Pissaldière: The Original Focaccia Garden?
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For the past few weeks, in place of our usual Friday pizza, I’ve been making pissaladière, the Provençal tart smothered with caramelized onions, anchovies, and olives. I add tomatoes to mine, too, perhaps to make it more pizza-like, but also because they just work, especially in the late summer and early fall, and truly, to me, there are few combinations more delicious. It’s like pasta Puttanesca in bread form, all sweet and salty, oily and briny, bold and aromatic.
Traditionally, atop the blanket of caramelized onions, anchovies are arranged in a crisscross diamond motif with olives either marking the intersection of anchovies or the center of the diamonds they create. I’ve never loved this geometric arrangement and so I make an anchovy and olive (and garlic and caper) paste instead. I like this approach for a few reasons, namely because it more evenly disperses the intense (umami!) flavor across the dough, but also, in some ways, because it disguises it: those who think they dislike anchovies won’t know they’re there.
I also have always loved the organic look of toppings scattered all about, though I must admit: the explosion of focaccia art cropping up across the web these past few years had me thinking: Should I revisit the iconic pattern? Is pissaladière the original focaccia garden?
It turns out: no!
I was shocked to learn from this Saveur article that pissaladière gets its name from pissalat, a pungent anchovy paste. According to the article, pissalat is made by layering baby anchovies and sardines with salt, spices, and herbs, and fermenting the mixture for 45 days. Early versions of pissaladière called for spreading the fish paste over the dough before layering onions over top.
Regardless of how you choose to pissaladière, there are a few key elements to include, which I explore below, but first:
How do you pronounce pissaladière?
Who knows?! Many moons ago, my brother-in-law gave me permission to never worry about saying it correctly when he declared the pizza-like assembly before him: pizza-derriere! I’ve never been able to say it any other way.
Pissaladière: Key Elements
- Dough: While some recipes call for puff pastry as a base layer, a yeast-leavened dough, something like focaccia dough, is traditional. In the video above and below, I use a sourdough focaccia.
- Caramelized Onions: This recipe calls for 3 cups of raw, sliced onions, which you’ll cook down slowly but not to their complete caramelized state — the final caramelization will take place in the oven.
- Anchovies: There was a period when I purchased large tins of anchovies packed in salt, which I then soaked before using. No more. I love the tins of oil-packed Cento anchovies, available pretty widely.
- Olives: I typically use kalamata olives because I always have them on hand, but Niçoise olives or those wrinkly black olives work well, too.
- (Optional: capers and garlic): I add these to the purée of anchovies and olives — you essentially make a tapenade; then spread it across the dough.
- (Optional: tomatoes): As noted above, I love adding tomatoes to pissaladière mostly because in the late summer and early fall, the time of year I really want to make pissaladière, tomatoes are abounding.
How to Make Pissaladière, Step by Step
Transfer the dough to a buttered + olive oiled pan. If you are certain your dough will not stick to the pan you are using, you can get away with olive oil alone, but if there is any question, butter the pan first — it will ensure your dough will release without issue. Let the dough rise for 3 to 5 hours or until it looks like …
In the meantime, gather your ingredients for the topping: garlic, anchovies, olives, capers, olive oil, tomatoes, and onions.
Make a coarse purée with the olives, garlic, capers, anchovies, and olive oil.
Sauté the onions until lightly golden, about 15-20 minutes over medium to low heat.
Then layer the toppings over the dough as follows: onions, olive purée, tomatoes.
Dimple one last time; them transfer to the oven immediately. Bake until evenly golden, about 25 minutes.
Cut into squares; serve warm or at room temperature.Print
Adapted from my cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs. In my cookbook, I make the pissaladière start to finish in just about 3 hours. In this updated version, I call for either an overnight, refrigerated focaccia (yeasted) or a sourdough focaccia, both of which were adapted from the BTC focaccia recipe. If you’d like to make this in a more timely manner, find the BTC recipe on Taste Cooking.
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
- 3 cups sliced onions (about 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced)
- pinch of kosher salt
- 2 garlic cloves
- 4 anchovies
- 1 tablespoon capers
- ½ cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata or niçoise olives
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- Make your focaccia dough through step 1 for the overnight refrigerator focaccia and through step 3 for the sourdough focaccia.
- For the pissaladière toppings: In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil over high heat. When it begins to shimmer, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cover; then immediately reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are lightly golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a food processor, mince the garlic and anchovies together. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and blend until smooth. Add the capers and pulse to coarsely chop. Add the olives and pulse again to coarsely chop. Set aside.
- Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 425°F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper or coat with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons oil on the sheet pan. Using lightly greased hands, deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl. Again, using your hands, shape the dough into a rough ball or rectangle; then transfer it to the prepared sheet pan. Roll the dough ball in the oil to coat it all over. Let it rest without touching it for 3 to 5 hours or until the dough has puffed considerably and is filling the pan.
- With lightly greased hands, press down on the dough, using all 10 fingers to dimple and stretch the dough outward. Pull gently on the ends and stretch them toward the corners of the sheet pan. When the dough begins to resist being stretched, let it rest for 5 minutes, then stretch it again, continuing until it fits most of the sheet pan.
- Spread the sautéed onions over the dough. Top with the anchovy puree. Finally, scatter the tomatoes over top. Use all 10 fingers again to dimple the dough and gently stretch it.
- Transfer the sheet pan to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the underside is golden and crisp. Remove the pissaladière from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board. Let it cool for 10 minutes before cutting it into squares.
- Prep Time: 24 hours
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Bread
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American, French
Keywords: pissaladiere, focaccia, onions, olives, anchovies