Ever hear the pizza term “cornicione” and wonder what that was? Me too, but today I’m going to share all things cornicione with you!
Whether you’re a pizza aficionado or a casual weekend pizza warrior, you may have heard of the term “cornicione” floating around and wondered what it means. I know I did.
There was a time that I didn’t know what a cornicione was and frankly, that wasn’t good enough for me! I needed to get to the bottom of it, and it was easy enough to clue myself in on the exact definition and methods to make one.
Chances are you’ve heard the term before and you’re probably wondering the same things that I once was. It sounds like a pretty cool Italian word and pizza is Italian, so it must just be related to that. Is it a special type of pizza? Or is it something on the pizza itself? Well, I’m here to clear up your questions and guide you through some of the more relevant information that I think it’s smart to know!
What Is Pizza Cornicione?
When you think about pizza, you probably separate it into three major parts that seem to be present in just about all recipes out there. You’ve got the topping, which ranges from meats to veggie, to cheese, to dairy-free. You’ve got the dough, which could be regular, hearty dough, to the vegan, gluten-based dough. And then you’ve got the crust, which is technically just an extension of the dough but people rate it much higher than the rest of the dough on pizza (myself included).
What if I told you that this isn’t right? I couldn’t believe it myself when I first learned, but it turns out that the crust is indeed just an extension of the dough. That’s all it is too. The crust and the dough are interchangeable, and a different name is given to the actually raised dough that we’ve come to know colloquially as “crust”. Can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a hint. It’s what this blog post is about.
Yes, cornicione is the actual name for what we’ve come to know as the crust of a pizza. The word cornicione actually translates from Italian to mean the rim or the edge of the pizza. That fluffy, crispy edge that we’ve all come to love more than the pizza itself (though don’t tell the pizza I said that), is actually called cornicione.
Generally speaking, a cornicione on a pizza should be classified as follows: an airy, raised edge on a pizza, with a nice crunch on the outside and a lightness to the dough on the inside.
Speaking literally, it’s probably not all that important that you know the difference between a crust and cornicione unless you are an expert pizza baker who has been speaking incorrectly this whole time (shame on you!). Still, I think it’s a good idea to educate the masses so that, if nothing else, you can at least impress your friends with your impressive knowledge of a random Italian word that literally refers to a pizza “crust”.
How To Pronounce Cornicione
Okay, now comes the fun part. As English speakers, we often have an interesting relationship when it comes to pronouncing anything that sounds even remotely foreign. If I were to write down ten random foreign words on a page and ask you to read them out, I’d bet that you’d be able to pronounce two (three at a push) correctly, and the rest would be some interesting phonetic that you’ve definitely just made up on the spot.
Cornicione is no different from this. As an Italian word, it can be difficult for us to understand how it should be said without a little bit of guidance. There’s no shame in that! The English language itself is far too complex and complicated for us to have to spend too much time worrying about languages outside of our own.
As an Italian word, it’s important to stress each syllable as it comes up. So to pronounce cornicione, it should sound something like this:
That’s spelled phonetically for ease, but you see what I mean about sounding out each syllable. The “e” at the end doesn’t just add an extra flavor to the “chone” sound, it actually becomes a syllable in itself.
How To Make Pizza Cornicione
Okay so now comes the fun part. There’s a specific method to making the absolute best pizza cornicione that you can (or pizza crust to all of you too confused to pick up what I’m putting down!). I’ll run you through the best guide to pizza cornicione I can think of after extensive online searching. I think I’ve stumbled upon some pretty excellent ideas.
What better feeling could there be than to impress your friends with a homemade pizza that has the most delightfully airy and equally crispy cornicione (I won’t use crust from now on, sorry!) they’ve ever seen. The answer is simple. There isn’t one! Once you pick up on some of these steps and start making your cornicione rise like never before, your friends will be begging you for your secrets!
So what steps are involved in making pizza cornicione perfect? It can be boiled down to three steps, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them easy steps like you might expect from the usual recipes you might see listed by me. Instead, they can take a great deal of effort and care to get right, so don’t expect to make the perfect cornicione from day one.
The steps involved in the creation of cornicione are as follows: first, you’ll want to find the perfect flour that contains just the right level of gluten development. Second, you’ll want to work with a long and slow fermentation time (don’t worry, I don’t mean weeks or months, just a good number of hours). Third and finally, you’ll want to get that pizza baked in the oven.
But it’s all well and good for me listing these steps for you. Perhaps it’s time I take the plunge and explain them more intricately.
1. Gluten Development
Before anything else with your cornicione, you’re going to have to find the dough that contains just the right amount of gluten to work out best. You shouldn’t have too hard a time finding the level of gluten that will be right for you. It’s based mostly on the size of the pizza that you want to cook.
Gluten is a type of protein that works to hold the dough together so that it doesn’t fall to pieces in your hands. It is also what makes the uncooked dough so stretchy and elastic. It’s of paramount importance when you’re making pizza cornicione because well-developed gluten is actually the first step to creating perfect air bubbles inside your pizza cornicione, giving it that well-risen look and blissfully airy texture.
With good gluten development, your gluten will create a network that will work together to make small pockets of air inside the dough. These pockets will trap the gas as the pizza is cooked through and will help the dough to rise. The edge should puff up as it’s being cooked and create the airy interior I’ve already mentioned. There’s a reason some of the best pizzas in the world don’t have level cornicione. They seem to have large bubbles here and then smaller bubbles there. It just depends on where the gluten is concentrated, but the airiness is consistent throughout.
To develop your gluten (which helps to prevent your dough from tearing as it’s being handled), you’re going to have to start with the hydration process. Combine flour and water to the gluten and then the development process will commence ready for the perfect cornicione to be created. Don’t forget to knead the dough thoroughly though. It could take about 20 minutes of vigorous kneading to ensure the perfect development in your dough’s gluten, but it’ll be well worth it in the end.
2. Fermentation Process
The next step might be familiar already to the pizza experts among you. However, if this is your first time or if you’re not particularly baking savvy, then it’s a good tip to learn about. The fermentation process (also known as proofing) helps to develop the air bubbles created by the gluten development even further.
It pretty much means you should leave the pizza to sit after doing everything I mentioned above in the gluten development section. It is quite honestly that easy. There’s not a whole lot you have to worry about in this process. Starting with the basics, once you’ve done step one, leave your pizza to sit for anywhere between 8-24 hours. A Napolitana pizza (the usual tomato-based pizzas we expect) thrives at this length of fermentation.
You’ll want to check back on it at regular intervals since the time gap between 8 hours and 24 hours is pretty substantial! Don’t overdo the checking though, as you could interfere with the process. Simply put, don’t touch it until you reckon it’s ready. I know you’ve got eager hands. We all do. But you have to wait!
It’s also important to mention the point about quality flour again. With excellent flour, the proofing process will go through without a hitch. However, if you’ve cut corners and opted for a shop-bought, off-the-shelf type flour, you’ll find your pizza cornicione might have gone through a bit of an overproof. Basically, the gluten wasn’t strong enough to keep together after all that time alone and your dough will fall to pieces. You’ll have to start completely fresh if you find this happens to you.
3. Baking The Pizza
Once your proofing window is up and you’re happy with the level of dough rise you’ve seen in your unbaked pizza, it’s time for the baking phase. Before anything, you’ll want to shape and size your pizza to ensure the perfect size for whatever the occasion is. To preserve all your hard work up to this point, DO NOT do anything to the edges of the pizza. The cornicione should be left untouched, only the center should be shaped.
Side note: you also shouldn’t use a rolling pin to achieve the desired look for your pizza. All of the gas that was making your cornicione potentially perfect will be squeezed out with a good rolling, basically making all of these steps obsolete! Don’t waste your time! There are plenty of tutorials online for stretching and shaping pizza dough by hand (you’ve probably seen it on TV once or twice before as well). Play around with this if it’s your first time doing it, it can be surprisingly fun!
Now onto baking. Baking is undoubtedly the most important part. While the steps before are ideal for creating the perfect conditions for your cornicione, the baking will make or break your cornicione. If you get this wrong, you might as well give up. No, don’t really do that! I believe in you! You’ll just have to try again from step one to get it right. The second time’s a charm!
For those that have got to this step successfully though, you’ll now want to get your oven (or whatever you’re using to cook your pizza) hot. And I mean hot. You’ll want it to pretty much be as hot as it can be. Most Napolitana ovens cook at 900 F, which is massively higher than any home oven can reach. Don’t worry though, you can still achieve some pretty grand results.
The reason you need your oven to be as hot as it can be is to ensure the correct puffiness inside your cornicione while ensuring the best possible crispiness on the outside. If you bake your pizza at a lower temperature, the crust will dry out and your cornicione development would be wasted. It needs to be hot and it needs to be fast. The faster the better, because the moisture and the air bubbles will be kept tightly packed in, leading to a perfect cornicione from the comfort of your own home.
You’ll be surprised how quickly your pizza will bake through. Once you’ve set your oven up and had it heated to wherever you can get it, put your pizza in and keep an eye on it. A close eye too. The closer the better. You’re going to need to check on it so it doesn’t burn or even overcook. The perfect cornicione requires perfect baking times too.
A Few Helpful Baking Tips
If you have a pizza stone or pizza steel, I would highly recommend using one. In fact, if you’re dead set on creating a cornicione at home and don’t have one of these, it’s time to invest. These cooking tools will heat up to an ideal temperature that will really aid in the baking process of your pizza. If you want to get it right, then I can’t stress enough how important it will be for you to get one of these.
With a stone or steel, preheat your oven with them inside first. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people have one of these fancy tools and just plonk their pizza straight on top, thinking it’ll do the job the second it goes into the oven. No. You need to get the stone really hot first and then put the pizza on. That’s how they’re supposed to work to get the perfect bake through the whole pizza.
Another great tip to use when trying to bake your own pizza cornicione at home is to use a broiler or grill for even more heat. Remember, the hotter you can get your baking process, the better your cornicione will turn out to be in the end. As I said, it’s all about creating that perfect crisp (and it’s also about impressing your friends, right?)
Adding the broiler or grill into the cooking process of your pizza is a fantastic method to add even more heat. However, you will be surprised by just how quickly this heat can work when baking your cornicione. If you leave it to sit for too long, you’ll end up with a burnt cornicione. Burning it is potentially the worst possible outcome you can get… I think I might just cry if that happened to me.
We made it through, and I hope you’ve learned a thing or two about pizza with this post all about cornicione. Don’t worry if you’ve felt a bit ignorant reading this. I understand the realization that pizza crust isn’t actually called crust at all can be a pretty big confusion point for most people. We’re English speakers – we’re known for our ignorance! We just have to embrace it.
Now that we do know the truth though, it’s probably a good idea to start using cornicione when you’re referring to the crust as you used to call it. And while you’re at it, give baking it a go.
I know I’ve probably made it sound a lot more intimidating than you might first have thought, and I’m sorry about that! It’s not as scary as it looks, I swear! It’s just important to make sure you get the steps right if you’re serious about getting the perfect cornicione.
I’ll be mighty impressed when you do achieve perfection, and I hope you use this post as guidance for you. Even if you don’t try to bake it yourself, the next time someone asks you what pizza cornicione is, you’ll at least have an answer for them.