Friday, 8 July 2011

Weekend of Pizza Part I

I thought we could have a weekend of pizza recipes for a change - I've been writing about too much sweet stuff lately.
This series of posts was inspired by yet another evening of boardgames and pizza (though this time we ended up chatting all evening and forgot to play Risk).
Before we get to the toppings though, I thought I could talk about pizza bases for a bit. Making a pizza base is super easy (yes, there's yeast involved but we can do this together, I promise :) ).
There is only one thing that you really need - time. If you expect your pizza dough to be done in 30 minutes, go and get some take-out because it's not gonna happen. If you know you won't have much time you could easily make the dough ahead of time, put it into the fridge and then give it half an hour or so to get to room temperature just as you're getting the toppings ready.

Easy-Peasy Pizza Base (makes about 2 pizzas the size of your baking tray)
600g Strong Breadflour
21g (i.e. half a cube) Fresh Yeast
Lukewarm Water
11/2 tbsp Salt
1 tbsp Olive Oil

Put the flour into a large bowl, using your finger, make a well in the middle and crumble the yeast into it. Add a few tablespoons of water to the yeast and combine the two. It's ok if you stir in some of the flour as well but what you are aiming for is a fairly liquid mix - think chocolate malt milkshake.
Give the yeast about 20 minutes or so before you incorporate it into the rest of the flour. Now you can add the salt and more water (you need less than you might think so add some water, knead the dough, and if it still looks like it needs more water then you can add some more. You don't want your dough to go all sticky but at the same time you don't want it to fall apart because it's too dry.
My mum always told me that the dough should be the same texture as the flabby bit of your armpit. I guess that works for us humans, if you are blessed with a body that has no excess flab can you tell me more about your workout, please? ;)
In that case you could ask someone else (I mean, please don't start going round groping strangers...).
Anyhow, knead the dough until the gluten bonds have properly developed. If you are kneading by hand this could easily take 15 minutes (just think of it as a short 15 minute workout). You will know the dough is ready when it starts feeling slightly velvety and develops a slight sheen. I know this sounds weird but it will make sense when  the dough gets to this stage.
Stick the dough back into the bowl, cover the  bowl with a damp tea towel and allow it to proof until it's doubled in size. Since you're not using crazy amounts of yeast this could easily take 4 hours or so. Knock back the dough and allow it to proof for another hour or two. The thing about the timing here is that I don't think you can give the dough too much time (ok, I wouldn't leave it for 3 days or so), you could start knead the dough in the evening, then leave the dough in the fridge overnight (the cold will slow down the activity of the yeast but it won't stop it completely, i.e. things are just going to take a lot longer), then if you want the pizza for lunch take the dough out around 10ish, allow it to come back to room temperature for an hour or so before you knock it back and give it another hour or two at room temperature before you make your pizzas.
To make the pizza, preheat your oven until it's really hot (230˚C works fine in my oven, but if yours is slightly sluggish you might want to go for the highest temperature it can handle).
Roll out 1/2 or 1/3 of the dough depending on how thin you want the pizza to be, flour your baking tray and transfer the dough onto the tray. Cover the base with your choice of toppings and then bake your pizza for 8-12 minutes or until the toppings are heated through and the outer edges of the base look nicely done and crusty.
Enjoy with a salad and in the company of some lovely friends.

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