Monday, April 4, 2011


There is a lot of mystique around pizza - wood-fired ovens, special blends of Italian flour and so on - and while all of these things no doubt help, the key to a good pizza is a well-made dough.

It should be light, so the hydration or proportion of water to flour needs to be reasonably high. And the dough needs time to develop so that the characteristic blisters will form while baking. Finally, while wood is not essential, you do need a hot oven. You can achieve this with any domestic oven so long as it is completely hot, you have a reasonably heavy duty oven tray, and you don't try to cook more than one pizza at a time. Though I say it myself, this pizza was better than anything I have ever bought in Cadiz, and that includes two Italian-owned establishments which pride themselves on authenticity, and a third locally-run effort which boasts a wood-fired oven but whose dough was so lifeless that I suspected it had spent a few nights in the morgue.

Ingredients (makes 4 large pizzas)
480g warm water
750g strong white flour
2 tsps instant yeast
3 tsps salt (15g)
15g olive oil
toppings of your choice - sieved tomato, olive oil, artichokes etc.

  1. Measure the water into a large bowl. Add the flour, yeast, salt and olive oil and mix very thoroughly so that all the flour is fully incorporated. Place the bowl inside a large plastic bag and leave to stand for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Work using the "stretch, swing and slap" technique for 10 minutes or, using the "stretch and fold" technique, do four stretch-and-folds at 15 minute intervals.
  3. Return the dough to the bowl, place inside a plastic bag, and leave to prove for a two hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge. (If you have used the "stretch and fold" technique, it will only need one more hour at room temperature.) 1 hour before you want to bake, turn your oven on to 250oC.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, divide into four portions, and form each portion into a small boule. Gradually roll the boule into a flat disc, giving it a quarter turn or flipping it as necessary to ensure it doesn't stick and is a reasonably even circle. Flour your hands, the rolling pin and the surface as you go if necessary, but take care not to add more than you really need. Transfer the pizza base to a cookie sheet sprinkled with fine polenta.
  5. Now add the topping, resisting the temptation to overdo the tomato or mozarella. Transfer the pizza to the oven, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes.

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