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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

“il mio molto gustosa pizza”

The title, if google translate worked, simply means my very tasty pizza.  Now I am not saying that this is the perfect pizza, nor the most authentic, but it works for me and since I am the one eating it that’s all that matters.   Do you need a pizza stone?  I would say yes, it does make a difference and I picked up mine for little over £10 last Christmas in a sale.  With or without the stone you need to make sure you oven is very hot, full whack if you dare, the pizza cooks in 10 to 15 minutes so it really is a fast food.

I used 00 Italian plain flour for an authentic feel, you might struggle to find it in supermarkets (I tried two well known ‘posh’ ones) and in the end I went an Italian restaurant that also had a small deli attached.  Its not expensive to buy and can be used for pasta and cakes so you wont waste it.  You could substitute it for 180g of plain flour but I would really encourage the trip for the real stuff.  

Rolling out the pizza on polenta (cornmeal) keeps the base crisp and unlike flour it does not burn in the very hot heat of the oven.  If you enjoy a crust on pizza you could sprinkle the polenta around the edge just before you cook it.  I like more topping than crust so tend to spread the tomato mixture right to the edge leaving only a very small crust that often ends up left on the plate like little half moons.

There is nothing stopping you buying a premade pizza base, topping it with tomato paste and throwing on some cheese and other toppings or simply picking up the phone and ordering (something I am not ashamed of doing).  But I suggest giving this a go, just once, try it, after the initial kneading and proving it’s actually very easy and quick.  I used all my gadgets in making this; you don’t have too, its just quicker and more fun if you do.

For one large 10 inch pizza (feeds two or one greedy person)

220 g  ‘00’ Plain Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon easy-blend dried yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
120 ml hand hot water

Polenta (cornmeal) to roll out (important!)

Tomato Sauce Topping
1 tin plum chopped tomato’s (sieved to remove as much juice as possible)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of sugar

My Topping
Grated mozzarella
Small Goats Cheese
Half Red Onion sliced thinly
Shop-brought caramelised red onion in a jar

Start by measuring out the flour in to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.  Add salt and yeast, mix for a few seconds to incorporate throughout.  In a jug measure out the water (not too hot, can you hold your finger in it?) add the yeast and honey, mix and pour in to the flour mixture.  Add the olive oil and turn on the mixer.  Allow it to come together in to dough, it will happen after a few minutes.  


If doing this bit by hand you just need to mix away until you form solid dough and then kneed for a few minutes.   After a good kneading (by machine or hand) cover with a clean tea-towel and leave somewhere warm to prove – at least 1 hour.

While it’s rising make the tomato sauce.  Put everything in to a food processor (I used the smaller bowl as you are only making enough sauce for one pizza) and process until you form a smooth paste.  Stop once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  The tomato mixture should not be too watery; if you sieved the tomatoes well before it should be fine.

Now store the sauce away until the dough is ready or you are ready to cook the pizza.  10 minutes or so before you want to cook the pizza turn on the oven to the hottest setting and place your pizza stone (or heavy based baking sheet) in to heat.

When the dough has proved it should have got a little bigger (nothing too over the top here, don’t expect it busting out the top of the bowl) gently lift it out, it should appear very light and airy but will quickly collapse as your lift it, this is totally normal.  

Sprinkle a good amount of polenta on a work surface and place the dough on top, using a rolling pin work out the dough to a rough circle the size you want.  Now using your hands gently rotate the pizza stretching it out with your fingertips.  Don’t attempt to throw it in the air at this point, well, if you dare have a go, but I did warn you.

Take your very hot stone out the over and place on its metal holder.  Carefully transfer the pizza base to the stone and make sure its spread out fully.   You don’t have too long now before it must go in the over so have all the toppings prepared.  Spread over the tomato sauce almost to the edge.  I don’t like too much of a crust so I go very close.  Sprinkle with cheese and carefully place the rest of your toppings on.  Arty or thrown on, keep it a single layer where possible.

Cook for 10 minutes, check, and maybe another 5 if not already golden and bubbling.  Leave for a few minutes once out the oven to settle (it would have risen a bit during cooking) and then transfer to a board and slice up with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.  Enjoy.

Of course you could have any topping you choose but this one is my favourite at the moment.  Remember this cooks quick so keep toppings sliced thinly. 

If you like pepperoni on your pizza I would suggest placing it on a plate sandwiched between kitchen papers and microwaving for 30 seconds.  You will be very surprised how much oil (and calories) comes out and therefore does not make your pizza greasy.