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Feb 16, 2022

Sfincione Bagherese

Sfincione Bagherese is a traditional bread from the town of Bagheria near Palermo in northern Sicily. The bread also goes by the name, Sfincione Bianco di Baheria. 

Sfincione Bagherese slice.

Sfincione, which roughly means "thick sponge," is thought to be the inspiration for Grandma Pizza in the U.S., and possibly Chicago and Detroit-style pizza

There are evidently three types of Sfincione: sfincione Palermitano or Siciliana, which is made in the same way, but with tomato sauce included; sfincione di San Vito, which also includes a layer of salami, and this one, which does not include tomatoes. 

What distinguishes sfincione is the breadcrumbs on top, made from Italian-style bread. They are mixed with cheese and oregano and sprinkled over the top of the sfincione before baking. 

Sfincione Bagherese removed from the pan.

Ingredients in this sfincione Bagherese:

Flour: Both all-purpose white flour and semolina. I used durum semolina, which is more finely ground. 

Anchovies: Use canned, oil-packed anchovies. You really don't taste them but they add a nice salty umami to the pizza. 

Cheeses: Traditionally there is a layer of ricotta cheese, a layer of Tuma or Primo Sale cheese, and then, Cacciocavella cheese is mixed into the breadcrumb layer. For the Tuma layer, I substituted a mixture of Fontina and Mozzarella cheese, and for the Cacciocavella, I used a mixture of Asiago, Parmesan, Provolone, and Pecorino Romano. 

Onions: There is a layer of sautéed onions under the cheeses and on top of the anchovies. I used a mixture of red and yellow onions. 

Breadcrumbs: Use fresh bread, which you tear into pieces and then process into crumbs in your food processor. They are also mixed with some of the cheese, oregano, crushed red pepper, and scallions. I used chives instead of scallions. 

For the bread, I actually used a few slices of my oat and potato bread to make the breadcrumbs. 

Sfincione Bagherese slice.

How to Make Sfincione Bagherese:

This bread can easily be made in an afternoon. It begins with a poolish of flour, water, and yeast that takes about two hours to rise. Once your poolish doubles, you add the rest of the flour, including the semolina, water, olive oil, and salt. 

While you can knead the final dough by hand, I used a stand mixer. The dough is quite sticky, so kneading by machine will remove any temptation to add more flour. Let the dough rise for another hour, and then pat it into an oiled nine-inch cake pan to rise another hour. 

Sicilian bread dough.

Once the dough has risen, top it with pieces of anchovies. One video I saw on this bread had the chef say "there must be anchovy and onion in every bite." 

Some recipes I've seen recommend dissolving the anchovies in oil and spreading them over the dough. 

If you normally dislike anchovies, you still might want to give them a chance because their flavor is not very distinct. You could also brush the top of the dough with some Worchestershire sauce, or, if you are vegetarian, some soy sauce or capers (although the Italian food police might object). 

Sfincione Bagherese with anchovies.

After that, spread the ricotta cheese over the dough and anchovies. 

While not traditional, I mixed in some dried Italian seasoning into the ricotta. 

Sfincione Bagherese ricotta.

While the dough is rising, sauté some chopped onions until they are tender. You don't want them to caramelize, you just want them to get soft and slightly transluscent. 

Mine did get a little brown on the edges, which added a nice sweetness to them. 

Note: I separated the ricotta from other cheeses and put the onions in between, which is not necessarily traditional. 

Sfincione Bagherese with cooked onions.

Next, top the onions with the sliced cheeses, in my case, a mixture of mozzarella and fontina cheeses. 

The flavors of these cheeses in this bread were amazing. Granted, the Fontina is not Sicilian, but it is Italian! And I had it on hand from making an Italian chopped salad

Sfincione Bagherese cheese layer.

After that, top the bread with a layer of hard grated cheese and fresh breadcrumbs. For the cheese, I used what I had in my cheese drawer (yes, I have an entire drawer of cheese), a mixture of Parmesan, Asiago, Pecorino Romano, and Provelone. 

That is probably a bit of overkill as one or two would do, but it was fun mixing it up, and the results were delicious. 

The topping also typically includes scallions. I had some chives growing in my garden so I substituted those. 

Sfincione Bagherese breadcrumb layer.

Finally, bake the bread on the bottom rack of the oven for 10 minutes, and then move it to the middle rack for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. 

Watch the top of the breadcrumbs closely and tent them with foil if they are beginning to get too brown. 

Sfincione Bagherese in the pan.

The resulting bread is pretty amazing. I actually had a slice for dinner with a salad and it was just enough for a light meal. 

While I made this pizza in a nine-inch round cake pan, you can also make it in a square cake pan or free-form on a baking sheet and cut it into small squares for a fabulous appetizer. 

Or... you can cut it into large squares for lunch or dinner with a salad. It also makes a gread breakfast. 

Sfincione Bagherese cooked slice.

The crust is crispy on the bottom and soft in the middle, the layers of cheese and onions are both creamy and sweet, and the top layer of cheesy breadcrumbs is super crispy and delicious. 

This sfincione Bagherese is the monthly bake for the Bread Baking Babes. Our host this month is Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen. After the recipe, be sure to check out links for more versions of this delicious Sicilian bread. 

By the way, this is the 14 year anniversary of the Bread Baking Babes!

Sfincione Bagherese with a cheese breadcrumb topping.

This recipe is for two flatbreads. I halved the recipe to make just one. 

Sfincione Bagherese

Sfincione Bagherese
Yield: 20 slices
Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
Prep time: 1 HourCook time: 30 MinInactive time: 4 HourTotal time: 5 H & 30 M
Sfincione Bagherese is a traditional bread from the town of Bagheria near Palermo in northern Sicily. The bread also goes by the name, Sfincione Bianco di Baheria.


For the Poolish
  • 150 grams (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 150 grams (3/4 cups) water
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
For the Dough
  • All of the poolish
  • 150 grams (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 250 grams (2 cups) durum flour (finely ground semolina)
  • 300 grams (1 1/4 cups) water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 15 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) kosher salt
For the Onions
  • 4 to 5 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt to taste
For the Anchovy and Cheese Layers
  • 12 anchovies, packed in oil, cut into pieces
  • 400 grams (14 ounces) ricotta cheese mixed together with 2 to 3 teaspoons of dried Italian seasoning
  • 300 grams (10 ounces) mixture of sliced mozzarella and Fontina cheeses (or just one of these cheeses)
For the Breadcrumb Layer
  • 4 to 6 slices fresh bread, torn into pieces and processed into breadcrumbs in the food processor
  • Large handful of chopped chives
  • 100 grams (about 1 cup) freshly grated Asiago, Parmesan, Provolone, or Pecorino Romano, or a mixture of a variety of these cheeses.
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red peppers
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano


To Make the Poolish
  1. Mix the poolish ingredients in a medium bowl by hand or wooden spoon. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.
To Make the Final Dough and Assemble and Bake the Sfincione
  1. Add all of the dough ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on second speed for about 7 minutes, until fully mixed.
  2. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for one hour.
  3. Heat the oven to 480 degrees F with one rack on the lowest level and one rack in the middle.
  4. While the dough is rising, cook the chopped onions in a skillet over medium low heat until softened and just lightly browned on the edges. Let cool in the pan off heat.
  5. Oil two 9-inch cake pans or one half sheet pan very generously with olive oil (about 2 to 3 tablespoons per pan). If you are using two pans, divide the dough in half and place each half in a cake pan. Otherwise, place all of the dough into the half sheet pan. Dip your fingertips in olive oil and press the dough to stretch it out to fill the pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for one more hour.
  6. Sprinkle the chopped anchovies over the risen dough. Spread the ricotta and Italian herb mixture over the top of the dough.
  7. Spread the cooled onion mixture over the ricotta. Spread the mozzarella and/or Fontina cheeses over the onions.
  8. Toss the breadcrumb layer ingredients together and sprinkle them over the sliced cheeses.
  9. Bake the breads on the lowest rack for 10 minutes. Move the pans to the middle rack and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the bread is crispy and reaches 195 degrees F.
  10. Let the bread cool in the pans for about 5 to 10 minutes and then remove the bread from the pans to a wire rack.
  11. Slice and serve.
  12. Reheat leftovers at 325 degrees F in foil for 10 to 15 minutes.

Nutrition Facts



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bread, sfincione, pizza, focaccia
Italian, Sicilian
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Feeding My Enthusiasms

Would you like to comment?

  1. I love the bit of red onion in there! And what you did with the ricotta is definitely the way to go in my opinion. Such a better spread than trying to dollop and spread over the onions!

    1. That's exactly what I was thinking Kelly! Great minds.

  2. All of that melted cheesy goodness. Yum! I think chopping the onions is the way to go as well. Lovely bake!

  3. Your sfincione is so beautiful! I really like that you used red onion. I bet that adds to the sweetness. Now, based on your beautiful photos, I feel like I have to make sfincione again!!

    As for the anchovies, and the two statements: "You really don't taste them but they add a nice salty umami to the pizza" and "there must be anchovy and onion in every bite."

    Ha! We dissolved our anchovies in the onions and definitely tasted them, but not in every bite. We did taste onion in every bite though. Perhaps we should try adding fewer anchovies (we used 6 oil-packed anchovies) so we get the umami but not the fishy fishy taste.

    1. I suspect my tastebuds are not very sensitive to anchovies. You either love them or hate them, right?

  4. OK I skipped the anchovies and now see I must try for that and then maybe one loaf with some sardines. (We’re often into sardines.) You really hit it with the ricotta spreading it!
    And I want to do Kelly’s free form and get that edge she got.
    Karen, your photos are just beautiful, gorgeous color!

    1. Thank you! My husband would love this with sardines.

  5. what quantity of this recipe is referred to in the nutritional information ?

  6. Yeah.... cheesy breadcrumbs makes everything better. Beautiful bread!

  7. That slice of Sfincione looks beautiful. Your oat and potato breadcrumb layers sounds so very good.

  8. This looks so unique and flavorful. And it would be stunning for a dinner party (which really I will be able to do again someday...) Not that I'm not worth it myself!

  9. I make Detroit Pizza all the time. I would like to make this Sfincione Bagherese recipe as your photos of it are making us drool but Anchovies are a no-no here. I would have to think of something else to use in their place. Any suggestions?

  10. i made one large pie on a pizza tray and it worked well. no semolina where i live so i used bread flour with a small addition of white cornmeal. the dough is really sticky but otherwise easy to work with. the result was a really tasty pizza/bread. thank you.


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