The dangers of eating Italian pizza
When I was a kid my mother would let me choose what we were going to have for dinner each year when my birthday rolled around. I always, but ALWAYS chose pizza: every single birthday for years and years and years (if you don’t believe me, you can ask my Mum!). Since then, I have been experimenting tirelessly on how the make the best crust. I thought I had found it years ago, until something incredible happened. I set foot in Italy and ate my first “real” pizza. I can even tell you what and where it was. You know, it was one of those life-changing experiences for me. 🙂 Pizza Margherita from a back alley in Venice (no, not from a trash-bin! I traveled on the cheap back then, but not that cheap!).
Away flew my cravings for Pizza Hut pizza with pineapple and ham like a dandelion in a tornado. How could I not have been eating this before? That started me on a culinary eating binge which took me all over Italy. Pizza with gorgonzola and speck became my drug of choice, and from there I spiraled out-of-control into a whirlpool of madness, until I was brought up short by a potato and rosemary pizza thrust in front of me by a pizziaolo in Rome and finally realised that there was more to life than gorgonzola and speck. Those were dark, dark days. I’m afraid I don’t have a photo of Venice for you as I was there in the days when people walked the Earth without digital cameras or even cell-phones – not even the kind that didn’t take pictures.
The trick to making good pizza dough
You would think pizza dough is easy to make as it has so few ingredients, and it actually IS easy, but it is quite a long process. It’s totally worth giving up a few hours of your time to do it though, as the results are fabulous! I found the answer to my searching for the perfect recipe when I stumbled across a wonderful website called Viva La Focaccia!. Vittorio puts up videos on how to make all sorts of bread doughs and pizza dough. The site is all in Italian, but it is completely worth going to the video on how to make pizza dough to watch the steps, even if you don’t understand Italian. I’ll leave you the link at the bottom of the page.
If you can get a stone to put in the oven to cook on, the dough comes out even more crispy/tender.
An important note: the dough already has enough salt in it. There is no need to add salt to the tomato puree that you put on the crust.
By Lisa Watson
Great Italian pizza dough
- 500 g 00 grade flour. For even better dough, 400g 00 flour and 100g Manitoba flour. 1.75 – 2 cups
- 300 g Water approx. 1.2 cups
- 10 g Salt 3/4 Tbsp
- 1.5 g Active dry yeast 3/4 tsp
- Mix the water and half the flour together for 2 minutes. Leave for 20 minutes to let the flour absorb some of the water.
- Add the yeast and mix, then add the salt. Then, add the rest of the flour. Knead the dough for 20 minutes. (This is where the Kitchen-Aid is VERY useful!). Form the dough into a ball and leave it on the bench for two hours, closed in a lightly oiled container. At this point, you can put the dough in the fridge and take it out the next day to continue (in fact, that makes the crust even better!).A note: for best results, the dough should be quite soft and almost too sticky to touch.
- Cut the dough into 4 even-sized pieces. Form each piece into a ball. At this point, if you can freeze the dough by putting each ball in a plastic bag in the freezer. To continue the process, take them out and follow the instructions below, allowing an extra hour for thawing.
- Put them into individual containers with lids, lightly brushing the inside of the containers with olive oil before doing so.
- Leave to rise for 4 -6 hours. If you want slower rising, you can put the containers in the fridge overnight (again, if you do another overnight fridge rise, the crust is EVEN better).
- One hour before you are ready to make the pizza turn on your oven to the hottest it can go and place the oven rack in the top-most position of the oven. If you have a pizza stone, even better! Heat that up in the oven at the same time.
- Gently ease the dough out onto a floured tray or pizza slice, trying to keep it intact. If you have square containers, the pizzas will be square (I discovered this from experience). Gently push the dough outwards with your fingers to make it pizza size. You will NOT need a rolling pin. This is the bit where you have to be very careful. If it is stretched too far, you can't make it go back to its original shape (also learned from experience!) . If you make a hole in it, it is very difficult to fix.
- Add a few tablespoons of tomato puree to the top of the dough, and spread it out on the pizza. The secret is not to use too much. It should just cover the pizza, not swamp it. Do not add salt as the crust already has enough in it.
- Sprinkle some bits of mozzarella on the pizza. Do not add too much cheese, otherwise you will end up with a greasy mess. Add other toppings you would like. If you want to make pizza Italian-style, do not add more than two after the tomato and mozzarella. If you want to put prosciutto crudo or rocket salad on, add it after the cooking.
- Slide the pizza into the oven and bake it for 6 minutes until the edges puff up and the cheese is bubbling.