I love pizza, I really do. Not eating it as much as I love making pizza. Why? you ask….because EVERYBODY seems to love a good pizza and they are all so happy to see you when you come with pizza.
Think about it. Want to get your kids to help you clean out the garage? Promise pizza at the end. Want to have people over for movie night and need to serve a lot of people ?- get some pizza. Want to make an interactive food experience for adults and kids? – host a ‘build your own pizza’ night.
But where does this obsession with pizza come from? According to some online sources, the art of pizza dates back over 1,000 years. The typical circular pizzas of today are traditionally known as Neapolitin pizzas from Italy. They include a marinara sauce made from fresh, local tomoatoes and the mozzarella cheese from local buffalo (hence the term buffalo mozzarella). See the excerpt below for “official” details about this type of pizza, according to Wikipedia:
Neapolitan pizza (pizza napoletana): Authentic Neapolitan pizzas are made with local ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes, which grow on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius, and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, made with the milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio in a semi-wild state (this mozzarella is protected with its own European protected designation of origin). According to the rules proposed by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the genuine Neapolitan pizza dough consists of Italian wheat flour (type 0 or 00, or a mixture of both), natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer’s yeast, salt and water. For proper results, strong flour with high protein content (as used for bread-making rather than cakes) must be used. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer. After the rising process, the dough must be formed by hand without the help of a rolling pin or other mechanical device, and may be no more than 3 mm (¹⁄₈ in) thick. The pizza must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire. When cooked, it should be crispy, tender and fragrant. Neapolitan pizza has been given the status of a “guaranteed traditional specialty” in Italy. This allows only three official variants: pizza marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil (although most Neapolitan pizzerias also add basil to the marinara), pizza Margherita, made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra-virgin olive oil, and pizza Margherita extra made with tomato, mozzarella from Campania in fillets, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
Mamma mia! Who knew there was so much official doctrine around pizza. All I know is that I like it, and I especially like it when I can make my “off white” versions and nobody is worse for the ware. This particular pizza included a lovely fine spelt flour purchased in bulk at the Davis Coop. I wish I could say that it was a cost-effective pizza, but at $3/lb for the flour, I was really glad we were going for thin crust.
Pizza got just a little more dear to my heart that night because of the comradare and laughter share while preparing and serving it. What started as just a whim of an idea in conversation turned into a night with Matt, three friends, a bottle of wine and some fabulous appetizers made my Matt’s friend H. Apparently H. always uses raw salmon in his food treats, and pizza night was no exception. He glazed stone ground wheat crackers with tartar sauce, spred thinly sliced salmon and cucumbers, and they were GONE FAST!!!
But, alas, back to the pizza – for those wanting to make a good memory with a good off-white meal, I suggest you fall in love with pizza, and here’s how:
CRUST (modified from Dave’s Cave online recipes)
- 1 3/4 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 6 cups spelt flour
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon freeze-dried Italian Herbs
- Making the dough: Pour the warm water into the mixing bowl with the sugar and the yeast. When the yeast is active, mix in the first cup of flour. Mix in the olive oil, salt, herbs and spices. Add 4 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at at time, while continuing to mix the dough.
- Kneading the dough: Sprinkle the last half a cup of flour out onto your kneading surface, turn out the dough and knead for about 6 minutes. Let it rest while you clean and grease your bowl. Continue kneading your dough till it feels smooth and springy.
- Rising: Form the dough into a ball and place back in the greased bowl. Turn the dough so it is evenly coated with the oil. Cover it to keep it away from drafts. Let rise till it has doubled in size.
- Shaping: Turn your dough out on a floured board. Punch it down and break up the large bubbles. Cut it into 2 even pieces for thick crust or 3 pieces for thin crust. Roll the pieces out to the desired size and thickness. Take a fork and jab your dough (known as docking) about every inch so that the crust does not inflate like a big old pita while prebaking.
- Baking: bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes
Sorry Italy, we are not big fans of the traditional marinara. We top our pizzas with a shallot, leeks, and two cloves of garlic sauteed in EVOO for about 5 minutes.
Next, add a spread of goat cheese, mozzarella and any other cheese you like.
Sprinle on some Boar’s Head pepperoni, or whatever else you like.
Finish it off with fresh basil and chopped heirloom tomoatoes that are added 1/2 way thru the cooking process.
AAaaah…another satisfied customer…..
happy off white living!!!