Everyone likes pizza.
I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like pizza.
Aber has the world-class Baravain, the decent No.25, the excellent Pier, the rightly-maligned Domino’s and, well, loads of places.
Don’t you ever find yourself noticing you could make it yourself for a fraction of the cost?
Doesn’t it hurt to be charged £1.50 for “extra pepperoni” that cost them about 20p?
Supermarket ones are better priced, and although Morrisons do excellent toppings, those hard bases are hard work.
With hungry nephews to feed, I decided to see if I can make good ones at home.
And I wasn’t afraid to cut a few corners either.
Mixing pizza dough is a messy old business – it’s sticky, finger-coating annoyance.
So I let my old, under-used Panasonic 253 bread machine do the mixing.
- 1tsp dried yeast
- 500g ‘00’ Flour (it’s 63p in Morrisons)
- 2tbsp fine cornmeal (crispier base & crust, and easier to work the dough)
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1tsp salt
- 300ml warmed water (60s in microwave works for me)
Put the yeast in the bottom of the machine’s pan, then add the flour, cornmeal, sugar and the salt.
If I’m feeling professional I remove 2tbsp of flour (since I’ve added 2tbsp cornmeal) but I often forget.
Give them a bit of a mix before adding the lightly warmed water onto the top
This will make enough dough for 4 generous pizzas – for less than 25p each!
Now put the pan into your bread machine, and start the Pizza function. Mine runs for 45 minutes.
Once it has finished, let it stand (prove) for two hours.
Open up the bread machine – the dough will have doubled in size.
Knock it back with your fingertips.
Now lightly oil a bowl, put the dough in, cover with clingfilm, and put it in the fridge for about 24 hours. All serious pizza restaurants make their dough a day ahead like this.
All of this does take a bit of planning the day before, but it only takes a few minutes. The next day is much more exciting.
At least an hour before you want to eat, put your pizza stone in the oven and crank the heat up to maximum.
My oven only goes up to about 240C, so that stone needs a good hour to get really hot.
Professional pizza ovens go up to 500C, so the hotter the better here. If you’ve got a really hot oven, then your first few pizzas will involve some experimenting.
If you haven’t got a pizza stone, I’d really recommend you get one.
To get that crispy base, you need a direct contact with some serious heat, and they’re only about £12 with a pizza cutter.
Now get your range of toppings out. I make my tomato sauce in bulk and then freeze it in batches.
(Fry up some onions and garlic, add passata, a pinch of oregano and a splash of red wine, reduce down. Easy.)
Again, dead cheap, and your own sauce will be tastier.
Some people grumble that although pizza is cheap on ingredients, it’s expensive with an electric oven.
Having your oven on full blast for about 90 minutes is going to cost less than 40p – compare that to £10 a pizza!
And the hot oven will help to heat the house.
Now, liberally dust your Making Area with plain flour and tip out that big lump of dough.
The dough will be very sticky – you’re going to need plenty of dusting flour!
Liberally flour your hands, and split the mix into four round balls.
I use one of these scrapers –
– to make the splitting easier.
Try to get them the same size, plus smooth and round – this will help you get round pizzas.
This is the tricky bit, so this is when I start on the port.
Flatten your ball a bit, and dust the top with flour.
Now, If you have da skillz to pay da billz, do the stretching thing.
You stretch the dough, and turn it, and you end up with top-quality base. The Youtube is full of videos making it look easy.
But if you are cack-handed like me, and end up with hole in your base, then use a (liberally-floured!) rolling pin to turn your dough into a pizza base.
Turn the base over several times, and try to get the outside edge slightly thicker.
Experiment, have a play, but don’t feel bad if you cheat and use the rolling pin.
After about 20 minutes (longer on your first few tries!) you will end up with four roundish pizza bases.
Many people stop the base sticking to the stone by liberally applying cornmeal, but I like to use greaseproof paper trimmed to slightly larger than the stone.
It’s standard to rotate your pizza at half time and by then the base will have hardened enough for you to remove the paper and put the pizza directly onto the stone.
This is the hardest stage done! Congratulations! Drink some more wine and hand over the toppings to someone else!
It’s time to let people top their pizzas right before the pizza goes in.
Putting topping on too early can lead to a soggy bottom (RIP Mel, Sue & GBBO)
Set up a nice production line and let them at it.
Carefully plan how to get the paper’d pizza onto the stone as quickly as possible. Minimise the time the door is open.
I transfer pie to stone using a flat baking tray, and have someone with oven gloves on hand to jiggle it into place.
All ovens are different! The first few times you’re going to have to learn what works.
I leave it for 4 minutes before having a look (the old BBQ adage “if you’re looking, it’s not cooking” is even more true here)
The side of the pizza at the back of the oven will be more done, so you need to both spin the pizza 180o and remove the paper.
This takes a bit of skillz, but you’ll be fine.
Some people like a crispy edge, some a softer, bendier pizza. It’s up to you.
Here the pizza has gone crispy and the edges have puffed up nicely with pleasing air bubbles.
If you don’t like them that crispy (Bethan doesn’t) then just do less rolling out and bring them out earlier.
You’ll have your own favourite toppings at first, but after a few bakes you’ll find yourself looking at menus more closely.
We found an amazing place on holiday in America and brought home their menu to try to re-create their creative recipes at home.
Your first pizza meal will seem daunting, but you’ll be delighted with the results and the second time will be easier.
Don’t be afraid to experiment – your pizzas are only costing you around a pound each!
I got very cross the first few times I made the bases – you need plenty of flour to stop stickiness, and I found that adding the cornmeal made the dough less sticky.
And if your bases aren’t perfectly round – well, that’s proof that these are handmade artisanal ones like your Momma would have made if she were Italian.
Pizza is a fun food, not to be taken too seriously. Enjoy yourself, eat well, and save some money!
**June 2017 Update **
On holiday in France we had excellent pizza – they cooked the base with the sauce on, but then added pecorino, ham and rocket afterwards.
The waiters whisked the pizzas to giant slicers and did the toppings themselves.
The pizza was delish, so once home we started slicing our pecorino
and dropping it onto the pizza once the sauced base was done.
It was superb, and possibly the pinnacle of our pizza-making.