Pizza is a hugely popular dish worldwide. Learn more about the history of the pizza and the preparation behind this classic.
No matter the weather or the time of year, our love for pizza never fades. This delicious doughy speciality delights old and young alike and can even satisfy the biggest of families. Morning, noon or night: it’s always the perfect time for pizza! But what are the origins of this simple recipe, consisting of dough and topping? And how can you prepare and cook this wonderful classic yourself? Read on to find out more.
Dough-based flatbread has been a staple since as early as 2,000 years before Christ in areas of Egypt. At that time, the flat dough was probably topped with a spice mix called “Dukkah” – consisting of hazelnuts and spices. The origin of the traditional pizza as we know it today lies in one of the centres of Mediterranean cuisine – Italy. The supposedly most ancient form of this pizza was a rudimentary flat dough topped with tomatoes, olive oil, oregano and garlic and dates back to the 18th century. The pizza later arrived in the rest of Europe thanks to migrant workers from Italy, and was met with an enthusiastic response. Since then, this delicious speciality has been one of the most popular Italian dishes in the world, along with pasta. Variations of the classic come in many forms, from the calzone – the oven-baked folded pizza – to the American pizza with an airy, thick pizza base. The “pizza bianca” is another popular alternative to the classic pizza and is served without tomato sauce. Here the pizzas are topped with olive oil and cheese, crème fraîche, or sour cream for a full-bodied and rich flavour.
Cultural heritage of Italy – the “pizza Napoletana”
Since 2017, the art behind the pizza classic “pizza Napoletana” has been included in the UNESCO’s Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The historic culinary practice of pizza baking is the focus here: Pizzaiuoli are responsible for carrying out the traditional method of pizza production. Special attention is paid to both the production and the raw materials. Only high-quality ingredients go into the dough. Then it is important that the dough has enough time to rest in order for the flavours to evolve and for the unique dough texture to develop. The next stage is the performative art of turning the dough in the air with sweeping hand movements.
The topping consists of the aromatic ingredients tomato, basil, garlic, olive oil, and mozzarella. The pizza is then baked in a very hot wood-fired oven at 430-485 °C for 60-90 seconds. This step is a prerequisite to ensure a crispy pizza with a fluffy crust, just as the protected method of production demands. In Naples, pizza schools ensure that this art of preparation is preserved as a cultural asset.
Traditional preparation at home
But how can you make this Italian classic at home? Don’t worry, you don’t need to build a wood-fired oven or scrape the splattered dough off the walls after failing to master the art of the pizzaiuolo. The first thing is to choose the basic ingredients for the dough. In this case, a flour with a low degree of milling and with a sufficiently high protein content is advantageous in order to produce a smooth dough. This type of flour also contains fewer minerals and is finer in texture. Particularly suitable for this are flour types 405 or 550 or – if possible – an original Italian flour with type 00, which you can usually find in delicatessens.
After flour, the main players in the dough are water and yeast. However, the Neapolitan pizza only requires a small amount of yeast: only 0.5 g of yeast is needed for every kilogram of flour. But ultimately, it is the patience required to let the dough rest that defines the traditional Neapolitan pizza. For the best results, the dough should rest overnight at room temperature in a bowl, covered with a damp tea towel and a plate. In the morning you can divide the dough into smaller, round pieces and then let them rest again for about twelve hours in an airtight container. Be careful not to knead the dough too much so that the air bubbles that have already formed remain. For that real Italian touch, add a dash of high-quality olive oil to the dough. For an extra crispy base, you can add some durum wheat semolina to the dough before rolling it out.
Instead of yeast, a sourdough starter can also be used when making the dough. Are you already familiar with the term lievito madre? This defines a mild Italian sourdough made from wheat flour. Water is mixed together with type 405 flour in a ratio of 1:2. The subsequent fermentation process, which lasts about three weeks, causes yeasts and lactic acid bacteria to multiply. This seed yeast can then be used in various recipes with flour, and ensures that the dough rises during the resting period. The sourdough is also perfect for the preparation of breads and baguettes. To keep the bacteria and yeast culture going, all you need to do is store it in your Liebherr refrigerator and give it a weekly addition of fresh flour and water.
Once you have let the dough rest for the second time…well then it is time to get creative! Put whatever topping you like onto your pizza base! It is best to use seasonal and regional ingredients. For example, in autumn pumpkin and mozzarella di bufala make a fantastic choice. During the wintry months, kale provides a lot of vitamin C – and its slightly bitter taste combines wonderfully with caramelized onions and walnuts and, if you are a fan, sheep’s milk cheese. In the best case, you don’t even need to go shopping! Because, in principle, any leftover vegetables from the kitchen can be perfectly incorporated as a delicious pizza topping.
Once you have topped your pizza, bake on the middle rack in a fan-assisted oven (preheated to at least 200 °C) for 10-15 minutes. Preheating is important, otherwise the ingredients on the pizza will dry out before the crust is cooked through. Mix some olive oil with garlic and then put it on the pizza. This ensures an unforgettable taste!
Getting ready to host a big night?
Do you have a film night coming up with a big gang of kids, or want to invite the family over for an Italian evening? Then why not prepare a pizza dough? You can easily store the finished pizza dough in your BioFresh Meat & Dairy safe for three days. When doing this, be sure to place the dough in an airtight container so that it does not dry out. Have you prepared too much pizza? Then make your own frozen pizza, which can be whipped out when you’re after a delicious fast snack. To do this, briefly bake the finished pizza in a preheated oven for five minutes. Once the pizza has cooled down, you can store it in your Liebherr freezing compartment for up to a month. Remove it when needed and finish baking. In addition, leftover pizza dough can also be used to make wonderful mini-pizzas as a snack for in between meals! Buon appetito!
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