I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t bought a supermarket pizza since learning how to make this little baby (because everyone needs to be lazy every now and again) but I’m certainly more inclined to make them from scratch. For me, it’s all about the base (’bout the bass, no treble…). That’s what makes or breaks a pizza for me. Most supermarket pizza bases are pretty soggy and fibrous, and taste as bland as the syrofoam they’re packaged with, (though if you really want to buy one, the Pizza Express supermarket range and the Co-op’s versions are pretty good). After that, they’re hugely versatile. You can stick anything you want on there – mix it up, find out what you like best. These recipes usually call for a very hot oven and a baking stone for best results, but to be honest, the concept of an oven hotter than 200C combined with a slab of dry stone terrifies me a little, so I don’t always use it. This might be a good time to tell you that I’m still working out a lot of things myself – bread being a key theme – but I think I’m getting better. As such, due to being all fingers and thumbs, I sometimes find it easier to bake the pizza off for 5 minutes or so until it’s rigid enough to shoogle onto the hot baking stone, but have made a mental note to remember to invest in a pizza peel. Those in the know would have you turn a tray upside down and cover it with lashings of polenta/semolina flour, but this doesn’t help with the shaping process in the slightest. Anyway…to the baking stone!
To make 1 amply sized pizza base, you will need:
125 g strong white flour
2g sugar (caster or granulated are ok)
2 tsp olive oil
163 ml luke warm water
1. Put the flour in a bowl or on a spankingly clean worktop. Add the salt and sugar on one side and the yeast on the other and mix into the flour. This is important. If you immediately dump salt all over the yeast you will kill it and you’ll end up with a doughy, Styrofoam base (then you might as well have bought it).
2. Add the olive oil and water and stir together to form a dough. If, like me, you don’t mind this being messy, I think it’s better to do this part with your hands. If someone comes to the door or phones you, they’ll just have to wait.
3. Once the dough has come together, put some oil on the board and on your hands and knead for a good 20 minutes. There are too many schools of thought as to how you should knead. In my experience, the important part is just getting the dough moving, tearing and stretching it as much as you can before putting it back together and starting again. It’s about friction and getting warmth into it to wake the yeast up, and you’ll start to feel it turn into something more lively. The perfect smooth, elastic finish is not critical for a pizza base as it’ll be too thin to form a noticeably bready crumb.
4. Place back in the bowl and cover with cling film (that’s plastic/Saran Wrap, America!) and leave to rise while you get all the other things together. Again, as this isn’t a loaf of bread, the hour rise isn’t necessary. 20 minutes to half an hour should do the trick. Any longer and the process starts to lose its nifty beauty.
To make the sauce, you will need:
1 tub/jar of pasata
1 clove garlic, grated
salt and pepper
a squeeze of lemon
a pinch of sugar
a variety of herbs and spices – I like parsley, oregano, basil, chilli and paprika
5. Put your pizza stone – rubbed down with oil and sprinkled with polenta – in your oven at 200C (or as hot as you dare). If you’re not using a stone, just crank your oven up as hot as it’ll go to pre-heat.
6. Fry the garlic in a little oil for a minute or so – do not burn it! Add in the passata, salt, sugar, herbs and lemon and cook down for as long as you like, but a few minutes is enough – It will get cooked again once it’s on the pizza. Leave to cool for awhile. You won’t need anywhere near all of this but it freezes really well for the next time.
7. Once you’ve made your sauce, retrieve your pizza dough and knock it back with your fist. If you want to be professional, look at someone else’s blog! My technique for turning this lump of dough into a delightful disk is pretty fly by the seat of your pants, but it works for me, and you don’t need any skill to make it work; just patience. Squash it out flat onto a round tin, board or peel and try to keep it vaguely circular. You might realise that I haven’t advocated a second prove yet – in my experience leaving it for a few minutes here and there then having another bash at shaping the dough is enough for it to pillow up as much as you’d want it to – unless you want a fat, deep pan base, of course. I usually stop when it gets to the size I want then start putting the topping on. If you want, you can attempt to have a sporting try at spinning it and pulling it out in your hands, but I only do this when I have lots of time on my hands as you have to start again if you put your nail through it by mistake! Anyone else’s tips would be welcome – but I’m trying to keep this speedy enough to be suitable for a weeknight supper…..
Toppings! For this pizza, you may want:
1/2 onion, red or white, sautéed in a pan for a while to start the softening process
1/2 pepper, colour of your choice or mixed (the jarred, roasted peppers you can buy in supermarkets or delis are great for this)
8-10 slices of cooked chorizo
1 handful of grated or chopped cheese of your choice. Even cream cheese works really well. I used some grated, strong cheddar.
8. Spread on a few tablespoons of the sauce and spread out with the back of the spoon. I like to take mine right to the edge, but feel free to define yourself a nice crust. If you really like a crust, you can mark one out with your thumbs whilst you’re shaping your base – that way the outside will be deeper than the middle, but I like mine fairly uniform.
9. Add your onions, peppers and chorizo all over the top, add a crack of black pepper and sprinkle the cheese over everything.
10. Shuffle this onto the stone or chuck it into the oven on a tray and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the fat is bubbling in the chorizo.
Random tip: when removing it from the oven, try to shuffle it back off the pizza stone then turn off the oven – rapid changes in temperature will risk your stone cracking. Also, you’re likely to get a bit of steam when you open the oven door, so if, like me, your smoke alarm is just outside the kitchen door, shut the door or you’ll risk annoying your neighbours immensely!