There are many & varied opinions as to who, when & how the pizza was invented. The Ancient Greeks & Israelites both staking a claim. It is fairly safe however, to say that the pizza as we know it today, i.e. with bread base, tomato sauce & cheese on top, originated in Italy. It is claimed that in Roman times, Legionnaires baked pizzas on their shields after fermenting the dough in their helmets on long route marches under the burning sun, which almost sounds slightly feasible.
The fact that the tomato wasn’t introduced to Europe until the mid-sixteenth century would indicate that whatever these legionnaires were storing under their helmets in the burning sun probably didn’t end up tasting like the Margherita as we know it today, & the source of their cheese supply would be even more speculative.
Whatever the origins, there is no doubt that the pizza as we know it is probably up there alongside the hamburger as the most widely consumed convenience food in the 21st Century. Due to the nature of their ingredients, a basic pizza is fairly cheap to produce & if you have the time & patience fairly simple to make at home and great fun to make with kids.
If you do make pizza at home be prepared for the mess, as the Italian’s say ‘Non si lavora in un Molino senza infarinarsi’ which means, more or less, that you don’t work in a flour mill without getting flour up your arsi.
So, to make a basic pizza dough for four medium sized pizzas you need only the following ingredients:
150ml tepid water
1 level teaspoon sugar
2 level teaspoons dried yeast
225g plain flour
1.5 level teaspoons salt
Put the water into a bowl & add the sugar. Sprinkle over the dried yeast& whisk until both are dissolved. Allow to stand for 15 minutes.
Sift the flour & salt into a large mixing bowl and pour in the yeast liquid.
Lightly flour your hands and work the mixture until it becomes a coherent mass.
Sprinkle your work surface with flour, tip your dough onto it & begin kneading for about five minutes until the dough ball becomes smooth & silky.
Wash your mixing bowl & rub lightly with olive oil, place the dough ball back into the bowl, cover with a damp cloth & leave in the hot press for one hour.
Divide the ball into four even pieces, cutting with a knife is the easiest, & roll it gently back into four balls. Leave the balls to rest for ten minutes and then roll or push out into pizza bases. Those of you who have kid's that have attended one of our pizza making parties can hand over now, as this is the stage where they come in (with the exception of using the oven of course!)
Pre-heat your oven to it’s highest temperature. In La Bucca we cook at 375c, most domestic ovens will go up to 230-260c. Never put the pizza in the oven until it has reached it’s full heat.
Once you have your base, the rest is up to you. Remember to place your pizzas on a baking tray before you add any toppings. Then, generally speaking, you spoon over tomato, be it passatta, chopped tomatoes or your own tomato sauce, add whatever toppings you have in the fridge or larder & sprinkle over the cheese on top, preferably mozzarella, but grated cheddar will do the job as well.
Cooking time will depend entirely on your oven, it may be an idea to try one plain margherita first as a trial run to see how it turns out, just remember that the more toppings you’ve added to your other pizzas, the longer they will take to cook through.
As I said, making pizza at home is fun, messy & a little time consuming, but if you have the patience it is incredibly rewarding. The alternative of course is to book your kids into La Bucca for a pizza making party & you can sit back & relax whilst our chefs do the work.