November 22, 2009

Romancing the Stone

I don't mind the odd bought pizza when you don't want to fiddle and need something to eat instantly without thought. I'm a fan of Pizza Capers, not only because they are a sponsor of the Mini Challenge but their Exotic Potato pizza is OMG!

But it's so much more satisfying when you make the pizza yourself. You know exactly what's on it, and more importantly in it. It gives you a connection...albeit small...because it's unlikely you've grown all of your own ingredients...but it still gives you a connection to the food you are about to eat because you have thoroughly considered and created what it is you are about to put into your mouth.

When I do home made pizzas I make and roll the dough but everyone makes their own pizza and puts the sauce and topping on that they want. I love this, because rather than one person deciding the dish and the flavour, everyone is required to take part in putting dinner on the table.

Pizza garlic bread

I am still in the process of perfecting my dough and getting the bases to cook and crisp nicely. I know it isn't rocket science but it is a definite art. The best pizza dough recipe I have found and used so far is Jamie Oliver's. I found it in my copy of Jamie's Italy and it has produced the tastiest, most consistent results. I normally cut this recipe in half and it makes loads for the three of us (adults) to eat...sometimes with leftovers.

I have also never been able to find the Tipo '00' flour that Jamie calls for because pizza at our place is often last minute. I normally buy the bread and pizza dough that you can get in supermarkets. It turns out pretty well...and one day hopefully I can find the Jamie flour and do a comparison :)

Pumpkin and pine nut pizza

Pizza Dough (Jamie Oliver)
Makes 6 to 8 medium-sized thin pizza bases

1kg strong white bread flour or Tipo '00' flour
or 800g strong white bread flour or Tipo '00' flour, plus 200g finely ground semolina flour
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
650ml lukewarm water

Mix in some semolina flour for a bit of colour and flavour if you like.

Sieve the flour/s and salt on to a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.

Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called knocking back the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straight away, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas.

Timing-wise, it’s a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Don’t roll them out and leave them hanging around for a few hours, though – if you are working in advance like this it’s better to leave your dough, covered with clingfilm, in the fridge. However, if you want to get them rolled out so there’s one less thing to do when your guests are round, simply roll the dough out into rough circles, about 0.5cm thick, and place them on slightly larger pieces of olive-oil-rubbed and flour-dusted tinfoil. You can then stack the pizzas, cover them with clingfilm, and pop them into the fridge.

Pizza

A Julie Note: If you follow these directions to the letter and leave the dough to rise, roll it out and immediately top it and bake it in a hot oven you will get a wonderfully thin base. If you want your base thicker, roll it out and shape it but leave it sit for a while to rise a bit again.

The other secret is to crank your oven to the highest it will go and leave it to get really hot. Put the pizza stone in on the bottom shelf and allow it to get hot too...you want it really hot...so leave the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or longer.

Bake your pizzas on the bottom shelf of the oven because the intensity of the heat from the element will cook the base and the heat circulating in the oven will cook the topping and melt the cheese without burning the cheese or the crust.

That's all of my findings so far... enjoy :)

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