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Pizza Bianca

Pizza Bianca

It’s great that more people are venturing into the exploration of homemade yeast breads these days. Yeast breads are really easy to make (if difficult to perfect) and it’s fun to play with the dough. It never fails to make me smile when I see a recipe for a “no knead” or “no roll” bread. While many of these recipes turn out fantastic breads, and I do enjoy a time-saver as much as the next person, I do find it a teeny bit amusing that the undertone of many of these breads is that they’re easier than “regular” breads. Yeast breads are almost all pretty easy – and besides, it’s fun to get your hands dirty once in a while!

That said, I had to try the recipe for a “No Roll Pizza” when I saw it in the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Pizza bianca, or “white pizza” has long been a favorite of mine and this is what the tagline of the magazine referred to. I’ve seen it two ways: as a pizza with cheese and a minimal number toppings, but no tomato/red sauce, and also as a focaccia-like flatbread topped with olive oil and herbs. CI took the latter approach. Their recipe needs no rolling because it uses a very wet dough (a high water content to produce a chewy finished product) that simply pours into a rimmed baking sheet and is spread out there. Many focaccia recipes don’t call for rolling the dough either, so the “no roll” part isn’t the selling point of the recipe. The most important thing is a thin crispy crust and a tender, slightly chewy interior.

The prep for this recipe is very easy, although it needs a considerable amount of rising time and isn’t something that can just be done completely at the last minute. It’s worth the wait. The bread is very tasty and just about exactly as I described above: thin focaccia with a crispy crust and a chewy (albeit thin) center. I topped mine with some olive oil, although not as much as I might use on a focaccia, and a generous amount of sea salt. CI uses rosemary, which is traditional but not one of my very favorite herbs. This recipe works best with a stand mixer, otherwise the kneading is quite tiring, so keep that in mind.

Even though the discussion offered before the recipe was given in full was fairly comprehensive, I had some issues with the recipe instructions as given – largely, the fact that there was no pan size given (it was mentioned in the discussion, but never clarified). I used a 13×17-inch rimmed baking sheet. Thankfully, I lined the bottom with parchment paper before starting because the bread stuck like crazy and was actually fairly difficult to remove from the otherwise greased pan.

Pizza Bianca
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
3 cups all purpose flour
13-oz water, room temperature
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tsp coarse/kosher salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour, water and salt. Mix together well until no streaks of flour remain, about 4-5 minutes. Scrape the sides of th bowl as you work. Let stand for 20 minutes to rest.
Once the mixture has rested, mix in yeast and sugar. Turn mixer to high and knead for 8-10 minutes, until dough is smooth and seems to pull towards the dough hook, rather than just reach for the sides of the bowl, as the mixer turns. Dough will immediately relax when mixer is turned off.
Pour dough into a large, lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 2-2 1/2 hours, until almost tripled in size.
Preheat oven to 450F.
Pour 2 tbsp of the olive oil into a 13×17-inch sheet pan and spread evenly. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Place parchment in pan, turn over to coat both sides with olive oil and press into place.
Pour risen dough into pan. Pour remaining tablespoon of olive oil onto your hands or onto the top of the dough (I find that fingers are the easiest) and press the dough towards the sides of the pan and into the corners. Let dough rest for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown all over. Corners or edges may be darker, but should not be burnt.
Immediately remove bread from pan and place on a wire cooling rack. Enjoy warm, or when cooled.

Serves 6-8.

Note: If you wish to add cheese, add 1 – 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese to the top of the pizza before baking.

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  • Jen
    August 18, 2008

    Looks great…how would this work without a mixer?

  • Nicole
    August 18, 2008

    Jen – Since you would be doing all the mixing by hand, it would probably take longer to reach the desired consistency. And because the dough is so wet and sticky, you’re going to get a bit messy. If you try it, resist the temptation to add extra flour and just dig right in to the dough.

  • Kat
    August 25, 2008

    Delectable! I was wary of using the dough hook on my new mixer but it worked out really well! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  • Penny Wolf
    November 29, 2008

    Made this tonight and it seemed maybe a little too wet or maybe I should have used a slighty smaller pan…something.
    The flavor was good and it is easy to make but the texture,
    something isn’t correct in mine.Chewy was almost rubbery.I did
    use half of a 2 ounce cake yeast which I believe gives more flavor.I’m going to give it another go sometime.I’m wanting it for a pizza crust.
    I love this site and have been here many times,Thanks for being here!

  • Penny Wolf
    December 1, 2008

    Well I made it again and used a different brand of flour.It was
    improved alot. I especially loved it split and with butter.I doubt that I use it for my pizza again though. On with the search for the perfect match of a recipe and me.

  • Leigh
    January 20, 2010


    Thanks for the recipe. Do you think I could make the dough the day before I’m going to use it?

    Thank you for the help.


  • Megan
    May 9, 2011

    The crisp exterior of this bread looks lovely, I’m quite anxious to try it. Though admittedly, I am a bit hesitant. I’ve never before come across a bread recipe that doesn’t use a warmed liquid to activate the yeast. Therefor, I’m worried it may not work when I attempt it. Is the lack of initial heat the reason the rising time is increased ? Love to know the secret to this breads odd preparation method , it looks divine. Btw, love your blog ! I’ve had many successes with the recipes you feature and the photography is fabulous. Just tried the ‘chewy chocolate chip cookies’ last night, they were to die for! Up until that evening, I was quite sure I had cultivated the ‘best’ chocolate chip cookie… but my melt-in-your-mouth cookie recipe was no match to the chewy decadence I encountered last night.

  • Nicole
    May 9, 2011

    Megan – Give it a try! Active dry yeast doesn’t need warm water to activate – any water that isn’t too cold will work – it just works more quickly in warm water than it does in room temperature. This bread develops a little more flavor through its slightly slower rise, and it is able to rise a bit more slowly when you start with slightly cooler water.

  • Julie
    February 1, 2015

    I am so glad I found your adaptation! I have made the CI recipe half a dozen times (the version with tomato sauce & mozzarella on top) but can’t find my copy of the CI issue. My grown daughter says it’s the best pizza she’s ever had, and my husband requested it for tonight’s Super Bowl snacking. You have saved me –many thanks!

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