The concept of comfort food is taking on new meaning as quarantines and curfews abound, and with dining out options dwindling, when Americans need comfort – they are increasingly turning to pizza whether to take out or make at home.
Using food to provide comfort during times of stress is not new. Comfort foods remind us of easier, more fun times – and memories usually spent with family and friends. It is no surprise therefore that the most popular comfort food among stressed out Americans is pizza. Technomic reports 43% of consumers are enjoying pizza at least once a week, but according to several surveys, it’s also the fare that most turn to in times of turmoil.
No longer limited to just pepperoni or even Italian menus, pizza styles are as varied as the myriad of toppings and crusts now available. And for those opting to re-create their favorite pies at home, the options are endless.
Pizza expert Tony Gemignani, The Pizza Bible author and a World Pizza Champion who owns dozens of pizza restaurants says Detroit-style pizza is gaining momentum. Detroit style is a square pie with a thick crust and cheddar cheese that is spread to the edges where it makes a delicious crispy crust. Says Gemignani, "The spike in the industry use of Cheddar is going nationwide. It’s not just a melting cheese – it caramelizes the edges and that makes it a distinct flavor that’s reminiscent of the crisp bits of mac and cheese."
According to Charles Duque, Director, The French Dairy Board for the Americas, "European cheeses are a key ingredient in many of the popular regional styles and chef-inspired creations." His favorite? A pizza with Reblochon, potatoes, bacon and onions based on the flavors found in a classic French tartiflette, a potato gratin from Savoy in the Alps. Originally created by Paul Hollywood, a judge on The Great British Baking Show, the tartiflette pizza can also be made with other oozy and flavorful French cheeses, such as Raclette and Comté from the French Alps that pair well with potatoes, bacon and onion on a pizza.
If you’re more into thin crust, Duque recommends a Flammekueche, an Alsatian specialty which is a cross between a pizza and a tart. Traditionally made using bread dough spread out in an oval shape, topped with crème fraiche, lardons and thinly cut onions, you can add Munster or smoked Gouda as la piece de resistance.
While gooey melted cheese is one of the things we love most about pizza, cheese added to pizzas after being baked in the oven is a trend at pizza competitions. According to Avalanche Pizza owner pizza judge and World Pizza Champion John Gutekanst, "It’s the presentation, especially with arugula, chutneys, and cheeses, such as Brie and Camembert." The key he says, is to wait until the pizza comes out of the oven, "When it cools down a bit you add the cheese and create the visual effect." In terms of favorite combinations, Gutekanst opts for very ripe French cheeses such as Brie to enhance the umami in mushroom pizzas. Or Emmental which is ideal with the Korean ingredient kimchi.
And another hidden benefit for using European cheeses on your pizza? You can explore different food regions of the world without leaving your home.
About the Cheeses of Europe
The Cheeses of Europe Marketing Campaign, orchestrated by Cniel (The French Dairy Inter-Branch Organization) and funded in part by the European Union, was designed to create awareness for the variety of European cheeses available in the US market and to suggest ways that American consumers can incorporate those cheeses into their diets, recipes and lifestyles. The campaign’s goal is to increase the appeal of European cheeses and strengthen their competitive position in the growing specialty cheese category.
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