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Making the Perfect Pizza

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A brief history of pizza


The story of pizza is about challenging old ideas to make changes for the better. Pizza, though not quite how we recognize it today, has been around for a long, long time. In ancient Greece, flat breads topped with oils, spices, cheese and vegetables were popular. Greece’s ancient neighbors like Egypt ate similar pizza-like foods. Pizza became very popular in Italy, and different regions of that country created different styles of pizza. People mostly ate pizza because it was an inexpensive peasant food, which means that ordinary people like workers and farmers could afford the ingredients.

In 1889, pizza got a royal upgrade. Queen Margherita and King Umberto of Italy traveled across their country visiting their subjects. The queen had heard of pizza and wanted to try some. But pizza was not fit for a queen to eat, only peasants. Her chef tried to refuse her request for pizza. But, Queen Margherita insisted, so her chef, Chef Rafaelle, tried to make her pizza very special. Aha, he thought! He made a pizza that resembled the Italian flag, which is red, white and green. He topped the pizza dough with white mozzarella cheese, red tomatoes and green fresh basil. What a combination! Queen Margherita loved the pizza. The pizza, which is still popular today, was named pizza margherita in her honor.

How pizza came to America


Good ideas get around. American soldiers traveled far away from home to fight in World War II. While in Europe, young American soldiers tried many foods that were new and different than what they ate back home in America. Soldiers tasted pizza in Italy. They liked it! And, even after the war ended and they returned home, they were hungry for more pizza. Very few restaurants back then served pizza, and most Americans had never even tasted it before. Pizza was a bit exotic!

After the 1940s, pizza eventually became very popular across the United States. Pizza makers changed up the traditional Italian pizza, and different parts of the country created new regional styles of pizza. On the east coast of the United States, pizza has a thin crust and sweet-tomatoey sauce. In the Midwest, cracker crust pizza cut into squares became popular. In Chicago, deep dish pizza with chunks of real tomatoes caught on. Many decades after the soldiers returned home wanting to eat pizza, Americans are still coming up with new ways to make it, like California-style pizza, which has a thin crust, strong flavors and fresh ingredients.

Master pizza making basics

Dough


Makes enough for a 14-inch round pizza.

Ingredients


•1 tablespoon olive oil
•⅔ cup warm water
•¼ teaspoon salt
•1 teaspoon active dry yeast
•1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
•1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
•1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
•¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
•2 cups bread flour
•1 teaspoon olive oil

Instructions


Add yeast to water in a small bowl and stir until yeast is dissolved. Put flour in a large bowl. Create a well in top of flour. Pour water/yeast and oil into well. Add all other ingredients and stir together with a wooden spoon. When dough starts to form, use hands to knead dough for 5-6 minutes. Pat dough into a ball and coat with oil, then put in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave bowl in a warm place for dough to rise, about 2-3 hours.

Sauce

Ingredients


•2 tablespoons olive oil
•1 clove of garlic, minced
•1 can (32 ounces) crushed tomatoes
•¼ teaspoon dried oregano
•⅛ teaspoon salt
•⅛ teaspoon pepper
•⅛ teaspoon sugar

Instructions


Combine ingredients in a bowl and set aside for 15 minutes before using to let flavors mingle.

Pizza


Top rolled-out dough with sauce and mozzarella cheese and bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes. Crust should be golden when done; bake for 5-10 more minutes if not yet golden.

Tips and tricks


•Use parchment paper or oil your pan well to keep your pizza from sticking.
•Roll out your dough but don’t overwork it.
•Place your dough on its cooking surface before you add sauce and toppings.
•Remember that the more toppings you have on your pizza, the soggier it will be.
•Pizza baked at high temperatures like 500 degrees Fahrenheit will be crispier and cook for less time than pizzas baked at lower temperatures like 350 degrees Fahrenheit, which will be more bread-like.

Pizza around the world


Would you try these favorite pizza toppings from around the world?
•Tuna tops pizzas in Russia.
•Squid is a topping in Japan.
•Carrot is sprinkled on Brazilian pies.
•Fried egg decorates pizzas in France.
•Paneer makes pizza in India yummy.

How else do you think cooks can challenge ideas to make pizza better?

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