Pizza is possibly one of the most recognised and popular types of food in the world. I doubt there would be many places you would travel where pizza isn't available, in one form or another. Not only is pizza recognised across the globe, it's also highly adaptable, meaning it's popular amongst carnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike.
Sure the quality of pizza varies; from the gourmet restaurant, to the cheesy franchise delivered in a cardboard box. Either way, even when a pizza is bad, it's still pretty darn good! But what makes a great pizza? Is it the combination of toppings, a thick crusty base, the melty cheese? For me, it all starts with the base. And why shouldn't it? It's called a base for a reason, because it's the building block for a great meal! I figure, if you get the base right the rest will fall into place perfectly.
A few years back, I used to rely on store bought pre-made pizza bases when making "home made" pizza. Then I went to a cooking class where we made pizza from scratch. Since then, I've never looked back! It's actually very easy to make you're own pizza dough; requiring only a handful of ingredients (you probably already have at home) and a little bit of time.
Honestly, if you're planning on having pizza for dinner (or lunch), knead the dough together in the morning and leave it to rise through the day. By the time you're ready to start prepping your meal, the dough will be ready to divide, roll out and top with all of your favourite ingredients. Easy!
I'm not sure about you, but I'd rather spend 10 minutes making my own pizza dough than a half hour supermarket trip to pick up a pre-made base (that's probably full of nasty preservatives). Or worse - a tasteless frozen pizza!
Once you've perfected the basic pizza dough, you can start getting creative. You could add spices, herbs or even cheese to the dough, if you feel so inclined. That's the beauty of pizza, there's really no wrong way of doing it.
Basic pizza dough
Makes two medium sized bases
- 1 teaspoon raw unrefined sugar
- 200ml warm water
- 350grams spelt, wholemeal or plain flour
- 1 teaspoon dried yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + extra for coating
Mix the sugar in the water to dissolve. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Add the liquid to the flour and mix with a flat knife until just coming together, then add the oil. Turn onto a floured work bench and knead by hand for up to ten minutes, or until silky smooth.
Note: you may need to add more water if the dough is too dry. Try kneading for a good two or three minutes first to see if the dough starts to smooth out. If more water is needed after two minutes, wet your hand and knead again, repeat if still too dry. The aim is to get the dough to a point where it no longer sticks to your fingers. You could also use a free standing mixer with the dough hook attached.
Once the dough is smooth, shape into a tight round ball, coat with oil all the way around and place in a clean bowl. Cover and leave to rise until doubled in size (at least two hours)
Once the dough is ready, turn out onto a floured (or oiled) bench top and shape into a ball. Divide into two pieces by cutting down the middle with a sharp knife. Roll out to the desired thickness, top with your favourite ingredients (suggestions below) and bake until brown and crispy.
When covering the dough to rise, use a black garbage bag. These are reusable and they retain heat well meaning the dough will rise quicker. Alternatively, use a dark coloured, damp tea towel.
You'll get the best crust by using a wood fired oven or an oven pizza stone. Make sure to pre-heat your oven (to the highest temperature) with the pizza stone in the oven. When the pizza is ready, use a paddle or large spatula to transfer the pizza directly onto the stone.
Don't overload your pizza with toppings. Try to stick to three or four different toppings, sliced thinly and distributed sparingly. This will prevent the pizza from becoming too heavy and tearing when you transfer it to the oven.
I like to use pesto or organic tomato paste as a base and then top with different veggies.
Some of my favourite toppings include:
- Mixed roast veggies and basil or thyme
- Spinach pesto with asparagus spears
- Roast garlic, pumpkin and caramelized onion (add fresh rocket once cooked)
- Beetroot, sun-dried tomato and olives (pictured)
- Mixed roasted mushroom, thyme and garlic oil
So tell me, do you like pizza and if so, what's your favourite topping?