PIZZA with a twist, Bless the Dough
Homemade PIZZA and other stuff
Legend attributes modern pizza to a baker from Naples Raffaele Esposito. In 1889, Esposito who owned a restaurant named: The Pizzeria di Pietro, baked what he called “pizza” especially for the visit of the Italian King Umberto I and his Queen Margherita. Of the three different pizzas he created, the Queen preferred the pie with the colors of the Italian flag: red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella).The legend continues that this kind of pizza was then named after the Queen: Pizza Margherita. This legend as all legends go, is a nice story with no real references and remains a pretty Urban Tale.
Modern pizza originated in Italy as Neapolitan flatbread. Since most Neapolitans could only afford inexpensive food, flatbreads with various toppings: Pizza, became popular and was eaten for any meal and sold on every street corner. Early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor, featured the tasty garnishes, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies garlic and local herbs mainly Oregano and Basil.
Some say the word pizza from the Latin verb Pìnsere, to press, or Greek in origin from the Greek pēktos, (meaning “solid” or “clotted”), The ancient Greeks covered their bread with oils, herbs and cheese. The Romans developed placenta, a sheet of dough topped with cheese and honey and flavored with bay leaves. In Byzantine Greek, the word was spelled πίτα, pita, meaning pie. The word has also spread to Romanian as pită, Turkish as pide, Bulgarian, Croatian and Serbian called it pita, Albanian as pite and Modern Hebrew pittā.. (Wikipedia)
History of Pita, extends far into antiquity, all over the ancient world, flatbreads, leavened or not, are among the most ancient breads, requiring no oven or utensils to make. Pita or pita bread is as you know a round pocket bread widely consumed throughout the Middle Eastern countries, in Cyprus, even the Balkans, North Africa, the Levant, Iran, Armenia, Turkey, and parts of the India as chapatti or Naan. The “pocket” in pita bread is created by steam, which puffs up the dough. As the bread cools and flattens, a pocket is left in the middle. But flattened dough of varying thicknesses baked in ovens, Tandoors or tanoors with various toppings exist in most culinary cultures around the world.
Armenian spicy meat pies called Lahmajoon and are made sold in all Armenian streets, the dough at the base is almost paper-thin (similar to a Mexican flour tortilla) and tender with crisp edges; rolled up in a piece of paper served fresh out of the oven, it is basically an Armenian “personal pizza” with very thin crust and a spiced ground lamb and pine kernels topping. Same as the Armenian LAHMAJOON are the Turkish LAHMACUN, or Arab Lahmajoon لحم بعجي, lahm bi’ajīn “meat with dough sold and eaten all over the middle east countries. It is again, a round, thin piece of baked dough topped with fried minced meat (most commonly lamb) and diced vegetables onions, tomatoes and parsley and herbs including, Lahm Bi’ajīn is often served sprinkled with roasted pine kernels.To name just a few non Italian still same part of the world / Mediterranean examples. Pizza like dishes were eaten by many peoples in the Mediterranean including the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Pizza is considered a peasant’s meal in Italy for centuries. Still each person rich or poor has his own preferences and will visit regularly his “Local” favorite Pizza place which obviously serves “THE BEST PIZZA“. They will all agree that the most important features of Pizza are the touch of the baked dough, and the quality and taste of the sauce.
My preference for home baking is the Basic Pizza recipe by Antonio Carluccio from the book Complete Italian Food, what a wonderful cookbook, a version of which could be found in: http://www.antonio-carluccio.com/pizza
Makes 4 x 28cm (11 inch) pizzas (I make them thinner and slightly larger making 5-6 pizzas:
220 ml warm water
30g fresh yeast or the dried equivalent, (quantity of dried yeast: see the maker’s instructions per amount of flour)
1 tsp Sugar
A pinch of salt
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
500g ’00’ flour (Doppio zero), plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp dried Oregano (Only if you want some oregano smell in the dough)
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water to which you have added the sugar Leave to froth, about 10 minutes. Pour the flour and salt into a mound on a clean work surface and make a hole in the centre of it (or use a mixer with the dough hook). Add the yeast mixture and olive oil drop by drop into the centre of the flour, mixing with your hands until all the liquid is absorbed, forming large lumps. Knead the dough with your hands until it has a smooth texture, then roll it into a ball. “A good pizza depends on the quality of the dough used” (Antonio Carluccio and me).
Next, sprinkle some extra flour into a large bowl, and place the dough in it, spreading a little oil over the top to prevent a crust forming. Cover the bowl with a dry linen cloth and leave to rise for an hour in a warm place – not less than 20 C/ 68 F. (“It was at this stage that my grandmother used to ‘bless’ the dough by making the sign of the cross in order that it should turn out well” Antonio Carluccio) I guess she was giving thanks to St. Honoré, the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. After this time the dough should have increased in volume by about three times.
A homemade pizza should have it’s personal signature just like any professional Pizzeria or “favorite pizza place”, my Pizza sauce is this signature. I am sure you can find or concoct any good old tomato based pizza sauce mine has a twist enhancing the wonderfull fragrance of the sauce and not relaying solely on the quality of herbs (Oregano, Basil etc.)
Bell Peppers Pizza Sauce:
This is an easy sauce to prepare. Use only Red, Orange and Yellow Bell peppers, the specific scent of Orange peppers is the key.
Olive oil to line a good size pot
2 Onions cut roughly (quarters)
6-8 large Red, Yellow, Orange bell peppers (cleaned and cut to 3-4 cm squares)
2 garlic clove, chopped
Half of red chilly (or less if too hot)
4 ripe plum tomatoes, skinned and halved, or half a can peeled plum tomatoes, chopped in the can, or polpa di pomodoro.
Half glass of wine (white or red)
6-8 stalks of fresh Thyme
10 stalks of fresh Oregano
1 Bay leaf
2 tsp dried quality oregano (I use dried Sicilian Oregano for best quality and strength of smell)
Salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce, heat the oil in a pan, fry the Onions constantly stirring, until lightly browned, you want to get the sweetness out of the onions than add the Bell peppers increase the heat and try to lightly scorch (not burn) their skins, than add the garlic for just a few seconds and then add the tomatoes make sure you have enough but not too much liquid, (eventually after sieving the sauce, you want to achieve a thick sauce). Simmer the sauce, add the green herbs, season with salt and pepper (taste from time to time to adjust seasoning to your taste), keep stirring from time to time, for 15-20 minutes depending on the amount of liquid you need to “loose”
Once ready take off the heat and let it cool down, in the meantime you can dig out the green herbs by their stalks but this is up to you. I Blitz everything in a food processor (solids first to achieve smooth paste than add remaining liquids to receive the sauce, strain well and hard in a fine sieve and a wooden ball a bit at a time and discard of all the “solids remains”. Collect the strained sauce in a bowl and keep aside. Prepare a “Mise en place” of all the ingredients you require to make youe pizza toppings
1. The sauce
2. 250 grms of low-moisture mozzarella
2-3 large balls of Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo mozzarella) sliced
Fresh and dried Herbs: Oregano Basil, Thyme
Very thin slices of ripe tomato
Thin slices of zucchini (sliced with a potato peeler)
Thinly sliced mushrooms (Portobello or brown button)
Zucchini Flowers if in season (Fiori di zucca)
Ultra thin slices of garlic and chilly
Any other topping of your choice
Making the Pizza
Preheat oven to 230-240º C Gas mark 8-9
Divide the dough into four and form into pizzas. Grease each pizza rolled dough with a brush dipped in oil, Place the dough circles on the round metal pizza mesh or on trays. and prebake the base for 1-2 minuts or intill light brown bubbles appear on the surface stay by the oven make sure they don’t burn! Take out of the oven (use gloves), spread on each circle of dough about two spoonfuls of the pizza sauce use the spoon/ladle to circles around to cover the dough. Sprinkle with grated low moisture mozzarella, than your toppings of choice. Spread around some discs of buffalo mozzarella (on top of each tomato slice, sprinkle over the fresh and dried herbs even some salt. Pour a sprinkle of olive oil over the top of each and place in the preheated oven for about 6-10 minutes depending on your oven, until you see the edges become a golden colour, and the buffalo mozzarella bubbling with brownish edges.
Cut pizza to 4-6 slices serve and make the next one while the first is consumed you can make 2 at a time but the bottom pizza will have to “move” to top oven shelve when the first one is ready
You can also use “Regular fireclay (Chamotte) brick for Pizza” This block of stone does not require the double baking method but good means to lay down the pizza on the fresh dough on the preheated block. Chamotte bricks for Pizza come in varying shapes for various temperatures, alternatively use the round pizza metal mesh (also in various sizes), both can be found in any cooking utensil shops.
Chamotte is not a natural stone it is an artificial stone made from various ceramic materials with high heat resistance, forming a heat resistance surface that is suitable for baking, even heat spread adding crunchiness to the Pizza crust.
The most popular cheeses to use on pizza are mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan. Romano and Ricotta are often used as toppings mainly in white pizzas (no tomato/pepper sauce used)
My first excellent Pizza baked in a wood oven was Nuti in Firenze (Florence) in the early 1970’s, The owner has changed since but the Pizza oven (the main asset of the Pizzeria is still working well.
My Favorite Pizza is made in Pizzeria Da Baffetto in Via del Governo vecchio 114 Rome. The line of waiting locals and tourists alike speaks for itself and the Pizza is Perfect by all counts, until you have a chance to visit here are some photos to open your appetite. (press thumbnail to enlarge photos)
Regarding the notion of wine pairing for Pizza… you don’t have to stick to Italian wines if you prefer or have a different wine I am glad to say that Pizza goes with any wine red or white, just please after such an elaborated work do not drink plonk wine with OUR Pizza, (give it and yourself some proper respect)
As the Italians say: Buon Appetito