In keeping with this week's dough theme I made pizza last night for dinner. Far too much pizza to be honest, but at least it is nice cold and I run a lot! Over the past five years I have learnt how to make my own, developing my own taste for thin crisp crusts, rather than a thick stodgy deep pan along the way. And I've had fun with toppings: early lessons include the perils of adding too much sauce (the topping slides off), the evils of indecision and/or pure greed (too many toppings mean the pizza slice collapses) and an overwhelming desire to make the thinnest pizza base in the world (resulting in the pizza 'crisp'). But I kind of loved every single experience as there is something very satisfying about the entire production process. It feels artistic and yet homely at the same time. It teaches you how to combine ingredients at a very basic level. And just like with bread your kitchen needs to be nice and warm, making it a lovely place to be on a cold winter's day. Every imperfect pizza has taught me something about flavour combination or dough technique, or just the simple importance of remembering to get two bottles of Italian beer chilled and ready before you serve!
I have chosen 00 grade flour for this recipe as it gives the dough a really light texture.You can use strong flour with a higher gluten content if you prefer, which will result in a crunchier base. Either is delicious. The moisture in this dough comes from olive oil. As the pizza is cooked in a very hot oven the oil doesn't evaporate as water would, and so the base remains springy and elastic. Choose any topping you like for these. I've outlined last night's options below but just remember not to pile too many flavours or ingredients on there.
Pizza base - makes 3 pizzas (or 2 pizzas and a portion of dough balls)
- 500g 00 grade flour
- 10g fresh yeast
- 10g salt
- 50g olive oil
- 320g lukewarm water
- Plain flour for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and place a good heavy oven tray or pizza stone in the oven to preheat
- Rub the yeast into the flour (like a crumble)
- Add the salt and olive oil and stir in
- Add the lukewarm water incrementally while mixing with your hands until a dough is formed
- Stretch the dough on the work surface by taking hold of it in both hands and pulling the hands away from each other. Then fold the dough back onto itself, turn slightly and repeat the process until it is smooth and elastic (approx 10 mins)
- Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for one hour (or until it has doubled in size)
- Turn the dough out onto the surface and gently knead to knock it back
- Cut the dough into three even sized balls and leave to rest on a floured surface for 10 mins.
- Now take each ball and form the pizza base by placing the heel of your hand in the centre and gently push it away from yourself. Turn the dough slightly and repeat over until you have a disc approximately 20-25cm in diameter. Do this on a floured surface to prevent sticking. I think it's nice to keep a fairly rustic shape but the level of perfection you wish to achieve is entirely up to you
- Place the bases onto lightly floured oven trays. I use the back of the tray so I can easily slide the pizza onto the preheated tray/stone in the oven
- Cover the base with tomato sauce and toppings of your choice and slide the pizza off the tray onto the preheated oven tray/stone
- Reduce the oven heat to 140 degrees and bake for approximately 10-12 mins. The pizza should be golden brown round the edges
Basic tomato sauce
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- S&P to taste
- Lightly sauté the onions and garlic on a low heat for 10-15 mins. Stir to avoid colouring
- Once the onion is soft, add the tomato and stir constantly on a low heat for 5 mins to reduce down by about a quarter
- Season with the white wine vinegar, sugar and S&P to taste. The vinegar and sugar adds a rounder flavour to the passata.
- Now blend the mixture with a processor, jug blender, stick blender or pass through a sieve until smooth
- It is now ready to be spooned onto the pizza base. You need just enough to cover the base.
Suggested pizza toppings
Salami and jalapeño: salami slices, chorizo slices, chopped jalapeño, mozzarella, grated parmesan, small handful of torn basil leaves, 1 tbs olive oil for sprinkling over top.
Ham, capers and anchovies: slices of parma ham, anchovies, handful of caper berries, mozzarella, parmesan, small handful of torn basil leaves, 1 tbs olive oil for sprinkling over top.
As I've already said, use any toppings you like. Don't use too much and always add the cheese on last so it can turn golden brown in the heat and protect the other ingredients. I like to swirl a tablespoon of olive oil over the toppings before baking.