in thickness and how bready it is. For this one the use of T65 in stead of my regular plain flour, resulted in less bready and thinner crumb than I'd liked because T65 I have is weaker than my usual plain flour. It needs stronger gluten than dough for pizza because it has to support the weight of onions and other toppings. You can adjust the ratio of strong/plain flour, depending upon the strength of the flours you're using and to achieve the level of breadyness you'd like, probably up to 3 : 1 = Strong : plain.