By Dave B
With a passion for all things green, Dave will be sharing his journey as an (wannabe) urban farmer. A small 1/2 acre plot of sloping land and 3 wild kids won't hold him back. From planting to harvesting to preserving, Dave is our go-to guy when it comes to the garden. On a large scale, his dream is to raise awareness of the need for reconnection of local people with local food, to benefit the general health and well-being of the community as well as the earth. You can follow his journey more closely over at Blindberry Farm.
Pizza is a wonderful thing. As far as meals shared with others go, I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy pizza.
And why not?
The options are endless; your pizza can cross culinary boundaries as far as your imagine can wander (though, as far as I’ve wandered I find it hard to go past the classic and simple Neapolitan style margharitta). And there is no better way to share them with friends and family than by cooking them together around your own homebuilt wood fired oven - here’s a tutorial on how we built ours for under $300.
Regardless of what you like to put on your pizzas, it all starts with the base. And to ensure you have an all-time pizza you’ll absolutely need an all-time dough recipe. Forget about the thick crust, thin crust malarky - that’s just marketing spin created by the fast food pizza chains. Being the purist that I am, I heartily believe that all pizzas should have a thinly stretched base (I can hear my wife in the background mumbling something about my wankery but we’ll disregard that shall we!).
So, here’s my favourite dough recipe along with a couple of tips on how to create your base and cook the final product.
Makes around 5 pizzas (25-30cm in diameter)
- 600g strong plain flour
- 1g bakers yeast (between 1/4 - 1/2 tspn - you could use if you want it rise quickly)
- 420ml water
- 17g salt
- good lug of olive oil
*Add the yeast to the cold water to dissolve. Meanwhile weigh out your flour.
*Pour in water to the flour and knead until well mixed.
* Add salt & olive oil and keep kneading for 10 minutes (I knead mine in a bench top mixer for around 6-7 minutes using the dough hook). If you are kneading by hand, do so for around 10-12 minutes (as with bread, the kneading activates the gluten in the flour ensuring a nice light dough).
*Let the dough rest for 10 minutes or so and then hand knead again for 10-15 seconds.
*After kneading, form a ball by tucking the sides underneath working in a circular motion. Then separate the ball into smaller balls for each pizza base using the same method.
*Leave the dough balls to rest on a tray or board sealed / covered using cling wrap or a lightly damp tea towel. These can be left for up to 24hrs but around 8 hours minimum is needed to get the best from your dough.
Once rested the balls can be stretched out for your bases. Make sure that the balls are as round as possible; this is how you'll achieve a circular pizza base.
Some tips on rolling & cooking:
STRETCH don’t ROLL
It’s important to keep in mind that you want to stretch rather than roll your pizza dough. Apparently Neapolitans wouldn’t be caught dead rolling a pizza base with a rolling pin (preferring the tossing and finger stretching method as the one true path to pizza ascendancy), however it is possible to achieve a nice stretched base with a rolling pin.
It works as long as you keep at the forefront of your mind that you are stretching not rolling! And don’t roll to the edge of the base - this will ensure you get a good crust.
I’ve seen advice in a number of places with regards to cooking a good pizza in your kitchen oven; the most recent being in an newspaper article about the Pizza Pilgrims which sounded interesting. Noting that a home oven isn’t really designed to cook a proper pizza (pizzas are best cooked at high heat; 450C, for a short time; 2-3mins.), they give some tips that help get as close to a pizza oven in your kitchen as possible.
Here they are:
Crank up your oven as high as it will go to pre-heat.
In a frying pan, cook your stretched base for around a minute or two without oil, whilst ladling on the sauce and adding toppings.
After 60-90 seconds in the pan switch the oven onto grill and put the tray as close as you can to the grill.
Cook your pizza as close to the grill as possible for another 60 seconds.
And there you have it! I wish you well in your pizza endeavours; may your pizza bases be light and full of flavour; may they form a crust that delights both the tastebuds and the ear drums with the perfection of their crunch, and may you discover the joys of tossing a ball of stretching dough and not having it tear upon catching!
We'd love to know your favourite pizza topping!? Please share your secret sauces, toppings and tricks in the comments section below!