No matter how you slice it, pizza has gone mainstream and is now one of the most popular fast foods in North America. Pizza was first made popular in the United States by soldiers who brought the concept back from Italy at the end of World War II. The literal translation for pizza is “pie,” but pizza pie is generally savory, not sweet. Pizza is usually round in shape and is made from crispy, yet tender yeast dough topped with
tomato sauce, grated mozzarella cheese and various toppings such as bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, even anchovies. Different cheeses can be used: goat cheese, feta, Monterey Jack, Swiss and Parmesan.
Gourmet-style pizzas might be topped with shiitake, porcini or Portobello mushrooms, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, capers, salsa, tomato slices, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini slices, fresh or dried herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme), sliced red onions or leeks, partly cooked eggplant slices, chopped spinach, garlic slivers, blanched broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus, grilled potato slices, green or black olives, even smoked salmon and cream cheese!
Pizza comes in various sizes and shapes – from mini pizzas which make excellent appetizers to large rectangular family sized pizzas baked on a sheet pan and then cut into squares. The crust can be thin and crispy, thick and chewy, or somewhere in between. The dough is usually made with all-purpose flour but you can use a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat flours. Spelt flour has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor but it
works well as an alternative to all-purpose flour in pizza dough.
Pizza is usually baked on a round metal pan ranging in diameter from 12 to 15 inches, with a shallow, rounded raised rim. If you prefer thick crusted pizza, there are deep-dish pizza pans with 2" sides. Perforated pizza pans have dozens of small holes to allow moisture to escape and create even browning. Don’t expect great results if you bake pizza on a disposable foil pizza pan – the crust won’t brown properly and will be
pale and doughy.
Baking pizza in the lower third of the oven helps create a nicely browned, crispy crust. Pizza dough can even be grilled on a BBQ about 4 or 5 minutes on the first side, then flipped over, topped with tomato sauce, grated mozzarella cheese and grilled vegetables, then cooked a few minutes longer, until the cheese is melted and golden.
Focaccia is an Italian flatbread made from yeast dough that has been rolled very thin and shaped into a large, flat rectangle or smaller ovals. The dough is then generously brushed or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Slits are cut into the dough or indentations can be made with your fingertips. The indentations are often stuffed with fresh rosemary or other fresh herbs before baking. Focaccia makes an excellent accompaniment to soups or salads and also is delicious served as an appetizer.
This article was originally published in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine (Bitayavon Summer issue 2012) - to get more recipes like these and more pizza variations subscribe now!