Pizza Saturday!

Pizza ranks very high on my family’s all-time favourite food.  There is little surprise in our love for pizza –  a crisp flatbread with a homemade tomato sauce, oozing mozzarella cheese  that has been broiled golden brown, together with all the toppings that you can dream of. I can’t think of anyone who hates pizza.

Pizza is also unpretentious food –  food that you eat using your hands, food that makes you lick the oozing sauces off your finger tips because you don’t want to waste any bit of it. No one will think that it is uncouth when it comes to the pizza.

I find that my family conversations over pizza is always fun and candid, filled with rolling bouts of laughter and never too serious. Perhaps that’s another reason why we love our pizzas – pizzas evoke happy and warm connotations.

Even then, I have rarely thought about making my own pizza at home. Prior to this, I assumed that pizza-making is a tedious and troublesome process and the results would be mediocre due to the lack of proper equipment ie. a wood-fire or stoned oven.

My recent acquisition of a pizza stone spurred me to attempt pizza-making and to find out once and for all if pizza-making was indeed better left to the professionals.

The pizza dough recipe that I used is a flatbread recipe, very similar to the foccacia. This dough is incredibly easy to make and  I think  it is the perfect dough for a pizza base.

Preparing the pizza dough is very much like bread-making  – You need to have patience and time; pizza is not something you can assemble in an hour. Like bread, your patience will be paid off when you see the mozzarella cheese bubbling away happily in the oven, and better yet, when you take your first bite of your pizza.

My husband, J, and I spent our Saturday morning in the kitchen – making the pizza dough, and prepping the colourful assortment of toppings that came in shades of brown, yellow, pink, forming a happy palette of colours.

The five pizzas we made were polished off in no time – a testament of how wonderful the pizzas had turned out.  Well, the bottom of the pizza could be crispier. But it’s a very decent attempt given that we did not have a proper wood-fire/stoned oven. We baked it at 250 degrees celcius on a baking stone that was pre-heated till red hot – the point is to get both the oven and stone as hot as possible.

I think you can do no wrong with pizzas. The pizza dough is really simple to make; you don’t require any special equipment. As for the pizza toppings, I  bet you can easily put together items you already have in your fridge and pantry. We had pizza bianca with baby potatoes, mushrooms and rosemary, pizza with homemade tomato sauce, ham, mushroom, mozzarella,  pizza with prawns, lemon zest, olives, mozzarella, baby spinach and pizza with tomato sauce, anchovies, olives, parmesan.

To top it all(pun unintended), I can assure you that pizzas are twice as much fun to make as they are to eat!

Recipe: The perfect pizza dough

Serves 6 hungry people

500g bread flour
½ tbsp sea salt
7g dried east
½ tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
320 ml water, approximately

Method:

  1. Using a mixer with a dough hook, combine dry and wet ingredients together to form a smooth and elastic dough. (about 10 minutes)
  2. Round the dough and place it into a floured bowl, cover it with cling wrap and leave it aside in a warm place for about an hour, or until double in size.
  3. Knock back the air in the dough by folding the dough over.
  4. Divide the dough into about 4-5 portions.
  5. Roll the dough out and let the dough rest for about ½ hour before putting on the pizza topping and baking.
  6. Bake the pizza at 250 degrees celcius (or the highest temperature your oven can go) and on a pre-heated baking stone if you have one. Pizzas take about 8 – 10 minutes.

Tomato sauce for pizza
(adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe)

Enough for 4 pizzas

400g whole tomatoes in a can ( I used one can)
a bunch of basil
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
sea salt
black pepper

Method:

1. Place a large non-stick frying pan on the heat and pour in some olive oil. Add the garlic, and, once the garlic begins to colour lightly, add the basil and the tomatoes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mush and squash the tomatoes as much as you can.

2. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. As soon as it comes to the boil, remove the pan from the heat.

3. Strain the sauce through a coarse sieve into a bowl, using your wooden spoon to push any larger bits of tomato through. Discard the basil and garlic that will be left in the sieve, but make sure you scrape any of the tomatoey goodness off the back of the sieve into the bowl.

4. Pour the sauce back into the pan, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes to concentrate the flavours and to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken.

5. Allow the sauce to cool before using on your pizza.

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About jothetartqueen

My first love is eating. A very close second is my love for baking and cooking. I passionately believe that the best form of appreciation of something is almost always through the creation of it. This passion took me on a whirlwind, unforgettable ride through the patisserie diploma course at Le Cordon Bleu (Sydney). Join me on my discovery for the love of food – through the kitchen, through the markets, through experimenting, tasting and loving.
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