Pizza Cornicione – What It Is And How To Make It

Pizza Cornicione (Cor-ni-cione). You may have heard of it or this may be a brand new term, but chances are, if you love pizza, you’ve at least heard it in passing or on your holiday in Italy.

Well, even if you have, it’s not uncommon for people to be confused as to what it means. Some think it just means the crust, some think it’s a topping, some even think it’s the shape.

Well, this article will hopefully clear any confusion and have you brimming with Cornicione facts before you know it. So let’s get to it.

What Does The Term ‘Pizza Cornicione’ Mean?

In Italian, ‘Cornicione’ simply means the edge or outer rim of the pizza. It should be slightly raised, full of air, and crunchy on the outside yet light and soft on the inside.

The perfect cornicione is found on a traditional Neapolitan pizza and shouldn’t be confused with what most Americans or Brits refer to as the crust.

The crust is the whole bread part of the pizza and not just the edge like the cornicione and so if you want to improve your pizza terminology, you must get this term right.

If we delve a little deeper, you might be interested in the history of the pizza cornicione. In the 1980s, an association was set up in Italy that was dedicated to the practice of creating the best Neapolitan pizzas.

They felt these pizzas should meet certain requirements and from this, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana was created.

They covered two main types of pizzas that we see in Italian restaurants all over the world and they are the Margherita and Marinara.

When it comes to the perfect cornicione, the association believes the true Neapolitan way to make pizza is by undergoing two rising processes.

After the second rising process, the base can be formed and it’s in the forming of the round pizza base that the cornicione is created.

They say that the cornicione should be stretched with your hands and that rolling pins or other mechanical tools should be avoided.

Their advice on shaping is that it should be shaped with your hands until the middle of the pizza is around 0.25cm. The edge of the crust should be slightly bigger.

This edge then becomes the cornicione and needs to be around 1-2cm. The association claims that if these measurements are off, you will not have created a true pizza cornicione.

A cornicione is key to the perfect Neapolitan pizza and so it becomes extremely important it is formed correctly.

Can I Make My Own Pizza Cornicione?

Can I Make My Own Pizza Cornicione

Of course! The first step to making the perfect Cornicione however is to know how to make your pizza dough.

This pizza dough needs to undergo a fermentation process and needs to be stretched out enough to make that perfect edge.

It needs to be stretched out no larger than 35cm in diameter and the center and edges should also be the correct width. To make that stretchy dough, however, you’ll need a recipe.

Luckily, we’ve included below a recipe that’s similar to authentic Italian pizza dough and will allow you to create that great cornicione! 

Ingredients

  • 3 and 3 ¼ cups of bread flour 
  • 2 teaspoons of salt 
  • 1 and ⅔ cups of cool water.
  • Olive oil 
  • Half a teaspoon of yeast

Method

  1. Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a bowl before adding your water. This should be stirred in until no dry mixture is leftover.
  2. When you are left with a damp mixture, mix this with a wooden spoon or your hands until it becomes sticky and stringy.
  3. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let it rise for half an hour before stretching it a little more. The dough should feel elastic but firm before you cover it again for another half an hour.
  4. Next, you need to stretch and fold the dough again. Repeat this process two or three times until there are no stringy parts left of the dough and it forms a smooth, round, uniformed ball.
  5. You can then split this ball into two to create two pizzas and use the olive oil to lightly coat them. These can be used straight away or stored to be used when needed. In a zip-lock bag or airtight container, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for around four days. You can freeze any leftover dough but use it within one month and make sure you thoroughly defrost it first.

Now onto the cornicione. As we have already outlined, The True Neapolitan Pizza Association suggests it should have a raised edge of around 1-2cm.

You need to have a good quality flour that contains enough gluten, and you need to allow for a long fermentation process before baking the pizza in a hot oven. Below, we’ve outlined four key steps to making the perfect cornicione.

Developing Your Gluten

Gluten development is an important part of any pizza dough and is what holds the dough together as well as creating the structure of the dough and creating its elasticity.

Gluten is a protein that’s found in wheat flour and without it in your dough, the dough will just fall apart. Therefore, without it, you will struggle to make any kind of dough, never mind a cornicione.

After your dough has been hydrated and you have kneaded it, the dough will form its own network of walls which forms the structure of the dough.

The more you knead this dough, the stronger this network will get. This network becomes important to make your cornicione as it will make tiny pockets inside the dough.

These pockets will trap any gas produced by yeast and as the dough rises, make bubbles inside the cornicione. As a result of this, the edge will start to puff up and create a light, soft interior.

To develop the gluten and make that strong network, you need to ensure it is hydrated. To do this, combine your flour and water and knead for around 15-20 minutes.

But what type of flour is best to guarantee a strong network in the dough?

Believe it or not, because it dictates gluten development, the quality of flour is more important than you think when it comes to making pizza dough and is sometimes overlooked by pizza bakers.

A proper pizza flour has the perfect amount of gluten for the perfect dough. Our best tip is to buy a high-quality Tipo 0 or Tipo 00 pizza flour.

These are fine, Italian-milled wheat flours that have a gluten content of 10%-12%.  Tipo 0 or Tipo 00 do vary in gluten quality however and so it’s important to do your research and shop around first. 

A Long Fermentation Process

This is key not only to a flavorsome dough but also to developing the great air bubbles that make up a cornicione.

As a guide, a Neopolitan pizza should rise for about 8-24 hours, but you can experiment with how long you let your dough ferment depending on flavor preferences and how much time you have.

If a longer fermentation time suits you best, you’ll need to reduce the quantity of yeast you are using. The fermentation process will also be aided by good-quality flour.

If you leave an all-purpose flour for 24 hours, it may overproof, which means the gluten network won’t be strong enough to hold the gas in the dough.

This will end up with the dough collapsing and you will be left with a dense, heavy dough without any air bubbles at all.

Shaping The Pizza To Make The Perfect Cornicione

So that you preserve any air bubbles created in the dough, you must not touch the edge of the pizza.

If you end up touching, pressing, and moving the edge of the pizza, you may end up bursting the bubbles and as a result, the edge of the pizza will not get airy or puff up, which is what makes that great pizza cornicione.

Out top tip would be never to use a rolling pin as this will squeeze any gas out of the dough and burst any bubbles created.

Baking The Pizza In A Hot Pizza Oven

How you bake your pizza is more important than you think, especially if you’re after that perfect cornicione.

The oven you bake your pizza in must be extremely hot and you should ensure you are using the highest temperature of your home oven.

This will ensure the cornicione will puff out and the edges will get crispy. A Neapolitan oven may reach as hot as 900F and whilst home ovens will usually not reach this temperature, it’s important to get as close to this as possible.

High heat will reduce the amount of time it takes to bake the pizza and this aids the crispy crust consistency. The reason you will get a drier crust with a lower temperature is that the water evaporates during the long baking process.

If you are a pro pizza baker, you might even own a pizza stone or steel.

A pizza stone is a portable baking system that’s made of clay, ceramic, or even cordierite to imitate the boiling hot floor of a traditional pizza oven by retaining as well as conducting heat.

It will bake your pizza considerably quicker than on a baking sheet in a home oven and will guarantee you that authentic Italian crispy crust.

You should always let your pizza stone or steel preheat for around 45 minutes to an hour so that your baking surface is hot enough to bake on.

You could even use the broiler or grill in your home for extra heat. This will considerably increase the temperature and even provide you with the opportunity to create a leopard pattern on your cornicione, just like you might traditionally see in Naples!

This pattern can only occur when the reflected heat from the ceiling of the pizza oven, which will be imitated by your broiler or grill, hits the cornicione.

The bubbles and unevenness in the edge of the pizza will char certain areas quicker than others and this is what makes the pattern look like leopard skin.

To create this effect with the broiler, place your pizza stone or steel as close to the broiler as possible, ideally on the top rack of your oven.

You can even use your broiler to preheat the stone or steel itself, making it even hotter and guaranteeing that crispy finish along with the perfect cornicione!

Final Thoughts

We hope by reading this article you’ve now got a solid understanding of what a pizza cornicione is and more importantly, how to make one next time it’s your turn to host the pizza party!

You’ll be sure to impress your friends if you master the perfect cornicione, especially with the addition of the leopard pattern on top, and since they are found on virtually every pizza in every pizzeria in Italy, you won’t get a more authentic pizza than if you were visiting the country yourself.