Posts Tagged ‘homemade pizza’

UK baker Dan Lepard maintains that when yeast, flour and water are combined, the resultant dough will rise, regardless of whether it’s kneaded or not.  This process is known as autolysing.

I decided to test this theory out on a batch of pizza dough we made yesterday.

Into a large mixing bowl went my usual ingredients:

  • 500g bakers flour
  • 10g dried yeast
  • 7g fine sea salt
  • 320g water
  • 50g extra virgin olive oil

I squelched these together until all the dry ingredients were moistened…

The mixed but unkneaded dough was left in the mixing bowl, covered with cling film…

Here it is after an hour…

…and at the two hour mark…

I scraped the risen dough onto the bench…

…and gave it ten folds, no more, which was enough to turn it into this…

The dough was divided into four, shaped into balls and rested for a further half hour before shaping and baking.

We made four man’oushe – Small Man’s favourite – and the delicious pizzas came out of the oven with large air pockets, a sign that the yeast was active and doing its job.

The whole process took longer than usual (I allowed the dough to bulk prove for two hours, whereas I would normally leave it for less than one), but the end results were no different to our regular pizzas.

Is it necessary to knead dough?  In this case, it would appear not!

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We regularly make pizza at home, and when we do, our toppings are almost always the same.  After several years of trial and error, we’ve found the combinations that suit the discerning palates of our sons and we rarely waiver from them.  That certainly doesn’t make them boring – quite the contrary – after a long week, it’s often nice to eat something familiar and comforting.

Our basic bread recipe makes enough dough for four large bases. We always start with a potato pizza, followed by a pizza each for the boys, and one for Pete and I.

Small Man’s pizza is topped with homemade tomato passata, mozarella cheese, dry cured pancetta, Swiss Brown mushrooms, Sicilian and Kalamata olives, Italian anchovies and fresh oregano.  Last time we also included some San Daniele prosciutto, at the suggestion of my friends at Real Food has Curves.  In pizza terms, we don’t really use a lot of cheese, just a thin layer under the toppings to hold them down.

Big Boy’s pizza has the same base ingredients, but is covered with finely sliced Spanish onion in place of the olives and anchovies, neither of which he can stand.  Small Man, on the other hand, can’t abide onions.  It was either make two different pizzas, or feed them both a meat-lover’s special.

Can you suggest any interesting toppings? Pete and I share one  between us, and it would be lovely to have some new ideas for our pizza, even if the boys won’t eat it!

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I was so appalled by the price of a decent pre-made pizza base ($4.79 each!), that I made a quadruple batch of parbaked bases today.

It’s easy to do – make the basic dough recipe, let it rise, then divide the dough into four balls and allow it to rise a second time.  Tip each ball onto a sheet of parchment paper and work it out with your fingers into a large flat circle. There are some photos here of the shaping process.

Now, instead of topping it, slip the base (on its sheet of paper)  into a  hot oven and bake for one to two minutes.  We use preheated pizza stones, but you could always put the base on a tray if you don’t have these. You want the dough to puff up just the tiniest bit, but ideally it shouldn’t brown at all.   In our oven, that’s takes a minute and a half, baking four bases at the one time.

Remove the parbaked bases from the oven, discard the paper and cool  completely on a wire rack (this bit is important, or they’ll end up wet and sticky).  The bases can be frozen for ages, separated by sheets of freezer or parchment paper, then well wrapped in clingfilm.

I’ve delivered eight bases to the neighbours and stashed a further eight in our freezer.  We would normally prepare our pizza dough from scratch, but it’s nice to have some reserves for when things get really hectic!

. . . . .

Edit 31/05: Have just tried making multi-grain pizza crusts as suggested by Patrick in the Aussie Pizza post below.  They’re delicious!  I used Kevin Sherrie’s grain mix (90%) combined with a little bakers flour (10%), omitted the salt (as it’s already included in the grain mix) and increased the total flour weight by about 10% to compensate for the extra grain mass. Here’s a photo of the last slices of the two test pizzas, plus the bases parbaked and ready for the freezer.

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Dan(ielle) mentioned to me yesterday that their current favourite pizza is the “Aussie”.  It’s regular fare for her, Patrick and Chris, our friends who moved from Sydney to San Francisco last year to find fame and fortune in Silicon Valley.  They make pizzas from scratch every Friday night and have become so proficient at it that they can complete the entire process in an hour and a half.  Their Aussie pizza involves cracking an egg into the middle of the prepared base, breaking the yolk just slightly, then baking in a blazing hot oven.

I was inspired to try an egg over  last night’s pizza of fennel, onion, pancetta, oven-roasted passata and mozzarella.  Fennel on pizza is our latest discovery and it cooks to a mellow sweetness – the combination with the egg was delicious.  And I don’t know why, but there really is something very Australian about a pizza with an egg on it!

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Pizza starts with the dough.  Ours is hardly traditional, but we love it.

Pizza Dough for Four (double this to make eight)

•    500g pizza flour (bread flour is ok too)
•    10g instant yeast
•    8g fine sea salt
•    Scoop of sourdough starter (optional)
•    320ml water
•    50ml extra virgin olive oil

The flour goes into a large mixing bowl and the yeast and salt get whisked in.  The water, starter and olive oil are poured into the flour, and the whole lot is squelched together by hand.  This is quite a wet dough, so I knead it by lifting it up, slapping it on the bench, and folding it onto itself.  Over and over and over.  It helps if you let it rest for 10 minutes or so before you start.  The kneading doesn’t take very long, and when the dough is smooth, it’s left to rest for an hour in an oiled covered container.

Once it has doubled in size, the dough is divided into four pieces (about 220g each), shaped into balls, and left to rise again, covered in oiled Gladwrap.

Tomato sauce

Lately we always seem to have tomatoes in the house.  That’s because Jimmy the Tomato Man at Flemington markets is so darn persuasive, and Pete and I feel bad if we don’t buy something from him every week.  I think we’re a part of his weekly cashflow now, and I’d hate to make life difficult by depriving him of the $12 a week we normally give him.  It’s really silly too, because we then spend the week trying to find something to do with 10kg of tomatoes.  At first we were making our own semi-dried tomatoes, then we tried our own passata, and last week Pete made tomato relish, and I made pizza sauce.  Jimmy’s got it made, because Big Boy has pronounced our pizza sauce to be massively better than the “bought stuff”.  Sigh…there’s no going back now.

To make pizza sauce, I roast a tray of tomatoes, which have been cut in half, trimmed and sprinkled with Maldon sea salt.  I usually line the tray with Bake first, to make cleaning up easier.  We have a BIG oven (90cm Smeg – you should see our electricity bill), and it usually takes about 3kg of tomatoes to fill a tray.  These are roasted at 220C (fan forced) for half an hour, then added to a pan in which some chopped onion and garlic have been cooked in olive oil.  The whole thing simmers on the stove for about half an hour, and then it’s pureed in a jug to a smooth paste.


The quest for the perfect pizza topping continues.  It doesn’t help that Big Boy won’t eat a pizza with olives and anchovies, and Small Man won’t eat one with onions.  In the end we make one each for them.   I’ve finally moved Small Man off the daft and boring Spanish olives in a glass jar that he used to like, and onto some deliciously salty Kalamatas marinated in oil.  The anchovies are always bought from the Italian supermarket in little glass bottles, and lately I’ve taken to rinsing them before I use them – they’re still salty, but not mouth-puckeringly so.

We used to put ham on our pizzas, but it was never quite right.  Johnny at the cheese shop, our oracle of knowledge when it comes to all things deli related, put me onto coppa, and when that was out of stock, suggested I try pancetta.  Oh my.  The pancetta coupled with the roasted pizza sauce created an astonishingly delicate yet complex flavour, and, to use wine tasting terminology, fantastic mouthfeel.  It didn’t just taste good, it felt good in the mouth when you ate it.  I suspect it has something to do with all the fat on the pancetta, but I tried not to think about that as I was scoffing my eighth slice.

Another perennial favourite is potato pizza.  We use pink potatoes – usually Desiree although we buy Royal Blues on a semi-regular basis as well – peeled and sliced on a mandoline to get super-thin slices.  These are laid onto the flattened dough in a barely overlapping pattern, then topped with garlic oil (a gift from Robyn last Christmas) and sprinkled with some mixed Italian herbs.  If Small Man and I had our way, we would only ever eat potato pizza.  It’s like eating potato chips baked onto crispy pizza crust.  I can’t see how it could possibly be good for you, except for the fact that it often makes us truly happy!

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