In one of its many forms, pizza has been a basic part of the Italian diet since the Stone Age. The earliest form of pizza was a crude bread that was baked beneath the stones of a fire. After cooking, it was seasoned with a variety of different toppings and used instead of a bowl or eating utensils to sop up broth or gravies. It is said that the idea of using bread as a plate came from the Greeks who ate flat round bread (plankuntos) baked with an assortment of toppings. It was eaten by the working man and his family because it was a thrifty and convenient food.

1st Century B.C.

In the translated version of “The Aeneid” written by Virgil (70-19 B.C.), it describes the legendary origin of the Roman nation, describing cakes or circles of bread:

“Beneath a shady tree, the hero spread

His table on the turf, with cakes of bread;

And, with his chiefs, on forest fruits he fed.

They sate; and, (not without the god’s command)

Their homely fare dispatch’d, the hungry band

Invade their trenchers next, and soon devour,

To mend the scanty meal, their cakes of flour.

Ascanius this observ’d, and smiling said:

“See, we devour the plates on which we fed.”

Our knowledge of Roman cooking derives mainly from the excavations at Pompeii and from a book by Marcus Gavius Apicius called “De Re Coquinaria.” Apicius was a culinary expert and from his writings, he provided us with information on ancient Roman cuisine. Apicius’  book contains recipes which involve putting a variety of ingredients on a base of bread (a hollowed-out loaf). The recipe uses chicken meat, pine kernels, cheese, garlic, mint, pepper, and oil (all ingredients of the contemporary pizza). The recipe concludes with the instruction “insupernive, et inferes” which means “cool in snow and serve!”

In the ashes after Mount Vesuvius erupted and smothered Pompeii on August 24, 79 A.D., evidence was found of a flat flour cake that was baked and widely eaten at that time in Pompeii and nearby Neopolis, The Greek colony that became Naples. Evidence was also found in Pompeii of shops, complete with marble slabs and other tools of the trade, which resemble the conventional pizzeria.

Roman Times

Pizza migrated to America with the Italians in the latter half of the 19th century. For many people, especially among the Italian-American population, the first American pizzas were known as Tomato Pie (as my parents always called pizza). Even in the present 21st century, present-day tomato pie is most commonly found in the Northeastern United States, especially in Italian bakeries in central New York. Tomato pies are built the opposite of pizza pies – first the cheese, then the sauce, and then the topping. This is exactly how I have always made pizza.

So let’s model our early inventors of this marvelous food, get creative and think about a new way you can use pizza dough. I would love to hear if you have a nontraditional way of using pizza dough.

Quick Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

This make-ahead dough has endless uses for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Ingredients:

3 packages (1/4 ounce each) quick-rise yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2-1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 3-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

Directions:

In a large electric mixer bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, salt and whole wheat flour; set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat water and oil to 120°-130°; stir into dry ingredients.

With paddle attachment stir in enough white whole wheat flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

Punch down dough; divide into three equal portions.
Use immediately or refrigerate overnight or freeze for up to 1 month.
Yield: 3 pounds (enough for 3 pizzas).
If using frozen dough, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Proceed as directed below.

Italian Spinach Braid

6 Servings

Ingredients:

1 loaf (1 pound) frozen whole wheat pizza dough, thawed
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon fennel seed
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg white, beaten
Pizza sauce, optional

Directions:

Roll dough into a 12-in. x 9-in. rectangle. Transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook turkey over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.

Transfer to a large bowl; add the spinach, cheeses, garlic, fennel seed, oregano and salt.

Spread mixture lengthwise down the center of dough. On each long side, cut 1-in.-wide strips 3 in. into center.

Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across filling. Pinch ends to seal and brush with egg white.

Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with pizza sauce if desired.

Scrambled Egg Turnovers

4 Servings

Ingredients:

4 eggs and 1 cup egg substitute beaten together, divided
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 portion (1 lb.) frozen whole wheat pizza dough, thawed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Set aside 2 tablespoons of the egg mixture. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir remaining egg mixture over medium heat until almost set.

Stir in mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil. Cook and stir until completely set.

Remove from the heat.

On a floured surface, roll dough into a 13-in. square. Cut into four squares; transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Spoon cooked egg mixture over half of each square to within 1/2 in. of edges.

Brush edges of dough with 1 tablespoon reserved egg.

Fold one corner over filling to the opposite corner, forming a triangle; press edges with a fork to seal. Cut slits in top.

Brush with  remaining egg; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Swiss Turkey Stromboli

4 Servings

Ingredients:

3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 portion (1 lb.) frozen whole wheat pizza dough, thawed
3 slices reduced-fat Swiss cheese
6 ounces sliced deli turkey
1 egg white
1 teaspoon water

Directions:

In a large nonstick skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in oil until tender. Stir in mustard; set aside.

On a floured surface, roll dough into a 15-in. x 10-in. rectangle.

Transfer to a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.

Layer the cheese, mushroom mixture and turkey lengthwise over half of dough to within 1/2 in. of edges.

Fold dough over filling; pinch seams to seal and tuck ends under.

Combine egg white and water; brush over dough. Cut slits in top.

Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Whole Wheat Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns (Bread Machine). Photo by SunnyZ

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

Take your 1 pound package of pizza dough out of the refrigerator and let it warm up to room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil. Sprinkle some flour onto a flat, clean board or counter top.

Take the pizza dough out of the package and place it on the surface you floured. Divide it into eight balls. For large hamburger buns, divide the dough into six.

Brush each dough ball with olive oil.

Place the balls of dough onto the cookie sheet with a space between each one. Cover the cookie sheet with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 20 minutes.

Turn on your oven and preheat it to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

After 20 minutes remove the towel or plastic wrap and place the cookie sheet into the oven.

Bake the hamburger buns for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are golden. Check them after 15 minutes to make sure they are getting too brown, as some ovens bake hotter than others.

Let the hamburger buns cool on a rack and then slice each bun in half horizontally.

Since I prefer to make my own hamburger buns from whole wheat dough, I purchased a burger baking pan from King Arthur.

Individual Pie and Burger Bun Pan

 

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