Other times, the explanation of the jargon is even more confusing than the jargon itself. With the case of ‘cornicione’, it is actually an Italian word. So it is less ‘jargon’, and more a case of us not understanding the meaning.
Still, it can still confuse people who are not in the know to hear about the cornicione of a pizza. This is especially true if you come across it whilst making a recipe, or on a restaurant menu….and sometimes it can feel too embarrassing to ask!
Luckily for you, we are here to explain exactly what a cornicione is, and we will even be telling you how you can make it (does that give you a clue yet?). Keep on reading to find out more….
What is a Pizza Cornicione?
Simply put, cornicione means ‘crust’. However, in the States, as well as in Britain, the pizza crust is often a term used to refer to the whole base.
Cornicione means a very specific part of this base, namely the outer rim or lip. The Italian origins of the name hint that it is a component of Italian pizzas. This is correct. They are commonly found on Neapolitan style pizzas.
A cornicione is generally a crust that is thicker than the rest of the base. With this in mind, a New York style pizza would not meet the requirements for it as the whole base is rough of the same width thanks to the inclusion of sauce right up to the edges.
Neapolitan pizzas purposely have the tomato sauce in the middle part of the base, allowing for the crusts to rise, becoming deliciously airy and crisp with softer middles.
There are actually some very strict guidelines concerning Neapolitan pizzas, as set out by the True Neapolitan Pizza Association. The official Italian name for this Association is Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.
It was established in Naples in 1984, and its aim was to protect the Neapolitan pizza in Italy and in the wider world. This was to ensure that anything that was called Neapolitan pizza, was made the traditional and authentic way.
The Association regulates pizzerias all over the world, giving them approved status if they find that they meet the very strict and specific standards set out by the association for the making of Neapolitan pizza.
We will be exploring this a little further in the next section. To reiterate though, cornicione refers to a very specific part of the pizza base, the outermost edge or lip of it, that must be thicker than the rest.
True Neapolitan Pizza Cornicione
Now that we have established what exactly a cornicione is, it will be very helpful to learn a little more about where the term originated. In the 1980s, there was an association set up in Italy dedicated to the practice of creating true and authentic Neapolitan pizzas.
They felt that a true Napoli-style pizza should meet very specific requirements, and so the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana was born. The Association has very precise and specific rules around the making of Neapolitan pizzas.
The two types that they cover are Margherita and Marinara. The exact rules are exhaustive, with the official information being around 14 pages long.
The document is very interesting and goes into detail about exactly what types of mozzarella, tomatoes, flour, and even salty, should be used. However, the important thing that we are going to be telling you about is their specifications for the cornicione of the pizza.
All pizzas prepared in the True Neapolitan way will have a dough that has undergone two rising processes. After the second of these, the base is then ready to be formed.
It is in the forming of the round pizza base that the cornicione is born. It is very important that the base is stretched with the hands, rather than using a rolling pin or any mechanical tools.
This allows you to be far more precise. It must be shaped in this way until the center of the pizza is 0.25cm - you are allowed 10% less or more if needed. The end of the crust, though, must be bigger. This end is our cornicione, and it should be between 1 and 2 cm. It will only be a true cornicione if it meets these requirements, and likewise, the pizza will only be a true Neapolitan one if it meets the long list of requirements for it.
As the Association makes clear, the cornicione is one of the distinguishing features of a true Neapolitan pizza, and so it is of utmost importance that it is done correctly.
The end result is a thick, but airy crust. The outside of the crust will be able to stay crisp, whereas the inside of the cornicione will be softer and chewier.
How to make cornicione
First, we should make it clear that in order to make cornicione, you need to make a whole pizza base. With this in mind, the recipe we have for you is for pizza dough.
The art of getting a cornicione crust lies not just within the recipe itself, but in the method you use to stretch the dough out. For it to be like the authentic Neapolitan version, the dough should be stretched to no bigger than 35 cms in diameter.
You should also ensure that the center and edges are the right widths. The center of the base should be 0.25cm and the edges should be between 1 and 2 cm. With this in mind, we can now move on to the recipe itself.
Bear in mind that this recipe is much more of an express method. It does not follow the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana method exactly because theirs is one of exact precision, and it is closely regulated to ensure that it follows the rules set by them exactly.
That being said, this recipe gives results that will be similar to that of the authentic, protected Italian way, allowing you to enjoy the chewy goodness of cornicione even with the Associations’ stamp of approval.
For this recipe you will need:
- 3 and three-quarter cups of bread flour
- 2 teaspoons of fine salt
- 1 and two-third cups of cool temperature water. It should not be cold, but not quite lukewarm
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Half a teaspoon of instant yeast
- For this first step, you will need to put the flour yeast, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir these together until all of the ingredients are mixed well. When these ingredients are combined you can add your water. This should be stirred in until there is no longer any dry mixture left.
- When the water is combined and you are left with a damp mixture, you can start to mix or stir this together, either with a metal spoon, a wooden spoon, or your hands if you wish (ensuring they are cold before starting). Stop doing this when the dough seems to get stringier and your arms start to ache from the mixing.
- Cover the stringy, doughy mixture with some plastic wrap, like Saran wrap, and let it rise for around half an hour. When this first half an hour is up you should fold the dough, stretching it a little. The dough should be feeling like it has more elasticity, and should also be feeling firmer. You can now cover it again for another half an hour.
- When this half an hour is up you can stretch and fold the dough again. Repeat this process another two or three times. Eventually, there will be no stringy parts of the dough. It will be a smooth, round, uniformed ball.
- You can split this uniformed ball into two, enabling you to make two pizzas from it. When you have two separate balls you can use the olive oil to lightly coat them and they can be used right away or stored to be used when needed. In a zip-lock bag, the dough can keep in the refrigerator for up to four days. Any leftover uncooked dough can also be frozen to be used within a month, provided it is allowed to thoroughly defrost, first.
As you can hopefully see by now, the word cornicione is not jargon at all, just an Italian word that is used to describe the crust of a pizza.
Whilst Americans and Brits call the whole pizza base ‘the crust’, technically the crust, at least to Italians, refers only to the outermost edge of the pizza base.
A true Neapolitan cornicione must be made following the specifications set by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, ensuring that the crust measures between 1 and 2 cms in thickness.
Of course, there are ways to achieve a very similar crust at home, and that can easily be done following our recipe we have given you above.
The key thing to remember is that, in order for it to be a cornicione, it must be thicker than the rest of the pizza, crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy in the middle.
One thing is for sure, this deliciously light but chewy crust is a favorite of people worldwide, and it is the pinnacle of Italian pizza-making, being the most distinguishable thing about the famed Neapolitan pizzas.