October 24, 2013 by Evin
Soggy bottoms could be a thing of the past for troubled cooks who’ve attempted to recreate their favourite pizza at home. A ratio calculated by Dr. Eugenia Cheng, a mathematician from the University of Sheffield, who uses food to explain complicated concepts to her students, eliminates the problem of burnt crusts and undercooked middles, with the first ever formula for the perfectly proportioned pizza.
Ensuring maximum flavour thanks to the ratio of topping to base, the formula shows that even if you keep the same amount of dough and topping, the ratio of topping to base in an average bite changes with the size of your pizza. It’s not just about how thick you like your pizza, it’s also about the balance of flavours between the topping and the dough. In simple terms, you’ll get more topping per bite in a smaller pizza, but a more even spread of bites in a larger pizza.
Writing d for the constant volume of dough and t for the constant volume of topping, the ratio of topping to base in a median bite is:
From here, the Math-ster Chef, Dr. Cheng, has calculated that, in relative terms, the average bite taken from an 11 inch pizza has 10 per cent more topping than the average bite from a 14 inch pizza. She explains that in this formula, the size of the pizza’s crust is proportional to the thickness of the pizza – the larger the pizza, the thinner the base, so the smaller the crust. This is represented by the formula:
Where she determined the value α=15 experimentally, by making several pizzas of different sizes.
What this looks like for a 14” and 11” pizza:
Teaming up with Milano to determine why its Romana pizzas, which are 14 inches, and therefore thinner and crispier than their Classic 11 inch pizzas, are so popular, Dr. Cheng has found that the secret lies in the carefully calculated proportions of the pizza. The 14 inch pizza remains just as flavoursome and cooks just as evenly because of the area over which the topping is spread and how close to the edge of the pizza.
Dr. Cheng concluded, “I am always looking for more ways to bring food and maths together, as they’re two of my favourite things, but most people prefer food. I like showing that maths is everywhere in the world around us, and that we can use maths to give a logical explanation for something we’ve discovered by “gut” feeling, like that smaller pizzas are at more risk of having a soggy bottom!”
Graham Fenwick, Operations Manager at Milano said, “We believe our Romanas are pizza perfection and now have an even better understanding of why each bite is as delicious as the first. Our guests are really passionate about their favourite pizzas but, what they might not know, is that it’s our dough, how our pizzaiolos stretch it and how they arrange the toppings that really makes the difference, ensuring their favourite pizza is cooked perfectly every time.”
The formula comes as Milano tweaks its dough for the first time since 1965, adding 15g to its pizza recipes as it strives for consistently perfect pizza every time. “It may not seem like much at all,” says Graham, “but it means that the thickness of every Romana pizza, which is rolled with a rolling pin to ensure an even amount of dough across the whole of the base and no air pockets, is even more consistent than before. For people who are as obsessive about pizza as we are, 15g makes all the difference.”