Published on April 22nd, 2010 | by Gareth1
Perfect homemade pizza
I love to make my own pizza despite having several very good pizza places on the doorstep. Pizza is the ultimate in tailoring food to your taste with different toppings. But what makes a good pizza?
For me it’s all about simplicity and a traditional base, so thin crust is the way to go. I don’t have much time for those thick or cheese filled bases, they remind me of eating mass produced, doughy, sliced white bread – i.e. tasteless and a bit like biting the fat part of your arm. And I am not a fan of certain big franchise pizza chains that produced bland goo.
Let’s get started. Aside from the obvious being an oven the most useful piece of kitchen kit for making pizza at home is undoubtedly a pizza stone. They are relatively inexpensive and wait for it – available from all good kitchen ware shops! I put it in the oven when preheating. Get the oven nice and hot between 200 and 220 degrees works well, I find above that and the pizza surface begins to burn before the middle of the base has cooked properly. It makes a massive difference to the taste and cooking time.
The next 2 most important things to get right are the sauce and the base dough. The recipes I have used are modified Jamie Oliver recipes from his tour of Italy cookbook but have a play to find what works bext for you.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
- 1 can whole peeled plum tomatoes
- 2 good sized bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
- 3 tblsp olive oil (not virgin)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Making your own pizza sauce is very quick and easy plus, it’s preservative free. Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic. Cook until just golden to take the bitter edge off the garlic. As soon as the garlic turns golden add the tomatoes and stir. Add the seasoning and bay leaves and turn the heat down to reduce the sauce by half stirring occasionally – takes about 20 minutes. I like to add an extra splash of olive oil at the end too. A nice addition is some mashed anchovy fillets in the sauce – to do this let the sauce cool, add the anchovy and put the whole lot in a blender.
This will keep in the fridge for a few days and can also be frozen. Left over sauce also makes a great base for a pasta sauce – just add fresh basil and some parmesan at the end.
Prep time: 40 mins
- 400g strong white bread flour (I use a good quality bakers flour)
- 100g fine ground semolina flour
- ½ tablespoon fine sea salt
- ½ tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 x 7g dried yeast sachet
- 325ml luke warm water preferably from a spring or glacial river in the Pyrenees or Alps – tap water will do though.
Like pizza sauce, making your own dough is pretty easy and more satisfying. Most of the prep time is to allow the dough to rise which gives you time to enjoy a glass of wine or a cold beer down and prep the toppings for the pizza.
Make a well in the flour that looks like a mini volcano on a flat surface suitable for mixing – a smooth clean kitchen work surface is ideal though a large chopping board can be used. Mix the water, sugar and yeast in a jug and allow to stand for a few minutes.
Pour the yeast mix into the centre of the well. Add the flour from outside the well being careful not to allow the water to run down the side. Flour your hands, don’t forget to scrub and dry those puds first though, and finish the mixing with your hands. Stretch the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth, soft and stringy. Or just knead it if less confident.
Once the stretching is complete roll the dough into a ball, place in a bowl and cover with cling film and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Once the dough has risen roll into desired base shape, cover with a clean tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.
After that transfer the rolled dough onto the preheated pizza stone and add the tomato sauce then your choice of toppings. Cooking time will depend on your oven but 15 minutes is usually sufficient.
Here are some pizza topping suggestions that I really enjoy but really you can add anything you like:
- Fresh fig and ham or prosciutto if the budget permits.
- Bacon and fresh mango. Skin and cube the mango.
- Buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil (add the basil once the pizza has been removed from the oven otherwise it burns).
- Portabello and shittake mushrooms, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.
I am thinking boiled, chopped chestnut sprinkled after cooking might be an interesting addition to the mushroom pizza but haven’t tried that yet.