Oh where has the summer gone? It seems to have passed us by and it’s already starting to feel quite autumnal. As I type this the sky is grey and there’s not a hint of sunshine to be seen. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago we went to Crete a few weeks ago. This is a distant memory now and I’m already hankering after sunshine, warmth and alfresco dining. ‘Why I am I wittering on about this?’ you may ask. Well, today’s post reminds of sunnier times. We each had huge pizzas down by the quay in Elounda in Crete which were so big we had to ask for boxes to take it away (which came in very handy for lunch the next day). (I think I spoke too soon when I started typing this this morning. Obviously the weather heard about my grumblings as we have been treated to a glorious sunny day here in Hampshire – hurray! I am sat finishing this in the remaining sunshine in the garden. )
I’ve made pizza only once before. It wasn’t a huge success but it wasn’t terrible either. I’d say this was a marginal improvement (but sadly it was still too soggy for Mr Birdie’s liking). I was inspired after watching this week’s Great British Bake Off and felt I should make something requiring dough! Personally I thought this week’s episode was amazing. The contestant’s showstoppers were simply outstanding. I seemed to spend the whole episode going ‘Wow!’, ‘That’s amazing’ and ‘Oh my gosh!’ For my pizza dough I used Holly Bell’s (of GBBO fame) recipe which you can find online here. I also used this BBC Good Food recipe for cooking and topping advice.
I followed Holly’s advice and made the dough in my food processor – something which I’ve not done before. The dough will take one and a half to two hours to rise so make sure you give yourself enough time. Choose whatever toppings you want (or in my case whatever you have lurking in the fridge). I went for grated mozzarella (left over from these cheese and pesto whirls), ham, peppers, olives and baby plum tomatoes. This recipe will make enough dough for 6 large (individual) pizzas. I split mine into three and put the two leftover bits in the freezer. Our pizza was definitely big enough to share between myself and Mr Birdie.
650g strong white flour
7g sachet of easy-blend yeast
2 teaspoons normal fine salt
30ml olive oil
50ml buttermilk (If you don’t have any or can’t find any use milk with a dash of lemon, or just milk)
325ml warm water
A little semolina for rolling (Not essential but makes for a crispier crust. Otherwise use flour.)
1) Put the flour, yeast and salt together into your food mixer bowl (make sure the salt and yeast don’t touch each other). Mix together using the dough hook attachment. Then turn the speed to low and pour in the buttermilk and oil. Next add the water and leave on low speed until the dough looks elastic (this will take about 4 minutes.)
2) Remove the dough from the mixer bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place until it’s doubled in size. This can take one and a half to two hours depending on how warm your house is. (The dough will be quite sticky which is why it is a good idea to use a food processor. You can knead it by hand but this will require oil – for your hands and work surface – and a dough scraper. The dough also won’t look as smooth and elastic as bread dough but don’t worry!)
3) Once the dough has risen put the bowl back into the mixer and knead using the dough hook on a low speed for about 2 minutes until your dough looks and smooth again. (If kneading by hand this takes about 4 minutes.) Now it’s ready.
4) Divide your dough into as many pizzas that you want. Take some semolina (or flour) and put a handful on your work surface, then take your pizza dough and cover the whole thing in semolina – all sides. Then start rolling. The thinner you get your base the crispier your pizza will be. You want to get it as thin as possible without breaking. You can go for any shape you want!
5) Put your dough onto a baking sheet making sure the edges don’t escape over the edge (otherwise you will end up with burnt crusts). A helpful hint if you’ve made an especially large pizza is to fold the dough into half and then quarters to transfer it to the baking sheet.
6) Heat your oven to 240C/220C fan/Gas 8. Put another baking sheet or an upturned baking tray in the oven on the top shelf.
7) Add your toppings. For the tomato sauce I used about 200ml of passata with some dried herbs (mixed and oregano) and a crushed clove of garlic added. Smooth your sauce over the base with the back of a spoon and then scatter on your toppings. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Put your pizza, still on its baking sheet, on top of the preheated sheet or tray. Bake for 8-10 minutes until crisp (I found mine top a bit longer).