Pizza from scratch


The finished article
I really enjoy making pizza, and the craft that can be honed with the dough, and the texture that can be perfected in the sauce.

My style is to keep it simple stupid, to focus on the important parts (so no stuffed crust type gimmicks) and to try make the pizza as healthy as possible (so as little fat as possible, and control the carbohydrates)

I give below the major parts of my pizza, and show roughly how I work my way through the process.

Prep time for me is approx. 1h hour 45 minutes, and cooking time approx. 15 minutes (the dough rising consumes a lot of the prep. Excluding the dough rising, 30 minutes is a reasonable prep time if you work at a good rate)

The "special" tools I have are:
  • Pizza stone, to superheat the base (someday I will trade up to a wood fired stove!)
  • Pizza peel
  • The pizza peel is a (useful) luxury, but the stone is (in my eyes) essential if cooking in a home oven that tops out at ~200C

Dough

This is the difficult bit for me, but I feel happy enough sharing my method, for others to improve on!

I love the thin, crispy pizza dough, with depth of flavour locked into it, such that you can enjoy the base as a standalone dish! Also, it has the least stodge/fullness factor - perfect for a sharing snack.

There are many pizza dough recipes out there, but from what I can make out, they all reduce down to flour, yeast, water & time. The particular one I use is not dissimilar to this one in principle:

http://www.reddit.com/r/FoodPorn/comments/1tegga/homemade_pizza_with_pepperoni_and_mushroom_we/ce75wl7.compact

And my more precise ingredients are:
  • ~200g of fine flour (I use a type 00 flour - see here & here for some technical details on that, and here for the specific flour I currently use) The benefit of fine flour for pizza is it is more elastic, with a finer texture. I find that 200g of flour is good to produce an almost thin/fluffyish based circa 30cm pizza. ~150g is good for a proper thin based 30cm pizza. Mixing in wholemeal flour can give a nice texture, but be aware that this will make the dough stickier to work.
  • 7g of bread machine yeast. Yeast is a minefield of different types - the closest description I can find is for Instant Yeast on the Wikipedia Page
  • Table salt (a small pinch)
  • Black pepper (a pinch)
  • Onion granules (a pinch)
  • Garlic granules (a pinch)
  • A drizzle of virgin olive oil (strictly speaking not required if you make your dough correctly - I only use it for a slight flavour)
  • 133ml of lukewarm water (if you are varying your quantity of flour, what ever the flour measurement is in grams, the water should 2/3 of it in ml)
Dough ingredients
Mixing the dry ingredients

Adding the water, and finally the olive oil. Our mixer machine has a dough hook specifically for mixing dough (replacing kneading), which requires 1 minute mixing at minimum speed, and 4 minutes at 1/6 of full speed

Dough slowly falling off the hook

Before rising the dough

Dough being left to stand in a warm place (circa 40C, if your oven will operate that low, is an alternative) for 1 hour, covered in cling film & secured with an elastic band, before being "knocked back" with 30 seconds of mixing, to remove the air. The dough will then be left to stand for a further 30 minutes in a warm place, before being used.

Dough after raising for 1 hour. The recipe books will tell you it should be twice the size. A friend of mine swears by Michel Roux Junior's alternative method of chilling the dough overnight in the fridge following raising it, to give a better flavour - I haven't tested this but it could be promising

Dough ready to go, following the final 30 minute raising

Sauce

I love crafting the sauce, and always make a small bit more than needed in order to allow for plenty of tasting as I go!

My ingredients are:
  • ~100g of Tomato Double Puree (the base of the sauce)
  • ~50ml of Tomato Ketchup (a lazy choice I know, but I use it to bring moistness and vinegar to the sauce)
  • A drizzle of olive oil (I use this to stop the sauce soaking into the dough as the pizza cooks. It also adds a lovely flavour & visual shine to the sauce)
  • Table salt (a small pinch)
  • Black pepper (a pinch, to taste)
  • Thyme (a pinch, to taste)
  • Onion granules (a pinch, to taste)
  • Garlic granules (a pinch, to taste)
  • Worchester sauce (to taste - this is a love it or hate it condiment, and I love the flavour it adds!)
  • Tabasco (to taste - for that delightful kick)
  • Basil (for that mature aroma - the fresher the better!)

The sauce ingredients. The basil plants are so cheap it makes sense to keep one on a windowsill rather than relying on dried herbs

Tomato puree with tomato ketchup added but not yet mixed

Topping sauce halfway through adding all the ingredients
The final touch - olive oil!

Toppings

This is purely a matter of personal taste and opinion, so there is no limit to what you can top your pizza with. What I've learnt over the years is:
That less is more, particularly in the case of cheese
That whatever is added as a topping, your should bear in mind it will be reheated in the oven, so it could be undercooked if added raw, or overcooked if added to the pizza fully cooked...
Everything should be bite sized

For my pizza I chose:
  • A few slices of Italian hams (taste lovely cooked, and look great)
  • 1 Chicken breast (seasoned with a pinch of salt, pepper, and curry powder for the craic)
  • Half a yellow pepper
  • Half a red onion
  • ~ 100g Mushrooms
  • ~ 100g Cheese (grated red cheddar & mozzarella - the cheddar for flavour, and mozzarella melts so enjoyably)
The toppings, waiting to go
Seasoning the chicken breast. Purists will claim that anything less than overnight is a mere rub, so season as long as you want!

I lean grill the chicken for lightness, taking care to cook it, but not overcook it, lest it dry out in the oven later.

Execution

The time has come to put it all together!

While I'm assembling the toppings, I have the pizza stone in the oven, heating up, for at least 20 minutes, to make sure it's as hot as possible in a normal domestic oven (set to it's max temperature). I always put it on the bottom shelf, to try get as much heat to the bottom of the pizza as possible, to give the crispest crust.

I start by rolling out the pizza dough to the shape I want. Controlled use of some flour stops the dough from sticking too badly to the work surface, and yes, someday I'll learn to Toss Pizza Dough!

Dough ready to go

I like to add the ingredients to the base whilst it's on the floured peel, to save the danger of problems with trying to get the pizza with toppings onto the peel later (and yes, I have learnt this the hard way!)
Sauce spread. I like to leave a small gap at the edge for crusts to form

Ingredients spread out - not too much, but enough that each bite has something nice
A small sprinkling of cheese

Easily eased onto the heated stone

Baking to a crisp. In my oven, this takes about ~12 - 13 minutes, however the best guide is to judge when the cheese starts to bubble and crispen, and the base turn a nice golden colour
Pizza ready to go

Slice and Enjoy!

I hope you enjoy your pizza making endeavours as much as I do, and if anyone has any tips let me know!

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