Making pizza is really cool for both adults and kids alike. There is something really cool about getting your hands sticky in dough and lots of melted cheese and your favourite toppings. This is also a great way to get kids and picky-eating adults to eat veggies. However you do it, just have fun!
We were both feeling for pizza. This is not new since we are both pizza lovers. However, since cleaning up our diet, we have not indulged recently. We decided to make pizza from scratch. Usually at home we make semi-homemade pizza with pre-made crusts but fancied a more authentic experience this time. There is nothing like having control over your ingredients and having your own quality control on your favourite foods.
We used the recipe in the best Italian cookbook ever, by Marcella Hazan. Here are the ingredients. This recipe yields 2 pizzas.
Ingredients for single rise pizza dough:
1/12 tsp active dry yeast (or instant)
250 ml /8 fl oz lukewarm water
375 g/13 oz plain unbleached flour
Extra virgin olive oil : 1 tbsp for the dough nd 1 tsp for the bowl and some for the finished pizza
A pizza stone
a baker’s peel or paddle
what is unbleached flour?
Unbleached all-purpose flour is bleached by oxygen in the air during an aging process and is off-white in color. Nutritionally, bleached and unbleached flours are equivalent, but bleached flour is beneficial for cake and cookie baking.
Conversely, bleached all-purpose flour is exposed to chlorine gas or benzoyl peroxide to whiten and brighten flour color. Chlorine also affects baking quality by “maturing” or oxidizing the flour, which is beneficial for cake and cookie baking. The bleaching agents react and do not leave harmful residues or destroy nutrients.
If using active dry yeast, dissolve it completely by stirring in a large bowl with about 1/3 of the lukewarm water. Add flour in thirds and water in portions and mix thoroughly if you go with the active dry yeast. If using instant, these steps are automatically bypassed. We used instant dry yeast so went straight to the next stop. We added the flour, salt and yeast and mixed together. The began to pour about a 1/4 of the water and mixed together by hand and then poured the 1 tbsp of olive oil while mixing together. Add the rest of the water as needed as not to make the dough sticky.
Knead together with hand in bowl then take it out and slap it hard against the countertop several times like a real Italian pizza pro. You want it to stretch out a bit to a bout 10 inches. Then begin to knead with both hands, folding halfway on each side and using the heel of your palm to push it back. Knead for 10 minutes.
When done, you will be able to roll it up nicely into a ball that looks like this. Set aside. Oil another clean bowl with 1 tsp olive oil and put in your ball of dough and cover.
Place the bowl in a warm corner and leave to rise. It should double in size in about 1 hour if using instant dry yeast, and 3 hours if using active dry yeast. Now is the time to do the rest of your prep.
As far as toppings go, ou can do whatever you like! However we are going to show you the classic Pizza Margherita so you know the ‘rules’ before you break them. Margherita is a combination of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and parmesan. Begin by making your Marinara Sauce with tomato sauce. You can make your own or get a good quality container of organic tomato sauce with one ingredient only (tomatoes)- seeds and all. Because the quality was so good, we only added some extra virgin olive oil and salt while reduced the tomato purée on low heat. It needed no further embellishment. However, if you wish, you may add sauteed garlic as well as basil and oregano. Use less quantities if using dried herbs.
You can make your Marinara from scratch with very ripe and flavourful tomatoes. Or you can go with a very good plain tomato sauce, or tomato purée like this.
Since we do not have a commercial grade Blast Chiller, we simply put the hot sauce in our freezer to cool. Please note that we had a huge bag of party ice in there and did not have any meat, poultry, eggs or fish in the freezer (or anything much in our fridge) so we didn’t have any danger of lowering temperatures and causing bacteria. If you are making pizza when your freezer is packed with these things, we suggest you pour your sauce in a wide container so that it rises only to about 1 inch thick and then place that bowl in another with an ice-cold bath. You do not want to put hot sauce on your pizza because it will ruin it. Any leftover Marinara should be frozen and re-heated at a later date.
Chop your toppings. This pic is just for illustration. jalapeno is not included in this pizza combination (we used the jalapeno for the second pizza). A more appropriate pic would have been tomatoes, but I didn’t get a pic of the slicing of the tomatoes. I say squint really hard and instead of seeing jalapeno on our Joku chopping board, you will see tomatoes!
Grate your cheese. We used mozzarella and grated in some added Parmegiano-Regianno for added oomph. Aged romano is a nice substitute for parmegiano. Our Microplane Box Grater comes in very handy for fast, efficient and incident-free grating and we grated both the soft and hard cheese on the same grater using different sides. We used the wider slot (shown) for the mozzarella and flipped it to the other side for the zester grater to grate the Parmegiano-Reggiano.
HEAT YOUR STONE OR PIZZA PAN
At least 30 minutes before baking, make certain to heat your pizza stone. This is an integral step. Preheat to 230 C/ 450 F/ Gas 8. Pizza must be baked in a very hot oven. When your dough doubles, it is time to roll out and top the pizza. However, If you forgot to preheat oven during the rising of the dough, simply allow it to sit another 30 minutes while you preheat.
If you have a baker’s peel (that wooden paddle that pizzas are put on), sprinkle generously with cornmeal. If not, do the same with the countertop. We strongly suggest the paddle because they come in under AED100 and are very useful in transferring pizza in and out oven with mess or drama. Take the risen dough and divide in half – yes we are making 2 pizzas so there better be a party! Cover the second half back in the bowl and cover until ready to use. Use a rolling-pin to flatten the dough as thin as possible into a circular shape if desired.
Place cooled or room temperate sauce on pizza…
Spread out sauce with the back of a spoon out to about 1-inch from edges.Add cheeses. Remember to do all of these steps on your pizza peel.
Layer with your thinly sliced tomatoes (you don’t want them thick and watery).
Finish with basil. Since you will do all the rolling and topping of risen dough on a pizza peel, transfer to stone by a slight jerk of the hand. Bake for 20 minutes or slightly more until the dough turns alight golden brown. As soon as it’s done, drizzle lightly with olive oil. While first pizza is baking repeat the same steps for second one.
CHEF’S NOTE: Serve hot, eat plenty.