You might think that thick ring breading around your pizza is just a deep crust but it actually might be cornicione instead.
We know that sounds confusing. Why wouldn’t you just call it a crust? Well, for one thing, it is slightly different from a crust and has some unique aspects.
If you like Neapolitan-style pizzas, you probably have experienced the unique taste and texture of added cornicione crust.
You may have even eaten it and not realized that it wasn’t your typical crust. It probably didn’t stand out as different to you.
So what exactly is pizza cornicione? Cornicione is a specialty type of crust on pizza. It’s most commonly used or applied to certain types of pizzas. In the United States and in Britain, the term is typically used to describe the crust and the entire base of the pizza.
In this guide, we will discuss just what exactly pizza cornicione is. We will introduce you to the taste and texture, and maybe even a quick recipe or guide for how it is made as well. All of these things work together to create cornicione.
Keep reading to learn what pizza cornicione is and more.
What Exactly Is Pizza Cornicione?
If you look at the origin of the word cornicione, the translation is Italian. In the Italian language, the word means edge or rim and it’s specifically used for pizza.
Here, we typically call that the crust, but when you hear cornicione for pizza, it’s not usually referring to your standard crust that you see every day. There are many different types of pizza crust.
You find this crust most often on a Neapolitan-style pizza but it can be used on other pizzas as well.
The identifying factors for this crust are that it is made to be airy and it’s made to be thick or raised on the edges so it will look like a thick or large crust but it’s actually airy on the inside and not overly heavy when you eat it.
Cornicione is crunchy on the outside but not too crunchy. The inside is soft and light and airy, like we mentioned above.
So how is cornicione different from a regular crust? To be quite frank, we often use the term crust incorrectly. When you think of the crust, you think of the outer edges but we also typically use it to describe the breading underneath the pizza.
However, crust is really not meant to describe the edges, which is where cornicione comes in because that incredible airy “crust” is specific to the edges or the rim of the pizza and not really the underneath base, which is the crust of the pizza.
Chefs, bakers, and pizza connoisseurs recognize the importance of the different terminology here and now you might as well. It’s an important way to distinguish different parts of the pizza.
If you look at specifically the Neapolitan pizza, you will find that the specific instruction is to create a raised edge of about 1/2-1 full inch of raised cornicione or edge on the pizza.
This gives you some idea of just how large that edge can but remember it is also light and airy.
The Breakdown Of A Pizza
So, let’s talk about the different parts of a pizza to really get a feel for what people mean when they use the word crust or cornicione.
You have the crust, which is really the base of the pizza. It might flow into the edges but the crust is meant to refer to the base.
The same dough is used to create your edges and rims but there are defining separated factors to the crust and the edge.
Then you have your edges, which in this guide, is the cornicione. This is big and fluffy and oh-so-good!
From there, you’ve got your toppings. Toppings can vary considerably but you most likely have sauce on the base of the pizza and near the edges. Then you have cheese and any additional meats and veggies that you want on your pizza.
When referring to pizza cornicione, you are not adding any of these toppings to the edges of the pizza. They all go on the base and then you have the raised edge of the cornicione around the rim.
Pizza Cornicione Taste
As we’re talking about what pizza cornicione is, let’s focus on the taste for a few minutes.
This is bread dough and the same dough is used for the rest of the pizza crust as well. When you bake the pizza, the crust becomes slightly crisp, without being crunchy.
The inside of the crust will be light. This is not a deep dish pizza. Where a deep dish has thick edges also, they are full and heavy. Pizza cornicione is not that.
It is a specialty type of crust and it needs specific directions to make it. Perhaps the best way to make the difference is to explain pizza cornicione as a type of crust.
In our heads, at least in the US and Britain, we picture crust as the edges and while this is our understanding of the terminology, it’s not really accurate.
For the purpose of understanding, we are going to group cornicione as a type of crust in this part of the explanation.
You have thin crust, you have hand-tossed crust, you have deep dish (or sometimes pan) crust, and you have cornicione. Makes sense, right?
Cornicione almost resembles a deep dish because it has thick edges but it’s really not like that at all. It’s light and it’s airy and you will notice that with the taste when you bite into it as well. It’s not heavy and filling.
Pizza Cornicione Texture
Now, let’s look at the texture in the same way we did the taste. Group cornicione as a type of crust for comparison purposes.
Thin crust has a very thin and crisp (almost crunchy) crust. Then you have hand-tossed, which is really the most similar as far as texture. It’s light and it’s a good cross between the crispness of thin and the thicker substance like deep dish.
Deep dish is almost a meal in itself. It is thick and heavy and while the size of the edge might be comparable, the textures are really not a comparison here.
Pizza cornicione edges are really pretty unique to their own style. The edges will turn out slightly crisp but they won’t be crunchy.
The inside of the edge will be light and airy and not overly heavy or bready. There will most likely be air bubbles around the edges as well.
Can Any Crust Be Pizza Cornicione?
If you translate the Italian word cornicione, it does just mean pizza edge or rim so if we wanted to be technical, we could say that every pizza crust applies.
However, that’s not really the case. This term is used for a very specific type of pizza edge and it’s not really the crust, it’s just the edge.
When we look at the terms, in particular, crust is really meant to describe just the base of the pizza while other words are meant to describe the edges.
Cornicione is used to describe the edge and for the purpose of this guide, it really means a specific type of edge.
Earlier we described it as a type of crust, and we stand by that description primarily as a way to understand just what the word means and is referring to.
A Guide To Making Pizza Cornicione
Now, let’s talk about how pizza cornicione is made. There are specific parts of the process to get this “crust” just right.
- Gluten Development
- Dough Fermentation
- Shaping & Stretching Dough
- Adding Toppings
- Cooking in Heat
The first part of the process is to develop the gluten. This is also the most important part of the process because the gluten is what makes your dough stretchable and flexible to shape it and mold it later in the process.
If you aren’t familiar with just what gluten is, it’s a protein that is in wheat flour. Without gluten, your cornicione simply won’t have enough stretch and flexibility to make your pizza like this.
The gluten also makes a difference in the little air pockets that are common with cornicione.
With pizza, you will probably use pizza flour, if you can find it. If you can’t find pizza flour, check out the gluten levels in the flour and choose with that.
Your best flour should have a gluten content somewhere around 10-12%. You can also look at Tipo and you want either Tipo 0 or Tipo 00 if at all possible.
Choosing the flour is important but you also have to understand how to develop your gluten for the best results as well.
You will have to hydrate the gluten for this. To hydrate the gluten, you combine flour and water and then knead your dough. Kneading by hand takes about 15-20 minutes but you can knead with a mixer and cut off some time too.
Developing your gluten is the first step but your dough also needs to be able to ferment for a long period of time.
This is the time where the dough is proofing. If you have seen cornicione, you know it has air bubbles that are a unique attribute of this style.
Those air bubbles come from this fermentation period and it really needs the chance to ferment and rise for 8-24 hours. It’s also possible to ferment your dough longer using cold fermentation. This process is thought to add more flavor to cornicione.
Being able to ferment for a long period of time requires using less yeast in the dough so your rising time might also depend on your flour.
For example, if you used all-purpose flour, you will want to ferment on the low end of time. This is why pizza flour is also recommended.
Shaping & Stretching Dough
Here’s the thing, we let the dough ferment to create air bubbles so we don’t want to ruin those when we shape the dough to create the pizza, right?
When you start to shape and stretch your dough, you will want to leave the edges (cornicione) untouched as much as possible so that those bubbles stay there and the edges puff up like they are meant to do.
With cornicione, shaping and stretching are done pretty much with just your hands and a rolling pin shouldn’t be used.
You will do some tossing of the dough to stretch it. You’re still going to have edges but you’re going to work the dough from the center primarily.
It’s a gentle process because we don’t want to disrupt the gas within the dough so you still get that light and airy crust, which is the whole point of cornicione.
This is pretty self-explanatory so there isn’t much to say here. You’ve already shaped your dough and got your cornicione set up perfectly. Add the toppings to your liking and then head on to the next step!
Baking In Heat
The pizza will need to be baked in a very hot oven. We don’t just mean that you pre-heated your oven but more that you are using high heat. It’s that high heat that helps cornicione puff up and yet still crisp slightly on the outside.
If you can wood-fire cook your pizza, this is absolutely one of the best ways to achieve what you’re after.
Neapolitan ovens can reach temperatures of 900°F. You’re not going to achieve that in a regular oven but this gives you an idea of why we are telling you that high heat is required. So go ahead and crank oven heat up probably almost as high as it will go.
You want high heat and a quick cooking time without burning the pizza.
Some people also opt to use their broiler for a few minutes because it provides extra heat that is intense. If you use the broiler, be very careful as it can burn very quickly.
We hope that this guide to understanding what pizza cornicione is can be a helpful resource for you.
Just understand that it’s referring to the edges of the pizza and it specifically has a light and airy crust that isn’t achieved as easily as some traditional edge options.
Check out these frequently asked questions for some additional information as well.
What Is Canotto?
Canotto is almost the exact same thing as cornicione. It is a word that refers specifically to puffy cornicione or crust so your dough needs to be airy. These terms can be interchangeable but canotto is a descriptive term.
Here’s a great tutorial for making pizza canotto.
How Can You Leopard Your Pizza?
The term leoparding is typically referred to getting a pizza cooked so it has some light and some dark patches from the cooking process.
A lot of people use the broiler to achieve that result in a traditional home oven. If you use a Neapolitan oven, you can do it there too.
What Makes Pizza Dough Bubble?
In the case of cornicione, you want your dough to bubble. It’s the gases from the fermentation process and has to do with the level of yeast and gluten in the flour. You want some of this to occur but you also don’t want it to be too much.