Four 10-inch pizzas
"Everyone loves pizza – such a simple, delicious concept that can be adapted to almost any occasion with an endless variety of toppings."
We’ve been experimenting with ways of cooking pizza for a couple of years now, trying to re-create the perfection of our favourite take-away place in Bristol. They have a wood-fired oven, so we’re never going to get that absolutely authentic wood-smoked flavour, but we’ve settled upon a method that is easy to do in any kitchen and that gets the bases good and crisp.
The recipes for the base and sauce are just guidelines – you may well have your own favourite bread and tomato sauce recipes, and this method should work well whatever you do.
For the dough:
500g strong, white bread flour
330ml warm water
1 x 7g sachet instant yeast
For the tomato sauce:
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Half an onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped or torn
Salt and pepper
(Optional) dried chilli, paprika, 1 anchovy fillet etc. to taste
For the toppings:
Grated mozzarella cheese
Whatever toppings you like (our favourites are prosciutto, olives and rocket; crab meat, prawns and chilli; roasted garlic & parsley puree)
1 cast iron skillet or frying pan
Tip: The crucial bit of equipment for this method is a cast iron skillet or frying pan – you need something with a thick, heavy base which can be used without oil and can also go under the grill.
Mix all the dry dough ingredients together to combine. Add water, and knead until smooth and springy (we start this off in the food processor with the dough blade). Shape the dough into a ball, then leave covered with a clean tea towel until doubled in size (1-2 hours).
While the dough is rising, get on with the tomato sauce. First heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and sauté for five minutes until they soften. Try not to let them brown.
Add all the other ingredients except the salt and pepper and turn the heat down to let the sauce simmer and reduce to a thick, jam-like consistency. Remove from the heat and put to one side for now.
If you have a blender or food processor, once the sauce has reduced you can puree it for a nice, smooth texture (remove the bay leaves first). It's not the end of the world if you don’t do this though.
When the dough is well risen, knock the air out of the ball and divide it into four equal pieces. Shape the pieces into four balls, then leave covered with a clean tea towel until they’ve proved (30 minutes).
While the dough is proving, prepare your pizza toppings.
Now roll each dough ball into a 3mm thin circle and place on greaseproof paper until ready to cook.
Put the cast iron skillet on your largest hob ring and turn the heat as high as it will go. Heat up the pan for a good five minutes until it is smoking hot. At the same time, switch on the grill in your oven.
Carefully but quickly place the first pizza base into the hot, dry skillet then, using a wooden spoon or spatula, spread it evenly with a quarter of the tomato sauce.
Quickly add the rest of your toppings (don’t go overboard with the amount of topping, or the base will be overloaded and soggy), spreading them evenly around the pizza. Finally, sprinkle on the grated mozzarella.
After a couple of minutes, you’ll see the base start to crisp up around the edges – you can lift it slightly with a knife or spatula to see how it’s doing underneath. What you’re looking for is a golden brown colour mottled with spots of darker, almost charred brown. If it looks like that, bung the pan under the grill sharpish.
Once it’s under the grill you can leave it to finish cooking, which will be when the cheese is melted and golden and starting to brown a little at the edges. It’s best not to place the pan too close to the grill elements, as the toppings will likely burn before they are decently cooked (especially if you’re using something like raw prawn or sliced bell peppers, which need five minutes or so).
Now take the pan out from under the grill, lever the crisp, fragrant pizza out with a spatula and place on a board ready for cutting while you get on with the other three.
Give it a try and see what you think! What are your favourite pizza toppings? Do you have a fool-proof method for cooking pizza at home? Let us know...