It’s Saturday Night and I’m home alone. What’s a guy to do? Given the glutton that I am, I’m making pizza.
Yes, Pizza. It can be had incredibly cheaply from my local take away, and it lines the freezer aisle at my local supermarket, so you might wonder why you would bother making your own. That’s a question that’s easily answered by making your own, to your own liking, with your own toppings. The perfect custom job.
So I’ll share with you my recipe for pizza dough…
- 1 sachet of dried yeast (about 2 teaspoons),
- 1/2 tsp sugar,
- 350g (12 oz) strong plain white bread flour, plus extra for dusting,
- 2 tsp olive oil,
- 150 ml (1/4 pint) lukewarm water,
- 1/2 tsp salt.
- Prepare your water. Dissolve the sugar in 50ml boiling water, then top this up to 150ml with 100ml of cold water. You should now have lukewarm water ready for your yeast. If it feels hot to touch, it’s probably too hot, so leave it cool a while before adding your yeast. Add the dried yeast and set this aside for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes frothy.
- Meanwhile in a mixer or blender, add the salt, flour and olive oil. Start mixing, then add the yeast mixture as a steady stream. Depending on the dryness of your flour you may need to add a little more water, but add just enough to allow the dough to come together. Keep mixing for a minute or two to complete the kneading, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula if necessary.
- Turn out your dough into a bowl and cover with a piece of oiled cling film. Set this aside in a warm place for at least 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Hack your oven (see below), then preheat to gas mark 9/ 240C/ 475F.
- Turn out the dough on to a floured surface and knead for a minute. Then leave to rise for another 5 minutes.
- If you like a thicker crust, use all the dough for a single pizza, or if you prefer a thin base like I do, divide the dough in two. Any unused dough can be frozen and reused later after defrosting. Roll or stretch out your dough to fit your baking sheet.
- Place the dough on the floured baking sheet, add your toppings and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden and crisp.
Hack you oven.
The problem with domestic ovens is that as soon as you open the door, all that hot air inside escapes, and you’ll have to wait for your oven to recover its temperature again. While we can’t eliminate this, we can take steps to reduce it by introducing a thermal mass into the oven. By this I mean, a brick, or even a heavy cast iron pot can be placed on the base of the oven, and during preheating it will come up to temperature with the oven. Once you open the door to put your pizza in, you’ll still lose your hot air, but the temperature of the thermal mass will help your oven get back to it’s original temperature a little quicker. This is especially important when we’re cooking pizzas, as we want to get them really hot really quick so we can cook them in as little time as possible. Who wants to wait for pizza right?
Your pizza is your canvas so go make art. Put whatever you want on top.
For me, I want an intense tomato flavour from my pizza so I use concentrated tomato paste. I’ve tried crushed tomato, passata and commercial tomato sauces, but I often found these a little watery and not hitting the flavour mark I wanted.
This is followed by chopped onion, pepper and mushroom. During cooking some moisture will be released from these which will help to thin out the tomato a little. You may need to experiment with your toppings here as you’ll want a crispy base, and too much water during cooking will only leave you with a soggy disappointment.
Freshly torn mozzarella follows, with some mixed herbs and usually a little fresh chilli if I have some, or dried chilli flakes if I don’t. One or other of pepperoni or anchovies usually appear (and sometimes both if I’m particularly greedy).