Homemade Pizza

Last week in my What’s Hot & What’s Not post I waxed lyrical about the perceived hassle a home-made pizza brings to your life. I was wrong. So wrong in fact I tried it again at the weekend with relative ease. However if you want to remove the hassle from cooking you also have to relinquish a degree of control. When it comes to making your own pizza I’ve learned this means giving up any attempt to make it circular.

An easy compromise you might think? Well not for a control freak it isn’t.

Look, I’m not Monica Geller ok? That title belongs to Irish Pal #1, who would secretly prefer we eat our food over the sink when visiting & makes no attempt to hide the fact she Hoovers her garden shed. I’m a little more Rain Man than Monica. It’s the weird stuff that stresses me out. Drinking out of mugs which aren’t white on the inside or numbers which don’t multiply by 3, you know? I’ve never felt this control issue infiltrated into my cooking in any way until I tried to make pizzas.

Some food is just meant to be round. The shape adds to the eating experience. Can you imagine eating a square doughnut? Pizzas are meant to be round. How else are you supposed to cut it into evenly shaped triangular slices? Yet as I found out, pizza dough doesn’t actually WANT to be shaped round. I know this because I spent the best part of 40 minutes the first time I made pizzas trying every method I could think of to make them round. After a few tantrums and threatening to bin the lot I consoled myself by accepting round pizzas were an Italian conspiracy, in the same way Italian women’s effortless hair & style is made to make us other Europeans feel inadequate.

My pizzas thus resemble a somewhat rectangular shape and the control freak inside can handle this because it’s the perfect shape for my wooden serving board.

 

Pizza

The pizza dough recipe comes from the most recent Good Food edition (July 2014) and was designed to be cooked on the BBQ or grill. I’ve made no changes and only offer my tried and tested cooking times for cooking in an oven. However I reckon this would be a cracking alternative to the typical sausages, burgers & kebabs fare we see BBQ’d every summer. Good Food themselves recommend:

“If cooking by gas turn the flames down to medium-low so the bottom of the pizza doesn’t burn. When cooking on a charcoal barbecue, let the coals turn grey before you pop on the pizza”

If you place the pizza on a baking sheet then use this sheet to slide the pizza onto the grill, Good Food assure us the flour on the base of the pizza will stop it sticking to the bars. Close the lid (if your BBQ has one) and cook for 3-4 minutes. Use tongs to remove the pizza and add the toppings on the uncooked side. Cook again, with the lid down, for 3-4 minutes until the cheese melts.

The pizza dough can be made the day ahead and left in the fridge after its risen. Just remember to take it out of the fridge 3-4 hours before you want to cook.

You can either make 4 small pizzas or 2 large pizzas with this recipe. If you need more, multiply the ingredients accordingly. If someone finds a way of calculating the ingredients to make multiples of 3 pizzas, I would be extremely grateful.

A pizza which flies in the face of the Italian pizza conspiracy
A pizza which flies in the face of the Italian pizza conspiracy

 

Ingredients

Ingredients

 

Making pizza dough is much easier with a free-standing mixer & its dough hook however you can make this by hand on the counter.

Making dough with a mixer:

Add the flour & salt to the bowl of the free-standing mixer with the dough hook attached. Mix the yeast with warm water from the tap and leave it to stand for 5 minutes. With the mixer running on a medium speed, slowly pour the yeast water into the flour. The dough will start to come together into a grainy lump.

Turn the mixer up high and leave it to knead for 7 minutes. Just before it’s finished kneading, I add 2tbsp of flour just to stop it being very sticky.

Pizza dough before kneading.
Pizza dough before kneading.

Making dough by hand: 

Add the flour & salt to a large bowl. Mix the yeast with warm water from the tap & leave to stand for 5 minutes. Slowly pour the yeast water over the flour & bring the dough together with your hands in the bowl. When it has formed a lump, turn it out onto a floured counter and knead for 10 minutes.

The dough is very sticky, but its supposed to be, so you get a light pizza base. Add 2tbsp of flour to the mixture if you need it but don’t be tempted to add too much flour. Just persevere with the sticky mess. Maybe have a kind person turn the radio or telly on for you while you knead?

Once you have finished kneading, by whichever method, the dough should now be shiny and springy but very sticky.

Pizza dough after kneading.
Pizza dough after kneading.

Oil the inside of a large bowl and oil your hands. Scrape the dough into the bowl and turn it around in the oil to coat.

Cover the bowl tightly in cling film and lay a heavy towel over the top. Now leave this in a warm place (the boiler cupboard is a good spot) to rise for 2 hours.

Leave to rise in an oiled bowl to stop it sticking.
Leave to rise in an oiled bowl to stop it sticking.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce

Tomato Pizza Sauce:

Cook the onions in a pan with a little regular (not Extra Virgin) oil over a low-medium heat for 8 minutes until softened. Add the garlic & cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the remaining sauce ingredients & cook over a medium heat for 15-20  minutes. Stir the sauce occasionally to stop it burning. Remove from the heat & decant into a bowl until ready to use.

I also use this time to prepare my toppings & lay them out ready to use.

Back to the dough…

Once the dough has risen it should have doubled in size. Punch the dough in the bowl to release the air and turn it out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough in half for 2 large pizzas or into 4 for 4 small pizzas.

Heat the oven to 220C. Grease and flour a baking sheet or roasting tin.

Dough stretched into something which vaguely resembles a pizza + various toppings.
Dough stretched into something which vaguely resembles a pizza + various toppings.

Plonk the dough onto the baking sheet. Use floured hands to stretch the dough out into whatever shape you can. Drizzle a little Extra Virgin Oil over the pizza and smear it all over with your fingers. You may now find it a little easier to stretch the dough out with tearing it.

It took me a couple of go’s to get used to handling pizza dough. I found it quite springy & easy to tear. Just persevere & don’t get too hung up on it looking perfect. If there are holes, pull the dough over them and no one will notice. We’re aiming for rustic here.

Bake the pizza base on the middle shelf of the oven for 10-15 minutes until it is slightly golden in colour. Remove from the oven and bake the second pizza. Alternatively see above for instructions on how to BBQ

Baked until golden (perhaps a little overcooked?)
Baked until golden (perhaps a little overcooked?)

Assembly 

Spread the tomato sauce over the uncooked side of the base, making sure you spread the sauce right to the edges. Top with a few handfuls of grated cheese, a few dashes of hot sauce and a sprinkling of dried oregano and smoked sea salt. Now you can go to town with toppings. I used 50g crumbled goats cheese, sliced Italian cured meats & shredded rocket for mine.

Top with a little more ground pepper and a light drizzling of Extra Virgin Oil.

Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the cheese has melted. Serve while hot.

Toppings added & ready to be cooked.
Toppings added & ready to be cooked.

You don’t really need me to suggest all the various types of pizzas you can make. We all know pretty much anything goes on a pizza. If you’re having people over, and the control freak inside YOU can handle it, why not lay out all the pizza bases & ingredients and get your guests to create their own pizzas? You could have:

  • A large bowl of tomato pizza sauce
  • Mozzarella, Cheddar Cheese, Goats Cheese, Feta Cheese
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Basil
  • Pesto
  • Sliced Mushrooms, Peppers, Onions
  • Sweetcorn (blurgh!)
  • Goats Cheese
  • Tabasco, Hot Sauce or Flaked Chillies
  • Italian Cured Hams, Cooked Prawns, Sliced Cooked Sausage or Bacon

All you need to do is man the BBQ & hand out the beers.

 

Happy Summer everyone!

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