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|EVERY FEW MINUTES|
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|ITALIAN EASTER PIE (PIZZAGAINA)|
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour, more if needed
1/2 cup whole milk, scalded
1/2 cup water, lukewarm
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons butter flavored Crisco (or butter)
3 tablespoons lard
3 tablespoons buttermilk or sour cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
5 eggs (for dough)
1 egg, boiled
1 egg, mixed with 1 tablespoon water for glaze
The optional lemon juice is used to help make the dough easier to handle.
Shortening: All butter may be used, or a combination of butter, vegetable shortening and lard for the flakiest crust.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 4 1/2 cups flour. Using the dough hook attachment, work 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons of lard, and 2 tablespoons butter flavored Crisco into dough, as though you were making a pie crust.
In a small bowl, dissolve 1 tablespoon honey in 1/2 cup lukewarm water, stirring well until dissolved. Bring water temperature to about 105°F (or warm to the touch). Stir in 1/3 cup flour to "feed" yeast. The yeast mixture should begin to bubble and foam up. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.
Tip: It's a good idea to keep more than one type or brand of yeast on hand if you bake your own bread often. When you measure out your yeast, you can use half from one jar, and half from the other brand of yeast at the same time. This is good insurance in case the yeast isn't as active as you'd like it to be; if only half the yeast is good, your bread will still rise; it will just take longer.
In a small heavy bottomed saucepan, scald 1/2 cup milk. Watch milk carefully during the scalding process and remove from heat when the milk begins to foam slightly. Set aside and allow to sit undisturbed. A skin will form around edges and on top of milk as it cools. Remove the coagulated milk from the edges and skim the top skin off using a spoon. Pour the cooled (85°F) milk into the yeast mixture.
Using the same saucepan the milk was heated in, melt 4 tablespoons butter. When butter has nearly melted, add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and remove from heat. Allow to cool to nearly 85°F.
Break 5 eggs into flour mixture. Mix on medium setting 2 minutes. Add butter mixture and 3 tablespoons buttermilk or sour cream. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture and combine. Add 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (do not substitute).
Knead at medium speed of electric mixer for 8-10 minutes. If dough is too stiff for easy mixing, add a few tablespoons water.
Turn out onto lightly floured board and using your hands, which you've rubbed with olive oil (remove jewelry!), knead gently for 5 minutes. Dough should be light and airy, and somewhat sticky. As you knead, you should hear little "pops" as air bubbles break and new air pockets are formed.
Place into a greased bowl, turn once to coat with oil, cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm, draft free place to rise until doubled in bulk.
When the dough has doubled, punch it down and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Divide in 1/2 and roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Grease a deep dish pan with olive oil. Line the pan bottom and sides with the rolled out dough, easing dough into pan without stretching. Puncture bottom and sides with fork; coat with egg glaze.
1/2 lb mortadella, sliced and chopped
1/2 lb provolone, thinly sliced
1/2 lb capicola (hot ham), very thinly sliced
1/4 lb prosciutto, very thinly sliced
2-3 slices each pepperoni or salami, chopped
1-2 slices sopressato, chopped (optional)
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1 egg yolk (optional - see note below)
1 entire basket Easter cheese (fromaggio fresca)
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 tablespoons Romano cheese, freshly grated
3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, cracked
At your deli, have the cold cuts sliced thinly, with the prosciutto being shaved thinly enough to see through it.
Remove the casing strings from the cold cuts, roll them up and slice them into 1/2 inch wide strips.
For the pepperoni, sopressato, or salami, chop the strips into small squares. Chop half of the mortadella into squares as well, reserving half of it to layer in criss-cross strips to create a layer in the same way that you'll be using the prosciutto.
Measure out a half cup of the ricotta. Add Parmesan and Romano cheese to this, then stir in the cracked whole peppercorns. To crack peppercorns, measure out quantity of whole peppercorns into a plastic bag and then use a rolling pin to crush them as you would bread crumbs.
NOTE: In my family, we don't use eggs to bind the filling in Pizzagaina. The reason it's not needed in this pie is that there is a small amount of ricotta in ratio to the meat and other cheeses. If you prefer, an egg yolk or two may be added to the ricotta, but this is not our tradition (we do use eggs in Pizza Rustica and Calzones if there is a higher ratio of ricotta filling to meat).
Add the filling to the crust, beginning by lining the bottom of the crust with a thin layer of proscuitto, torn into strips. Cover with a scant layer of very thinly sliced boiled eggs (the boiled egg here is optional - feel free to leave it out).
Next, add a layer of ricotta, Parmesan, Romano, cracked pepper mixture. Place a layer of torn capicola to cover the layer. Next, place a thin layer of provolone cheese.
Cover this layer with the remaining 1 cup ricotta which has been mixed with the chopped pepperoni, sopressato, mortadella and capicola.
Place a layer of thin strips of mortadella, and next a layer of fromaggio fresca broken into chunks. Press down slightly if the filling is getting too high. Next, a layer of hot ham, then a final layer of Prosciutto and fromaggio fresca. (An optional variation at this step is to place a single layer of baby spinach, blanched, and squeezed dry into the center ricotta layer.)
In a cup, beat one egg with 1 tablespoon cold water. Use this as the egg glaze for brushing over crust just before baking.
Brush the pie edges with egg glaze so that the top crust will make a better seal with the bottom crust.
Roll out and drape top crust over pie; trim away excess using a kitchen scissors, leaving a 1/2 inch margin.
Press together and crimp edges well, then flute in a decorative fashion.
Insert 3 tin-foil funnels or pie birds through pie crust top in order to allow steam to escape. Let rise 15 minutes, brush crust with egg glaze before baking in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes.
Check at 35 minutes; if browning too rapidly, place aluminum foil tent over top (be sure close oven door quickly or you'll drop the temperature!)
Cover and refrigerate overnight. Cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch slices and allow individual slices to sit at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.
Calzones: If you have any leftover dough, roll it into small circles, fill with any remaining cold cuts or filling mixture that you have, toss on some shredded provolone or mozzarella cheese; fold into half circle, turnover-like shapes. Fold in and crimp edges, pressing to seal. Brush with glaze after allowing a 15 minute rise. Bake calzones at 375°F for 20 minutes, or until golden.
This rich, Italian holiday favorite is served as part of traditional Easter fare, and sometimes at Christmas.
Known in our family as "Pizzagaina", (Pizza jay-nah) this multi-layered dish is quite an undertaking to prepare, but the effort spent will be well worth your time. And you'll be able to prepare it a day or two in advance, leaving you free to relax and enjoy the holidays with your guests.
This recipe has been a treasured favorite in our family for many generations, and now, it can be a tradition in your family, too.
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