For me, the pizza is all about the base. I’m not going to tell you that any one sort of pizza base is better than any other, but thin and crispy Italian-style bases are definitely the best… Many pizza recipes call for the base to be made from other olive-oil based doughs. I disagree. Pizza dough should be a little drier than others like ciabatta or focaccia so it can be formed any way you like. This strength and malleability means that it freezes brilliantly – just divide into portions before freezing then quickly defrost and roll out as desired. And although I’m all about the base, you’ve got to consider the pizza holistically. Be sparing with water-heavy vegetables like courgettes and mushrooms, as they can cause a soggy bottom. Make sure your oven (and baking stone) are as hot as you can possibly make them.
|For the base:|
|500g||strong white flour (or Italian ‘00’ flour)|
|1 x 7g||sachet fast-action yeast|
|40g||olive oil (the cheap stuff)|
|For the topping:|
|A slosh||of olive oil|
|2||garlic cloves, peeled|
|1 x 400g||tin tomatoes|
|1||packet fresh mozzarella per pizza, torn up|
|Anything else you like|
In a large bowl, rub together the flour, yeast and salt, keeping the yeast and salt separate at either side of the bowl. Add all the water and olive oil and combine into a dough, mopping up the flour from the side of the bowl.
Knead your dough vigorously for at least 10 minutes until really stretchy and smooth (it will pass the windowpane test). You can use the no-knead method used for the Basic White Bread (see page 27 of Brilliant Bread), but your dough won’t be quite as stretchy and thin.
Cover and rest for 1-1½ hours or until doubled in size. You can rest in the fridge overnight if you wish. At least 30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven, preferably with your baking stone inside, to 240°C/gas 9.
Whilst the dough is resting, make the sauce. In a pan, slosh the olive oil and add the garlic cloves (crush them with the side of your knife to make them easy to peel). Add the tomatoes and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and blend using a stick blender until smooth. Leave to cool, then you can divide and freeze the sauce at this point.
Once rested, turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface. Using your dough scraper (or just your bare hands) separate the dough into three or four roughly equal lumps. You can wrap these in cling film at this point and freeze for future use.
Using plenty of flour, roll out each lump into a flat sheet. Using your hands, gently stretch the dough out, making your pizza as thin or thick as you like, then place on a semolina-lined board. Spread on your sauce, then your mozzarella and whichever other toppings you like.
Slide your pizza on to your hot baking surface and bake for anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on your oven and baking surface.
Time spent in the kitchen: 20-30 minutes. Time taken altogether: 1½ - 2 hours.