Let’s Talk About Pizza Baby

 Slice of Margherita pizza fresh out of the oven

“Pizza is like sex, even when it’s bad it’s still pretty good”  Mel Brooks

I don’t know about you, but I f***ing love pizza. Okay, I can make an educated guess and say that you also love pizza. I mean, who doesn’t? In my opinion pizza is the perfect food. I believe this for a number of reasons including but not limited to the fact that the base of any pizza is an edible plate. As someone who only recently fell to the trappings of time and was spit out the wrong side of their twenties, I can tell you, having food that has a built in plate is a bonus. There are of course other things that make pizza perfect which we are about to get into.

Let’s talk about pizza baby

The crust

There are as many different kinds of pizza crust as there are pizza. Some crusts are soft and chewy. Some are crispy. Some pizza crusts are flavoured with herbs and garlic. It doesn’t matter what type of crust your prefer because they all begin the exact same way.  Pizza crust is bread, and like any bread it starts with three very basic ingredients. Flour, water, and yeast. When starting with these three ingredients you can make any type of bread in the world. What you make out of those three ingredients comes down to what you add next.

Sugar

– Sugar has two main roles in making pizza dough. The first purpose of sugar is to feed the yeast. Yeasts metabolize sugar turning it into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. This process is what makes dough rise. The second purpose of the sugar is textural. If you want a chewy crust add more sugar to your dough. If you want a crisp crust, add less sugar. If you want a really crispy dough don’t add any sugar at all. There is more than enough natural sugar in flour to activate the yeast.

Salt

– Salt, like sugar, also plays a double role in making pizza dough. The first role of salt in dough making is to control the yeast. Unlike sugar, yeast does not like salt. The salt is there to prevent the yeast from over producing the carbon dioxide gas, which if left unchecked would lead to a dough with no structure. The second purpose of salt in dough is flavour. Dough is pretty bland by itself so salt is added to make it a little more flavourful.

Oil/Fat

– You may notice that some pizza dough recipes have olive oil or another kind of fat in them. The purpose of the fat is purely texture and flavour. The fat will help give you that chewy crust in addition to the extra sugar. It is not needed though.


Pizza Dough Recipe

  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1/2 c lukewarm water

Stir the yeast into the water and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the yeast/water mixture to the flour and mix until fully incorporated. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Add the salt and knead the dough for 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and place in lightly oiled covered bowl. Let rise for 45 minutes. Punch down, roll into pizza shape, top, and bake on a pizza stone preheated to 475°f  until dough is golden brown and toppings are cooked.

Yeast in waterActivated yeastwpid-dsc_1111.jpgUnrisen pizza doughPizza dough after it has risenPizza dough after it has been rolled


You may notice that the above recipe lacks sugar, and oil. This is a very basic pizza dough recipe. From this recipe you can make a lot of different doughs simply by adding different quantities of sugar and/or oil. Experiment and play around you may just findfthe perfect pizza dough. In my dough I added 1 tbsp of sugar.

The Sauce

Some may argue that the sauce is the most important part of a pizza. No matter which side of this argument you’re on you can’t argue that it is important.

Pizza sauce like any other aspect of a pizza comes in many varieties. There is beauty in simplicity and I think that this relates to pizza sauce. Like most other things however, this all comes done to personal preference.

In my opinion the sauce should be dependent upon the toppings. If I am going to make a pizza with salami, green peppers, and mushrooms, I will add a few fennel seeds to my sauce to mirror the flavour of the salami. If I am going to make a simple margherita pizza, I want a simple sauce of just tomato, basil, and a little sugar, which will mirror the overall flavour of the pizza. The way I look at it is the same as if I were building a dish in a restaurant. When you go to a nice restaurant you choose a composed dish. You don’t choose your vegetables, or sauce, it is all part of the dish on the menu. This is done because the Chef has taken a lot of time to think about how those flavours will go together, and wants the dish to be the best that it can be. The flavours of the dish will contrast each other, but there will usually be slight repetition in order to pull the whole dish together. That is how I think when building my pizza. What flavours will go together, and how can I get the most out of those flavours?

The only things that are really important to know when making your pizza sauce is to add sugar and salt. Tomatoes are acidic, the sugar will help take away some of this acid. The salt combined with the sugar will allow the tomato flavour to shine through.

In my sauce I put:


Pizza Sauce RecipeAll the ingredients for pizza sauce in a measuring cup

  • 1 whole tomato quarted
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a dash of pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • a few basil leaves
  • 1 clove of garlic

That’s it. All I did with it was blitz it with an immersion blender.


The toppings

When topping your pizza you are faced with literally infinite possibilities. This again, comes down to personal preference. There are of course the classic combinations. Basil and fresh mozzarella create the magical combination know as the margherita pizza, which is my personal favorite. White sauce, bacon, and clams make a really delicious pizza as well. You can add, take away, or change ingredients in anyway you would like to create your perfect pizza. Try roasting vegetables like peppers and onions instead of just putting them on raw. Use different types of cheeses such as provolone, ricotta, cheddar, goat cheese, feta anything you want. Same with meats. Change it up and try new things.

The point is that pizza is a blank canvas. You can start with tomato sauce, white sauce, or just garlic and oil. From there you can begin to make something truly unique and creative. Making pizza should be fun because eating it is. It is something you can do with your family, and friends that is easy and everyone will enjoy.

Dirty Plate with a bit of pizza crust on it.


If you are the type of person that likes to make pizza at home, you should have a pizza stone. Really, you should. They are inexpensive, easy to take care of, and they make a world of difference. Seriously, get a pizza stone.

I hope you enjoyed my pizza post come back next week for something equally as delicious.

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About Chef Benjamin Kelly

I have spent the last fifteen years cooking professionally and gaining an education in kitchens all across the country culminating in achieving my "Red Seal Cook" status. I have cooked for the governor general, a lieutenant governor, heads of major political parties, actors, musicians, professional athletes, and countless satisfied customers. Through all this the most important lessons I have learned are to be prepared and to keep it simple. My love of food comes from my mother. Some of the first and fondest memories I have are of cooking at my mothers side. She and I, would spend snowy winter days making tea biscuits and corn chowder, shepherd's pie, goulash, baked beans and oatmeal bread, or any number of other things. In the fall we would make pickles and preserves and forage for wild berries and mushrooms in the woods around our house. Our little farm supplied us with vegetables, herbs and meat in the form of chicken and turkey as well as their eggs. Most of the food we ate that we didn't grow came from other farms in our area, farmers who we knew by name. Growing up so close to where my food was coming from I gained a deep respect for the things we eat. That respect is something that I still carry with me. The lessons I learned at my mothers side, and on our little farm have stayed with me. I hold on to the memories, beliefs, and values. It is those things that have made me who I am today.
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