Ingredients for base
- Italian "00" grade flour (about 125g per pizza)
- Warm water (heat up a pint)
- Dried yeast (see packet for ratio, normally 2 teaspoons to a pint of water) plus teaspoon of sugar
- Good pinch of salt
- Olive oil (about half a tablespoon)
- Weigh out the flour, and add the salt.
- Add the yeast to the warm water (must be about blood temperature, no hotter) and add teaspoon of sugar. Stir well, leave for about 15 mins until starting to froth.
- Once it has frothed up, add enough of the mix to the flour to create a soft dough, together with the olive oil. A pint is enough to mix with up to about 600g of flour, so add slowly!
- Once you have a soft dough in the bowl, leave to stand for about 5 mins.
- Turn out and knead well for 5-6 mins, turning and kneading/stretching until you have a nice soft, stretchy dough.
- Return to the bowl and put somewhere warm (but not hot) for 30-40 mins, it must be covered (damp tea-towel is ideal)
- Meanwhile, put oven on to heat up, about 230c, hotter if it will go. Take a baking sheet (thinner the better), and lightly dust with the polenta (stops the pizza sticking but avoids oil)
- Once it has risen, up to about double in size (not critical if it is less than that), turn out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knock it down.
- Cut into as many pieces as you need for pizzas...
- Form into a rough rectangle shape, now the cheating bit.... use a rolling pin to roll out to a very, very thin pizza the size of baking sheet. Carefully lay on the polenta sprinkled baking tray. Put somewhere cool until you are ready or place topping on immediately.
All sorts work with pizza... I would suggest a good tomato sauce (homemade if you have time):
- Fry gentle some chopped onion, garlic in olive oil.
- Add glass of red wine and reduce by 50%
- Add 1-2 tins of chopped tomatoes plus up to half a tablespoon of mixed dried italian herbs
- Cook for 30-40 mins on a low heat and until reduced, stirring occasionally. Add seasoning to taste.
If you don't have enough time spare, then a tin of plum tomatoes, with most of the juice squeezed out, and then chopped lightly also works. Otherwise, a can/jar of passata or tomato based pasta sauce mix.
Add toppings, put in the very hot oven for 7-12 mins (depending on how many you have in, and how many toppings). With the sprinkled polenta on the tray, it should just slide off the baking tray.
Serve with green salad.
Favourites (with tomato sauce base):
- Mozzarella and basil (basil added after cooking)
- Tuna, red onion and olives
- Smoked mussels, tuna and white onion
- Seranno ham, a little cheese, and break a fresh egg into the centre before cooking
- Thinly sliced fennel salami, capers,baby tomatoes and mozzarella
- Tomatoes, cheeses and anchovies
- 3/4 cheeses (any four that melt well - tallegio, mozzarella, some blue cheeses. Avoid dry/crumbly cheese)
And with other bases:
- Cook a pizza base, then add several teaspoons of green Pesto (instead of using tomato sauce), pop back in the oven for 1 min, then take out, add handful of roughly chopped rocket and a good mozeralla torn into chunks.
Variants and notes
- Download Pizza Express menu for ideas...
- If you make Spaghetti Bolognese, save a mug full of Bolognese in the freezer and use as a topping on the pizza...
- With a spare base, just add thinly sliced apple, sprinkles of brown sugar and little pieces of butter and cook as per a pizza.
- Once cooked, will keep for 1-2 days in the fridge (be careful with shellfish as the exception)
- You can part cook a pizza (say five mins) and then quickly cool, and freeze. Cook from frozen in a hot oven.
- "00" flour is the ideal, as it is very, very fine and makes the very crisp base and special texture of some Italian pizzas. Can be bought at Waitrose/some health food shops/larger Tescos or Sainsburys + Italian delis. If you can't get it, Strong White Bread flour will also work, with a slightly different texture.
- Good mozeralla is critical. Avoid the rubber blocks, use the stuff floating in it's own liquid, torn into chunks.
- Key with pizza, and to avoid the bases going too soggy is to use a small amount of sauce, and then a selection of toppings scattered across the pizza, but not to cover the tomato sauce - fewer toppings, using better quality ingredients
- If you prefer the thicker crust, thicker base pizzas then use the above recipe, but add about 50% more yeast, and once you have rolled out the base (but leave it thicker), leave to re-rise somewhere warm for 20-40 mins. Will need to cook for slightly longer.
- The same dough can be rolled into little balls (about 2cm across), allowed to rise for 20-30 mins, and then baked in the oven for ~8mins. Serve with garlic butter and green salad.