Pizza

We have homemade pizza fairly frequently in our house.  We’ve tried dozens of different recipes and techniques trying to find the best pizza dough recipe, the most frequent problem is that the middles become soup so we got pizza trays with holes in, which helped a bit.  Last Christmas I got mum a pizza stone but it wasn’t as impressive as all that.  Up until tonight mum has always made the dough and done all the work but tonight I was put in charge.  So I turned to google and my usual foodie haunts trying to make the best damned pizza this family has ever had.  Boasting it may be but I may well have succeeded!

The secret would appear to be part cooking the base first.  It gets all big and puffy but when you put the toppings on that goes down and means that the middle doesn’t stay all goopy but still retains a bit of crispness.  We are also guilty of piling on the toppings, in the past I have been known to have up to an inch deep on mine.  I have no will power, you see.  We set up a little area with all the toppings layed out in bowls to build our own to spec. and I just keep piling it all on!  This, of course, means that they take longer to cook so be aware that if you’re spare with the toppings it’ll take less cooking time, if you’re like me they’ll need longer. 

Makes 3 large pizzas, if not from a family of gluttons makes 4 individual ones. 

For the dough:
500g strong bread flour
2 tsp salt
1x7g sachet fast action yeast
1 tsp sugar
300ml warm water
2 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
2x400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp herbes de provence (or basil, oregano or any herb that’s good with tomato)

For the toppings:
Whatever you like!  I always think that cheese on top is the only must, below that anything goes! 

– First, as it’s now winter here in the uk, I would remind you to prepare a warm draft free place for the dough to rise.  By the fire, on top of a radiator or boiler, in a gently warmed oven, wherever works for you.  I usually put the oven on the lowest setting (Slow Cook) while I prepare the dough then turn it off when I put the dough in and leave it.
– In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, yeast and sugar. 
– Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water. 
– Mix with a wooden spoon until mostly combined, then get in there with your hands to get it together and get any bits stuck to the bowl off by rubbing the dough around.    
– Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic adding more flour if necessary.
– Wash your bowl if necessary then lightly oil the bowl using your hand to spread it about. 
– Continue to knead the dough for a minute or two with your oily hands. 
– Place the dough in the bowl then turn over so it’s coated with oil. 
– Cover and leave to rise in your warm draft free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. 

– Meanwhile prepare the sauce and toppings.  Chop up whatever you’re putting on the pizzas and leave them ready for people to put on themselves if you’re doing it that way. 
– For the sauce melt a knob of butter and a small splash of oil in a medium sized pan. 
– Add the garlic and stir on a low heat until just starting to brown. 
– Add the onion and cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes until it is very soft and starting to go transparent. 
– Tip in the tomatoes, tomato puree and herbs and stir well. 
– Turn up the heat and simmer for at least half an hour until the sauce is reduced by half, making sure to stir it occasionally so it doesn’t stick. 

– Heat your oven to as high as it will go.  Mine does gas mark 9. 
– Once the dough has risen knock it down and lightly knead it for a minute. 
– Cut into portions and cover the dough you aren’t working with. 
– Roll out the portion of dough into a very rough circle about 5mm thick. 
– Pick it up (you’ll lose the shape here) and place it on the pizza tray then pull and stretch the edges into a circle and neaten it up. 
– Repeat for each portion of dough. 
– Leave to rest for 10 minutes. 
– Put the bases into the oven and cook for 10 minutes.  *
– Remove from the oven and put the sauce on and spread out to the edges then put your toppings on. 
– Put back in the oven and cook for 15-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and the edge of the crust is golden brown. 
– Slide off the trays and onto plates to serve. 

*I had to do some improvisation with the oven shelves as I had 2 shelves and 3 pizzas.  I could have used the top oven as well but I’d rather only use one oven if I can and save energy.  I placed a deep cake tin on the bottom of the oven and put the grill tray on top of that to create an extra shelf.  Then I swapped the pizzas about throughout cooking so they were cooking at about the same rate.  Obviously opening and closing the oven so often meant they took longer to cook but better that than having the top one burnt to a crisp and the bottom one still soft!

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Filed under Breads, Mains, Moderately easy

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