Tossing Dough with Canada's Top Pizzaiolo


Flour is flying everywhere. Diana Coutu, Canada’s reigning pizza champion, is slapping and stretching a thick ball of honey wheat pizza dough into shape. Her hands are a whirl of kinetic motion like a conductor leading an orchestra to a cresce

Flour is flying everywhere. Diana Coutu, Canada’s reigning pizza champion, is slapping and stretching a thick ball of honey wheat pizza dough into shape. Her hands are a whirl of kinetic motion like a conductor leading an orchestra to a crescendo.

"I would like a crown adorned with the finest pepperoni in the land,” says Coutu, while sprinkling garlic & chive havarti on her pie. She just might get her wish. This is one of Coutu’s last tune-ups before she makes the trip to Salsamaggoire, Italy to compete her first World Pizza Championships where she’ll put her signature slice, Big D’s Bodacious BLT (recipe below) up against the creations of chefs from over twenty nations.

Coutu is as big as Yao Ming is short. The petite Winnipegger claims to chow down on pizza everyday yet she maintains the body of a gymnast. Slinging dough takes a lot of stamina—imagine having to massage an entire WNBA team everyday and you’ll get an idea. Coutu lets me take a turn at the dough and my forearms start burning halfway through the kneading session.

The hard slog is well worth the effort. When the oven opens and the aroma of fresh pizza wafts throughout the kitchen, it’s culinary amore. Coutu’s pizzas are a savoury assault on the senses—colourful collages of scrumptious fresh ingredients that perk up the palette. But the key ingredient is not what’s on top, but what’s inside. Her delicious crusts are infused with a pint’s worth of Moosehead lager.

“Moosehead gives the pizza a hoppy taste, it’s not overpowering in the dough—all the alcohol bakes out but the flavour just bakes into the crust and adds oomph to the toppings and the cheese,” explains Coutu.

On the competitive pizza circuit there are four main disciplines: freestyle acrobatic dough tossing, team acrobatics, fastest dough, largest dough stretch, and pizza-making which is Coutu’s category.

Coutu’s still pretty new to competing but she’s already developing some rivalries. “When I went to a competition in New York last year I met team New Zealand and team Australia—we had a commonwealth country fellowship of the pies thing going on and there was some pretty good ribbing. They all thought I was going to win, but one of the Australian’s had a very decadent sea bass on his pizza and grilled scallops.”

Pizzaiolo’s pies aren’t judged solely on taste. Presentation also figures into the equation. “At the World Championships you put your pizza on a cart, decorate it and play music to accompany it,” explains Coutu.

“I want to pick a Canadian song. The best one I’ve come up with is King of Spain by Moxy Fruvous, it’s funny and goofy.” One verse goes ‘So next time you drool in the pizza line/ Remember, slower pizza's more luscious’. We were thinking Pizza Pie Love by Stompin’ Tom Connors.

Big D’s Bodacious BLT
**If you’re not a DIY type, next time your in Winnipeg visit Coutu at Diana's Gourmet Pizzeria at 1119 St. Mary's Road.

400 g white flour
600 g whole wheat flour
2 cups Moosehead Lager Beer
1/2 Cup water
2 tsp Nature’s Cargo Sea Salt
1/4 cup John Russell Honey
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
16 g yeast (2 packages)

3 oz low fat mozzarella cheese
3 oz Havarti Garlic & Chive cheese
4-5 oz Ham (thinly sliced & quartered)
3 oz Canadian Side Bacon (crumbled)
1 head romaine lettuce (shredded)
Sunspun Ranch Dressing

Directions for Dough: Mix beer with water. Dissolve salt and honey into mixture (use whisk) and heat—should be between 105 F – 110 F. Add yeast and let sit 3-5 minutes until yeast becomes frothy. Stir mixture for even distribution of yeast. Pour into stand mixer, add flour and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Add oil and mix on low speed for another 2 minutes. Turn mixer to high speed for another 2 minutes. Weigh out dough in two 13 oz patties (12” pizza) and divide the rest into 4-8 oz patties. Roll into balls and proof dough in refrigerator overnight (at least12 hours).

Pizza preparation:
Hand slap dough onto 12” pizza screen. Top with mozzarella, havarti, ham and bacon. Bake in oven high heat (between 450-550) for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove pizza from oven. Slice and add diced tomatoes, salt & pepper, lettuce and ranch dressing.

This article first ran in the May 2006 issue of Chill Magazine

Copyright © Mike Dojc, 2006

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