Pizza. Those five letters are the embodiment of one of the wonders of the food world. I am not talking fast food chain pizza here. In my mind, that is the embodiment of the wonders of the garbage bin. I am talking homemade pizza. From the bottom up, to the delectable, mouth watering topping.
Yeast was a cooking ingredient that scared me. Don’t ask me why. Entrenched in my mind was the fact that yeast was ‘difficult’. All the rising and associated kneading. Then I attended Italian cooking classes. The fact that I was able to not only make a base but associated toppings in the short time span of an evening class, sold me. From that time onwards my only pizza bases are home based yeast ones.
I am not sure what your preference is, but for my crust I prefer thin. With the simple ingredients of flour, yeast, water and olive oil, there is almost a hedonistic pleasure in kneading the dough. I was taught that you must knead for at least 5 minutes. You knead, stretch, push and turn. Kneading dough – for myself anyway – resembles an exercise class. I never knew how much I grunted as I stretched, pushed and turned the dough, until an attentive audience brought the fact to my attention.
Back to our pizza. The rising of the dough.You can speed this up by placing in a 50 degree Celsius oven. I prefer to leave mine in a greased bowl covered with glad wrap. Watching that dough rise is like watching a child grow.
The topping. If you want to be really basic, I finely chop an onion with lots of garlic added (you never know when those nasty vampires may be around). Saute in oil until softened and then add canned tomatoes. Gently simmer the sauce, until it has thickened, but you do not want a dry sauce. It must still be wet. If it dries out too much you can add water – my preference is a dash of red wine.
Roll your pizza dough out. I keep promising myself I will buy a rolling pin. I still don’t have one in my possession! I have a wooden ‘stick’ that resembles an extremely anorexic rolling pin. I purchased It in my Romanian travels, as it is used to stir Polenta. The Polenta is still sitting in the pantry, and the wooden ‘stick’ gets used as an anorexic rolling pin instead.
My secret to a good Pizza? I cook the base first, without the topping. In a hot oven for 10 minutes. Make sure you prick holes over the entire base, otherwise your base will resemble a teenager’s acne-ridden face. Not a good analogy for food sorry, but that is the only resemblance that comes to mind.
Take the base out of the oven, you can top it immediately, let it cool or freeze for later use. I use the above tomato sauce as my base, and to keep it plain you can add mozzarella, and a few leaves of basil if you wish. Or be adventurous. A pizza sauce does not have to be tomato based. I have also used eggplant (refer to my earlier blog regarding exploding eggplants).
Gather the famiglia. Sit down with a good bottle (or two) of Chianti. Have Dean Martin singing on your music system. All together now… When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie, That’s Amore.