I have wanted to make my own pizza for years, but I’ve been suffering with a bad case of The Fear. I’ve conquered The Fear by taking baby steps towards the object of my anxiety (dough based baking) in the kitchen; attending a bread making course a while back, and practising making bread every now and then. Recently I made my own sourdough starter, which is soooo easy and really fun – I will post about it soon – and Adam has been baking with it (not me yet) about once a week with it since. I found this excellent article on artisan pizza making on The Telegraph website, written by a genuine Neopolitan pizza legend. I mustered up the courage and went for it. Using my sourdough starter, I created a lovely dough on Friday morning which I left to prove all day. Then all I had to do was make a batch of fist-pumpingly good tomato sauce, utilise some mozzarella and pancetta / chorizo we flukily had in, and, Bob’s your uncle, I’d only gone and made a blinking homemade pizza (well, several to be precise, though one did end up in the bin!).
Why did one end up in the bin? Well, I prepared my first pizza (stretched dough, ladled sauce, topped with torn cheese and chorizo) onto a bread board, thinking it would slide into the very hot preheating roasting tin. It didn’t, so I had to put that one down to experience. Lesson learned. The rest I simply took out the preheated baking sheet, dusted with flour and and topped, quickly, on the hot sheet itself. Worked a treat.
Seriously, these pizzas are as good as the ones we ate in Italy – I’m sorry to blow my own trumpet but ’tis true. For this reason, I urge you to have a go. Don’t be afraid as I was – JUST DO IT!
The sourdough starter will take a week to mature until its ready, so get on with that first if you don’t already have one. Until I blog about making my own sourdough here is a link to the River Cottage sourdough starter method, which is the one I used. Of course, you can use dried yeast to make pizza dough, the Telegraph link has both versions – the sourdough one and the one with dried yeast.
So, the main thing you have to remember here is that if you are planning to have pizzas on, say, Friday night, then you need to get cracking on Friday morning to have the pizza dough ready to use that evening. You may notice in the article I’ve linked to there is a different amount of starter; that is because we want to speed up the process, if we are to make in the morning and eat that evening, so we’ve added 20% more sourdough starter, as advised.
I made Chorizo and mozzarella, and Pancetta and parmesan pizzas. Both pictured below.
Serves: 4 adults
Prep time: 9 hours 25 minutes (including dough proving)
Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total time: 10 hours 45 minutes (don’t let this put you off, most of it is proving time, and you can cook the sauce simultaneously which I haven’t included here)
For the dough:
250ml lukewarm water
36g sourdough starter
8g extra virgin olive oil
380g strong white bread flour
10g table salt
For the tomato sauce:
2 cans of tinned tomatoes (whole are better than chopped – great tip from the article)
7 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ball of mozzarella
100g pancetta lardons
Torn basil leaves
About 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, one tablespoon’s worth on each, just before they go in the oven
- In a large bowl, pour in the water, add the sourdough starter and the olive oil. Whisk.
- Add the flour and salt.
- Using just your fingertips – working lightly and avoiding getting flour onto your palms – combine to form a dough, without kneading. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
- Lightly flour your worktop and knead for about 5 minutes, adding a little flour as and when needed – not too much though, it should be a fairly sticky dough. Then leave to prove in the bowl, covered with cling film, for one hour.
- After an hour, lightly oil your hands and take the dough out. Fold four corners of the dough into the centre and then shape it into a ball and turn it over. Don’t get overwhelmed by these instructions, as long as you roughly follow them, it’ll be fine. Drizzle a little more oil on top, and put back in the bowl, cover with cling and leave in a warm spot, next to a radiator or in an airing cupboard (you’re looking for a temperature of about 22C) for a minimum of 8 hours.
- Meanwhile, make your tomato sauce. This is a great standard tomato sauce that is lovely on pasta. Simply add oil to a heating saucepan, then your sliced garlic. As soon as it starts to sizzle – before it colours – add your tinned tomatoes (if using whole tinned toms then simply break up with a spoon as they’re cooking). Season, and bring to boil. Simmer for 1 hour with the lid on.
- When you are ready to eat, preheat the oven to as hot as it will go. Mine goes to about 270C. Choose the largest baking sheets you have – the ones in the oven are great as they’re big – and preheat them in the oven. You can always do two pizzas at a time, as I did. They’re so quick to cook even one at a time wouldn’t be a problem.
- Section the dough into four, and stretch them all into roughly pizza-like shapes, the more rustic the better I say. Don’t top them yet, they will simply stick to the surface! Have your toppings prepared close at hand.
- Take out a preheated tray. Dust lightly with flour. Carefully put your base/s on. Using a ladle o large spoon, top very generously with tomato sauce. Add cheese / meats (raw). Drizzle oil on top and whack back in the oven. Cook for about 10-15 minutes. Scatter torn basil over when cooked, to serve. Marvel at how utterly orgasmic your homemade pizzas are!