Pizza - Not Your Ordinary PiePizza - Not Your Ordinary Pie
June 1, 2000
Although often thought of as a strictly Italian invention, pizza is likely the result of Italian, Greek and Etruscan influences that all came together in the late 1800s in Naples. As the story for one popular version goes, Queen Margherita heard about "pizza" and wanted to taste some. The local pizza maker made one especially for her using tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. Today, "pizza Margherita" is the most recognized form of the pie.
Pizza variations are found throughout Europe, and in Italy alone, doughs and toppings differ greatly depending on region. Pizza varies from one area to the next in the United States too. Pizza-eaters in New York, Chicago, on the west coast and in New England each fiercely defend their own style of pizza.
Pizza as we know it has been revolutionized by creative chefs like Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck, who use innovative, fresh ingredients. Although there are just a few basic components to any pizza - dough, sauce and toppings - these three elements provide a world of possibilities. The dough can be yeast-raised or chemically leavened, infused with herbs and spices, and made from whole wheat, cornmeal or potato flour. Sauces consist of fresh tomatoes, barbecue sauce, pesto, hoisin, béchamel or numerous other varieties. Toppings range from cheeses and meats to seafood, poultry, vegetables and fruits. Baking methods also vary, but most agree that the best pizzas come out of a wood-fired oven.
Pizza can be used for many applications throughout the foodservice industry. For a breakfast pizza, for example, a yeast dough might be topped with scrambled eggs, crumbled bacon, shredded Cheddar cheese and chopped green onion. For a dessert pizza, try a lightly sweetened crust topped with mascarpone cheese and fresh fruit, seasoned with cinnamon and sugar and drizzled with melted chocolate.
The largest pizza-segment growth seems to be in the area of snack foods and appetizers. "Small bites" that the consumer can share, mix and match are popular. Pizza is the perfect vehicle for this arena - hand-held, individual and not terribly messy.
Providing pizza components at the foodservice level is now a popular approach. Doughs are pre-made or mixed, sauces are provided, and toppings are precut, precooked and ready to apply. Focaccias, rolled pizzas, and stuffed and folded versions are also gaining ground in the foodservice industry as culinary professionals search for the next cutting-edge offering.
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