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A Classic Italian Dish for Everyone

Posted by Benny Traub on

Home made pizza is a rustic and delicious dish. Making the pizza from scratch means that it is easy to control the ingredients, doing away with the need for artificial additives and special diets are easy to accommodate.

Pizza Base:

No special equipment is required although some people like to bake on a pizza plate which is usually a large round oven proof tray. This gives the well known round pizza. In Italy, larger pizzas are usually square or rectangular in shape as they are baked and sold by the half meter or meter.

This classic half meter is the simplest to make as it is much easier to slice into portions and uses the oven space more efficiently; a large rectangular baking sheet about the same size as the oven shelf is ideal.

The ideal option for making a delicious homemade pizza is to use a pizza oven kit or, if you want to make things even more practical, you can also use a mobile pizza oven allowing you to take it all around.

Before making the base, grease the chosen baking surface and turn the oven on to a medium to hot heat; around gas mark 7 or 220 degrees.

For A Large Pizza:

  • 1lb of flour, preferably 00 grade Italian flour or otherwise plain white flour.
  • 1tbsp of Olive oil.
  • Dried active yeast; check packet for instructions as brands differ in quantity needed.
  • 200ml lukewarm water.
  • 1tsp of sugar.
  • Pinch of Salt.

Directions:

  1. First make up the yeast, checking the instructions on the packet. Dried active yeast usually needs to be whisked into the 200ml of lukewarm water along with the sugar. Leave this to stand in a warm place for 20 minutes and the yeast should re-awake, producing a bubbling, frothy mixture which smells distinctly of fermentation.
  2. Place the flour and pinch of salt in a bowl.
  3. Once the yeast is ready, whisk it again with a fork and add the olive oil.
  4. Combine the yeast mixture with the flour little by little. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water. At this stage it should be soft and pliable though not sticky.
  5. Kneed the dough for as long as possible; a minute or two will suffice but longer is better. Once you have a springy ball of dough, leave it in a warm place to rise for 20 - 30 minutes.
  6. When the dough has risen, kneed again for a minute to knock some of the air out. It is then ready to be rolled into the desired pizza base shape. Keep the base as thin as possible; it will rise again in the oven.
  7. Transfer the rolled out base to the chosen baking surface, cover with topping and bake.

Depending on the toppings chosen and the thickness of the base, pizza will take different amounts of time to cook. In general, fifteen to twenty minutes in a medium hot oven should suffice but check the pizza twice within this time as fragile toppings can burn.

Herbs:

  • Rosemary, Oregano, Sage and Thyme stand up well to cooking.
  • Heap fresh basil or rocket leaves on the baked pizza before serving as cooking kills the flavor and texture of these.

Other topping ideas:

  • A can of chopped tomatoes works well as a base for toppings, or a jar of pasta sauce can be used. Home made tomato sauce is delicious but cooking a heap of fresh, ripe tomatoes gently with some olive oil is also suitable.
  • Traditional toppings include olives, Mozzarella, anchovies, peppers and salami.

Special Diets:

  • Cheese is a classic topping but if cutting down on fat, use a smaller quantity of a stronger flavored variety such as Parmesan or Pecorino. Cheeses such as Mozzarella and Feta are slightly lower in fat than many hard cheeses, and half fat cheese is also an option.
  • For non-dairy pizzas choose flavorful toppings such as garlic, onions, olives, capers, chili, rosemary, fresh basil, anchovies, olive oil, walnuts and sun dried tomatoes.
  • Wholemeal and Spelt flour both produce a heavier more fiber-rich base which tastes best with strong vegetarian toppings such as red pepper, onion, cheese, sweetcorn and olives.

General Tips:

  • Rinse any bowls or implements coated in dough with cold water before washing up. This makes cleaning up easy; hot soapy water literally bakes raw bread dough on to equipment and causes a mess.
  • Using watery vegetables can make a pizza soggy, or take too long to cook. Vegetables which hold a lot of water include mushrooms, courgettes, spinach and fresh tomatoes. Slice these finely with a mandolin, use them sparingly or alternatively cook them before using.
  • A pizza wheel is extremely handy for slicing pizza evenly without dislodging the topping and burning fingers.
  • Using a good quality pizza oven is the key to a tasteful dough. You can find great options at Californo.
  • Heap ingredients such as cured ham, Mozzarella and smoked salmon on to the hot pizza before serving. The heat will warm these toppings without destroying the flavor and texture as the baking process would.

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