Who doesn’t love pizza?
With it’s ooey-gooey cheese, sweet, Italian-flavored sauce, and wonderfully doughy bread, pizza can’t get any more addictive. While I do enjoy my occasional order of pizza, I’ve found it much tastier and healthier if I make it at home. I made pizza as my boyfriend’s Valentine’s day gift, and he said, “No joke and no bias, this is honestly the best pizza I’ve ever had. There’s no grease, it’s amazing.” After you try making this pizza yourself, you can tell me if you agree.
Italians developed the first versions of pizza, although flatbread recipes were developed by the ancient Greeks. The word for pizza was developed around the year 1000 in Italy, between Rome and Naples. Flatbread pizza became an inexpensive meal in the 1700s, and the people of Italy began spreading tomatoes and spices on top of the bread.
Queen Margherita and King Umberto I of Italy noticed the flatbread creation in the late 1800s. The Queen loved the concoction so much that she had the royal chef make pizza for her at the palace. He used red tomatoes, white mozzarella cheese, and green basil as toppings to represent the Italian flag.
This is how Margherita pizza came about.
Italian immigrants introduced pizza to the Americas in the late 19th century. Pizza’s popularity soared in the United States after soldiers returned from Europe during WWII. Now you can have pizza in almost every city in the United States (1).
There’s a large amount of science involved in baking a pizza, but today’s post will focus on the bread portion. Leavening causes the dough to ferment and rise. Leavening was first discovered in 2,000 B.C. when the Egyptians used yeast to make bread rise. Yeast causes fermentation, which is the breakdown of carbohydrates to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a gas that produces air bubbles in the dough. This contributes to the flavor, odor, and texture of bread products (2).
Bread is commonly just a simple mixture of water, flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. The main component of wheat is gluten, which is a mixture of two proteins called glutenin and gliadin. When flour is mixed with water, glutenin and gliadin are washed off of the starch. Glutenin is responsible for the elasticity of the dough, because the bonds in the protein link back-and-forth quickly. This elasticity is what allows the dough to be rolled and kneaded. When mixed with water, gliadin lends extensibility to the dough, enabling it to stretch (3).
The first step in making a pizza is kneading, which forms the protein links of glutenin and gliadin that allow the dough to become uniform.
The next step is to allow the dough to rise. The yeast begins fermentation, and carbon dioxide is formed. The gas becomes surrounded by gluten, and the dough can double its size.
For most breads, the dough is then punched down and reshaped into a ball for more rising. You may place the dough in the fridge if desired, because this will regulate the development of carbon dioxide. You don’t always need to rise the dough for a second time when making pizza, but it can increase the fluffy texture of the crust.
The final step is baking the bread. The gas bubbles in the bread will expand from the heat, causing the bread to rise. As this is happening, starch inside the loaf absorbs water. Since there will be less moisture on the dough’s surface, Maillard Browning will begin on the crust. We discussed Maillard Browning in a previous post. That’s how you get the golden-brown crust on the outside of your bread (3)!
That’s all there is to it! Ready to make some pizza?
For the pizza dough: 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tbsp salt, 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
I am fortunate enough to have a bread machine, so I placed the ingredients into the bread machine and hit the Dough cycle. The only snag about using the bread machine is that you have to keep an eye on the dough for five minutes to see if you need to add a bit more wet or dry ingredients. If the dough seems too sticky and wet, then sprinkle some flour onto the dough until it gets drier (you will hear a squishy sound as it kneads when it’s too wet). If the dough is too dry, add a bit of water (you will hear a sandpaper quality as it kneads when it’s too dry).
If you don’t have a bread machine, then I’ve found some fairly easy steps for you in this link. PLEASE NOTE that their recipe is not the same one I used, but the process should still work well for you.
While the dough is rising, create your toppings! I sauteed a mixture of some fresh celery, bell peppers, and mushrooms in a saute pan with a little bit of olive oil and about 2 tbsp of oregano. Toppings are variable, so feel free to put whatever you like on your pizza.
We also decided to use Pepperjack cheese instead of the traditional mozzarella cheese. That’s all we had, and it was delicious anyway. Since this was a Valentine’s day gift for my boyfriend, I put some bacon on the pizza at his request. I’ve tried bacon so many times, but for some reason I can’t seem the acquire a taste for it. I made a separate pizza for myself with vegetable toppings only.
Once your done with these steps, the dough should be ready!
This recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas. Take out two baking sheets, or use 2 pizza stones if you have them.
Put some flour on the baking sheets because the dough will be a bit too sticky to shape. This won’t alter the taste or texture of the dough.
As an homage to Valentine’s Day, I shaped the dough into a heart. Then I began rolling the dough.
The next step is to roll the pizza dough into a flat shape. You can use a rolling pin to do this. If you don’t have a rolling pin, then you can use a cylindrical cup.
Form a crust into your dough by pinching the outsides slightly, or by rolling the dough over itself.
Add a layer of sauce to the entire area between the crust. Add 3/4 of the grated cheese on top of the sauce.
Place your toppings on the pizza, then add the rest of the cheese. I like to do this so the toppings are bound to the pizza. I can’t take it when the toppings fall onto my hands and burn me!
Before you place the pizza in the oven, take a damp paper towel and wipe the remaining flour off of the baking sheet so it doesn’t burn.
Place the pizza into a preheated 400°F oven for 20 minutes. You will be able to tell when it is finished by touching the crust. It will have a crispy edge. When you take it out of the oven, you’ll have a fantastic, golden-brown pizza pie. You may see some slightly lighter edges, but that’s probably due to the flour that you placed on the baking sheet originally.
Valentine’s day can be filled with savory and sweet creations. No matter who you are with today, take some time to celebrate the joys in life. Making pizza is certainly one of them.
1. Hoyt, Alia. “How Pizza Works.” HowStuffWorks, 04 Dec. 2007. Accessed 14 Feb. 2014. Available from: http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/pizza1.htm.
2. Miller, Dennis. “Chemical Leavening.” PowerPoint presentation. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Food Chemistry Lab. 2011.
3. Brady, John W. Introductory Food Chemistry. Ithaca: Comstock Associates, 2013. Print.
Recipe adapted from http://www.food.com/recipe/whole-wheat-pizza-crust-for-bread-machine-142788
Categories: Breads and Grains