Charcoal, or activated charcoal, is an odourless and tasteless natural black powder that is produced by the oxygen-free, flameless carbonisation of plant substances such as wood, cellulose residues, peat, fruit shells and stones. Thanks to its absorbent properties, activated charcoal is commonly used for food and pharmaceutical applications and can be used both as a colouring agent in unusual drinks, supplements and gourmet recipes and as a real active substance with beneficial and purifying effects on the body.
The flexibility while cooking and the high digestibility of charcoal make it a versatile ingredient, that is also widely used in the preparation of certain baked goods, such as pizza: discover together with Fra Diavolo all you need to know about charcoal and its culinary uses as a colouring additive for a light and digestible pizza dough!
How is activated charcoal obtained?
Charcoal is derived from wood of different species such as birch, poplar or willow and is burned without a flame under an oxygen-poor environment. After combustion, the vegetable black thus produced is ground in a roller mill and purified by washing with hydrochloric acid; it is then neutralised and dried. Activation of the charcoal is achieved by subsequent superheating in the presence of gas at temperatures of 800-1000 °C . This specific treatment leads to the formation of the characteristic pores of activated charcoal and increases its adsorbent surface area.
Charcoal: properties and health benefits
Due to its pronounced absorptive properties, charcoal is used as an anti-toxic and its intake helps trap gases and harmful substances in our digestive system.
Due to its porosity, activated charcoal absorbs gases, liquids, bacteria, toxins and viruses, thus preventing their accumulation and providing extensive digestive benefits.
Finally, the consumption of activated charcoal is recommended to combat bad breath: this product also has a purifying and disinfecting effect on the body.
Vegetable charcoal pizza: legislation on colouring additives as a colouring agent
The Ministry of Health offered to clarify the benefits of charcoal in food, specifying how it should be taken and the ideal circumstances for enjoying its absorbent properties:
This claim may only be used for a food that contains 1 g active charcoal per quantified portion. The claim should be accompanied by information to the consumer that the beneficial effect is obtained by taking 1 g at least 30 minutes before a meal and 1 g immediately after a meal.Ministry of Health
Regarding the presence on the market of bakery products containing activated charcoal such as pizza, it was officially clarified that the use of charcoal as a basic ingredient in pizza dough is acceptable as a colouring additive and in the quantities allowed under the relevant European regulations.
Why choosing charcoal dough?
Charcoal flour is one of the most digestible flours for pizza, with activated charcoal being used increasingly to make contemporary gourmet pizzas with light dough and an evocative, unusual flavour that retains all the tasting features of a classic dough pizza. Ordering a black charcoal pizza means allowing yourself to be tempted by a unique dish, full of charm and intense colour, which will stand out on your table. The charcoal powder dough is also the ideal solution if you want to enjoy a light and highly digestible pizza: the black charcoal pizza contains little cholesterol and its fibre content is particularly high, not to mention that its moderate consumption can also be included in more balanced diets.
Black charcoal pizza: calories and nutritional values
The charcoal pizza has an average energy intake and a 250 g margherita with charcoal dough contains approximately 540 kcal: the use of activated charcoal makes this recipe lighter than a margherita with classic dough, which when consumed in the same quantities provides 675 kcal. The caloric intake of black pizza comes mainly from the carbohydrates, lipids and proteins contained in its particular dough. The nutritional values of a 100 g portion of charcoal pizza dough are detailed below:
How to use charcoal in cooking
As we have seen, charcoal is used as a basic ingredient for colouring gourmet dishes and pizzas and for making special flours for savoury doughs of all kinds. Its culinary use gives scope for bizarre expressions of taste and creativity and also offers numerous ideas for the creation, decoration and flavouring of oil, desserts, drinks and pasta dishes.
To use charcoal in your cooking, it is advisable to add it in a limited quantity to the classic flour, trying to maintain a ratio of around 10 to 15 g per kilogram of flour. Here are some recipe ideas using activated charcoal as a colouring additive:
- ice cream
- soft drinks
The first uses of charcoal date back to the culinary tradition of 19th century England, where it was first thought to combine flour with burnt wood dust to make unusual combinations. It was at this time that the first black variant of the typical Anglo-Saxon digestive biscuits was created, which were served with tea and paired with fruit and mature cheeses.
Fra Diavolo is at the forefront of the use of charcoal flours and offers a charcoal dough for an easily digestible contemporary pizza with a refined, light taste. Come and try it out in our restaurants!