Sfincione Saint Vito Style  

Sfincione di San Vito  

Sfinciuni i San Vitu 

 

 

This stuffed focaccia bread, called Sfincione di San Vito, takes the name from the homonymic convent of Saint Vito where the nuns prepared it. It has been compared to the empanada, but there is little similarity. 


This sfincione is stuffed with tomatoes, onions, olives, potatoes and grated cheese. In time, it was enriched with the addition of sautéed sausages without their casing and shavings of pecorino cheese.

In reality, it differs from the empanada not only for the stuffing but also for the shape. Usually the sfincione di San Vito is formed by two round sheets of pasta dough stuffed with the filling, whereas the empanada is made by a round sheet of dough folded over the filling, forming the typical half moon shape. 

It is mistakenly believed that in the medieval period, the Moors introduced the empanada to the Iberian Peninsula . In the Middle Eastern cuisine, the simbusak is a pastry in semicircular shape like an empanada, and this is the only similarity between them. The outer crust of the empanada is made of flour, whereas the crust of simbusak was made of chickpea flour; the empanada is baked, whereas the simbusak was fried. The empanada, which means “stuffed bread,” is filled with meat or fish and often with vegetables and is a convenient lunch for the working people or to carry for long trips. The Moors introduced the empanada to the Philippines  and Iraq,  where at present, the simbusak is made like an empanada. The Spanish and Portuguese introduced the empanada iton the Americas. 


When you make the Sfincione di Saint Vito, follow the simple rule of constructing it in layers—that is, all ingredients must be placed to cover the entire surface of the dough so that the taste of all elements can blend and uniformly give off the scent and taste. 

 

To prepare the sfincione di San Vito you need a greased baking pan (13 x 9) or a round baking pan (12 inches wide and 3 inches high).

 

Serves 6 to 8 

 

Ingredients:   

 

For the Dough 

·       2 lb flour (all-purpose, or mix ½ semolina and ½ all-purpose) 

·       1 cup of flour for dusting 

·       2 cups warm water 

·       2 envelopes active dry yeast 

·       2 tablespoons oil 

·       1 teaspoon salt 

·       1 teaspoon sugar

 

For the Condiment 

·       1 cup olive oil 

·       3 medium onions, sliced 

·       1 ½ cups canned peeled tomato, diced 

·       1 clove minced garlic 

·       2 lb potatoes sliced very thin and blanched 

·       ½ lb pitted black olives, diced 

·       ¾ cup olive oil 

·       4 oz grated Caciocavallo cheese 

 

 

Preparation 

 

The Dough
Pour warm water into a bowl and stir in yeast and sugar. Wait 5 minutes. Then add oil and salt and blend in half of the flour. Set the mixture aside in a warm place for 10 minutes.
 


Put remaining flour on a flat surface, form a well and place the mixture in it. Start to blend the flour from the inside of the well and keep incorporating the flour. If mixture is too dry, add a little water. Mixture should be soft and very malleable. Should it became too watery, add more flour. 

Using your hands, bring all the flour together to form a ball. Fold and press with the palms of your hands. If dough is sticky, add some more flour. When dough forms a single mass, set it aside and clean your hands and the working surface, discard any scraps.

Dust the working surface with flour and knead dough by pushing it down firmly towards the center. Then turn dough 90 degrees and press down again. Keep kneading until dough is elastic and has a silky consistency. Knead for 10 minutes, or until gluten develops.

Form a ball and cut across the top to facilitate the leavening process. Cover and let rest for 25 minutes, in a warm place.

Punch dough and place it, covered, in an oiled bowl. Refrigerate for a few hours. 

 

The Condiments
Heat ½ cup of olive oil in a 3 ½-quart sauté pan over moderate heat, then add sliced onions, stirring occasionally. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until light golden, sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt and then transfer to a bowl.

Using the same pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and  then add garlic and the peeled tomatoes and simmer at low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Making the Sfincione

Dust working surface with flour, place dough on it and divide into two pieces.
Using a rolling pin or by pressing dough, flatten to about ½ an inch in thickness to make 2 disks, about 12 inches in diameter. 


Lay one disk in a greased pan and on top of it place the onions, then the potatoes, making sure to leave a 1-inch border without condiments to allow the top disk to stick to the bottom disk. 

Sprinkle some salt and pepper.


Next, coat potatoes with tomato sauce and follow with the olives. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. 

Place the other disk of dough on top to cover and seal well.

Sprinkle or use a brush to coat the surface of the dough with oil and dust the top with breadcrumbs.

 

 Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, or until golden brown. 

 

Variation
To make the Sfincione di Saint Vito with sausage, you will need extra ingredients:
1 lb sausages, sans the casing
1 cup of white wine
½ lb sliced primosale or any soft cheese
. 


When you prepare the onions follow these directions:
 

Heat ½ cup of olive oil in a 3 ½-quart sauté pan, over medium heat. Add sliced onion and sausage meat, stirring occasionally. Cook for 6 minutes and then add a cup of wine and cook for an additional 6 minutes or until lightly golden. Add black pepper to taste, check for salt and then transfer to a bowl. 


When making the sfincione, use above mixture instead of the sautéed onions and lay the primosale on top of the sauce.

 

Bake the sfincione as per above instructions.