Firing it up!

In Tuesday’s post I showed you bits about my weekend just outside Hermanus. What I didn’t mention was that we had a pizza oven at our disposal too! And boy did we put that thing to good use. We started by making garlic bread, then pizza and ended with a bread session (yes, we made more than one bread). All I can say is that it was AWESOME and I think I’m going to have difficulty going back to my old electric oven.

So, you can guess what this post is going to be about: PIZZA! I think the recipe was originally from a Jamie Oliver book but can’t remember as I’ve been doing my own version for about 7 years now.

4 cups bread flour (or if you can find it that super strong ’00’ flour)
1 sachet active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 large tablespoons of olive oil
650 – 750ml of warm water

Mozzarella cheese
Tomato sauce (click on link for recipe)
Your choice of pizza toppings
Fresh basil

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
2. Make a well in the middle.
3. Pour in the olive oil and then about 650 ml of the warm water.
4. You can either mix first with a wooden spoon and then with your hands or just go straight in with your hands. I first get everything mixed together and then pour it out onto a clean, floured surface. Then I knead it for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. If the dough feels too dry, keep adding the warm water until you get the desired consistency. If too wet, add more flour
5. Pour a little olive oil into a clean bowl and roll the ball of dough in it until it (and the sides of the bowl) are covered.
6. Cover with a clean dish cloth and set aside in a warm, draught free area for about an hour and a half (or until it’s doubled in size)
7. Once dough has risen, pat it down gently.

To make a pizza:
1. Heat oven to its hottest temperature (mine goes to 230 °C before being on its ‘grill’ setting).
2. Take a small ball (about the size of a golf ball) and place it on a floured surface.
3. Gently roll it out with a floured rolling-pin, try to go as thin as possible.
4. Brush on (or lightly spoon) your tomato base.
5. Cover with desired ingredients. And season.
6. Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the base starts bubbling.
7. Take out and eat.

Cooking tips:

I’ve recently (re-)discovered my mixer. I just put all the ingredients in there and it kneads the dough for me. I can also just let it sit and rise in there without dirtying more utensils. Remember though, to keep an eye on the dough consistency. I find it’s better to have it a little too moist verses too dry but that’s personal preference.
Once you have beaten down your dough after it rising, you can choose to use all of it or freeze some for another time. I find this works very well. Just divide into individual portions and cover in glad wrap. When you want to use it, make sure it’s totally defrosted and at room temperature before using. You do not need to let it rise again.
Or one can put the dough in the fridge for a couple of hours. This slows down the rising process and allows you to pre-make the dough ahead of time. Like with frozen dough, make sure it’s room temperature before working with it again.
One can also make a ‘deep’ base pizza. My Nonna used to make a medium based one where she greased a baking pan with olive oil, then placed the dough in the pan, then pricked it and put more olive oil on top once the topping were on. Was DELICIOUS! I used to make a seriously bready pizza back at Varsity – I first pricked and then cooked the dough for 10-15 min before placing the toppings on and putting it back in the oven to finish cooking.
I always put the fresh herbs under the cheese as I feel this stops them from drying out to a crisp.
And I always put my tomatoes on top of the cheese as I like my tomatoes dried out (figures).

Cooking in the pizza oven was tricky – getting the heat the right temperature for the pizza and the bread (which cook at different temperatures) took a bit of figuring out but we managed. But cooking in a home oven can leave much to be desired. I found that putting my pizza on a hot oven try helps with the heat distribution. Otherwise I’ve used a large, flat surface griddle pan (cast iron) which was heated in the oven before use. I know many people use slate slabs as well, but I have not got my hands on one yet.


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