Posts Tagged ‘Breads and baking’

Pizza from scratch

May 10, 2010

Homemade mushroom, courgette and mozarella pizza

I don’t know why but my friends are always seriously impressed when I make pizza “from scratch”. Instead of admitting it is laughably easy (which is what I usually do) I probably should soak up the praise and say nothing. However that is just not me – I like to share.

You will need to have a little bit of time on your hands but other than that – easy!

Pizza Dough (2 large pizzas)

2 cups of plain flour (I like to use a white spelt flour but wheat will do)
1 sachet of instant dried yeast (7 grams)
1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon of white sugar
warm water (blood temperature)

Bung all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, slowly add warm water combining it with your fingers until a soft dough forms (not too sticky). I find that if you separate your fingers and almost comb through the dry ingredients whilst mixing in the warm water stops too much of the dough sticking to your fingers which can be a right pain.

Pizza dough

Once you have a soft dough turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. You should feel the dough getting smooth and soft – this is the gluten being released from the flour.

Rinse out your mixing bowl dry and lightly oil. Pop the dough back in and cover with a damp tea towel. Put the bowl in a warm draft free area. Leave for about 40 mins or until it has approx doubled in size.

While the dough is rising you can make your sauce.

Pizza Sauce

1 medium red onion
4 – 6 cloves of garlic
1 kg of ripe tomatoes (or 1 tin of best quality tinned tomatoes)
Basil
Sea salt and pepper
Good quality olive oil

Finely dice the onion, crush or finely chop garlic.

Chopped onion and garlic

Add to heavy based cold pot or frying pan with a good glug of olive oil (approx 3 – 4 tablespoons) and a large pinch of sea salt.

Pop on a low – medium heat and saute until soft and sweet (do not brown).

Finely dice the fresh tomatoes removing any tough cores.

Add finely diced tomatoes (or tinned tomatoes) to onion and garlic and cook on medium heat until tomatoes have broken down into a thick sauce. This should take between 25 and 35 mins.

Fresh tomatoes added to onions and garlic

Pizza sauce cooking

At this point taste for seasoning and if it is slightly acidic add a small amount of white sugar (maybe 1/2 teaspoon). Add in finely sliced fresh basil about 1/4 of a cup.

Also add salt and pepper if needed.

After your sauce is cooked check on the dough. If it has risen to approx double size it is done!

****Note: if your dough has not risen check the use by date on the packet it might be out of date – actually do that before you even begin. If you are a wee bit worried about the yeast not working you can add it to the warm water with a teaspoon of sugar and it should foam up after a few mins – this shows that the yeast is alive. Another reason that your dough might not rise is it has not been left in a warm draft free area.

Bring the risen dough back into the kitchen and knock back – this is the fun bit.

Basically “knocking back” means punching the large pillow of dough in the middle to knock out some of the air.

Pull the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and knead for 2 mins. Split the dough into 2 balls before you roll out.

Pizza dough being rolled out

Your oven should be on, preheated to as high as you oven can go approx 250 degrees celsius. At this point and all your toppings prepared, oven hot and ready to go.

I like my pizzas very simple, give me a buffalo mozzarella tomato and basil any day!!!

I think the key to success with a good pizza is do not overload your pizza with toppings and as I say with pretty much all cooking – Keep It Simple Stupid.

I prefer a thin base for my pizzas. So I roll out the dough as thinly as possible, I then put it on some baking paper so that it can easily be transferred to the oven. Ideally onto a piping hot pizza stone but if you don’t have one that is fine – straight onto the racks or a thin pizza tray.

Sauce being added to pizza base

Once you have rolled out the dough get a large spoon and spread out a thin layer of sauce over the base – don’t put too much on or it will make the base a bit wet. Now you can do whatever you like with your pizza here are a few options:

Tomato buffalo mozzarella and basil – I start off finely grating some Parmesan Reggiano over the top, not too much. It just enhances the flavour. Tear pieces of buffalo mozzarella and dot them over the pizza, add some whole basil leaves and if you want to you can pop some super sweet cherry tomatoes (make sure they are the best ones – if you can’t find good ones leave them out)

Mushroom, courgette, mozarella pizza

Mushroom and courgette – start with the Parmesan as above and dot with a cow’s milk fresh mozzarella, use a speed peeler and peel ribbons of courgette onto the pizza, sprinkle with very finely sliced mushrooms – I like to use Swiss browns or chestnut mushrooms (small ones).

Roasted butternut pumpkin with feta and baby spinach – very quickly wilt the spinach in a frying pan with a little olive oil, roast cm cubes of the butternut pumpkin until soft and caramelised. Prepare pizza with sauce and grating of Parmesan – pop the pumpkin, crumbled feta and spoonful dollops of spinach onto the pizza bake until ready.

Now just a little point on the timing for baking – this totally depends on your oven temp, if you have a pizza stone and how thick your base is so if I were you I would put your timer on for about 7 minutes and then keep checking it.

All the cheese should be melted and a little golden and the base should also be cooked through and ideally a little golden on the underside.

Just before I serve the pizza I like to pop on some fresh basil and drizzle over some top-notch peppery extra virgin olive oil – or a chili oil.

There are just so many pizza topping options it is ridiculous.

Salami
Prosciutto and rocket
Artichoke, ham, mushroom and olives
Aubergine and goats cheese

And so many more….

Leftovers:

By the way I made some pizza on the weekend and woke up with a little bit of a hangover the next day. I was looking in the fridge thinking “I have to eat eggs!!” and thought I really fancied a Huevos Rancheros. However I didn’t have any of the ingredients I needed apart from the eggs.

All of a sudden I had a bit of a brain wave. I need to mention at this point please bear with me and don’t judge!!!

I fried 2 eggs, warmed a large slice of pizza (it was a mushroom and courgette one). I popped the soft fried eggs onto of the warm pizza, sprinkled it with a bit of freshly chopped Italian parsley and some Maldon sea salt. Joy on a plate. I felt MUCH better after I had that!!

I strongly recommend you try this – I know you are thinking that I am mental but PLEASE give it a go.

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