Kids, Adults, Elderly, East or West, everybody loves Pizza!
Whether you are at home or eating out, be it a party, or a movie night, a sleepover or a weekend late night treat, for lunch, brunch or dinner, Pizza is always a perfect option. How did we end up having pizza? (watch the video above for a brief history).
Let’s talk pizza
I will leave ancient history out for now. Perhaps to revisit later, but for now I will start from Naples.
In Italy, pizza originated in Naples, and spread from there into almost every other Italian city. Each city created its own adaptation of Pizza, adding their unique signature to the pie from their choice of ingredients to the presentation.
Then it was adopted by travellers who in turn took it to the rest of the world. Worth mentioning here that world wars were very influential in the modern moving of the Italian pizza to different areas of the world. As the soldiers commissioned to Italy had acquired a taste for pizza and when back at their homes they mostly started their own pizza parlors. This is especially true in the case of how pizza was popularised in USA. (see the video below which explores the move of pizza from Naples to the rest of the world).
Around the world, many areas have come up with their own versions of pizza, which eventually became famous by their names, like “Boston Pizza” for instance or “The New Yorker” which is a large round pizza, that is sold per slice! Therefore, although originally Italian, pizza very rapidly became an international sensation.
The main characteristics of Pizza
A pizza is based on a crust. This crust can be thin, thick, crisp, or tender, smooth or with bulges. This crust can be made in a variety of different ways to create the different textures. You can even be creative and instead of making a classic pizza dough, you can make a pizza from Focaccia dough for variation.
Generally speaking, pizza crust is a bread-based dough, it can therefore be made with wheat based flour, whole wheat, buckwheat…etc.
Melted Mozzarella topping is synonymous with our mental image of pizza. But the choice of cheese is abundant. You can go from the classic mozzarella and Parmesan to all other kinds to include cheddar (classic or aged), Gorgonzola, Emmental…etc. You can even experiment with the texture of the cheese for various presentations and looks (shredded, sliched, cubed, or crumbled). The cheese can go on top, or be included in the filling or a pizza can include both options in one (a topping and filling). There are pizzas made using more than one cheese and are named accordingly (a trio of cheese…etc).
With that said all of the deviations from the classic are not authentic Italian, they are the interpretations of the many cultures, areas and peoples who adopted the original pizza. There is no shame in that (The Italians will be upset to read this) however the acknowledgement must be present that these are deviations from the authentic way.
Tomato sauce is the most famous base for pizza, however, don’t let that deter you from using other sauces. Basil pesto goes wonderful with pizza as well (again, basil pesto is the classic choice, you can also experiment with Arugula Pesto, baby watercress pesto…). Try a spinach sauce for change, perhaps even a bolognaise or white sauce… Maybe you would like to try a cheese sauce or how about a truffled cheese sauce. Really, the sky’s the limit!
The classic presentation of pizza is round shaped. But you can go for the shape you like, in the size you like. I make mini (bite size) pizzas for cocktail receptions and pass around service. These are also good for guests to taste a variety of flavours instead of sticking to just one. I also love making these as the leftovers become tomorrow’s lunchbox option for the kids! I also go for a little bigger size (about the size of your palm) for brunches, as I find they are more filling, yet allow for seconds. With that said, I personally always prefer the rustic look of the classic perfect presentations. The rustic square, oblong or even attempted round are to me more appealing than the ring cut perfect shapes. Experiment with presentation and you will find your own favourite. Don’t get too stuck on the classics, it is nice to have character, even in food presentation.
Anything under the sun can be used as toppings for pizza. All types of meats, vegetables, herbs, nuts, seeds, cheeses…etc. You can make it very simple and choose a max of 2 toppings, or you can go all the way and make a mix of a variety of vegetables, herbs, cheeses…etc.
You can always make 2 pizzas in one. Just make each side a different filling and topping. Your imagination is your only limitation.
Methods of cooking Pizza
Pizza is best cooked in the traditional pizza oven (stone oven). This oven builds up massive heat which is always preferable and produces the best results with flat breads. The use of charcoal, and wood for fire, add an unmatched flavour to your pizza. Since not many of us have a pizza oven at home, you can bake pizza in your kitchen’s oven. Although you will not achieve the perfect restaurant style pizza, you can get pretty close. The use of a pizza stone will tremendously improve the results. You just have to preheat it with your oven for it to accumulate enough heat to make a difference.
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