Getting the family cooking pizza

Everyone knows when it’s pizza night in our house that they will be expected to get involved. This is a family occasion – the chance to have lots of little Chef like bowls lined up with all the favourite toppings prepped and ready for sprinkling. Everyone has a chance to make a pizza – you can take a partner or can go it alone. In any case, it’s a fun, evolving feast and even when a base occasionally self destructs, it’s always edible, with its touch of crunch and it’s bits of softer dough. I have been making pizza since we moved to Indonesia, 18 years ago. In those days Jakarta didn’t boast many Italian pizza joints so we were forced to come up with an alternative. It was a crazy scenario of cranking up the free standing standard Italian oven in the home to the highest number (which I think was 9) and then cranking up every air conditioner in the house so you wouldn’t faint!! But, funnily enough, that’s where I really determined my favourite dough recipe which ultimately evolved from the Master Dough recipe from Dean and Deluca’s shop in Soho NY. So I guess it’s a multicultural recipe – with a crazy little story attached. I am sure you wont be disappointed when you give it a go!


My favourite way to make Pizza Dough – enough for 4 lovely pillowy medium-thin style pizzas (18cm diameter)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup milk, room temp

3/4 cup water, warm

2 tbs dry yeast

2 cups Tipo 00 flour (or cake flour)

1/3 cup strong (bread) flour

3/4 tsp salt

olive oil for the bowl

In a small bowl, combine the water and milk and sprinkle over the dry yeast. Stir to combine and then allow to sit in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes , until the yeast has foamed up.

Using a mixer with a dough hook, or with a wooden spoon, combine the flours and salt and mix well. With the mixer on the lowest setting, spill in the foaming yeast mixture and allow it to mix together. Your dough will be very wet and this is OK. If you are working by hand, pull the dough together with the spoon, before tipping onto a floured bench to start kneading.

By machine, allow the dough hook to work the dough until it is lovely and smooth, soft and supple and is warm to the touch.

By hand you need to achieve the same but it will take you longer. Knead, adding tipo 00 flour as needed. However, you still want your dough to be sticky at the end of kneading – so be careful not to add too much flour!

Once you are ready to allow the dough to rise, lightly oil a glass bowl and place the ball of dough into the bowl, covering tightly with glad wrap. Pop in a warm place for a couple of hours (only 1 hour if you live in Jakarta!) until the dough has doubled in size!

Divide the dough into 4 and with a little rolling and a little pulling, bring each ball of dough into a circle shape. I tend to use my fingers and push the dough out from the centre, turning as I go to get a decent flat shape with a bit of a crust/rim around the edge. Do all 4 and then cover over with a damp tea towel for 10 more minutes.

Now, for cooking the pizza. Exceptional results comes from owning the right type of tray or pizza stone. The stone helps distribute the heat evenly and will give you a more evenly cooked pizza with a crunchier crust on the bottom. You place the pizza stone in the oven as you heat the oven (as high as you can – usually around 240C in a home environment) To place the pizza onto the stone, you need the pizza peel (you can improvise) – like the wooden handled flat board you have probably seen at wood fired pizza places. You dust this with a little cornflour and then pop one of the untopped pizza bases on top.

Now comes the fun bit of adding your favourite toppings to the pizza, before hurling the pizza onto the stone with a short sharp wrist action on the peel handle!

Now, before you start rolling your eyes – this is FUN – and it’s not meant to be serious or perfect. So if your pizza collapses as it hits the stone, close the oven door and let it cook anyway – it will taste spectacular and will be the rustic version of the evening.

Cooking time is dependant on your crust thickness of course. So if you have followed the recipe above exactly and divided your dough into 4 – it should take 6 minutes to cook in a hot domestic oven.

If you want super dooper thin, Roman style pizzas then divide the dough into 8 and cook these thin versions for 5 minutes only.

Toppings:

We have heated debates in our house over what we love and do not love on our pizza. I went through a ‘healthy’ phase of wanting fresh mozzarella cooked onto the base, followed by a scattered handful of peppery rocket thrown on top as it left the oven, before being sprinkled with sea salt and fresh parmesan. However, this was deemed a “mummy” pizza pretty quickly – although I get away with it as an appetiser before the ‘real’ deal!

The Margherita is a favourite for the kids – we make an uncooked tomato puree from tinned tomatoes, use fresh mozzarella, pulled apart, torn basil leaves and pecorino cheese + sea salt. This is a gorgeous fresh summer style pizza.

My husband, though, likes the meatier pizza. Often we use ground lamb mince with tomato and onion and chilli flakes, dotted with thinly sliced red onion – a Turkish take on pizza that we fell in love with when visiting Istanbul.

I think the firm family favourite though is the good old ‘with the lot’ pizza that is determined by what is in our fridge. It usually has some dark pre sautéed mushrooms, some fiery pre sautéed chorizo, a smear of uncooked tomato puree, chopped olives, and mozzarella. As it comes out of the oven, we give a healthy sprinkle of sea salt and freshly grated parmesan.

I swear if you start making these at home, you will never feel the need or desire to order in pizza ever again!

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To all Kiwi’s who are looking for a fabulous, fun and interactive meal to enjoy with their whanau this holiday season, I have a wonderful offer for you. In association with Smeg, I am going to be giving away 1 fabulous refractory PIZZA STONE. Described as a square shaped stone without handles, it is suitable for all 60cm, 70cm and 90cm SMEG Multifunction and Pyrolytic ovens. Perfect pizza is easy thanks to SMEG. Technology with Style.

 

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