February 22, 2012

5 Min Read
Mediterranean Flatbread Pizza

By Nick Spondike, Contributing Editor

Flatbreads are currently a hot commodity in the restaurant industry, particularly when used as pizza crusts. They allow restaurateurs and pizza manufacturers to easily offer new, innovative takes on a classic formatpizzato their customers, and are often seen as shareable," working well in a small-plates format or as an appetizer.

This recipe concept was quite easy to make in a restaurant setting. Premade flatbread pizza crusts are convenient and easy to work with, and the combination of Mediterranean-inspired fresh ingredients on this example adds flair.

Shifting this recipe to an industrial formula for large-scale manufacturing posed a couple of challenges. The more toppings on a pizza, the more difficult it is to achieve equal distribution. Stratification is an ongoing struggle for pizza toppers, especially with multiple toppings. Too many green olives or tomatoes on one pizza verses another does not make for consistent-quality end products that are appealing to consumers. (See below for how we suggest avoiding this potential problem.)

Using premade flatbreads helps ease the transition for a traditional frozen-pizza manufacturer, eliminating the need to make the crust from scratch and helping reduce startup costs. Also, some manufacturers do not have the space for separate bread and topping lines, so sourcing a finished crust might be the only option.

Oil distribution is another challenge when scaling up a recipe like this. The oil is the sauce" in this application, and switching to a combination of olive and canola oil in the scaled-up version reduces costs without affecting the integrity of the flavor profile.

Since the oil applied to the flatbread is seasoned with garlic, if the oil isnt evenly distributed across the pizza, the desired flavor is compromised. Additionally, if oil is over-applied, an off-note could also be perceived due to the strength of flavor; if under-applied, a lack of flavor. To mitigate this challenge in the scaled-up version, we suggest using a sprayer to evenly distribute the oilnow with added garlic flavor vs. minced garlic to enable sprayingtopically on the crust.

In the original recipe, our team recommended using a 50-50 blend of mozzarella and fontina cheeses. However, in the scaled-up version, this switched to a 90-10 blend of mozzarella and fontina to save costs while still delivering a nice fontina flavor note.

After the crusts have been sprayed with the flavored oil, ingredients also have to be added in a logical order for good adhesion and dispersion. Otherwise, components may not stick and will shift. To address this challenge, our team recommends two separate topping blends in separate waterfall applicators to ensure even distribution. Grouping ingredients of similar size and weight into their own waterfall (in this case, the spinach bits and black and green olives in one, and the crumbled feta cheese, red onion and tomatoes in another) reduces stratification on the pizza, providing a balanced, even layer of toppings. While the spinach bits and olives are not necessarily the same weight, they are similar enough to allow for a sufficiently homogonous blend and distribution of the toppings.

The topping ingredients for the scaled-up formula were logically switched to individually quick-frozen (IQF) versions. Since frozen pizzas are typically manufactured in a temperature-controlled environment, the ingredients would not thaw during the assembly process. Sourcing IQF ingredients also helps standardize ingredient weights to improve topping distribution. Before the pizza goes into the final freezing stage prior to packaging, it is lightly misted with water to glue" everything together as it is blast-frozen.

This flatbread pizza, distributed frozen to retail outlets, would diversify the typical grocer freezer case and help consumers enjoy a taste of restaurant quality in a home setting.

Nick Spondike is director of research & development at Kronos Foods, Glendale Heights, IL.

Recipe:

Ingredients

1 5-in. by 17-in. flatbread pizza crust

2 cloves garlic, minced

1½ tablespoons olive oil

¾ cup fresh baby spinach, loosely packed

½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

½ cup fontina cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons black olives, sliced

2 tablespoons green olives, sliced

¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup red onion, julienne

½ Roma tomato, thinly sliced

½ tablespoon parsley, minced

Procedure: Set oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Place flatbread pizza crust on baking sheet. Combine garlic and olive oil; brush over crust. Top flatbread pizza with the next eight items in the order listed. Bake the pizza at 425˚F for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and top with minced parsley. Let pizza stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Yield: 3 servings.

Formula:

Ingredients                                                                                                                         % by Weight

5-in. by 17-in. flatbread pizza crust                                                                                        31.8

Olive and canola oil blend with natural garlic flavor                                                                   4.7

Mozzarella and fontina cheese blend, 90-10                                                                             24.5

Baby spinach, ¼-in. bits, IQF                                                                                                  3.2

Black olives, 1/8-in. slices, IQF                                                                                                5.1

Green olives, 1/8-in. slices, IQF                                                                                               5.5

Feta cheese, ¼-in. crumbles                                                                                                    9.7

Red onion, 3/8-in. dice, IQF                                                                                                   3.3

Tomatoes, ¼-in. dice, IQF                                                                                                   12.1

Parsley flakes, dried                                                                                                              0.1

Total:                                                                                                                                  100.0

Procedure: Place flatbread pizza crust on conveyer belt. Spray on the garlic oil blend. Deposit cheese blend on crust. Two waterfall applicators are needed for the next six ingredients. The first waterfall applicator is a blend of the IQF spinach bits and black and green olives. The second waterfall is a mixture of the crumbled feta, red onion and tomatoes. Mix the topping ingredients before adding to the waterfall applicators to help ensure even distribution, then deposit. Sprinkle parsley flakes onto the pizzas with a dry applicator. The speeds of the ingredient application and the conveyor belt can be fine-tuned to facilitate ideal rates. Target finished weight of each pizza is 363 grams. Mist the pizzas with water, then run the pizzas through a nitrogen blast tunnel to freeze. Place each pizza on a cardboard base and shrink-wrap for frozen distribution and retail sale.

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