There are many different kinds of flatbreads across the globe, here's how they make them in France
French pissaladière is a focaccia-pizza hybrid that has been enchanting foodies in Provence for years.
Forget the cronut: The pissaladière is a focaccia-pizza hybrid that has been enchanting foodies in Provence for years (and you won’t find around-the-block lines to taste one). Thicker than classical Italian pizza, this flatbread is almost always topped with rustic, caramelized onions (and sometimes olives, garlic and anchovies are tossed on for good measure).
The toppings for this French dish are traditionally caramelized onions, anchovies, and black niçoise olives. Sometimes a little grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese brings all the rich flavors together.
But it's the incredible crust that's really the distinguishing feature of a pissaladière. Unlike the crunchy, bread-like crust on Italian pizzas, this is closer to a tart crust. A generous amount of butter gets worked into the dough, which may or may not include yeast for leavening. It’s usually thicker and chewier than a pie crust - a cross between puff pastry and Chicago deep-dish pizza, if you can imagine that!
If you’ve never had pissaladière before, it’s a dish that’s definitely worth trying. It makes a fantastic light dinner on its own, especially with a tossed salad along side. We also like cutting it into small squares and serving it as an appetizer.
Want to know more about how flatbread is made in other countries? Click here to see 11 Incredible Flatbreads From Around the World
Most Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Focaccia Bread
And, if you encounter a spot-on bread basket and if said place happens to be Italian, you consider it your duty as a food lover to taste the focaccia.
Understandable seeing as focaccia (pronounced "foe-kah-cha") is among the most popular of all Italian breads. When you travel to Italy you’ll see focaccia eaten all day long -- be it dunked in cappuccino as they do in Genoa, taken to the beach as an afternoon snack, or used to make sandwiches.
While most food lovers are familiar with the thinner Tuscan style focaccia made with rosemary (known as schiacciata or “smashed” bread) or the airier Genoa-style Focaccia, there are numerous styles of focaccia from the various regions of Italy.
To help you keep it all straight, we're giving you pretty much everything you need to know about focaccia bread including its origin, the most common styles, and tips to help you bake the most perfect batch.
Where Does Focaccia Come From?
If you were to take a time machine to the United States circa the mid 1990s, you’d see focaccia on seemingly every restaurant table. We’re not sure why or how but focaccia came into the collective American culinary consciousness around that time.
The truth is focaccia has a history dating back almost 2,000 years. Some accounts credit the Etruscans while others give a nod to the Greeks for focaccia's creation. These days Liguria (the region that’s home to Genoa) is considered the epicenter for traditional Italian focaccia.
The Difference Between Focaccia And Pizza
When it comes to distinguishing focaccia from pizza, we like how Eileen Weinberg described it to the New York Times, “focaccia connotes bread with a little topping and pizza connotes topping with a little bread.”
As a general rule of thumb, a classic Italian-style pizza crust will be less than half an inch thick while most focaccia will be at least three quarters of an inch thick. Also, focaccia is most commonly served at room temperature -- though you can also eat focaccia bread cold or toasted.
Another difference between the two is the ingredients. If you're curious as to what is focaccia bread made of, well, the answer is it's usually a combination of a strong flour (meaning a high gluten flour like bread flour), extra virgin olive oil, yeast, herbs, spices, salt, and pepper. Though those ingredients are similar to pizza, focaccia usually contains more leavening (yeast) than your typical pizza recipe.
Tips For Making Great Focaccia Bread
True, making focaccia is a great way to try your hand at baking, but that doesn't mean your first attempt will be a guaranteed success. Some struggle getting the bread to rise, some end up with a super dense bread, and others bake a focaccia that tastes overly yeasted.
The reality is a few key details make all the difference between medicre and great focaccia. First make sure you use quality ingredients: organic flour, extra virgin olive oil, a great sea salt, and yeast (note: if you don’t have yeast, you can make the unleavened focaccia di Recco).
Next, you'll want to create a moist dough with ideally a minimum of 70% hydration (standard in all the Salt & Wind Travel focaccia recipes).
You'll also want to be uber patient and let it rest a long time so the flavor can develop -- as in let the dough rest anywhere from 8 hours and up to 48 hours after the initial kneading. This crucial step will allow for adequate fermentation, which in turn will guarantee superior (non-yeasty) flavor.
Another crucial step is to be verrrry generous with the olive oil. Pretty much every step involves some olive oil: it should be in the dough, used to grease the baking sheet, and brushed on the bread before it goes in the oven, and when it comes out!
For our classic Genoa-style focaccia, we swear by the traditional step of adding a salamoia or a brine to the dough before it is placed in the oven.
This brine -- made by whisking together 1 part water to 2 parts olive oil and a large pinch of sea salt -- gives the final focaccia an airy, golden crust and helps the salt really incorporate into the dough well. Oh, and as soon as the focaccia comes out of the oven do one final brush of olive oil to seal in the taste!
Different Styles Of Focaccia In Italy
As you travel through Italy you’ll find focaccia breads that vary greatly with different thickness, toppings, and texture.
Liguria is the birthplace of traditional focaccia bread, where it is known as focaccia Ligure or focaccia Genovese, this one is a simple yet classic one, sprinkled with salt and brushed with olive oil, soft and about 1 inch thick.
But Liguria is also the home of focaccia di Recco, which has cheese in between two thin layers of bread. If you head to the town of Sanremo near the French border, you’ll come across a focaccia topped with anchovies or sardines known as sardenaira or pizzalandrea -- reminiscent of the French flatbread known as pissaladière.
During Easter celebrations, the Venetians made a sweet take on focaccia that is topped with sugar and butter instead of salt and olive oil. While in the Southern Italian town of Bari, you’ll find focaccia Barese, made with durum wheat flour and topped with rosemary, tomatoes , and/or olives and salt.
Lastly, there is the rather well-known Tuscan focaccia known as schiacciata. This focaccia bread is fully covered in olive oil, usually thinner than the Genoa-style focaccia, often topped with rosemary, and tends to have a soft interior yet be crispy on the outside. During the harvest months it’s common to make schiacciata all’uva where the bread is sweetened and stuffed with wine grapes.
And there you have it: all the essential info so you can enjoy focaccia with abandon (and a bit of food knowledge) next time you encounter it. Now we want to know: where is the best place you’ve eaten focaccia?
If you make your own focaccia, share your creation with us by tagging @saltandwind and #swsociety on social! Oh, and, of course, if you’re planning to travel to Italy, reach out so we can help you arrange it all!
This flaky French bread comes from Nice, south of France. The dough is rolled thin, then topped with cooked onions, tomato, black olives, and anchovies. This super savory, pizza-style dish gets its name from pissalat, an anchovy paste popular in the region. It’s generally served as a snack or appetiser alongside wine.
I can’t leave out the bread from my country right? This flatbread can be made with whole wheat or white flour, and is generally like a pocket so it can be served up sandwich-style. Pita is often served as part of the mezze at the start of a meal. Stuff it with hummus and falafel, or maybe some bbq pork and you have your lunch ready! You can also cut it into wedges, bake it, and serve it as a crunchy homemade chip, too.
The gateau des Rois (‘cake of kings’) is commonly eaten in many Christian countries to celebrate the end of the Christmas season or Epiphany. It is normally made out of puff pastry and frangipane, but in Provence it is made from brioche and candied fruit. Every year after the 12th day of Christmas and before Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday), friends and families in Provence have a gateau des Rois for dessert. A plastic figurine of the baby Jesus is hidden inside and whoever finds it inside their piece of cake is named king or queen for the evening. These days, beans are sometimes used instead, offering good luck to whomever finds them.
7 medium yellow onions (about 3 pounds)
25 anchovies fillets packed in olive oil (about 1 small jar)
Half a cup of pitted niçoise olives
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
French onion tart
Many of the most traditional recipes from the South of France are quite simple and made with inexpensive, easy to find ingredients. At a time when food was homegrown or locally cultivated, the best ingredients were those that were already to hand.
This French onion tart is no exception. This is not the creamy, buttery onion tart from the East of France Alsace area. This tart is known as a “pissaladière” and is all about onions caramelised in olive oil, their flavour heightened by a few marinated anchovy fillets and some Mediterranean black olives.
This French onion tart is a firm favourite here. Easy and quick to prepare, it makes a great snack or appetiser and is the perfect compliment to a glass of rosé wine as an apéritif before dinner.
Ingredients & How To Make
To make this onion tart for four to six people, you will need a pastry or dough base. I generally use a pizza dough, but this recipe goes equally well with a flaky or short crust pastry. The important thing is to remember and be generous with the olive oil.
Peel and slice finely 1.5 kg (or 3 lbs) of white onions. This is the longest and most tedious step of this dish (if you have the secret for slicing lots of onions without having tears streaming down your face, then I’d like to hear it!),
Drop the sliced onions into a large pan with several generous slugs of olive oil, and cook gently until they have caramelised. While they are cooking, you can add a few anchovy filets, which will quickly melt into the onions.
While the onions are cooking, prepare the pastry or dough base. I roll mine out and lay it onto a sheet of wax paper with a little olive oil, simply because it is so much easier to remove the finished tart from the baking dish to serve.
Spread the onions evenly over the base, and add a few anchovy filets and delicious olives. A drop more olive oil on the top, and it all goes in to the oven.
Cook for about 25 minutes and serve warm.
The easiest and most delicious French onion tart you could find. You can thank me later.
Food Favourites and Recipes from Provence to Eat
The following guest article by French Waterways, Foodie Treats to Eat in Provence,” is republished below with permission. We have added links to recipes for these Provencal favourites.
If you are looking for cruising inspiration and information, french-waterways.com is the world’s most comprehensive and best-loved source of inspiration and information about enjoying the rivers and canals of France – on the water or by the water.
Provence Food Favourites
If you’re looking for flavour, freshness and traditional cooking, you won’t be short of foodie treats to eat in Provence. This region in the south of France offers the very best of Mediterranean cooking, bringing a feast of colour, taste and healthy eating to every single dish. The local cuisine might not be as elaborate as other regions of France, but as the Telegraph Provence Food Guide says, “for the heights of pleasure and health: the combination is unbeatable.”
Delicious Bites in Provence
Provence does authentic flavour, perhaps better than anywhere in France. The region’s fields and orchards come laden with fruit, vegetables and olives while the Mediterranean offers one big larder of fish and seafood. Then herbs (herbes de Provence) from the countryside – think thyme, rosemary, marjoram and oregano – add the characteristic Provençal scent and taste.
And of course, all washed down with Provençal wines or the anise-flavoured pastis. As the Telegraph says, cuisine in this part of France is all about the “quotidian sensuality of Provençal life.”
Provencal Snacks and Nibbles
For the first dishes on our list of delicious things to eat in Provence, we’ve included starters, snacks and finger foods. You’ll find many of these at local markets and food trucks in the region. All perfect for a picnic or food-on-the-go, but don’t forget that glass of good Provençal rosé too.
Goat Cheese from Banon. Provence doesn’t do cow’s milk cheeses, but when it comes to goat’s milk, the region creates some of the best fromages in France. Banon, an AOC cheese from the town of the same name, is creamy and delicately flavoured after maturing wrapped in chestnut tree leaves and bound with raffia. Discover this beautiful village.
Beignets de fleurs de courgettes. You know summer has truly arrived in Provence when market stalls are laden with courgette flowers. Eat them delicately deep-fried in batter or farci (stuffed with goat’s cheese and mint, and baked). Either way, you’re guaranteed a feast of flavour.
Fougasse is the Provencal take on flatbread, but in usual local style, this snack isn’t just about the bread. Expect (obviously) a good sprinkling of cheese, olives and anchovies in every bite.
Pan Bagnat. This circular roll of wheat bread comes crammed with ingredients from the salade niçoise (see below). Definitely the ultimate sandwich if you’re hungry, but not one for the dainty eater. This delicious sandwich is a specialty from Nice, and it’s perfect for a picnic or a day at the beach.
Pissaladière looks similar to pizza, but the base is thicker (more like a focaccia dough) and comes spread with a generous bed of caramelized onions. Black olives sit on top next to the anchovies in true Provençal style. Some recipes also include anchovy paste spread directly on the base.
Socca is Nicoise street food par excellence, this wafer-thin pancake is made with chickpea flour and olive oil, and well-browned before served as scrapings. Best eaten with lashings of black pepper on the top.
Soupe au pistou is the local answer to a minestrone. This hearty soup includes beans, vegetables and a sprinkling of pasta. Just before you eat it, add a generous dash of garlic, basil and olive oil paste (similar to the Italian pesto).
Tapenade made with a paste of olives and capers is a quintessential recipe from Provence, served like pâté – as a dip or spread on bread. Variations include black or green olives, tuna, almonds, sun-dried tomatoes and (of course) anchovies.
Mains and Sides from Provence
Not complicated, many traditional Provencal recipes require time to allow for slow cooking (braising, roasting, simmering), and a few seasonal ingredients. Expect to find these dishes on the menu at the finest restaurants in the region. Or on the table of every discerning Provençal family.
It might be confusing, but aïoli is both a sauce and a dish. The mayonnaise-type sauce needs no introduction, but the Provençal version has no eggs, just garlic and olive oil. Expect to find it as an accompaniment to most seafood and fish dishes. Traditionally eaten on Fridays, Aïoli provençal complet or le grand aïoli is a full dish. The typical ingredients include fresh fish (often cabillaud – fresh cod) or salt cod (morue), green beans, potatoes and carrots. However, there are probably as many variations as there are chefs in the region.
Bouillabaisse is one of the signature dishes of the region, with its roots at the fishing docks in Marseille. It’s in this city where you can (and should) try the best bouillabaisse in France. Sticklers (and those restaurants that are part of the Bouillabaisse Charter) claim you can’t make it without scorpionfish, which gives the stew its reddish hue. However, in practice, any small fish and seafood works well especially if it’s fished from the rock pools near the local calanques (cliffs). Potatoes, onion, fennel, saffron and pastis join the fish and simmer for several hours. You eat it with croutons and rouille – a traditional sister to aioli made from garlic, breadcrumbs and olive oil.
For variations on the classic bouillabaisse, try a terrine created by Michelin 3-star chef Gérald Passédat, a mushroom version by Yvan Gilardi, or Marseille fish soup by Pistou and Pastis.
Provence’s answer to Beef Bourguignon is a daube is perfect comfort food for the winter months. Daubes are slow-cooked stews of beef or sometimes lamb braised in wine and vegetables. Served with polenta, gnocchi, or crusty baguette. In Nice, they stuff pasta with the beef to make raviolis à la daube. For the best results, cook your daube in an earthenware dish – a daubiere.
A traditional recipe from Nice, les Petit farcis appear on menus throughout Provence. The dish is meat-stuffed vegetables, which might include onions, aubergines, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, or tomatoes. Any of these vegetables make delicious containers for the herby mixture of pork and rice.
Ratatouille is one of the best things to eat in Provence this vegetable stew contains the freshest ingredients from the Provencal kitchen garden. Aubergines, courgettes, onions, peppers and tomatoes simmer together with garlic and that delightful bouquet of herbs. Add a hunk of fougasse or slice of pissaladière and lunch is served!
Salade niçoise is a large salad, and the perfect dish for a hot summer’s day, this signature dish from Nice combines cooked and raw vegetables to perfection. Green beans sit next to tomatoes, olives, anchovies and tuna with a generous dash of garlic dressing. The jury’s out on whether you add potatoes and lettuce.
Tian provençal is a typical dish that takes the same ingredients as ratatouille but presents them differently. Vegetable slices are layered and then baked in an earthenware dish. The tian version shown above comes from Petra Carter at Le Pistou Cookery School in Uzès.
The Sweet Stuff
After all these delicious savoury things to eat in Provence, it’s time for dessert. The region offers plenty of options – expect a guaranteed sugar high. And almonds from local groves take centre stage in many of them.
Calissons are a special candy (with a long history) made in, or near, Aix-en-Provence. Ground into paste almonds are mixed with candied melon and orange peel. The paste is spread on host paper and covered in royal icing. Read about Roi René, a company that has manufactured this sweet treat for 100 years.
Nougat is another very sweet dessert, Provence-style nougat includes sugar, honey, almonds and egg whites. Nougat remains a traditional Christmas sweet, symbolizing good and evil. The two kinds of nougat (black and white) are amongst the 13 Desserts served after dinner on December 24th. Made with local almonds and honey, but without eggs, the black nougat (nougatine) is a hard candy. The white version has hazelnuts and pistachios it is generally softer, but sticky. As a note, these delicious sweet treats can be rough on your teeth, so small bites are a reasonable precaution.
For a summer recipe, try this frozen nougat with almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts.
Tarte Tropézienne is a cake that hails from St Tropez. Originally the creation of a Polish baker, the flat, sugar-coated brioche cake comes stuffed with orange-flavoured cream. Brigitte Bardot christened it when she fell in love with the cake while filming And God Created Women in St Tropez.
What to eat in Provence while cruising
Where better to try the delights of Provençal cuisine than from the decks of a luxury hotel barge as you cruise the region’s waterways?
All our cruises take in the lovely Provence landscapes and serve the best food and wine onboard. Take a look at our selection of barges and choose your Provence experience now.
Thank you to French Waterways for allowing us to reprint this article, with links to recipes and additional information. Whether you are considering a self-driving experience or riverboat cruise, this company provides a full suite of resources. Let their team help to create a wonderful holiday on the waterways in France.
Bordering the Mediterranean coast and the border to Spain along the Pyrenees mountain range, Occitanie is a department of wine regions, hilltop fortresses, Roman aqueducts and hiking trails. It’s capital is Toulouse, the historic river city known as La Ville Rose (the pink city), after its characteristic pink-hued brick buildings. Montpellier on the Mediterranean coast is the main gateway to the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region. When it comes to food, Occitanie proudly lays claim to inventing cassoulet, a baked stew with sausage, duck and haricots. Fish is popular along the coastline, with its own version of bouillabasse, and poultry and sausages are favourites too. Don’t forget Occitanie’s most famous cheese, roquefort, which originates from the town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.
Cassoulet is a slow-cooked casserole dish, usually containing pork garlic sausage, white beans, and duck confit. Tomatoes, onions, and garlic are also added, and the dish is sealed with a delicious crust of bread crumbs and goose fat. The name comes from the dish it is baked in, known as a cassole d’Issel. The dish has long standing origins as being a dish for peasants, which has been perfected over time. Popular legend goes that the besieged city of Castelnaudary, under attack by the English in the hundred years war (1337-1453), threw all their available ingredients together to create a hearty dish to strengthen the defenders.
Hailing from the port city of Séte, the tielle Sétoise is a spicy octopus and tomato pie made with a bready dough. The tielle is a small pie with fluted edges, and a golden brown crust. It is usually eaten as starter either hot or cold, and can also be found at market stalls during the city’s annual water jousting festival. Originally with Italian origins, the tielle was created as a way to preserve the seafood within, perfect as a meal on the go long before refrigeration was invented.
Translating to ‘leftover stew’ in Occitan, this dish originated as a way for families to cook everything that was leftover into a big stew. Perfect for cold winter nights, the ragoût has many variations, but usually contains ingredients such as veal, sausages, olives, carrots, mushrooms and potatoes.
Welcome to America’s Test Kitchen Introduction Understanding Bread Starting From Scratch Sandwich Breads Mastering Size and Shape The Perfect Crust The Sweeter Side Upping Your Game with Sponges Raising the Bar Conversions and Equivalents Index
STARTING FROM SCRATCH: 12 FOOLPROOF BREADS THAT TEACH THE BASICS
Quick Cheese Bread
Quick Cheese Bread with Bacon and Onion
Southern-Style Skillet Cornbread
Spicy Southern-Style Skillet Cornbread
Brown Soda Bread
Brown Soda Bread with Currants and Caraway
Almost No-Knead Bread
Classic Italian Bread
Easy Sandwich Bread
Fluffy Dinner Rolls
Butter Fan Rolls
Monkey Bread (preview recipe online)
SANDWICH BREADS: EVERYDAY LOAVES, MODERN AND CLASSIC
American Sandwich Bread
Whole-Wheat American Sandwich Bread
Pain de Mie
Japanese Milk Bread (preview recipe online)
Potato-Dill Sandwich Bread
Whole-Wheat Quinoa Bread
Deli Rye Bread
Spicy Olive Bread
MASTERING SIZE AND SHAPE: DINNER ROLLS AND MORE
Rustic Dinner Rolls
Honey-Wheat Dinner Rolls
Potato Dinner Rolls with Cheddar and Mustard
Potato Burger Buns
Parker House Rolls
Kaiser Rolls (preview recipe online)
Asiago and Black Pepper Breadsticks
Pecorino and Mixed Herb Breadsticks
THE PERFECT CRUST: PIZZAS AND FLATBREADS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Thin-Crust Whole-Wheat Pizza
Thin-Crust Whole-Wheat Pizza with Wine-Braised Onions and Blue Cheese
Deep-Dish Pizza with Sausage
Sicilian-Style Thick-Crust Pizza
Spinach-Ricotta Calzones (preview recipe online)
Middle Eastern Za’atar Bread
Red Pepper Coques
THE SWEETER SIDE: ENRICHED BREADS AND OTHER TREATS
Ultimate Cinnamon Buns
Mallorcas (preview recipe online)
St. Lucia Buns
Oatmeal Raisin Bread
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Portuguese Sweet Bread
Almond Ring Coffee Cake
Apricot-Orange Ring Coffee Cake
Yeasted Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts
Yeasted Vanilla-Glazed Doughnuts
UPPING YOUR GAME WITH SPONGES: BAKERY-STYLE ARTISAN LOAVES
Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread
Pain de Campagne
Rustic Wheat Berry Bread (preview recipe online)
Cheddar and Black Pepper Bread (preview recipe online)
Caramelized Onion Bread
Fig and Fennel Bread
Focaccia with Caramelized Red Onion, Pancetta, and Oregano
RAISING THE BAR: PROJECT RECIPES WORTH THE TIME
Bakery-Style French Baguettes
Fougasse with Asiago and Black Pepper
Fougasse with Bacon and Gruyère
Sprouted Grain Bread
New York-Style Bagels
Vive la Pizza: Simple, Rustic and, Yes, French
EVEN though the French influence is everywhere in New York's culinary world, a few foods that are common in France have managed to escape the city's dragnet and remain almost unknown here. The French pizza is one stunning example. Yes, pizza. Although it is most often known as a pissaladiere, it is what it is: a round, flat bread, crisp on the bottom, simply garnished on top, rustic and yet urbane.
At first, I couldn't remember seeing even one here, but recently I went searching for these French pizzas, with some success. At the restaurant Provence in SoHo, there is in fact a pissaladiere that gets it just right: a serving of leavened bread with a thin, brittle crust on the bottom and, on the top, a blanket of golden sauteed onions and a bit of anchovy. At Picholine on the Upper West Side, a similar but smaller pissaladiere is sometimes offered as an appetizer. Another kind of French pizza, the tarte flambee of Alsace, usually served with bacon, chopped onion and a touch of the creamy cheese called fromage blanc, is a study in achieving complex flavors and textures with the minimum number of ingredients. Mercer Kitchen in SoHo serves one version.
Beyond these, the offerings are sparse, indeed. But travel through the regions of France with your eyes open for anything that looks like pizza, and you'll come back impressed not only by how plentiful these pizzas are but also by their variety. Some, like the galette de Perouges, are sweet rather than savory. And many of them are served at room temperature.
In fact the pizzas of France and Italy, despite having different tendencies in herbs and cheese, have more in common with each other than they do with most of those produced here. Most American pizzas appeal to the national tendency toward excess, and they have been corrupted into serving as a complete meal -- a weighty concoction consisting of a ton of chewy mozzarella and a host of strong-flavored ingredients loaded onto a crust that, whether thick or thin, can barely support its toppings.
In Italy, most pizzas are exactly in the spirit of the pissaladiere and the tarte flambee, often with toppings that are no more than a sprinkling of rosemary, salt and olive oil. Or more elaborately, there is the addition of a few slices of tomato and a little fresh mozzarella, with the cheese lighter and less stringy than what we're used to.
That simplicity is more in keeping with the origin of pizza, which probably occurred spontaneously in different places. The likeliest explanation is this:
In areas where bread was a staple, communal ovens were traditionally fired up only once or twice a week. Since large loaves keep better than smaller ones, the standard loaf was four to nine pounds. It was only natural for the frugal bakers to throw the remaining scraps of dough into the oven while it was heating. Some dough was undoubtedly formed into small loaves -- rolls, essentially -- and some was patted into flat, pielike breads that cooked almost instantly. The temptation to top these flat breads with whatever was around was obviously irresistible. The result was pizza, or whatever you want to call it. The variations from one region to another might be merely matters of nuance or effort.
The Provencal version of the pissaladiere, for instance, is often garnished with two of the region's signature ingredients: black olives and sliced tomatoes, both in minuscule amounts by our standard. It is usually served at room temperature as often as not because in Provence, and throughout France, pizza is snack bread. Since it lacks gobs of cheese congealing on top, it retains its appeal even when cool.
Perhaps the best pissaladiere I ever had was served at Cours Saleya, the wonderful open-air market in the heart of old Nice. It was baked in a wood-burning oven a few blocks away, sent to the market by bicycle and eaten standing up or at picnic tables shaded by huge awnings. The wedges were gently sweet and intensely salty the crust, just a half-inch thick, was perfumed with the local olive oil and was perfectly browned and crisp. It was so simple -- mostly just sweet onions on a wonderful crust. And yet it was so much more.
If pissaladiere is the most familiar of the French pizzas, galette de Perouges is the most surprising. This is the best-known product of Perouges, a well-preserved and perfectly restored medieval village not far from Lyons. Although galette is a word used for many free-form tarts in France, this particular galette seems more familiar than most: a large, round pie, slid into an oven on a paddle and cut into crisp wedges.
On closer inspection, however, and especially on tasting, this is no common variation on pizza. The crust is rich and sweet -- a yeasted dough made with butter and sugar, and rolled nearly flat. And the topping is butter and sugar no more. Since this is remarkably fertile farmland, one of the most productive areas of France, it is perhaps not surprising that its pizza is supremely rich.
The galette is baked in a hot oven until the sugar caramelizes and the crust becomes brittle unlike most pizzas, this dough is not chewy but crunchy. You can buy slices of the galette on the street, but it is best eaten as served at the Ostellerie du Vieux Perouges, the 500-year-old hotel-restaurant in the center of town. There, it is presented as a more formal dessert, with fresh fruit and a toupin, or tub, of creme fraiche.
The tarte flambee of Alsace may be the world's northernmost indigenous and legitimate pizza. You see it everywhere, although it is most common in the north, around Strasbourg. Alsace is French, of course, but the food, language and appearance are quite German in character. In this regional crossroads, there are many variations, based largely on the background of the baker.
Tarte flambee is a bit puffier and less flat than most pizza. Although it is usually spread with fromage blanc, bacon and onion before baking, there are many variations.
''The differences are usually based on religion,'' said Norbert Mueller, the owner of Chez Norbert, a restaurant in Bergheim, a village in Alsace. ''Protestants, who are economical, often use much less cheese Jews, who don't eat pork, omit the bacon, and Catholics make them as rich as possible.'' This last generalization may be based on the fact that Friday -- traditionally a meatless day for Catholics -- was also the day on which many ovens were fired up, so a rich tarte flambee might have been the day's main meal.
Whatever the variation, there is a peculiar convention in tarte flambee: Each wedge is rolled from the wide crust end to its point, and the rolls are eaten end to end.
Since French pizzas are so difficult to find outside France -- and are among the easiest of all pizzas to make -- it makes sense to try them at home. Drawing inspiration from what I tasted in France, and from Charles Van Over's book, ''The Best Bread Ever'' (Broadway, 1997), I recreated three French pizza recipes.
I took a couple of liberties, for simplicity's sake. First, I used the same dough for both pissaladiere and tarte flambee a classic tarte flambee's dough would be made without the olive oil I use here, but I think it only enhances it.
Second, the best tarte flambee uses onions that have been salted for a day or so salting draws out their water, which makes them milder and helps them to brown. It's a nice refinement, but not essential. And assuming that few people have access to fromage blanc, I substituted a combination of sour cream and milk, which I believe works equally well it also makes a good stand-in for creme fraiche, if you want to serve it with a galette de Perouges.
Finally, my pizza dough recipe makes enough for two pizzas if you're baking only one, wrap the remaining dough in plastic and freeze it for as long as a month. Then, just bring it to room temperature and pick up right where you left off.
Five Weeknight Dishes
Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.
- This coconut fish and tomato bake from Yewande Komolafe yields a gorgeous, silky ginger-coconut sauce.
- This tasty recipe for sheet-pan chicken and potatoes by Lidey Heuck is really nice without being fussy.
- This vegetarian baked Alfredo pasta with broccoli rabe is inspired by pasta Alfredo, but with green vegetables added.
- Kay Chun adds asparagus and snap peas to this spring vegetable japchae in this vegan take on the classic dish.
- You could substitute chicken or another type of fish in this summery grilled salmon salad from Melissa Clark.
DOUGH FOR PISSALADIERE OR TARTE FLAMBEE
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 cups (about 14 ounces) all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil.
1. Combine yeast, flour and salt in food processor. Turn machine on, and add 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons oil through feed tube.
2. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water through feed tube, a little at a time, until mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water, and process for another 10 seconds. (In unlikely event that mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.)
3. Turn dough onto floured work surface, and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round ball. Grease bowl with remaining olive oil, and place dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap or damp cloth, and let rise in warm, draft-free area until dough just about doubles in size, or at least 1 hour. (You can also let dough rise more slowly, in refrigerator, for as long as 6 or 8 hours.)
4. Follow recipe for pissaladiere or tarte flambee.
Yield: Enough dough for 2 pizzas, each approximately 12 inches.
Dough for 1 tart (see recipe)
Flour for sprinkling over dough
1 cup fromage blanc or creme fraiche, or 3/4 cup sour cream thinned with 1/3 cup milk
1/3 to 1/2 cup minced onions
1/3 to 1/2 cup minced bacon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
1. Preheat oven to at least 500 degrees (600 is better, if your oven goes that high). Knead dough lightly, and place it on a lightly floured surface sprinkle it with a little more flour, and cover with plastic wrap or towel. Let it rest while oven heats.
2. Pat or roll out dough as thinly as possible to diameter of 12 inches, using more flour or oil as necessary. The process will be easier if you allow dough to rest occasionally between rollings. If you have a pizza stone in your oven, place dough on a floured peel, or long-handled board if you do not, lay dough on baking sheet brushed lightly with olive oil. Let dough rest for 15 to 30 minutes, or until it begins to puff ever so slightly.
3. Spread fromage blanc or alternatives on dough. Sprinkle with onions, bacon, a little salt and plenty of pepper. Bake until nicely crisp, about 10 minutes if tart is browning unevenly, rotate it back to front about halfway through cooking time. Serve hot.
Dough for 1 pizza (see recipe)
Flour for sprinkling dough
1 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
6 to 10 anchovies (optional)
About 12 good pitted black olives, cut in half (optional)
6 to 8 thin slices of tomato (optional).
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Knead dough lightly, and place it on lightly floured surface sprinkle it with a little more flour, and cover with plastic wrap or towel. Let rest while oven heats and you cook the onions.
2. Place olive oil in large skillet, and turn heat to medium-high. Add onions, along with some salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions give up their liquid and become quite soft, at least 15 minutes do not allow onions to brown. When they are cooked, turn off heat and stir in thyme.
3. Pat or roll out dough as thinly as possible to diameter of 12 inches, using more flour or oil as necessary. The process will be easier if you allow dough to rest occasionally between rollings. If you have a pizza stone in your oven, place dough on a floured peel, or long-handled board if you do not, lay dough on baking sheet brushed lightly with olive oil. Let dough rest for 15 to 30 minutes, or until it begins to puff ever so slightly.
4. Spread dough with onions, and then decorate, if you like, with anchovies, olives, and tomato. Bake until nicely crisp, 15 minutes or more if tart is browning unevenly, rotate it back to front about halfway through cooking time. Serve hot or at room temperature.
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 cups flour, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 stick unsalted butter, softened.
1. Combine yeast, flour, salt, tablespoon of sugar, cold butter, egg and lemon zest in food processor. Turn machine on, let it run for a second until mixture is blended, and then let machine run while you add 1/4 cup water through feed tube, a little at a time, until mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or 2 of water, and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.)
2. Turn dough onto very lightly floured work surface, and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round ball. Place in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap or damp cloth, and let rise in warm, draft-free area until dough just about doubles in size, or at least 1 hour. (You can also let dough rise more slowly, in refrigerator, for as long as 6 or 8 hours.)
3. Preheat oven to at least 500 degrees (600 is better, if your oven goes that high). Knead dough lightly, and place it on a very lightly floured surface sprinkle it with a little more flour, and cover with plastic wrap or towel. Let it rest while oven heats.
4. Pat or roll out dough as thinly as possible to a diameter of 12 inches, using a little more flour if necessary. The process will be easier if you allow dough to rest occasionally between rollings. If you have a pizza stone in your oven, place dough on a floured peel, or long-handled board if you do not, lay dough on lightly buttered baking sheet.
5. Spread dough with softened butter, and sprinkle it with remaining sugar. Bake until crust is nicely crisp and sugar lightly caramelizes, about 10 minutes if galette is browning unevenly, rotate it back to front about halfway through cooking time. Serve hot or at room temperature as a snack, or at room temperature with creme fraiche and cut-up ripe fruit.
Watch the video: Authentic Italian Anchovy Focaccia Bread (December 2021).