Sunday, 19 April 2009

Mike's Pizza Masterclass

One of my crew Mike came over on Saturday and we decided to make Pizzas together. This is significant as when Mike was doing his first degree and for about a year and a half after he graduated, he was slogging his guts out working for Pizza Express and their upmarket spin off Gourmet Pizza. Now Mike works for a law firm during the day and in the evenings is doing a second degree to become a barrister himself. This seems to be the normal way to do things as I really don't understand the idiots who go on Masterchef who have good careers as Barristers, Designers, Architects etc but want to give up their social lives and work in a kitchen for tuppence.

Now the significant thing about all this is that Mike has rarely made pizzas since he stopped working for the chains and yesterday was one the few times he has actually showed off his virtuoso skill with the dough ball and the oven since I have known him.

I made the dough using my normal method and I was happy to learn from Mike that what I've been doing with dough was good enough for him.

I mixed and kneaded the dough and once it had proved it was ready for Mike to take over. Now when I make pizzas I just go in all cack handed with a rolling pin. Mike however uses his innate pizza skills and works the proven dough around the shape it wants to be. He managed to make some sympathetic cuts in the dough and worked it into four equal balls. Mike then worked the dough with his hands into the shape of the bases. He did this proper Italian style working in on the work surface first before throwing it around his hands.

Four pizzas were made with two different toppings. The first one was the most exciting.

First a little olive oil was spread over the base. Then a loosely chopped tomato and a load of shaved parmesan was put on top. Then the pizza was put in the oven to cook.

As soon as the pizza came out of the oven a mozzarella ball was torn and thrown over it with a decent amount of fresh basil.

This pizza was fucking amazing, one of the finest I have ever eaten. The way Mike worked the dough meant it was perfectly cooked (or as close to perfect you can get without a proper pizza oven). The topping was rich from the parmesan but light from the fresh mozzarella and the aromatic basil.

The second pizza topping was more conventional with a tomato sauce topped with mozzarella and black olives. The type of mozzarella was however different. On the pizza above we used the type that comes in balls packaged in brine which is soft, fresh and typically to be used in salads and eaten uncooked. On the pizza below we used the harder, denser mozzarella which comes in a block. It's melts much better than the mozzarella balls which is far too watery to go in the oven.

One of the old Pizza Express tricks did come into play with cutting the cheese into cubes so that it melted evenly.

As before this pizza cooked beautifully and it was good to have a bit of the traditional alongside the other pizza.

Here's some pizza on plates.

Here's Dom the other Bags of Flavour contributor stuffing his face

I went out after the pizzas were eaten but when I came back a bit drunk I made this pikey pizza using the left over toppings and a bit of brown bread.

I got a new digital SLR yesterday so I've got a bit carried away with the pictures.