Greetings! Today, we’re going to be talking about one of the most beloved breads out there: pizza!
While most people are familiar with eating a fresh, cheesy slice of pizza, not many know that the earliest incarnations of pizza look very different from today. Early inhabitants of the Mediterranean baked a thin flat bread topped with cheese, dates, olive oil, herbs, or honey on flat stones. The very first documentation of the word pizza was in 997 in Gaeta, Italy, though it wasn’t like the pie we know today. It wasn’t until 1522 that Italians would gain access to tomatoes from the New World as cooking ingredients. Even then, many people thought tomatoes were poisonous, so only the poorest used tomatoes to make dishes with. The people of Naples were the first to add tomatoes to their dough and create the first pizza-like meal.
From there, pizza took off. Naples became a popular tourist destination for visitors who wanted to try the tasty peasant’s dish. Soon, it could be found on every street and was even eaten by kings and queens. In 1889, renowned pizza maker Raffaele Esposito was summoned to the home of Umberto I, the King of Italy, to make his specialities for the royal couple to taste during a holiday in Naples. Raffaele made three different kinds of pizza, but Queen Margherita di Savoia’s favorite was the one topped with the colors of the Italian flag: mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes. Raffaele named his creation after the Queen by calling it the Pizza Margherita.
Pizza eventually made its way to North America. It was embraced in the United States, where it inspired new styles: the deep-dish Chicago pizza and the thin-crusted New York pizza. Canada also welcomed the pizza and created their own signature dish by adding bacon and mushrooms on top. No matter where you eat it, pizza is well loved as a savory, cheesy meal any time of day. In 2009, the Naples neapolitan pizza became recognized by being added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Recipe: Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (Makes 1 Pizza)
1½ teaspoon (7.5g) yeast
1 teaspoon (6ml) honey
¾ cup (180ml) of warm water
1½ tablespoon (22g) olive oil
½ teaspoon (2.5g) salt
1 cup (120g) white flour
1 cup (120g) wheat flour
½ cup (120ml) tomato sauce
1 cup (120 g) shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup (60g) pizza toppings
Start by heating your water in small bowl or mug until it is just a little warmer than lukewarm. You want to be able to comfortably dip your finger into the water and leave it there for a few moments. Dissolve the honey into the water, followed by the yeast. Leave the yeast in a warm place for ten minutes until it is foamy and has a yeasty smell.
Meanwhile, mix flours, oil, and salt in a bowl. Once the yeast has finished dissolving, stir it into the flour mixture. If the dough is sticky, add in more flour a little bit at a time until it becomes smooth. Knead the flour by pressing the dough down into the bowl with the heels of your hands, fold it in half, and press down again. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes.
Heat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Once the dough has risen, turn it out on a floured surface. Roll it out in a circular pattern using the tips of your fingers or a rolling pin. Place the crust on a well-floured pan. Add your toppings, and bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes until done.
• A pizza stone will give your pizza a crispier crust. If you decide to use one, make sure that it is preheated before use. A cold stone may crack.
• You can make dessert pizzas using chocolate instead of tomato sauce and topping with marshmallows, chopped candies, or fruit.
• Pizza dough may also be used to make calzones, strombolis, and breadsticks.
That’s the end of today’s lesson. I hope you get the opportunity to try this pizza dough with all your favorite toppings sometime soon. Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up with a new direction in bread making that you can take once you get the basics down. See you then!
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