Perfect home-baked Pizza

 

pizza2 copy.jpgAt my house, we bake pizza once a week. I make a bucket of pizza dough and hand it out to my three boys and their play-dates, to play chef for a while. There is hardly any room left on the kitchen table from all the tiny bowls, filled with all sorts of toppings, and the air is hazy from all the flour flying around. I love watching all these little hands grabbing and eating the mozzarella long before it reaches the dough, but most of all I love the satisfaction in their eyes, the moment their pizza, their own creation, comes out of the oven. For me, nothing beats home-made pizza. All you need is a good recipe for pizza dough, a tasty tomato sauce and an oven. Kids are optional.

For the pizza dough

  • 1 kg unbleached bread flour
  • 4 tsp dried active yeast
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 cups water at room temperature

For the tomato sauce

  • 4 Tbs olive oil
  • 4 garllic cloves, crushed
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 680 grams crushed or grated tomatoes (from a carton or can)
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • fresh basil leaves (about 8)

Toppings

Coarsely grated mozzarella, feta cheese, fresh mozzarella, ham, bacon, chorizo sausage,prosciutto, mushrooms, sweet peppers, onions, olives, fresh tomatoes, corn and whatever your heart desires.

Method

Prepare the dough. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook) mix the flour with the yeast and sugar with a wooden spoon. Add the salt and mix again (the salt must not come in direct contact with the yeast as it will kill it). Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the water and olive oil. Start stirring with a wooden spoon, incorporating flour as you go along. When most flour is incorporated, knead with your hands until you have a soft dough. Lightly oil a large bowl. Tip the dough in the bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel (not a terry cloth) and let it rise, about 2 hours.

Make the tomato sauce. In a medium sized pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook stirring until soft and fragrant. Add the wine and leat it evaporate for a minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, salt, pepper and basil leaves. Reduce heat to low and let sauce simmer, uncovered, for about 15 mimutes until it thickens slightly. Leave to cool.

Preheat oven to it’s highest temperature, 260-280 C. If you have a pizza stone, place it on a rack in the middle of the oven. If you don’t have one, take an oven tray, turn it over, and put on the lower rack of the oven.

Punch the dough to deflate. Flour your hands and make orange size balls. Take a square piece of greaseproof paper and put one ball of dough in the middle. Roll dough with a rolling pin into a 30 cm (12 inch) circle. Prick dough all over with a fork, leaving a 2 cm (1 inch) border. Bake dough on pizza stone, or oven tray for 4 minutes. Take dough out of the oven, remove and discard greaseproof paper.

Spread dough with about 2 tablespoons tomato sauce. Sprinkle some mozarella cheese and top with the ingredients of your choice. Don;t put too many things on your pizza otherwise it will become soggy. Top with some more mozarella. Return pizza to the oven (this time without the greaseproof paper) and bake for 4-5 minutes until cheese has melted. Sprinkle with basil leaves and chilli flakes if you like some heat.

Pizza topping combinations are endless. For the pizza pictured, I used mushrooms, olives, crumbled feta cheese and mozzarella. I sprinkled it with dried oregano, basil leaves and chilli flakes. For the one at the back, I used prosciutto and fresh mozzarella.

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