Friday, 28 May 2010


We recently joined the Fresh From the Oven baking community. Their baking challenge for the month of May was home made Pizza! We love love love making pizza at home so you don't have to ask us twice - pizza it is!

The challenge hosted by Lauren from Coffee Muffins was to make pizzas using a good pizza dough recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. Normally we have our own dough recipe 'in our head' that we have evolved by taste, touch and feel over the years. Punch of salt, splash of oil kind of thing. But were very happy to take up the challenge and use a more precise approach. We actually made two half batches using the amounts below - but altered the flour mix in both of them. One using a 50/50 wholemeal mix and one purely white flour. Both were delicious.

But its not just the dough that is important. From our perspective you need four things to ensure a great pizza:
  • Great dough using good quality flour, yeast and salt
  • Rich, flavoursome tomato sauce - preferably made from scratch
  • Fresh toppings - three or four flavours is best 
  • Super hot oven - ideally with pizza stone 
Here's how we do it...
Makes six smaller pizzas (or three larger ones)
 4 1/2 cups or 20.25 ounces of unbleached high-gluten bread flour
(We did one half batch 100% white flour and one half batch with 50/50 wholemeal / white flour)
1 3/4 teaspoons or 0.44 ounces of salt
1 teaspoon or 0.11 ounces of instant yeast 
1/4 cup or 2 ounces of olive oil
1 3/4 cups or 14 ounces of ice cold water

Method - The day before baking combine ingredients in a bowl - work / mix / knead with a wooden spoon for 6 - 7 minutes to develop gluten or in a mixer with dough hook attached 6-7 minutes. Divide into 6 equal portions and with floured hands shape into balls. Place into an oiled freezer bags and place in the fridge overnight to rise. (If cooking that day leave on an oiled grease proof papered tray and cover with moist tea towel to rise). The next day take them out of fridge a few hours before you want them. Stretch them into small 1/2 inch thick discs and place on oiled tray. Allow another hour or so to warm up and rise. Once they have softened and risen some more carefully work and stetch the discs into your desired end width / thickness. I like them quite thin and crispy. If you're feeling adventurous dust your knuckles with flour and throw each pizza in the air using a circular motion until they are the right size for your pizza. Which  brings us onto...

Tomato sauce
I think this is a huge part of the pizza which is often overlooked. If I have the time I will simmer down the tomato sauce from scratch using lovely over ripe tomatoes. Home made tomato sauce can turn a good pizza into a great one. I still use tomato paste from a tube or a jar when I'm pushed for time but much prefer the home made version.
1 kg over ripe tomatoes 
1 brown onion (very) finely diced
6 cloves garlic finely chopped
Handful fresh oregano (dried is ok too - just use less)
Splash of red wine
Pinch of salt. Punch of sugar
    Method - You need to remove the tomato skin and the seeds. You do that by scoring the tomato's skin in an X pattern and core it / remove the stem end. Blanch the tomatoes in in a pot of boiling water for a minute or so (you want to avoid cooking them at this stage). Remove and rinse with cold water (or dunk in an ice bath if you're feeling super organised). The skin should then easily peel or fall off. You remove the seeds by cutting the tomatos in half across the grain and pushing the little pods of seeds out with your thumb. 
    You can then dice the remaining flesh into rough pulp (I like to keep mine quite chunky). Fry the onions and garlic in some olive oil on a gentle heat until they are soft and starting to turn golden. Gentle heat is the key - you don't want tiny pieces of burnt garlic and onion floating in your sauce. Deglaze the pan with a generous splash of red wine scraping off any goodness that may be stuck to bottom of pan. Add your tomato pulp, pinch of salt and punch of sugar. Turn down the heat to its lowest setting.
    You want the faintest bubble - barely noticeable. Add some water if its quite sticky already. Then simmer for a few hours until its goes a rich dark red colour. You can get away with half an hour or 45 mins if you simmer rapidly, but the best results is an ultra slow simmer over one - three hours. Periodically come back and stir it - making sure it doesn't burn. Continually taste it adding small pinches of salt if its tasting bland, and small pinches of sugar if it's tasting too sharp or acidic. Towards the end of your simmering session - add your oregano (if you add it too early it can go bitter). Adding herbs isn't strictly necessary but we find its a great way to increase the depth of flavour in your pizza. I like it chunky so spoon it over the pizza bases as is. If you want a smooth finish you can put half or all of the finished sauce in a blender or food processor. Make a big batch and you can freeze it for later. 

    Topping combinations & cooking
    Quick notes. Really hot oven is best to simulate the heat of a wood fired oven. Hot as it will go : usually 250°C or so. If you are using a pizza stone you should put it in early to get up to heat. I've actually been investigating the possibility of cooking it on a charcoal (webber) BBQ using a semi-circular piece of marble. I'll report back how we go.
    If you don't have a pizza stone - use a thick pan - often the solid metal tray that acts as a tray in your oven can do an excellent job. You have to stop it sticking. The traditional way is with Semolina flour (cornmeal) dusted on the bottom of the pizza and the pan. If you don't have that - a good splash of oil will do the job. Unfortunately we don't own a pizza shovel which makes it easy to shovel ready made pizzas into the oven, so I usually have to pull a pre heated tray out of the oven then build a pizza in quick time on it and throw it back in. Cooking time is usually between 8 - 12 minutes at top temperature.

    In terms of toppings - less is more. We aim for several ingredients that pack a punch and work well in combination. Anything goes really, but dont try to overpack the pizza with toppings. Here was our efforts from the evening - featuring some of our all time favorite combinations including:

    Honey roasted Pumpkin, Peppers, Feta and Rocket:

    Classic Marghareta (Tomato, Basil, Mozeralla):

    Potato, Mushroom, Rosemary and Garlic:

    And our all time favorite Chorizo & Kalamata Olive



    Janice said...

    Oh no, have I missed another Fresh from the Oven challenge? Your pizzas look delicious.

    Nick P said...

    Thanks Janice. Yes its still not too late :) Was primarily a recipe for pizza dough which worked pretty well all things considered.

    Catherine said...

    Mmmmm these pizzas look delicious! I missed out on the croissant challenge last month, but I'll DEFINITELY be doing this one, thanks for reminding me :)

    Em. x. said...

    Oh my. This looks delicious. It really looks delicious. x.

    Angie said...

    Hmm, looks lovely, I love pizza topped with loads of veggies, but have never thought of trying pumpkin on them. I will now!

    B said...

    Pumpkin on pizza is a winner, particularly when its sweet and honey roasted.

    mangocheeks said...

    One 8, no make it 12 inch 'Honey roasted Pumpkin, Peppers, Feta and Rocket' to order - Please. Lovely.

    sarah said...

    Hi, Nick, this looks very nice. I think rocket is a brilliant addition to pizza. I am so impressed with the picture of the dough spinning up in the air--well done!

    Sally said...

    Very impressed by the pizza toss. Would be really interested to hear how you get on with the pizza on the barbecue.

    Silvia said...

    WOW you've made the toss!

    things we make said...

    Yours look fab. Wish I hadn't rushed mine now! Looking forward to next months challenge.

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