The first time I had a slice of pizza I was 19. We never had pizza in the house so I had no idea what it was. My girlfriend and I went to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto and as walking around in the food area we spotted a pizza hut, I mentioned that I had never had a pizza and she mentioned I had to try it as everyone ate pizza. Well the pizza itself did not look too appetizing there was a lot of fat floating on the top and some sausages. This was way before designer pizza. I took a bite of this ugly thing and fell in love. Even in this ugly state this pizza with the strange spices of oregano and basil ( not used in Hungarian cooking at all), the combination of cheese and tomatoes and sausage , this pizza started my love affair with pizzas forever. The only time I could not stomach the smell, sight or taste of pizza was during the 9 months when I was pregnant. Even driving by a pizza restaurant turned my stomach . The day I craved a pizza was the day I knew my pregnancy was over and sure enough that evening my daughter was born.
When we came here to Budapest I saw some of the pizza places and was shocked. In North America by this time the pizza had evolved into something healthy . In Budapest 8 years ago the pizza looked the same as my very first pizza....greasy , dried out , ketchup was the tomato sauce used as the base and most were given a sprinkle of corn! Yes corn as a topping. Taking the corn off and tasting this it was disgusting. I even tried to add mustard and hot sauce to give it some flavor but in the end I saved eating pizza for when I was back in Toronto.
One summer we drove down to Croatia. They had pizza ovens and so once again I tried the pizza. Well I died and went to heaven ! The pizza here by the sea was amazing. The sauce was not acidic but obviously made from fresh ripe tomatoes, the cheese was the local cheese and the dough was not a thin piece of prefabricated cardboard made to look like a pizza bottom, but was actually real hand made dough and everything was fired in a pizza oven at the right temperature and for the right amount of time. That was all I ate the whole week .
Over the past few years some places have tried to make a real pizza but I think also from what I have heard , the sea water in the dough, the home made cheese and the ripe sweet tomatoes still make the Croatian pizza the best.
Today thinking of this I have decided to make a pizza for dinner. My husband is not a fan of pizza's unless I make it from scratch .
So lets get started!
11/2 cup warm water ( not hot)
3+ cups flour
1 package of dried yeast
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs olive oil
Tomato sauce base
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 small onion
1 glove of garlic pushed thru a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon oregano, basil, pinch of salt.
anchovy paste or filets
The list can go on and on . The toppings are really what the individual wants to have. There is no set rule. In Croatia you order the plain pizza and then you add whatever you fancy from tuna to chicken. There are different types of cheese that go on the pizza but Naples is famous for using only Buffalo mozzarella . Why am I talking about Naples aren't we in Budapest? Facts, always facts to make things interesting.
A little fact about Buffalo mozzarella......
Apart from Italy, its birthplace, buffalo mozzarella is manufactured in many locations around the world. The Consorzio per la Tutela also refers to fossil evidence (the prehistoric European Water Buffalo, Bubalus murrensis) suggesting that water buffalo may have originated in Italy but there are a few more theories but nothing proven . Water buffalos are not the same as the Buffalo found in North America. References to cheese products made from water buffalo milk appeared for the first time at the beginning of the twelfth century. Buffalo mozzarella became widespread throughout the south of Italy from the second half of the eighteenth century, before which it had been produced only in small quantities. . In Italy the buffalo mozzarella is a 300 million euro a year industry! The above are statistics taken from Wikipedia.
OK we must start on the dough or we will never have a meal today.
The first thing to do is to add the yeast and sugar to the warm water , stir and let sit about 15 minutes until it gets foamy.
During this time sieve 3 cups of flour into a bowl.
When the yeast is ready add it and the tbs of olive oil to the flour and with a spatula mix this.
When the spatula can no longer move the dough use your hands to mix the dough in the bowl and form a rough ball.
Place this on a floured work surface and start kneading the dough until you get a nice elastic feel to it .
Now this goes into a bowl which is coated with a little oil , covered and left to rise until it is double it's size.
I make a cross and brush with a little olive oil so that the ball will not crack while rising. Around 2 hours. Make sure your bowl is big enough for the dough to double in size as it will ! Place this is a warm place and leave it alone .
During this time we will make the tomato sauce base. This is tomato season so do not dare to use canned tomatoes when you can make the best sauce in a few simple steps.
Boil some water and when boiled, turn off the stove , place the tomatoes into this and prick the skins. You are not going to cook the tomatoes.
Take the tomatoes out carefully as they are hot and slip the skins off. Let cool until you can touch them .
Quarter them and take out the seeds and the hard inside core and discard. Chop up the cleaned tomato into little pieces.
Take the pan add, olive oil, add the chopped onions, the pressed garlic and fry until the onions are glassy then add the tomatoes and herbs, put on low and simmer for 15 minutes.
Once everything is soft take a wooden spoon and squish the bigger pieces until you have a smooth sauce. You can also use a blender.
So the sauce is done and tasting this you realize it tastes MUCH better than using canned sauce. The fresh tomatoes are not acidic and need no added sugar . This sauce doubled in quantity is also great on pasta or meat.
Now we are just waiting on the dough to rise. I have made my latte and pitzi my cat joins me on the couch.
I decided to tell Pitzi the Story of Pizza as she always wants to know what I am doing , why and the idea behind the recipes. Cats are so curious.
She is not happy her picture is being taken and placed on this blog. She actually is a very private cat but I snaped this before she turned her head.
Anyway on with the story.
There are a lot of different pizzas around the Mediterranean but the pizza we build our pizzas on today comes from Naples around 1700 when the tomato was introduced.
As early as 1000 Naples was making 'picea' , flat breads with garlic and oil or small fish , anchovies and cheese, these were baked on an open fire. In Naples the first 'pizzeria' was opened around 1700 using a wood burning oven made from the lava stones of Mount Vesuvius.
The chefs in the 18th century did not want to make the pizzas as they felt this was a poor mans food but the Royals loved them and pizza was soon incorporated into their menu. Pizza was so popular that it was sold everywhere even in the streets.
One day towards the end of the 19th century the The Queen consort of Italy, Marguerite who was also the first Queen of the Kingdom of Italy came for a visit and wanted to try the Pizza. the Royal cook made three types... garlic , oil and tomatoes , cheese and basil and the third mozzarella, basil and tomato. She loved the last one as it had the colors of the Italian flag, green , white and red and so that was named after her ..... Pizza Marguerite . This was the way the Pizza from Naples was introduced to the rest of the country .
When the many Italian Immigrants came to North America they opened up their pizzerias and introduced a whole other group of people to the Pizza. But apparently today still the best Pizza is served in Naples.
I have not been in Naples so I can not compare but as many Italians go to Croatia I am sure a chef from Naples introduced the pizza to the Croatians. It is a shame he did not travel further north and settle in Budapest.
Ok so Pitzi enjoyed that, especially the part of the tiny fish and anchovies that were first used on the 'piceas'. She was licking her lips when I mentioned 'tiny fish' . I have promised to give her a little piece as a treat . Her cat size portion will have on it just a tiny piece of the trout we will have for dinner tomorrow night as too much of that and she will not want to eat anything except trout. Her purrs are very loud now and she mentioned how very important fish is in the diet of a cat.
The dough has risen and now I pound it down to take out the air bubbles.
Using a rolling pin or an empty wine bottle roll out the pizza and place it on a pizza pan or a cookie sheet. If you place parchment paper underneath, you can slide this then onto the pan your are using, it it will not stick and be very easy to slice and serve. I like to make it rustic, meaning the edges are not even .It is not necessary to make a round pizza and I find making it on the upside cookie tin is perfect for me . If you have the time let the rolled out pizza rest for a bit before placing it in the hot oven .
I like to bake this for about 4 minutes before adding the ingredients , this makes sure that the middle will also be done and not soggy . Also should any bubbles happen you can pierce them to flatten .
Brush some olive oil on the pizza and add your tomato sauce, then your cheese and then whatever else you want in any order.
Place this on the next to the bottom shelf in the oven heated to 260C for about 20 minutes, until everything is bubbling.
Let this rest before slicing.
While this rests I will make a Caesar salad and our cocktails.
Pizza can be a snack or a meal depending on what you have added. I love pizza with minimum toppings as then you can taste each ingredient separately. A friend of mine always makes Four Season Pizza. This is pizza that is divided into 4 section and each section has different toppings, it works perfectly for her family.
Pitzi is rubbing around my ankles ....I know what she wants, she has not forgotten my promise. I have put a little trout on her plate beside her raw chicken . She is so thrilled, such a treat! Her purring can be heard across the room. I know she will be thanking me for days.
Meanwhile John and I will sit drinking our cocktails on the balcony while the sun sets. The lights of Budapest are slowly come on as we watch the cruise ships gliding down the Danube. Such a perfect day it was and so perfect for a simple meal . These are the autumn days you can cherish before the cold north winds comes and being outside is only a memory . Let's enjoy and drink to our health!