Castiglion Fiorentino, Toscana, Italia
Today we made pizza with our friend Rossella. My family actually has owned a pizza factory for years and I have grown up with the pleasure of becoming very familiar with the process of making pizza, so I was very excited to get to make something I’m so accustomed to making in the country where it was first created! We left the Santa Chiara center and headed to a little café in town and eagerly sat down next to bowls of flour, water, and blocks of yeast. We were told that although we would be making pizza later on, they wouldn’t be able to bake 16 individual pizzas in a timely manner so the dough we were going to make would be baked into bread and we would just top and bake pizzas.
The process of making the bread was very neat! We learned all the words needed to make bread in Italian too, like farina- flour, lievito- yeast, and impastare- knead or mix. The process of making the dough reminded me of the amazing bread my great grandmother would make for me when I was young, simple and easy but with an aroma and appearance unlike anything else. First we mixed the yeast in the water and made sure that it was well dissolved and then put the water in the flour and mixed well until the dough came together. Once the dough was together, we kneaded the dough and formed it into a tight little ball. We then rolled out the dough into a thin sheet, typical of a pizza crust, but we then rolled it and cut it so it resembled a wheat stalk. It’s funny how the shape of the bread we made imitated the original shape of the grain the flour came from!
We put the bread in the oven to bake and got on to making the pizza! The restaurant brought out big prepared sheets of pizza crust and gave us tomato sauce, balls of mozzarella cheese, eggplants (melanzane), zucchini, onions (cipolle), peppers (peperoni), and different meats, prosciutto crudo, prosciutto cotto, and salamine piccante. As I have done since I was a kid, I put just the right amount of sauce on the crust, but that’s where things took a turn. Instead of continuing with the cheese, we put the toppings directly on top of the sauce! Rossella told us that instead of baking the pizza with cheese on it right off the bat, sometimes it gets baked without cheese for 10 or so minutes and then mozzarella gets put on and baked for another 10 or so minutes. When the pizza came out, it was clear this way was just as yummy as the way we are used to with the melted mozzarella coating all the toppings and keeping them from sliding off. Obviously the Italians know what they are doing in terms of pizza!
We got our bread and our pizzas and dug in, everybody sampling each other’s different topping combinations until we were all stuffed! I’ve had so much fun in Italy and making a dish we have eaten all over the country was such a great way to wrap up the trip!