What is Artisan Pizza?
Artisan pizza is making huge waves these days. Whether it’s on your Instagram feed or the menu of your local restaurant, you will see a more colourful, slightly healthier, altogether exciting rendition of a popular classic.
But what exactly is it, and how is it different from the usual fare families order when they don’t have the time to prepare dinner at home?
What Makes a Pizza ‘Artisan’?
The Oxford dictionary defines the word artisan as “a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.” Artisan pizza, therefore, may be described as pizza that is made by hand.
Some gourmets also characterize this as a healthier version because the ingredients are considered farm-to-table – completely fresh and locally sourced.
Creativity and innovation are also considered, blending never-before-combined flavours like caramelized onions and apples, honey chicken with sriracha, and seafood drizzled with red curry sauce.
Finally, a few restaurateurs who have joined the bandwagon even had brick pizza ovens installed in their kitchens, believing that this special dish must be cooked in the most traditional way possible.
In a nutshell, artisan pizza is the complete opposite of commercially-produced ones that you order from a popular pizza chain or find boxed and refrigerated in the supermarket, simply to be heated in the microwave at home.
Must-Have Artisanal Ingredients
Historians believe that the first-ever pizza (as we know it today) is the Margherita, named after the wife of Itay’s King Umberto. The baked round, flat bread was topped with the Queen’s favourites: tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Ultimately, those became the all-important components of this beloved dish.
The perfect crust starts with good dough. Interestingly, it only requires three dry ingredients and two wet ones. Top chefs are meticulous about these items, choosing specific types for each.
- Flour – Organic, unbleached wheat flour with 00-grading is highly recommended. This type has more gluten which is crucial for rising. Best of all, it tastes so much better.
- Yeast – This is the element that causes the dough to rise. Any baker’s yeast is a good option, but preparing a poolish or levain (both preferments or starters) would be better.
- Water – This has to be warm, about 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 26 degrees Celsius, to help the yeast do its job.
- Salt – Aside from tightening the gluten so it can hold its structure better when it rises, this also flavours the crust. Any kind would do, to be honest, but fine sea salt would be the best.
- Oil – Nothing beast extra virgin olive oil for any pizza recipe. Not only does it help with stretching out the dough, but it also gives the crust that warm, herby flavour everyone loves.
Undeniably, canned tomato sauce is easy to use. But if you want to make an impression, get the freshest, plumpest San Marzanos in the market (Roma and cherry tomatoes make good alternatives). Simply boil them until soft, peel them, and set aside.
Heat some garlic in olive oil in another pot until it is soft. Add the peeled tomatoes, carefully crush them, and then let them simmer until thick. Sprinkle in some dried oregano, basil, rosemary, and thyme, and add salt and sugar to taste, and you’ve got a beautiful sauce! It is time-consuming, but there is nothing complex about this recipe.
The best melty cheese is still mozzarella since it has the right mix of fat and water content. But if you want to cut the freshness with something sharper, add other varieties like Parmesan, Gorgonzola, and Fontina (which incidentally complete the Quattro Formaggi). Use anything you’re partial to. You could never go wrong with authentic farmhouse cheese.
Choice of Toppings
This is the easiest part because you can put anything that you like! You can go for a basic pepperoni, smoked salmon, or an all-veggie pizza, Do make sure they are fresh, locally sourced, and authentic so they match the quality of the other ingredients.
Must-Have Artisanal Tools
The kitchen tools and equipment enumerated below can help one traditionally create this Italian staple. Other essentials, like knives and food scales, won’t be included in this list because whichever you use won’t affect the quality of the pizza.
That awesome KitchenAid mixer with numerous attachments can do practically anything – even pizza dough. But many foodies will tell you that nothing beats a hand-kneaded one.
Food processors and mixers reduce the time spent on mixing the ingredients. But pressing and pulling your dough atop a flat surface by hand develops the gluten, which traps the air within, helping it rise later.
Nothing can surpass a hot brick oven, especially when making artisan pizza. The heat within this type of oven slowly transfers to the dish, letting the crust and the toppings cook evenly. It also creates a crust that is moist and fluffy inside and crispy (with slight burns) at the bottom. To be honest, this is almost impossible with the conventional steel oven found in most households.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury to get a brick oven constructed. The next best thing is the pizza stone. Made of cordierite or ceramic (or a mix of the two), this raises the conventional oven’s internal temperature, allowing the dough to cook simultaneously with the toppings. It also recreates those burnt specks under the crust.
Portable Pizza Ovens
If you’re ready to spend a bit more cash, get this special equipment that mimics the immense heat inside a brick oven. Ooni and Kyln are just some good brands that you can choose from.
Is it Just Fanfare or the Future?
Some say that artisan pizza is merely hype. With the difficulty of making this at home and its exorbitant price when you visit a posh diner, a few predict this fad will soon fade. People will still go for the equally satisfying but affordable commercially made version.
But it’s doubtful traditional pizzerias that do everything by hand will go out of business. In fact, some have lasted nearly a century without getting tempted by automation of any sort. Many will still crave authentic flavours, go for fresh and healthy options, and try culinary innovation because, just like artisan pizza, it’s awesome.