Pizza the ultimate universal snack food originated in Italy, where simple ingredients are scattered on a thin bread base, topped with creamy white mozzarella and cooked in a wood fire oven. The result - perfection in flavour. Go to Italy and you are always delighted at how something so simple can taste so good.
Around the world however, pizza has lost its humble heritage having transformed into greasy, thick doughy-based wheels covered with to many toppings and stringy yellow cheeses making you realise that less in fact can be more!
Pizza dough is surprisingly simple to make and especially rewarding knowing that you made it by hand. Take your first bite into a light and crisp base; balanced with simple tasty toppings, close your eyes and you are in Italy.
Follow these five simple steps to create four pizzas or one pizza and three ready to bake pizza bases.
30g fresh yeast or 3 packets of 7 g dried yeast
625ml tepid water
1 kilo bread flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
Extra flour for dusting
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in half the water. Rest for 1 minute until it becomes slightly foamy.
In a large bowl place the flour and salt, make a small well in the centre and pour in the yeasty water. With your fingers slowly mix the flour and water together by making circular movements from the centre moving outwards until the water is soaked in.
Slowly add the rest of the water and oil into the centre and mix to make a slightly moist dough. Depending on your flour you may need a little less or more water so take your time and add slowly.
Now for the kneading: Flour your work bench and lightly flour your hands. Turn the dough out onto your surface and sprinkle with a little more flour. With the palm of your hand push the dough away from you and with your fingers pull the dough up and fold it towards your palm. If it is a little sticky at first add a little more flour. Continue to do this for up to 5 minutes until the dough is silky smooth on the surface.
Five minutes can seem like a long time, but personally I find this the most rewarding part. I relax into the rhythm of the kneading and simply rely on knowing that I will enjoy the efforts of my labour. Kneading develops the structure of the dough and works the gluten in the flour creating delicious light dough.
Time to prove the dough: Make your dough into a roundish shape, lightly flour the top and place it on a floured baking tray. Cut a cross in the top. Cover with a warm damp tea towel and leave in a warm draught free area.
This is a great time to put the oven on 200 degrees Celsius and prepare your ingredients.
After 40 minutes to an hour the dough should have doubled in size. When it has with your fist punch the dough to deflate it (this is called knocking back). Return the dough to your work surface and knead a few times for it to become smooth again.
Rolling Time: Divide your dough into 4 equal balls. On your floured surface roll the dough out into a large circle until it is just under 1 cm thick. Place on your backing tray and add your toppings. (If you don’t have a tray big enough simply pull out one of the racks in your oven and place the dough straight on that.
Bake for 10 minutes or until the toppings are cooked and the dough is crisp and golden.
You can continue to cook the other three balls, or simply roll them out to size and bake in the oven for 5 minutes with no topping. Allow them to cool, wrap them and freeze for another night. When you are ready to cook them simply defrost the dough, add your toppings and bake for 5-7 minutes.
Make 4 pizzas or 1 pizza and 3 ready to cook pizza bases.