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Making pizza: The dough

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Lest my (two) devoted readers think I live on liquid alone, I thought it was time I wrote about something other than beverages. As doubtless do many working couples, David and I often find ourselves struggling to find healthy, tasty food to eat during the week when we both finish work at seven and are exhausted. One trick is pizza. David currently works from home, and one of my favourite moments is when he calls me up at the office and says ‘What do you think of pizza for dinner?’

The dough, he says, is hardly an effort: mixed together around 4 when he takes a break for tea and a little something, punched down first at 5:15 and then at 6:15 (by me – with vigor – if I’m home in time), in the oven by 7.30 and on our plates a scant half-hour later, topped with loads of veggies, with just enough left over to make lunch for one the next day.

Normally I push the pizza bones disdainfully to one side of the plate (ditto 'toast bones' - the phrase borrowed from a book I read when I was ten whose title I can't recollect), but with this recipe the crust is almost my favourite part.

David usually makes a double batch, and neatly bags and freezes the extra dough for even-more-low-effort meals throughout the week. His recipe is based on one at Fabulous Foods.

David’s pizza dough
(for a double batch, or four medium pizzas total)

  • 7 C flour
  • 2 C warm water
  • 4 T yeast
  • 4 T honey
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix the honey and salt into the warm water. (Tip: put a bit of oil into your tablespoon first so that the honey slips off more easily.) Add the yeast and mix. Leave this to sit for five minutes. The yeast should be quite excited at this point. If not, the water is probably too cold and you have problems. Add the oil and one cup of flour and mix. Add the rest of the flour and mix. It should turn into a ball. If it's too sticky, add more flour a little at a time -- at the magic moment the sticky ball will turn into a perfect ball of dough. Knead the dough for 3-5 minutes so that its consistency is nice and smooth.

Put the dough into a large bowl and cover with a tea towel. (You may have to split the dough into two and use two bowls, depending how big your bowls are.) Leave to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. After this time the dough should have doubled in size. Punch it down so it deflates. Leave it for another hour then punch it down again. (You can repeat this stage as often as you like.)

Divide the dough into four balls. One ball is enough for one pizza. You can freeze any balls you don't want to use straight away, or they will keep in the fridge for a day or so.

Cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper and dust it lightly with flour (or cornflour/polenta if you like your pizza American-style). Flatten one ball with your hands and then, while holding it in the air, rotate and stretch it so that it forms a circle. (You can also use a rolling pin if you prefer, but I like the hand method myself.) Keep going until it is as thin as you want, or until your nerve cracks, and then slap the round of dough down on the baking tray. Make any final stretches or shape adjustments that you like (remember that you don't want it to be too perfect). It's nice if the rim is a little thicker than the inside.

Pop this into a pre-heated oven (200 degrees C) for 6 minutes. Then put on your toppings. I like a layer of pesto followed by a layer of tomato sauce, with roasted red pepper and herbs. Add the cheese. Go easy on the liquids as otherwise it will get soggy -- you can be sparing with the tomato sauce. Stick it back in the oven for another 12 minutes or so and pronto!

Comments

I forgot to mention that if you want to cook the dough from frozen you should let it defrost in the fridge for several hours before use. Also you should allow a little extra cooking time.

This is a good one. But there's a trick: you have to actually follow the recipe. The first time I was skeptical about how much yeast David suggested, and put in less, and it ended up tasting like cookie pizza. The next time I piled in the yeast and it worked perfectly.

Don't use your bread flour, just use the self raising flour. It just has salt and baknig powder in it. It wont be as chewy, but it will raise. If it is too old it will not. The sodium bicarbonate in the baknig powder is what makes it raise. The bicarb has a shelf life. If that self raising flour that you have is like 2 years old, throw it out and use bread flour. It won't taste right or have the right texture, but it will still be eatable and chewy. One last thing Bakers have been putting ascorbic acid in ARTISAN type loaves for many years now to make holes inside the crumb. If you have vitamin c tablets, you have ascorbic acid. Just crush up about 1/2 tsp for a 1 lb loaf recipe and sift it into your bread flour.Good luck!

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