Was there life before pizza?Such a recent arrival
As popular and beloved as pizzas are in the USA, it's hard to believe that the dish is such a recent arrival. Italian immigrants introduced the dish to America in the late 19th century, but it was GIs returning home from Italy after WWII that really got the pizza ball rolling. By tradition, it is thought that pizza probably originated in the backstreets of Naples late in the 18th century.
New versions appearing constantly
Styles and ingredients can vary enormously with new versions appearing constantly. Traditional Italian pizzas include such classic styles as: Napoletana (tomatoes, Mozzarella, anchovies, capers, and oregano), Marinara (fresh tomato sauce), and Margherita (tomatoes, fresh Mozzarella, torn fresh basil leaves with a dash of Parmesan). Calzoni are half-moon shaped pizza "Foldovers" that are prepared with pizza dough and feature similar fillings. Before baking they are usually brushed with olive oil and then baked in a hot oven just like pizzas.
Originally baked on the hearth stone of the fireplace
Focaccia derives from the Latin word "focus," as they were originally baked on the hearth stone of the fireplace, which was indeed the center or "focus" of the home. This style of flatbread dates from the very ancient Mediterranean world. Our Basic Quick Crust can also be used to make excellent Focaccia. Although often topped with olive oil, coarse salt and herbs, toppings can include many possibilities.
Cook it hot and cook it fast
Making your own pizzas at home will quickly ruin you for the usual commercial chains. Homemade pizza can even be baked on a pizza "stone" that will approximate the results obtained in a traditional brick oven. The following recipes are from one La Cucina's most popular classes. The key to wonderful homemade pizzas is simple- start with the best ingredients and cook it hot and cook it fast!
Basic Quick Crust: Yields: Dough for two 9 or 10 inch pizzas
- 3 cups Unbleached white bread flour (approximately)
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Sea Salt*
- 1 package Fleischman's RapidRise yeast
- 2 tablespoons Olive oil*
- 1 cup Warm water
- Mix dry ingredients including yeast together in a mixing bowl. Make a hollow well in the center. Pour olive oil and warm water into the well.
- Stir together until liquid is mixed with flour and then work the mixture with your hands until it is smooth. If it is too sticky, you may need to add a little more flour, but be careful not to make it too dry. Each bag of flour will have slightly different moisture content.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a warm, damp cloth and allow it to proof (or rise) about 30 minutes. While dough is proofing (rising); prepare the sauce.
- 8 ounces Lowcountry Tomato sauce*
- 1 tablespoon Cooking Olive oil*
- 1 Green onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced dried garlic*
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme*
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano*
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon Don Vito's Mediterranean Blend*
- A few leaves of fresh basil
- 1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) Crushed Red Pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon Sugar
- Combine all sauce ingredients in a blender on high for 1-2 minutes and set aside.
· 1 half recipe of Basic Quick Crust
· 1 recipe of Basic Uncooked sauce
· Two cups of Mozzarella cheese, grated
· Sliced Pepperoni (2 to 3 ounces), grated Parmesan and oregano* to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. (If using a pizza stone, place it in the lower third of the oven to pre-heat it.) After dough has risen, divide it in half (you may freeze it or make another pizza).Shape it into a ball.
- Place on a lightly floured surface and flatten it with your hands.
- Finish rolling out the dough with a rolling pin until it is about 1/8" thick and about 9 or 10 inches in diameter. With a little practice, you can toss and spin the dough using centrifugal force to help stretch it. It is really much easier than it looks and your friends will be dazzled.
- BAKING ON A SHEET PAN: Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of cornmeal on a pizza pan or sheet pan and then place dough in the middle of the pan. BAKING ON A PIZZA STONE: Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cornmeal on a pizza peel and then place dough in the middle of the peel.
- Pinch edge of dough to form a border to keep the sauce from running out.
- Pour sauce onto dough and spread evenly with a spatula or wooden spoon. Be careful not to get sauce or other ingredients on the border.
- Next sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella cheese evenly over the pizza.
- Now top with as much sliced pepperoni as you wish. You may finish topping your pizza with grated Parmesan cheese and a little leaf oregano.
- Of course you can use an assortment of your favorite ingredients: sliced mushrooms, chopped green onion, chopped bell pepper, sliced olives, Italian sausage, etc. However, with whichever toppings that you choose, distribute them evenly and do not add too much. The biggest mistake made by novice pizza bakers is to add too many ingredients and pile them up in the middle of the pizza.
- When you have finished adding all the toppings and cheeses; IF USING A SHEET PAN; place it in the lower third of the oven and bake for about12 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. IF USING A PIZZA STONE; slide pizza off peel and onto the hot pizza stone in the oven and cook for about 12 minutes.
- Before cutting, serving, and eating; allow the pizza to rest for 3 or 4 minutes.