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Sempre Avanti
Canada 150


      Pizza: A Regional and Seasonal Creative Canvas

      Nov. 12, 2013

      Pizza is a serious matter in Italy and as a topic of discussion can lead to animated exchanges. Everyone has an opinion on what constitutes the best and tastiest pizza: thin crust, thick crust, a lot of ingredients, three ingredients maximum, with tomato sauce, with fresh crushed tomatoes, with mozzarella di bufala or with fior di latte…  And so it is that your favorite pizzeria can be someone else’s nightmare. Indeed, pizza, like all Italian cuisine, is subject to local, regional and (why not?) international variations, but ultimately it is your personal taste that makes you love or hate a pizzeria.

      The mother of all pizzas, as we all know, is la verace pizza napoletana (the true Neapolitan pizza) that is promoted and protected since June 1984 by l’Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) with headquarters in Naples. The Association offers classes to learn how to make pizza napoletana, and inspects pizzerias all over the world in order to award them the Denominazione d’Origine Controllata (DOC) based upon compliance to strict guidelines covering provenance of ingredients and procedure of making the pizza.

      In Canada, for example, there are 13 DOC recognized pizzerias, most of them in Toronto, although there is also one in Saint John’s, Newfoundland, one in Halifax, Nova Scotia (belonging to the same owner) and a couple in British Columbia.

      To promote and protect the local and regional pizzas in Italy and in the rest of Europe, l’Associazione Pizzaioli e Similari (the Association of Pizza Makers and Similar Activities) was founded in 1981. Due to the recent increase in the number of pizza places and in the interest of learning how to make pizza professionally, these two associations have come together to form la Federazione delle Associazioni della Pizza (the Federation of Pizza Associations), an umbrella group overseeing pizza makers and protecting the sanctity of the pizza.

      However, the further away you go from Italy, the higher the chances that the pizza you are going to eat tastes quite different from the one you are accustomed to. In North America, for example, the pizza tends to be thicker, with a greater number of options, and topped with a more than generous amount of melted cheese (most likely not very good quality mozzarella cheese). So, if you are unhappy with the pizza available where you live, like the author of this piece for example, why not making your own?

      There is nothing better than adding water to flour, working the mixture with your hands, and feeling the dough coming together. The more you knead, the more magic happens between your fingers. And once the dough is ready and has rested, you have the raw material to create a perfect canvas. The round, smooth dough opens infinite possibilities. You can choose to make a classic pizza Margherita or you can use local ingredients to celebrate the part of the world you are living in. Have fun; the combinations of toppings are endless and the satisfaction of biting into a slice of just-out-of-the-oven pizza that you have created is priceless!

      Pizza dough

      500 g white flour
      10 g dry yeast
      10 g salt
      Water as needed

      In a bowl, mix together the flour and the salt. In a cup pour the yeast and add some warm water. Mix well until the yeast is completely dissolved. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour the water with the yeast. Incorporate the flour and the water, until all the water is absorbed. Add more lukewarm water, working the mixture until the dough is smooth. Poke it with your finger: if it isn’t sticky and the dough bounces immediately back, it is ready. Work it constantly for five minutes. Then cover it with a damp tea towel and let it rest for another five minutes. Work it again for 8 to 10 minutes, divide it in three equal parts and work each of them for another couple of minutes. Dust a clean surface with some flour, place the dough balls and cover with a damp tea towel. Let the dough rest of 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven at the highest temperature available.

      While the pizza dough rests, prepare all the ingredients you need to make your pizza.

      Basic pizza toppings

      Plain salsa di pomodoro
      Fresh basil leaves
      Oil of olive
      Parmesan cheese

      The pizza pictured here has porcini mushrooms, but you can add any ingredients you like. The secret is to pick a maximum of three additional ingredients. This way the pizza is not overcrowded and you will be able to taste each ingredient.

      Once the 30 minutes have elapsed, spread some flour on your work surface, take the first dough that should have grown in size and place it on the flour. Press the dough down with the palm of your hard and start spreading the dough, making round movements as to give the dough a circular shape. Once the dough is as thin or thick as you like, move it to the paddle sprinkled with corn meal or to a pizza pan and prepare it. Start by spreading some of the salsa di pomodoro from the centre of the dough in circular motions. Don’t use too much salsa, otherwise the pizza will come out too watery. Then add some Parmesan shavings, the basil leaves and the mozzarella that you will break into pieces with your hands. Drizzle with a bit of oil of olive and finish it by placing your chosen toppings. Place the pizza in the oven and check the progress after five minutes. The pizza is ready when the mozzarella is melted and the bottom of the pizza is lightly golden brown.

      Buon appetito!

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