How to Make the Perfect Pizza

pizza-560x375

Friday is usually pizza night at our place, hence I am writing this on a Friday when pizza is on my mind.
The dough is mixed mid afternoon (while I enjoy making it by hand it is usually my cake mixer with a dough hook that does the work), and then left to rise in the airing cupboard (or sometimes in the car), ready for early evening pizza making.
The dough recipe is simple and made the way most of us think a good pizza base should be.  The pizzas are thin and crisp on the outer with softness inside and a little chew, leaving the toppings to be the star.
I think they are perfect – well as close as I can get to  in a domestic situation without a wood fired pizza oven..

dough-275x345pizza dough

  • 400g highgrade flour
  • 3 teaspoons yeast granules
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Dissolve the yeast
in the warm water and pour into the well along with the salt and olive oil.
Form into a ball and knead for around 7 minutes until the dough feels smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly oiled
bowl and cover. Place the bowl in a warm place and leave for several hours
or until dough has doubled in bulk. Alternately you can make dough in your
breadmaker by using the dough setting. Halve dough and roll into 2 rounds,
cover with desired toppings and bake for 12-15 minutes in an oven preheated to the maximum temperature.
PizzaDough_110612_1940Not so though says youngest daughter (10) who grumbles every week and asks why we can’t get take out pizza like other people do.  When questioned of the difference it seems it all comes down to the base. While I think a thin crisp base with a degree of chew is perfect,  her idea of perfection is one that is more thick and doughy.  I disagree (as would any self respecting Italian), but for the sake of keeping a child happy I decide to test her on Sharon’s pizza dough that has been hugely popular here on foodlovers.  With no yeast to ferment the dough is made with flour, baking powder, milk and oil, it is quick and simple.
The base comes out a bit scone like and for those of us who don’t like the residual flavour of baking powder then it doesn’t come close to a yeast base but for Jemima it is “way better”.

Regardless of base recipe, it is unanimously agreed that pizzas need to be cooked at the highest temperature possible, hence the recommended 485°C base of a wood fired oven. This is extremely difficult to mimic at home but there are things that can help to get the desired slightly charred edges and quickly cooked dough.
Placing a pizza stone or more cheaply a terracotta tile (seasoned first) into the oven for 1 hour on the highest heat your oven will go is pretty much the best that you can do.

Foodlovers, Helen Jackson, website recipes. Photos by Carolyn RobertsonOnce the dough and rolled (or tossed) and you are ready to start toppings then it is time to work at a reasonable pace.  Tomato sauce bases can make the base soggy if left to sit around so once you start adding toppings then it is imperative to get the assembled pizza into the oven straight away.  For this reason it is better to leave the dough without any topping until you are ready to cook.
A pizza should cook to perfection in about 12 minutes, make sure that you don’t overcook it.

Most pizzas start with a tomato based tomato sauce.  These can be bought or very simply made by draining a can of tomatoes and blitzing the tomatoes in a food processor with garlic, basil, a little olive oil, salt and a good squeeze of tomato paste. Chilli can also be used if you like.

The toppings after that are purely individual and often there are often extremes in preference.  A a recent dinner at Flour + Water in San Francisco I ate one of the best pizzas ever, the simple topping of nettles, ricotta, lemon and asparagus was  perfect whereas Ed would be searching for the meat.

While you don’t need me to tell you what to put on your pizza, some interesting flavour combinations here on foodlovers include:

smoked salmon and beetroot with finely sliced potatoes
roasted pumpkin with feta and olives
Moroccan spiced lamb mince with hummus, tomatoes and parsley
smoked salmon and mascarpone

Pizza making tips:

* Use highgrade flour or 00 flour (00 flour is Italian in style and is superfine).
* Ensure that yeast is within date and still active.
* Onion and capsicum in toppings will still be crisp unless you cook them first
* The longer the dough is left to rest the better the flavour will be.
* The more toppings you pile onto the dough then the harder it will be for the dough to cook properly so it is best to hold back.
* Preheat both the oven and the pizza stone/tile/tray to the highest possible temperature.

How do you like your pizza?
Thin and crisp, soft and chewy or thick and heave?

What are some of your favourite toppings?

 

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3 thoughts on “How to Make the Perfect Pizza

  1. I live on my own but you tempt me to really try these, probably the baking powder one and that will also encourage me to invite a neighbour or friend over too.– Noeline Bain

  2. Yum! Your pictures just make me wanting pizzas!
    Thanks for these good tips.
    I also add 1 tsp sugar in the dough to activate further the yeast.
    As topping I enjoy mushrooms, onion and bacon with a tbp of heavy cream just when it gets out of the oven.