My chap hates pizza. I overheard him discussing how pizza is the worst dish in the world. He was saying that if he never ate another one, it would be too soon. The rather sad fact was that I had given him pizza for dinner the night before, but I had bought it from a supermarket.
I have a deep, abiding love of Italian food. One of my favourite dishes is Aubergine Parmigiana, I love a simple Caprese Salad. But the thing that makes me very happy is a beautifully crafted thin crust pizza.
Now interestingly why is it that whenever I make a pizza for my chap, he eats it? He doesn’t complain. It makes me think why don’t I make it more often? The truth is that pizza is very simple and I always regret that I haven’t made it.
The beauty of this recipe is that I have it to hand and it is super simple to make, a classic. It can be made quickly and I love the fact that you can make the ferment up the day before – leave it to bubble and make the pizza dough up the following day with very little fuss. This particular dough has never let me down and you end up with a flexible dough that is easily moulded into pizzas. If you decide you don’t actually NEED 6 pizzas the advantage is that you can make up the remaining dough into pizza bases. You shape them according to the instructions and cook them for around one minute until they are firm and these will freeze. Then you can just pull a base from the freezer, top it and pop it in the oven for 4 or 5 minutes. If all else fails as this recipe is very traditional you can also make a ciabatta loaf or focaccia bread. This is a 3 in 1 recipe.
However, if you fancy a thick dough pizza you can pop the dough in a baking tray, dimple it all over with your fingers and olive oil, top it and bake it for about 30 minutes at gas mark 6/ 200C.
The beauty of this recipe is that I have it to hand and it is super simple to make, a classic.
500g strong flour
340ml tepid water
3g fresh yeast (5 g dry yeast)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
Add the water, yeast and 250g flour in a bowl and whisk it until it is well mixed. Leave it for about an hour until it is slightly bubbly – this is often known as a pre-ferment. Add the remaining flour, olive oil (I prefer extra virgin) and salt to the bowl and I use a mixer as it’s a really soft dough and knead it for 4 minutes.
Leave it to prove, covered, for up to two hours, until the dough is not quite doubled in size. The dough is then divided into 6 pieces, they can be weighed to almost 150g each). Shape them into a ball and leave them on a tray, covered, to rest for about 30 minutes.
Prepare a baking tray (upside down so that the pizza will just slide off) with parchment and I use semolina/ polenta to stop it from sticking to the paper. Take a roll off the tray and form it into a circle which you indent around the edge (about 1.5cms). Gently pick it up and put it over both hands and rotate/ spin it until you have a thin centre and a thicker crust (see the picture). If you have a pizza stone I would put it in the oven at this stage. If not, pop a baking tray in the oven to heat through. I make my pizzas one at a time.
I usually make a tomato sauce but you can easily buy a ready-made sauce.
Put the oven on at Gas 6/ 200F. Drizzle a roasting dish with extra virgin olive oil. Into that dish I add a couple of cloves of garlic (unpeeled but crushed), loads of basil and 2 or 3 punnets of cherry tomatoes. I use cherry tomatoes as I find they have more flavour. Give the tin a shake and it will coat everything in oil. Cook the tomatoes until the skins are blistered and the tomatoes are soft. Take them out of the tin and stick them in a blender (or use a stick blender) until you have a thick sauce. If the sauce is a little thin pop it in a pan and boil it until it is thick enough. Taste it and season. You can also add half a teaspoon of sugar if the sauce needs it.
The trick with pizza is DO NOT OVERFILL! You want to add a tablespoon of sauce and spread it over the pizza base, a small handful of cheese and a few leaves of torn basil. Pop this in the oven – ease it from the tray and onto a hot stone or tray. If you prefer you can cook it on the tray its on. Bake it for 5 – 7 minutes until the cheese is bubbling. I slightly undercook them so that the pizzas can be reheated and put back in the oven for 1 or 2 minutes to reheat.
You can make the ferment up the night before (it will take less than 5 minutes), make the dough in the morning (maybe 10 minutes) and keep them in the fridge until you need them that evening.
You can also add a couple of slices of prosciutto ham or olives to complete the effect.
It’s a pizza cake to make (sorry).