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Pizzas from scratch in a snap

March 27, 2010

…well, sort of. If you’re looking for a real crust (ie, with yeast), then this is the base for you. I posted about this waaay back when I had this blog at uber (which shut down, rather rudely might I add), but I finally experimented with a little wholemeal (don’t worry, I will give the recipe for white pizza dough too if wholemeal pizza is somehow too strange). I like the slight addition of wholemeal now, and will probably never go back. Sneaking whole grains into everything I possibly can has been a recent obsession, if not for the sake of my butter-laden heart than for the fun of experimenting and seeing what it works in best. Cake, not really (unless you’re making bran and sultana muffins), bread, oh yes. Pizza. Oh. Yes.

I was too lazy to stretch these out enough so they were super thick.

If you’re equally lazy you will most likely get a super crisp base, because the topping won’t have made the bottom all soggy.

Ok, before I start rambling again, let’s get started!

Bases

adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (I would marry this book if I could)

makes 4x 8″ medium thickness (7mmish) pizza bases

3/4 Tbs Active yeast (dry)
1/3 Tbs rock sea salt (or 1/4 Tbs fine sea salt)
1 Tbs sugar or honey
3-4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (best you can afford)
1 1/3 c water at body temperature
3 1/4 c “high grade” or bread white flour (or 2c white, 1 c wholemeal)

Mix yeast, salt, sugar, oil and water in a large bowl. Mix in flour until fully and evenly incorporated (ie, no floury bits). It should be a very wet dough, bordering on being a thick pancake batter. It should have room to double in size. Partially cover the bowl with a pot lid or tea towel (make sure there is a gap for the dough to breathe). Leave to rise in a warmish (21C) room for at least 2 hours, up to 12 hours. So you can do this in the morning, it takes about 10 minutes to do.

Once risen (it should be flat on top rather than bulging), sprinkle a work surface generously with flour and the dough lightly. Pull out about a quarter (or 1/6 or 1/8 if making smaller pizzas) of the dough (try to touch the flour-dusted bits to prevent dough sticking to your hands) and transfer to your work surface. I usually use a spoon for this because it almost always sticks to my hands. Coat the dough in flour, and start pulling the outsides of the dough into a centre point, simply shaping it into a ball. Then flour your work surface, sit it down, and pat the dough down so it forms a flatbread shape. Then pick it up by the sides and let the dough sag down, and keep rotating it to let the gravity stretch it out. If the dough breaks just patch it back together. Once it is about half your desired thickness (remember it rises when being cooked in the oven), place on a lightly greased or cornmeal coated baking tray (or use a pizza peel and baking stone if you have one). Now you’re ready to put whatever toppings you want on! Before you do, get your oven cracking: set it to 230C (475F)

Toppings

Rules for toppings seems wrong, so here are a few basic guidelines, which are by no means “pro” but are just what I generally stick to.

Order: stick on tomato sauce (best to try a proper home made recipe, or use a canned tomato recipe like Kendra’s), then any fresh herbs you’re using, then toppings, then cheese. Some like their toppings on top of their cheese, which dries watery stuff out (like fresh tomatoes). That’s fine. It’s your pizza. Do what you like. That’s what makes it great.

Sauce: Store bought tomato paste is really lame for pizzas. Sometime you can get “pesto tomatoes” which are chopped tomatoes with stuff in. These are better and cheaper than tomato paste. If you don’t like a super wet tomato-ness, just pour the can of tomatoes in a frypan and let simmer until reduced to the right consistency. Using a frypan makes the process a lot quicker. Sometimes you can get specific pizza tomato sauces, these are okay, but still pretty meh. Pesto also works for a bit of a twist.

Cheese: Don’t feel like you have to get mozzarella. Other melty oozy cheeses include brie and edam if you have them on hand. If you really want mozzarella though, I understand, but check prices, because sometimes the grated stuff is cheaper. Cream cheese, feta, and parmesan are pizza staples too.

Herbs: Some herbs are nicer added to your pizza after it has been cooked, especially if you really want to taste the herbs. Fresh basil and rocket/arugula for example get their flavour punchiness severely reduced once cooked.

Meats: While I don’t use meat on pizza, if you are, pre-cook it but hide it under the cheese so it doesn’t dry out whilst cooking.

Cooking

I usually do two pizzas at a time, which is very naughty but when I am “entertaining” cooking even 4 small pizzas at a time is just not going to cut it. To do them two at a time, set one rack at the very top and one at the very bottom. If using a peel and pizza stone, shuffle your pizza onto your baking stone. If using baking trays, pop these in the oven. Let cook in your preheated oven for about 7 minutes before swapping and rotating the trays for even cooking (do this as quickly as possible). If doing one pizza at a time, place baking racks in the centre of the oven and let cook about 12 minutes. They are done once the tops and bottoms are nice and golden. Transfer the pizzas to a wooden chopping board to cut up, to prevent the bottoms going soft.

Making pizzas for a group

To save time, have all your toppings and your oven and baking trays with dough ready to go. If you have lots of people with particular pizza preferences, it’s best to make lots of small bases on one tray. Then let your guests create their own topping assortments. Try cooking 2 trays at a time (no more than this though or you’ll be forever swapping stuff around).

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