Pizza. It’s a favourite for many people, for us too. We try to not eat it too often, though. It’s quite a calorie bomb, isn’t it? But soooo good. Well, it is not always good: I don’t like greasy, soggy pizzas. When you pick up a slice and it sadly points downwards.. But for a crusty, crispy pizza, with a thin layer of tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and some other tasty toppings you can wake me up during the night. Did you know it’s also fun to make pizza from scratch yourself? Yes, I mean everything: the dough, the tomato base, the toppings. Everything. It’s quite some work but fun to do! For example during the weekend – together with a friend, family member, lover, or with your child(ren). Just start on time with the dough and tomato sauce base. So that you only have to finish off in the evening. You can make your pizza as simple and cheap as you like, or as exclusive and decadent as you like. As long as the base of the pizza turns out nice and crisp (no soggy bottoms please), it’s a successful pizza. It doesn’t matter how misshapen your pizza looks like. Mine is always a bit oval instead of round. And a square pizza isn’t a big deal either. It’s all about the taste!
A little while ago I shared my recipe of the ultimate tomato sauce base. If you have a small batch of that still in your freezer, take it out the evening upfront. It will save you a lot of time, and that version of tomato sauce has more ingredients than the simple version below (which is also delicious). A back up plan tomato base sauce in your freezer can always be a time saver! And when if you are not so keen on making the dough yourself, you can buy fresh pizza bottoms nowadays in the supermarkets. The bigger SPAR’S have good ones. But if you have time, and if you feel like it, just try to make it yourself. You will be so proud of the result! And after the first homemade pizza you never want a take-away any more..
For the dough:
750 gram strong white bread flour (for example the Italian “Farina 00”)
440 ml warm (40º Celcius) mineral water
14 gram (2 sachets) dried yeast
3 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of milk
1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil
For the tomato sauce*:
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
400-600 gram good tinned plum tomatoes
40 gram concentrated tomato paste
1 teaspoon of sugar
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
*Or, if you have: use a batch of this great tomato sauce base from your freezer.
For the toppings:
200 gram buffalo mozzarella
200 gram salami, slices
6-8 basil leaves, torn
hand full of fresh basil leaves, or rucola
garlic, crushed and chopped
chilli pepper, finely chopped
For the dough:
1. Use warm (not hot) water to mix and dissolve your dried yeast and sugar. Lukewarm (40º C) water will help the yeast react better. Mix with the sugar and yeast and let it stand for about 8-10 minutes, until you see bubbles on the surface. In the meanwhile measure the right amounts of flour, salt, dried oregano, milk and olive oil.
2. Pile the flour, dried oregano and the salt together on a dry, clean surface and make sort of wall around the circle. Slowly add a third of the water in the middle. Using a fork, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix into the water. Add bit by bit all the water-yeast mixture, together with the milk and olive oil, and mix with the complete ‘wall’ of flour, first with the fork and later by hand.
3. Begin to knead and try to pat the dough into a ball. This can take some time and in the beginning the dough is sticky. Just continue and continue (rolling it backward and forward, stretching and slapping) kneading and soon you will find the dough easier to work with. Continue the knead for at least 10 minutes until you have a soft, flexibel and smooth pizza dough.
4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with cling film. Place on a warm spot (without draught) and leave it double in size for about 45 minutes – 1 hour.*
*Optional: If you have time, you can let the dough rise for a second time. What you do: after an hour of rising take your dough, push out the air bubbles and form into a new ball. Place in the same lightly greased covered bowl on the same warm spot for another hour. A second rise will make the dough easier to digest. But it’s not necessary.
For the sauce:
5. Finely slice the onion and the crush and chop the garlic. Pick the basil leaves and roughly chop, too. Heat a saucepan on medium heat and add some olive oil, together with the onion and garlic. Cook gently for about 5 minutes, until the onion and garlic will be soft and start to color. Add the tomato paste and fry over high heat for a few minutes, so the sour taste will disappear. Add the tinned tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook gently for about 15-20 minutes or until smooth, mashing the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon. Taste and season more if needed. If you want you cal always add some dried Italian herbs, or a dash of red wine.
For the pizza:
6. Preheat your oven as hot as possible. Somewhere between 230 – 260 ºC is perfect. If you have a pizza stone, use it. I don’t have one, but what I usually do is pre-heat the metal baking trays already, and transfer the pizza (on top of baking paper) once the tray is sizzling hot.
7. Divide the dough in 4 balls (depending on how big your oven and baking trays are – you can also divide the dough in 6 or 8 smaller balls). Flour and cover the balls with plastic foil and let rest for about 8-10 minutes.
8. Dust your surface with a little bit of flour and roll out each ball to a round, thin (0.5 cm) pizza base. Stretch with your hands until you are happy with it, and make a little increased edge around your pizza, so the sauce won’t run off too easily. Place on a piece of baking sheet paper which will fit on your baking tray or pizza stone in the oven.
9. Apply your toppings: smear the tomato sauce over the base and spread out almost to the edges. Brush the sides (without tomato base) with a little olive oil. Tear over the mozzarella, salami, a pinch of salt and pepper. Place in the oven and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the pizzas are golden and crispy. Take out of the oven and finish off with the fresh basil leaves, chilli and garlic (all to taste). Allow to cool slightly 2 minutes before serving. You won’t burn your mouth and the pizza will crisp up even more when it cooled down a bit.
Other topping ideas (Margarita based)
anchovies, artichoke, parsley and black Kalamata olives
sundried tomatoes, avocado, chilli mayonaise and smoked chicken fillet
tuna, cherry tomatoes, chilli, capers and green paprika
mushroom, garlic, bacon, Parmesan cheese
grilled aubergine, harissa, feta cheese, olives
Pecorino cheese, green garden peas and Italian ham
Cheddar, pineapple and cooked ham
spicy Peperini, grilled courgette, basil pesto and fresh plum tomatoes
Keep in mind: no-one likes soggy pizza bases: stay away from too much moist in your ingredients
More pizza tricks & tips
- Use strong white bread flour, for example the Italian “Farina 00”. For great pizza dough (or focaccia etc.) you need a strong gluten in your flour
- Don’t worry if your dough is sticky the first minutes of kneading. Just continue tearing, stretching, kneading and working on it. After 10 minutes your product is softer, easier to handle and nice and stretchy
- Try to avoid direct contact between salt and yeast. Yeast and salt aren’t friends. Mix the salt well with the flour and the yeast with the warm water and you’ll be fine
- When you are ready to finish your pizza, make sure all your toppings are prepared and ready
- Make sure your table is set, wine glasses full and sides as garlic and chilli present when you place the first pizza in the oven. Pizza cooking time is short & hot
- Cooking time all depends on how thick your dough is and how hot your oven. Keep an eye on your pizza if you make it the first time. With a very thin base and hot oven the pizza is ready in 4-5 minutes. With a slightly thicker dough and oven about 220º C it’s probably ready in about 8-10 minutes
- Did you know you can use a braai (BBQ) just as perfect as your hot oven? Make sure the braai is hot hot hot hot, use a stone or fire resistant tray and place the pizza on it for about the same time (or maybe even shorter) as in an oven
- Don’t throw away left over dough. You can freeze it, or just keep it in the fridge to make the next day a mini pizza pot bread, Place the dough in a tin or oven resistant cup, together with some melted cheese, tomato sauce and other toppings
- Make some delicious chili infused olive oil. Simply warm up 100-200 ml virgin olive oil over low heat in a saucepan, add chopped chilli and garlic and turn of the heat. Leave for about an hour and then pour into a glass bottle or jar. You can keep it in the fridge for about 3-4 weeks. Delicious to drizzle over your pizza when serving
- If you like a bit more vegetables or greens, serve the pizzas together with a simple side salad. And everybody is happy
- Usually 200 gram dough per person is about enough for pizza as main. If you serve it as a snack, or for children, it’s less than 200 g per person.