Friday, 15 July 2011

Homemade Pizza

I'm putting this one first as the dough recipe is almost exactly like the recipe for white bread with a few minor differences:

1. Use olive oil as your oil and put quite a good glug of it in there.
2. Cut the flour with semolina flour. I use about 50-100g of semolina flour and then make it up to 500g with strong white bread flour.
3. It only needs to rise once.

(You'll probably have too much dough unless you're feeding a large family but you can turn the remaining dough into bread).

Anyway... before doing the dough, I do the tomato sauce so it's ready to go when your dough is ready.

You will need:

Olive oil.
A tin of tomatoes per 12" pizza you're going to make.
A few cloves of garlic (to taste)
Tomato puree (just a little bit)
A good handful of fresh basil
A little bit of fresh oregano
Salt and pepper

Gently fry the garlic in a generous amount of olive oil until softened (don't burn garlic ever it makes things taste awful). Add the tinned tomatoes (with the juice) and bring the heat up until it's bubbling. Add a teaspoon of tomato puree and throw in the basil and oregano and a pinch of salt and pepper. Let this bubble for about 5 minutes until the herbs are wilted.

Pass the sauce through a sieve using a spoon to squeeze the pulp so you get all of the juice from the tomatoes.

You should be left with a thin tomato juice. Reduce this on a simmer until it is just a little thinner than the consistency of a tin of tomato soup (oddly enough it tastes a little bit like Heinz tomato soup too).

Now it's time to make your dough. Follow the recipe for bread with the changes I've highlighted above.

While the dough is rising, put the oven on as high as it will go. What you need now is a heavy tray to cook the pizza on. I use the grill pan turned upside down but you can buy pizza stones specially for the job. Put the tray or  stone in the oven to heat up. It is absolutely essential that the oven and the tray are screamingly hot so leave the oven on for as long as you can (I usually leave it on full whack for a whole hour... not very economical but it does the trick).

Make sure you have all your toppings ready to dress the pizza. Anything that needs to be chopped needs to be done in advance because you're going to have to work quickly.

Once the dough has risen (see bread recipe), knock it down and knead for about a minute. Chop it into fist size pieces according to the number of pizzas you are going to make (put the remainder into a loaf tin and leave it to prove... see bread recipe). Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it's about (nearly but not quite) as thick as two beer mats. Don't worry about the shape, it's just going in your gob and getting it perfectly round is a right pain. If you're concerned about presentation, roll it out and trim it to either a rectangle or a circle with a knife.

Take the tray or stone out of the oven and lay it flat. Place the rolled pizza dough onto it (you should hear it starting to cook). Use a spoon to add a thin layer of the tomato sauce to the top of the pizza. You should be able to see through the sauce to the dough, too much sauce will make it soggy. Get as near to the edges without it dripping, then add the rest of your toppings and a little olive oil.

Get it in the oven as quickly as possible. The aim here is that the tray or stone retains as much heat as possible.

Once in the oven, the pizza will take very little time to cook. Somewhere between 5 and 8 minutes. I just wait until the crust starts to go golden.

When you take it out you should be able to easily move the pizza to a plate and the underside should be reasonably firm. The crust should be golden and crunchy.

A quick note on toppings. You can put whatever you want on a pizza but you have to think about moisture and how it will affect the dough. Soggy things will make soggy pizza so just be careful!

One of the pizzas pictured here is simply topped with pesto (something I ripped off Strada) and is lovely with a little chilli oil. The other is my recreation of the now defunct Soho pizza from Pizza Express.

Speaking of those two chain restaurants... I haven't been to either in ages... well not since I started making my own pizza. If you're going to go to one or the other... go to Strada! A little dearer but well worth it in comparison...

But not a patch on homemade!!

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