Yearning for a real Roman pizza bianca

Yet another attempt at good-tasting pizza bianca alla romana, with mixed results.  I followed Dan Leader’s recipe, which calls for 1 3/4 cups water, 1 tsp instant yeast, 3 1/4 cups high-gluten bread flour, and 1 1/2 tsp sea salt.

p1300067Combine all in a stand mixer bowl; mix on low using a dough hook until combined.  Then turn the mixer to 8 (yes, I said speed 8) and mix for 15-17 minutes.  Don’t leave it unattended; the mixer will bounce around.  The dough is soupy at first, but as the gluten develops, it takes on a satiny, glossy luster.

p1300069After 15 minutes, stop the mixer and pinch a bit off–it should stretch readily without tearning and make a very thin, broad windowpane.  At this point, it won’t look like a typical bread dough–it is almost liquid, with the consistency of rubbery batter.

p1300076Scrape the dough into a large container; allow it to rise for 3-4 hours, until it has quadrupled in size.  It will be very puffy and full of air holes, but still as sticky and wet as before.  You can’t use the finger-poke test to see if it is fully risen, as it will just stick to your finger.

p1300078Scrape it out of the rising container onto a floured counter and divide into two.  Rest for 10 minutes, then plop one dough blob onto a floured baker’s peel.  Stretch the dough from the center toward opposite ends, then dimple the upper side deeply, using your floured knuckles to press out the dough as you make indentions.

p1300079For pizza bianca, top with a generous drizzling of good olive oil; for pizza rossa, spread the dimpled dough with a puree of whole peeled tomatoes.  Preheat the oven &  a baking stone to 500 degrees; slide the shaped, topped bread onto the hot stone and bake for 15-20 minutes.

p1300082Verdict:  I’m still not quite there yet.  The baked pizza bianca puffed up tremendously, ruining the crust-to-crumb ratio that defines good P.B.  The rossa was a little more successful, as the tomato puree weighs down the bread, preventing much oven spring.  Tastewise, the crust was crisp & shattering, but I thought both breads were a little too chewy to pass for the real Roman deal.  Next time, I’ll try all-purpose flour.  Variation three will use King Arthur’s italian 00 flour clone.

10 thoughts on “Yearning for a real Roman pizza bianca

  1. It looks good though! I always make a no rise pizza dough for my pizza (except for last night since I wasn’t feeling good we ordered pizza 😀 ). It’s done in the food processor and literally is ready to go in 5 minutes.

    If you go to my blog, scroll down on the right side of recipes and look for “no rise pizza dough.”

    It took me years to get it right – simple is best!

  2. Ah, but pizza bianca & rossa alla romana have absolutely nothing to do with American pizza, especially a no-rise pizza. It’s not about toppings, it’s about a precise & perfect ratio of crust to crumb, snappingly crisp, chewy, fragrant, and topped with delicious olive oil & salt. Whether from the antico forno on the Campo di Fiore, or Roscioli, or the antico forno in the old Ghetto, or Panella on the via Merulana….this stuff is on every other corner in Rome, and nothing in the US even comes close.

  3. Celeste,

    Any luck with using the other variations you mentioned in the last line of your first blog .

    “Next time, I’ll try all-purpose flour. Variation three will use King Arthur’s italian 00 flour clone.”

    I built a wood fired brick oven , and have been trying to find a decent recipe for Pizza Bianca alla Romana. I actually had a co -worker just bring me a few pieces from Antico Forno this week. Three years ago , when visiting my family just outside of Rome, we ate this all the time. The highlight was when they would fold slices of thinly sliced Mortadella between the warm piece of Pizza Bianca.


    • Welcome, fellow PB fan! I’m drooling on my keyboard, thinking of warm PB stuffed w/mortadella. The KA version of 00 bakes very much like AP flour, and those versions lack the appropriate chew. Best results were from the bread flour.

      Check out this post on Jim Lahey’s PB recipe from his “My Bread” cookbook. I think it’s the closest one yet. Also, his pizza crust recipe, baked on a pan topped w/pureed tomatoes, makes a damn near perfect pizza rossa. (see a picture of it here)

      Would love to know more about your brick oven…I have a pile of scavenged fire bricks and the vague idea of an oven, as well as a bunch of plans.

  4. Celeste,

    A few photos are on this website – I am the first photo , 4th row down. Click on the photo and scroll down for a few more photos once you are there. If you would like to see photos start to finish, every step of the way, I can send you a invite to view these on Walgreens.coms photo area, but I will need your e-mail address to invite you to the private link.

    • That is a DAMN FINE oven. Email is
      I keep weighing the pros & cons of a handbuilt oven with the alternative of a Forno Bravo oven….their Primavera 28″ oven looks good & is (relatively) portable.
      I’m concerned about south LA’s wet-wet-wet weather & how it might affect a permanently installed oven. I’d definitely need a roof, like yours.

  5. Just sent you the link – Let me know if you do not get it. I got a message the first try that the e-mail was not correct.

    In response to your last posting – I love my oven. It took me 2 summers but I worked on it in stages and some weekends part of 1 day , 2 days or not at all . I never put more than 5 hours on any one day. As I said I took my time. The goal for the first summer was to have the bottom half done before winter here and the 2nd summer was the oven and the top. I did have friends help in many ways……making frames, manufacturing my metal/wood door ( which I don’t think is shown in these pics ), cutting the bricks at the correct angle that the dome rests one. The most expensive costs in this climate ( Chicago area ) was the slab since I had to have solid footings 42 inches down. The concrete was expensive. But that , plus everything else equalled about $6000 total. You wouldn’t have that expense, in California, since you don’t have to go that deep since you don’t freeze below the first foot of ground..

    • I’m in southern Louisiana, not southern Cali. In the swamp I call home, 42″ footings would be swallowed whole by the muck we call soil. Houses don’t have foundations that deep around here!

      $6K in materials? The Primavera runs around $3200, delivered to my door. That’s looking like a bargain right now.

  6. No – $6 K for everything, Renting a backhaul to dig, concrete for the slab, all materials including tools I didn’t have but needed. I did have a retired bricklayer do the outside brick with me helping. I did 3/4 of the job, including the domed oven itself. So I did pay him also. Yes , if you are looking to do pizzas and breads, a pre done oven will do the job, but if you want to roast and cook the next day and want the firebrick used to hold the heat into the next day. This is the way to go.

    Thanks for your help in answering the questions on the pizza bianca


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