Pizza is definitely one of the top five things my husband creates in the kitchen. The dough is from scratch and the toppings are usually a unique blend of what he was in the mood for and what was readily available.
But that’s what makes pizza one of the most popular food. As Peter Reinhart says in his “Artisan Breads Every Day” book, it “is simply dough with something on it, and there are many products that fit that description, from the numerous Italian variations like focaccia, sciattiatta, sfingiuni, and even panini to Indian stuffed naan bread, Mexican quesadillas and Central American pupusas , or a simple grilled cheese sandwich – with each incarnation there is something deeply satisfying, almost magical, about the combination of dough and a topping.”
It’s a versatile food that allows the chef to explore his creative side. It can be baked in an oven or grilled on the backyard barbecue. It can be hand-tossed and rolled out on a peel or baked in a pan. The crust can be plain, seasoned with herbs or stuffed with cheese. Pile it high with a variety of toppings such as salami, cheese, artichokes, tomatoes and mushrooms or go basic with just cheese, tomato sauce and basil.
There’s also a craft behind making your own dough. From the patience of rising and kneading to the tossing of the dough. The trick is to get the dough right to start with – then you can toss away. Without proper gluten development, the dough will not be stretchy enough and will tear. Once you’ve got the right dough, it is really a matter of patience and practice.
It’s a fine art that gets better with practice, patience and a bit of playful creativity.