by Luis Mario Vargas
Argentinian culture , just as many other Latinamerican cultures, is the result of many customs and traditions put together, having as a base the Italian culture, and hundreds of years of incoming inmigrants. This Italian influence is clearly present in the preparation of pizza, using a stone oven. On the other hand, homemade bread is a typical element of Argentinian cooking. From the creole field cookie (made with fat, so that it endured in the Gauchos’ seddlebags for long periods of time), to the Italian grapes schiacciata, or the brioche and the pressence of French baguette.
Many Argentinian chefs are proud about this homemade, traditionally prepared bread, and it is used in the preparation of gourmet sandwiches, or toasted slices with garlic. The kneaded of the bread’s dough is a nearly artistic process. In fact, some people state that, if you give the same dough to three different people, all three breads will end up being completely different from each other, due to the chef’s technique, and even their body temperature, size of hands, etc.
That been said, it’s time that you learn a brief lesson about the importance, qualities and some advices for making an exquisite pizza in a stone oven.
The most important elements about this food, are the brick surface it will be cooked on (inside the oven, obviously), the firewood and the fire flame’s intensity. All together, they achieve the perfect croaking in the base of the pizza, and the perfect cheese gratin. Additionally, the stone oven allows a fast cooking, just enough to avoid an overcooking to affect some ingredients, which, under certain circumstances, they lose their quality, such as the ham, salami, fresh tomatoes and other vegetables we may use. The perfect cooking time must be from 3 to 4 minutes, otherwise, some quality ingredients such as a good ham, or a fine zucchini, may lose their freshness and consistency and ellegance, if they remain in the oven for more than 10 minutes.
The key for the perfect pizza
Now yo may wander: what makes a great pizza? Well, the thiner the pizza, the better. Its filling must be respectful with the dough’s thickness. Both the cheese and the sauce, as well as the rest of the ingredients, must shine for their quality, not its quantity. Remember, good kitchen is made by good ingredients. The chef works as an orchestra leader, playing with his knowledge and abilities, all the way from buying the groceries, until the final product is served on the table. Retaking the pizza topic, this point is proven by using a few amount of the ingredients, but they must be the best quality. Not clear yet? A way to know if a pizza is good, is by taking a lice of it. The perfect slice is the one that is stiff enough to hold it in one hand, without tearing apart or melting. If you overload the dough’s filling with tomato sauce, cheese, or any other ingredient, pizza will soak, and it will look more as pasta over bread. So, once again, when preparing the perfect pizza, made in an oven stone, less is more.
The pizza’s filling
Let’s check another vital part of the pizza: the filling. It is important to cover all the pizza’s surface with the sauce, but be careful with the other ingredients. The sauce needs cover the bread entirely, up to the borders, for example, the ham or cheese needn’t. The rest of ingredients must be spread throughout the surface, in a balanced way, but do not cover the entire surface with them. If you do, the bread will not be able to hold everything, and it will tear apart. If you’re using parmesan cheese, or any other hard cheese, it’s better if you shear it with your bare hands, because when it melts, it will cover partially some places, highlighting their beauty and taste from the rest of ingredients.
A pizza, out of the oven, must not have lumps beneath the cheese, but ir must look as a cheese ocean (sorry for the metaphor), in which some ingredients come out to the surface, as some others prevail underneath. This results in a colorful aspect, and it shows all the flavors and ingredients the pizza possesses, differently from comercial frnachises, that put the accompanying ingredients over the cheese, for time and practicality purposes.
Do not underestimate the accompanying ingredients
Talking about these, again, it is important to remark some characteristics they have. Meat ingredients (ham, salami, etc) must finely cut, and twist them with your hands, so that their individuality is protected when the cooking is taking place, and to leave enough space for the cheese. This way, the bread borders will get a crispy consistancy, or even slightly burnt.
Before putting the pizza in the oven, you must take into account that, in order to get a resistant bread, the pizza must be cooked on high fire, and we must be extremely careful, as the cheese melts and the base gets firm. Some tender ingredients, such as rucula, parsley or basil, are added when the pizza is out of the oven, along with the pepper.
To sum up, to make pizza in a stone oven, worthy of the traditional Argentinian cooking, you must remember to use good quality ingredients, allowing the dough to hold a small amount of them, so that it doesn’t tear apart during the cooking or eating it. Cover the entire dough with tomato sauce and spread the cheese and the other ingredients, so that they cover partially the surface. Leave the pizza in the stone oven from 3 to 4 minutes to avoid overcooking, and quality loss in some of the ingredients (if you notice it is still raw when it comes out of the oven, you can put it back for a couple minutes more). A good way to know if the pizza is being baked correctly, is realizing that the cheese bubbles and the borders are getting slowly crispy. Remember to put the spices you wish, and the ground pepper at the end, when the pizza is out of the oven, NOT BEFORE.
I hope this advices have bee helpfulto you, and next time you prepare some delicious pizza in a stone oven, you’ll be delighted.
Suscribe to our YouTube channel.
This post is also available in: Español