Thursday, 26 March 2009

My Pizza

I've learnt to make pizza by hand now. It's surprisingly easy especially when you get the hang of making the dough. I can actually knock one up as quickly as it takes to make a pasta sauce and that's including rising time for the dough.

I can make the dough without measurement now. I think making bread has a lot to do with getting a feel for it. It's a nice feeling when you learn that you can alter the written quantities on baking recipes yourself to improve the quality of the bread.

I used brown flour this time but I've used various different kinds in the past. Make sure you use strong bread flour whatever the variety. This time I used approximately 200g flour, 3/4 tbsp of instant yeast, a tbsp of caster sugar, a little salt, a few splashes of olive oil and then added around 150-200ml of water. The water has to be quite warm but not so hot that it kills the yeast. A bit colder than the perfect bath temperature for me seems to do.

Mix it all together until the dough starts to take shape. If it's too wet and sticky add more flour, too dry then add water.

Once it resembles dough you can transfer to a large flat floured surface where the kneading begins. I've got unnaturally warm hands which as I mentioned in my previous post on pie can ruin pastry. For kneading bread however my heated hands are perfect. To knead I kind of pull out and stretch the dough and then fold it back in on itself. I do this for about ten minutes and stop when the dough feels spongy and elasticy.

The dough is then put in a bowl with a damp table cloth covering the bowl (not touching the dough) in a warm place in the kitchen so it can rise. It normally takes the best part of an hour. Once the dough is double the size it is ready to be beaten down and rolled into a base. If you've got time you can let it rise again, beat it down and then let it rise again. I've never bothered to do this, laws of diminishing returns and all that.

Now that may sound like a long process but with a bit of practice it becomes second nature. Besides I have this belief that making bread is an important skill that everyone should learn. If you make your pizza sauce and cut your toppings and cheese while the dough is rising you will find that everything is ready to go onto the pizza around the same time the dough has risen.

On this pizza I made tomato sauce with onions and topped with mushrooms, feta, tomato and basil. I normally use mozzarella and when I do I buy the cheaper heavy mozzarella that comes in a block as it melts much better than the delicate watery mozzarella you get in balls.

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