Thick, Thin or Stuffed
Give Your Pizza the Best Crust You Can Muster
Whether thin as a cracker, an inch thick or stuffed with cheese, a great crust is the foundation of a great pizza. While pizza purists still insist upon their regional preferences — thin-crust in New York; deep-dish in Chicago — most people enjoy spicing up their pizza enjoyment with a little variety.
Back in old Napoli, pizza was peasant food, as hard-working folks and resourceful cooks devised it as a fast and flavorful way to use up extra bread dough, leftover tomato sauce and scraps of cheese. Today, pizza seems to have come full-circle, as is evidenced by the wide popularity of the Neapolitan-style pizza — homage to those resourceful citizens of Naples. Many operators are replicating this rustic pizza and have installed wood-burning pizza ovens — much to the delight of their patrons. Temperatures in these ovens reach about 900 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in a crispy yet chewy crust with delectable air bubbles, and less time in the oven. Another Old-World-style pie gaining momentum is the Roman pizza, with a wafer-thin crust.
It’s All about the Dough
The basic ingredients of pizza dough — flour, yeast, water, salt and olive oil — have remained pretty much the same over the centuries. Techniques, types of flour and trendy dough flavorings have, more recently added interest and variety to pizza crust.
Major pizza chains are constantly reinventing pizza crust to satisfy customers’ cravings. Several years ago, the stuffed crust was all the rage — with the outer rim of crust wrapped around a surprise, such as Mozzarella cheese or sausage links. Pretzel crust is a current sensation, along with flavored crusts utilizing trendy flavor boosts from bacon, honey sriracha, fiery red pepper flakes, sesame and flax seeds and toasted cheeses.
More and more operators who want to produce a more healthful pizza are experimenting with dough, utilizing flours other than the traditional white bread flour, including:
- 100% WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR (rich in antioxidants, fiber and overall nutrient content)
- SEMOLINA (milled from hard durum wheat; high in gluten)
- ANCIENT GRAIN FLOURS (combinations of grains such as spelt, amaranth, millet, sorghum, quinoa and others).
What’s Up with Tossing the Dough?
Pizza chefs who toss and spin their dough above their heads aren’t just showing off their dough-handling skills. This Old-World custom of tossing dough into the air and catching it on the back of clenched hands is a technique that incorporates air into the dough as it is hand-stretched into a round shape without the use of a pizza pan. This tossing ensures a light, airy crust that is more tender and crisper, with a similar appearance to authentic, rustic pizzas made in Italy. Instructional pizza tossing videos can be found online. Keep in mind that the technique takes a bit of practice on the part of your pizza chef, but imagine the oohs and aahs as your customers delight in watching their pizza being handcrafted from scratch, right before their eyes.