Friday, September 5, 2008
Is there a dish more loved, more abused and more fought over than pizza?
As long as man has had bread they have stuffed things on top of it but pizza as we now know it is a peasant dish from Naples and probably only became a popular staple around the 1830’s. Italian immigrants took it to America in the late 1800’s but it was still a while before it caught on outside of the Italian communities.
The Americans have taken this dish to their collective hearts to such an extent that there is a genuine belief that its invention originated in the US but the popularity of pizza in America only dates back to the end of WWII.
And then came the abominations of the ‘deep pan’.
The ‘Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana’ only recognise two types of pizza; the Margherita and the Marinara. The former has tomato, mozzarella and basil, representing the three colours of the Italian flag and the latter has tomato, oregano, garlic, olive oil and basil. That’s it. No more.
And no firkin pineapple chunks either.
I still think that despite the proliferation of pizza all over the world no one makes it like the Italians. This summer we spent two weeks in the French Alps and one dreary day I piled the family into the car, drove forty minutes to the incredible Mont Blanc tunnel, paid EUR40 for a return trip, emerged in sunlight the other side in the Italian ski village of Courmayer, had a fantastic pizza the size of a wagon wheel and drove home again!
I make pizza quite often at home, more because I really enjoy the process than the children enjoy eating it. All I get when I serve it up to the little cherubs is a chorus of “oh no not this again, can’t we order Pizza Express?”
Anyway there we go:
For the dough you will need (this makes enough for two large pizzas):
2 level tsp dried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
350g strong white flour
225ml warm water
3 tbsp olive oil
Combine yeast, sugar and water and stir to dissolve. The water should be about blood temperature, any hotter and the yeast won’t work. Leave to one side for about 10mins. If the yeast hasn’t become frothy start over.
Put the flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, add the yeast/water and the olive oil. If you have a food mixer with a dough hook use it but if not get your hands stuck in. Once all well mixed transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for a good 5 mins until it feels elastic, put it back in the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
Put back on the floured surface and knead for another 2 or 3 mins or so. Divide into two (or more) equal sized balls and roll out to a thin circle. None of this deep pan rubbish at The Fat Expat you know.
Preheat the oven to 240C/475F.
Lightly oil a good thick baking tray and lay the dough on top.
Open a tin of pineapple chunks and pour them all away immediately. Then self-flagellate for at least 10mins for even thinking about it.
Add the toppings, use the Basic Tomato Sauce recipe, sprinkle the fresh mozzarella and the basil. Cook in the very hot oven for about 15minutes. Remove. Devour. Thrash the children again for being so rude.