Is there such a thing as too much pizza?

pizzamania.jpg

Cooking, like anything else, requires a number of things. The ability to plan ahead, patience in order to take things slowly, a careful and considered approach, and not least, an ability to focus and keep ones mind on the job.

All things considered, its a wonder that I’ve actually managed to survive and not electrocute/burn/maim myself or have some sort of disfiguring accident in the kitchen – I like working FAST, having at least 3 dishes on the go at any one time (those of you who think I bake/cook everyday, nope, I have insane cooking days where I make anywhere from 3-5 recipes which are methodically filed, photographed and saved in draft form for this blog), working alone (regardless of what my mother says, I have NEVER snarled at her and told her to get away from the dirty dishes so I can do them myself!) and, despite evidence supporting the contrary, I still like to believe that I have a properly functioning mind.

Have you stopped laughing yet? May we proceed?

Ahem.

To those who know me, its no secret that I loathe numbers. I hated algebra, I abhorred trigonometry, and I never even considered taking calculus1. I almost wept tears of utter misery when I went to university and they announced that a beginner’s class in statistics was compulsory for all Liberal Arts students, and upon finishing that class, I did actually set my textbook on fire.

To summarize, I loathe numbers.

Anyone who’s ever read a recipe before will know that numbers are something that comes with the territory – grams, cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, it is a sort of science and these formulas must be understood and followed to some degree if its going to work. This presents me with a bit of a dilemma – on one hand, I love the manual work, the creativity and the sensory overload of cooking, yet working with numbers makes me a grumpy little parrot. Well, you’ve got to take the bad with the good, right?

While its usually not that much of a problem, if I’m feeling in the slightest bit scattered, it leads to situations where I start out doubling a recipe, then get lost and quadruple it instead. Not much of a problem if you’re dealing with something like a freezable cookie dough, but a bit more problematic if you’ve ended up with over a kilo of pizza dough. Which is, incidentally, the reason that I ended up making 7 pizzas in one night!

And ALL this because I just got a bit too excited when Joey from 80 Breakfasts announced PIZZA to be the theme for this month’s Hey Hey it’s Donna Day!

Basic Pizza Dough (Dan Lepard’s recipe from The Cook’s Book)

Ingredients (makes 2 pizza bases)
4g dried instant yeast
150g warm water (ideally around 20-25 degrees C)
10g caster sugar
25g olive oil, plus more for kneading
100g strong white flour
150g all purpose flour
5g salt

1. If using dried yeast, activate it by dissolving in a bowl with 1 tbsp flour taken from the total amount and 50g water taken from the total amount, but at a temperature of around 35 degrees C. Leave to activate for 10 minutes. If using fresh yeast, you can skip this step and go straight to the next.

2. Whisk the yeast mixture with the remaining water, sugar and oil. In another bowl, mix the salt into the flour, then pour in the liquid and mix together till you have a soft, sticky mess. Cover with a cloth and leave for 10 minutes.

3. Lightly knead the dough:

To knead a yeast-risen bread, the book recommends using an oiled rather than a floured surface, and instead of a constant 10 minutes of kneading it recommends a series of brief kneads with rests in between.

3a. Take 1 tsp of oil (olive, corn or sunflower) and rub it onto your work surface in a large circle. Also rub about 2 tsp oil over the surface of the dough. Scrape the dough out onto the oiled surface.

3b. Before starting your knead, wash and dry the bowl, then rub the inside and your hands with a little oil. Set the bowl aside.

3c. Fold the dough in half towards you. It should be extremely soft and sticky at this stage.

3d. If you are right handed, use your left thumb to hold the fold in place whilst using the heel of your right hand to gently but firmly press down and away through the centre of the dough to seal the fold and stretch the dough.

3e. Lift and rotate the dough clockwise a quarter turn. Repeat the folding, pressing and rotating about 10-12 times, stopping before the dough starts to stick to the surface. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, seam side down, and cover with a cloth and leave for 10 minutes, or till the dough does not bounce back when lightly poked.

3f. Repeat previous step another 2 times, remembering to rub a little more oil over the dough after each 10 minute rest if it has become too sticky.

After the final kneading, leave the dough to proof for about 30 mins.

4. After proofing, cut the dough in half and roll or stretch each half into a thin circle about 3-4mm thick, then set aside.

5. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (or as hot as your oven will go), and rub a tiny bit of olive oil over the surface of your baking trays, then sprinkle lightly with cornmeal.

6. Place the dough onto the tray like you would like a tart tin (roll the dough lightly over a rolling pin then unroll on the tray) and then tidy up the shape.

7. Brush surface with olive oil, pesto or paste (depending on what kind of pizza you’re making, put down a layer of cheese then arrange the other ingredients as the cheese will help hold them to the dough. If necessary, sprinkle a little extra cheese over the top, but restrain yourself from adding too much topping to the pizza :)

8. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 10 – 15 minutes, or till the dough has puffed, the top is lightly browned and the edges are crisp. Repeat with second amount of pizza dough, and enjoy!

TIPS FOR MAKING A GREAT PIZZA AT HOME:

  • There’s a lot of fuss over pizza stones being the only way to get a crisp and crunchy base – this is nonsense. While they *do* help, I don’t have one and those who have tasted my pizzas can attest to the fact that there are no saggy, soggy bases to be seen in my kitchen. As Dan Lepard says in this book, a great way to achieve a crunchy bottom (for your pizza, not you) is to lightly oil your baking surface, then sprinkle it with a fine, even layer of cornmeal/polenta.
  • Do not overload your pizza with a mountain of toppings. Ideally, you should have no more than 3-4 at the most, all sliced very thinly to prevent the base from being weighed down.
  • Roll/stretch the base nice and thin, I find that the best way for me to do this is to form the dough into a ball then squish it flat and then begin to quickly run my hands around the outer edge like a steering wheel – this gives a nice thick and firm outer edge for holding onto the slice, but stretches out the inside. Once its almost at the desired thickness, put the base down onto your baking surface and carefully stretch it out however much more is needed.
  • The pizza dough should spend as little time as possible inside your oven – the idea is only to cook the dough and melt the cheese, the toppings should not rely on the oven’s heat to cook. Dan Lepard suggests turning your oven up as far as it can safely go – mine goes up to 240 degrees C (about 460 F), but I generally tend to use a preheated fan-forced oven at 220 degrees C
  • The only limitation to the pizza toppings you can try is your imagination! Though I know my family’s favourite combination (the chorizo pizza, last picture in this post), I will often try different topping combinations based on a suggestion from a friend, something I’ve ordered at a restaurant or seen on a menu, or just what’s in the fridge!

lambpizza1.jpg

Lamb Pizza w/ Roasted Capsicum & Chive Yoghurt

Ingredients
1x quantity pizza dough (from above)
1/2 a large red capsicum/bell pepper
1 lamb leg/sandwich steak
A large handful of fresh rocket/aragula, washed and dried
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp snipped chives
1/4 cup natural unsweetened yoghurt

1. Prepare the pizza dough and set it aside for now. Finely slice the lamb and season it with salt and pepper and massage it in, then leave it to rest for a few minutes.

2. Meanwhile, slice up your capsicum/bell pepper into thirds so that they will lie flat on a baking tray. Heat up the oven grill then place the capsicum on a lined baking tray and under the grill for a few minutes, or till the skin has blackened and blistered. Take it out of the grill and throw a clean damp teatowel over the top to steam for 5 minutes. Remove the blackened skin and slice into thin strips.

3. Heat up a frying pan and briefly brown the lamb strips (ONLY brown, do not cook as they will do most of this in the oven!). Mix together the garlic, dried oregano and olive oil into a slightly runny paste, then carefully spread it all over the prepared pizza dough. Layer over the rocket/aragula, then the lamb and then the capsicum strips.

4. Place into a preheated oven and cook till the base is nicely brown and has puffed up. Remove from the oven, allow it to slightly cool then mix together the chives and natural yoghurt and messily dollop all over the top. Serve, and enjoy!

This is my entry into this month’s HHDD, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share the rest with you:)

pumpkinpizza1.jpg

Pumpkin, Spinach & Semi-Sundried Tomatoes w/ Toasted Pine-Nuts & Bocconcini

Ingredients
1x quantity pizza dough (from above)
1/4 medium pumpkin, Jap/Kent or Butternut is what I usually use
1/3 cup semi-sundried tomatoes, excess oil squeezed out
A handful of baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
A small handful of pine nuts
5-6 medium sized bocconcini balls
1/4 cup reduced salt tomato paste
1 tbsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, crushed

1. Prepare the pizza dough and set it aside for now. Take off the skin of the pumpkin and cut into slices about 3-4mm thick. Layer onto a plate and cook in the microwave till just done, then remove and allow to cool.

2. Mix together the tomato paste, dried oregano and garlic (this is a cheater’s pizza sauce but works in a fix). Lightly spread over the pizza dough, then add a layer of spinach leaves. Then add the pumpkin slices and semi sundried tomatoes, making sure to leave the layers light. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top of this.

3. Slice your bocconcini balls into slices about 5mm thick, then place a bit haphazardly around the top of the pizza. Place into a preheated oven and cook till the dough has puffed up and browned and the cheese is nicely melted. Remove and enjoy whilst still hot!

veggiepizza2.jpg

Vegetarian Pizza

Ingredients
1x quantity pizza dough (from above)
1/2 cup button mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 3-4mm thin slices
1 handful mixed rocket/aragula and baby spinach leaves
1/4 red onion, thinly slices
1/2 capsicum/bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup grated mozarella
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Prepare the pizza dough, then mix together the minced garlic and olive oil and rub it all over the dough. Add a thin layer of cheese and begin layering on the vegetables starting with the leafy greens and ending with the capsicum or mushrooms.

2. Sprinkle on a very thin layer of cheese then pop into the preheated oven to cook till the dough is done. Remove, and enjoy while still hot!

chorizopizza2.jpg

Spanish Chorizo Pizza

Ingredients
1x quantity pizza dough (from above)
1 large chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 green capsicum/bell pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
1/4 red capsicum/bell pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
1/3 cup semi sundried tomatoes, all excess oil squeezed out
1 cup grated mozarella
1/4 cup reduced salt tomato paste
1 tbsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, crushed

1. Prepare pizza dough and set aside. Heat a frying pan and lightly fry the sliced chorizo till browned, then drain all the oil on some paper towels. Mix together the tomato paste, oregano and garlic and spread over the pizza dough. Sprinkle over a light layer of cheese, then layer on the remaining ingredients, keeping the layers sparse, thin and light.

2. Top with a thin layer of cheese and pop into a preheated oven to cook till the dough has puffed up and nicely browned. Slice up and serve, and enjoy :)


Entries for Hey Hey its Donna Day can be submitted to Joey at 80 Breakfasts up till January 26th, so be sure to get your entries in as soon as you can! The round-up will be posted on February 2nd, at which time everyone can vote for their favourite to win this month’s edition of HHDD!

1 - It’s interesting the different approaches to numbers that different countries take. I was just used to learning MATHS (as we call it here in Australia) as one jumbled class racing through different areas, but upon going to the International school during my teens, which followed an American-style curriculum, I very quickly learnt to say MATH (no ‘S’) and that it could be split up into different areas, each of which I hated with an equal amount of passion.

[tags]pizza, HHDD, recipes, Dan Lepard[/tags]

Speak Your Mind

*

CommentLuv badge

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
%d bloggers like this: