We will probably never know who made the first pizza, but it is believed that well before the time of Christ, peasants from both the south of Greece and the north of Italy were baking round, flat bread dressed with oils, garlic and vegetables and leftover meat. A strip of crust was left ungarnished for easier handling without the need for eating utensils. Even traditional German culture contains a pizza like dish, which was designed to utilise left over ingredients at the end of the baking day.
The first pizzeria is thought to have opened in 1830 in Naples. By the end of that century, Naples had established itself as the pizza capital of the world. Since then, the Americans have become the greatest consumers of pizza and have since marketed pizza to the rest of the world. Pizza came to the USA by Neapolitan migrants, who found that the abundance of fresh produce more than made up for the different types of ingredients they had to use. A larger, American style pizza evolved. World War II US servicemen developed a taste for pizza (and other regional dishes like spaghetti and meatballs) in Italy and, once they returned home, helped escalate pizza’s popularity to the point that it has become a culinary staple. Described below are some of the more popular American styles of pizza.
Pizza Cooking in Stone Hearth Ovens
Stone Hearth Ovens use the great heat stored in their dense refractory roof and floor to cook pizza and other foods very quickly.
Once chefs become familiar with these ovens, they find them incredibly versatile and are able to cook a wide variety of foods at different times of the day.
Dough can be made using a mixer or by purchasing from a bulk dough supplier or your local bakery. Although there may be a million dough recipes, we have provided a generic Pizza Dough recipe in our Recipe Library.
Once you have made your dough, there are 3 ways to roll it out (Roller, Dough Press or Manual). Choose the method most suitable to you.
The first two mechanical methods lend themselves to kitchens with less experienced staff.
The weight of the dough will depend on the size of the pizza you wish to make and the desired thickness of the base. Individual sized 250mm (10″) “gourmet” or “thin base” style pizza will contain 150g (5oz) to 200g (7oz) dough; a large family size 16″ thick base pizza will contain approx 620g (22oz).
Once you have selected the dough weight and style of pizza, you need to determine how much dough you need per day and how to store it ready for use. Busy pizzerias will use either a separate fridge designed to hold pre-rolled pizza or a chrome rack which can hold up to 20 pizzas.
Some people place pre-rolled pizzas on floured metal pans, which are then placed in their storage area ready for prepping and cooking. Some clients who do not use pans at all use round plywood trays the size of their pizzas for storage prior to cooking.
- Allow oven to get to operating temperature. Do not be afraid to experiment to get the perfect temperature.
- Ensure the floor has been cleaned with a moist (not wet) rag on a broom and move around the floor. A wire brush on a handle can also be used.
- Prepare dough into dough balls according the thickness and size required. 150g (5oz) balls are suitable for 250mm (10″) round thin pizzas.
- Roll the dough into bases to the size and thickness required. Use a liberal amount of semolina to stop the dough from sticking to the bench and peel.
- Place finished dough onto peel and place the pizza in the middle of the oven. Pizza can be cooked either direct on the floor of the oven or in trays. Experiment with different areas of the oven. The hottest area will be close to the fire and the temperature will reduce as you move away from the fire. The coolest place in the oven is next to the mouth. Cooked pizza can be left there to keep warm if business is slow.
- When cooking pizzas (either on a pizza-baking tray or directly on oven floor) the pizza should be turned and moved about to ensure even cooking, due to the ambient and reflected heat conditions inside oven chamber. Ideal pans are black perforated, these absorb heat quicker than aluminium pans.
- A typical pizza should cook perfectly in 5-6 minutes. The time taken to cook the perfect pizza will depend on how thick the ingredients are and how thick the dough is. If cooking time is greater than 7-10 minutes, the temperature in the oven is too low. This can be caused by a number of factors. Refer to document “Heat in Oven”.
- The pizza base may puff up during cooking. If it does, simply prick it with a pointy object. A roller with lots of fingers is available which is rolled across the dough. This has the effect of stopping the dough from bubbling.
Food other than Pizzas may also be Cooked in the Oven
Eg. Roast chicken, lamb, beef etc can be cooked in roasting dishes (an oven rack should be placed on oven floor with roasting dish placed on rack to prevent excessive heat from base).
Some meats may require aluminium foil placed over top to prevent fat splattering onto pizzas.
Pasta dishes, eg. Lasagne can be baked in the oven; other dishes such as ravioli, canelloni, tortellini can be portioned into individual servings, placed into ceramic oven proof dishes and finished in oven.
The pizza oven is designed to cook pizza very quickly at high temperature. With experience you can utilise the effective available heat from the oven by cooking items requiring a lower temperature outside rush hours. By letting the oven cool down to 200°C (392°F), you could bake breads / all prep food etc between peak periods. Half an hour before your peak demand time, raise the oven temperature with fresh timber and it then ready for maximum temperature and throughput. If you have a particularly demanding peak period, dough bases can be par baked for 1-2 minutes or until the dough holds its shape and stored on individual aluminium / stainless plates in readiness for orders. These can be prepared with tomato paste and cheese prior to par baking.
Once finished cooking for the day, simply leave the fire burn down, place the door in place in front of the flue or place another log on the fire.
- Pizza Lovers Cookbook
- Gourmet Pizzas, Recipes from the Red Centre, Gregory Boock & Kirk Stuart
- River Café Cook Book Two, Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers – Ebury Press