Saturday, 18 February 2012

Perfect Pizza

One of the things we miss most about living in Italy is being able to pop out to the local pizzeria for a decent pizza. Almost every Friday night we would go to Fabbrica Pizza (Pizza Factory) for dinner. If we were really hungry, we would start with a Focaccia di Recco which is quite unlike usual focaccia, being made from two layers of extremely thin dough, with a filling of stracchino, a soft cheese with a mild but tangy taste. This was usually followed by one of their speciality pizzas, the speciality being an extremely thin, crispy base. Italians favour quite simple toppings (no ham and pineapple here!); I often chose the one shown in the photo, a classic tomato and mozzarella base topped with thinly sliced aubergine and courgette.

Living in the UK it's practically impossible to find decent pizza so we started to make our own. The dough is a fairly standard recipe but we roll it out very thinly, thus ensuring a light, crispy base. Our current favourite is a basic margherita base (tomato and mozzarella) with some slices of prosciutto di parma and a few fresh basil leaves strewn over just before eating. However, feel free to add what you like (just don't tell me if it includes pineapple!).

Please don't be put off if you've never done any baking with yeast before. It's really straightforward, does not take hours of kneading and is incredibly rewarding. If you're still reluctant to try, just read through the recipe to see how easy it actually is. You don't need any special equipment apart from a couple of pizza trays and a very hot oven!

RECIPE (makes enough for 3 or 4 pizzas)

For the dough

450g strong white bread flour, plus more for kneading
7g (1 sachet) easy blend yeast
1 teaspoon salt
approximately 300 ml warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

 Put the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and pour in about 200 ml of the water and the olive oil, mixing with your hands. Be prepared to add more water but do it gradually - you don't want it too wet (although it's not a disaster if this happens, just add more flour until you can knead it without it sticking to everything). Start kneading by pushing the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, the fold it back and turn slightly. It's quite hard to explain but very easy to do! Keep doing this for about 10 minutes, it should feel smooth and springy when it's ready.

Form the dough into a ball and rub a little olive oil over the surface, so that it is lightly greased. Put it into a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for at least 2 hours, I've left it a lot longer than this and it doesn't seem to be a problem. The dough should more or less double in size.

When you're ready to make the pizza, preheat the oven to the hottest possible setting  (240°C on mine). Divide the dough into four roughly equal parts (you can weigh them if you want to be really precise) and roll each one out. It may seem far too small to fit into your pizza tray and it will keep springing back first of all but do persevere! (In our house, this is my partner's job - I make the dough, he rolls it out, great teamwork...). If you don't want it that thin, you can divide the dough into three parts rather than four.

TOPPING (per pizza)

About 2 tablespoons of passata
125g mozzarella (I use the normal mozzarella for pizza, not buffalo), thinly sliced
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Dried oregano

Lightly grease the pizza trays and stretch the dough to fit. Then cover with the passata (it should just be a very thin layer), a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of oregano. Add the cheese, drizzle over the olive oil and put in the oven. It takes about 10 minutes to cook but keep an eye on it as all ovens vary. After about 8 minutes, I take the pizza off the tray and slide it back directly onto an oven shelf for the last minute or two.

If you're using parma ham, put it on the pizza after it's been cooked, along with fresh basil. Other meats like cooked ham or salami and toppings like olives, capers, anchovies etc can all be put on the pizza before it goes in the oven. Don't overlook the plain margherita though - when it's homemade like this, it's really delicious!

Eat while it's still piping hot accompanied by a cold beer or a young Sangiovese or Barbera if you prefer wine.

1 comment:

  1. This looks great. We do a pizza but it is heavily influenced by our British heritage. Going to give this a whirl with our boys and their friends on Thursday. Going to try a very thin crust this time. Should be exciting.