Pizza

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Frozen and takeaway pizzas are the norm these days but why not try making your own?  The base is cheap and straightforward to make (with a bit of time management!) and the toppings can be as exotic or simple as you choose. It’s a great recipe to make with children on a rainy day, with the added bonus that if they choose their own toppings they’re more likely to eat them!

I’ll start with the recipe for the base, which uses yeast and therefore needs to be made at least a couple of hours in advance to allow time for it to prove. This quantity is sufficient for 2 x 28cm (10¾”) bases, which we found to be enough for 3 adults, but of course the amounts may be increased if necessary. The method would remain the same.

250g of strong bread flour (plain flour will do if you don’t have any strong flour)

10g butter

½ teaspoon salt

1 sachet dried yeast

½ teaspoon sugar

115mls warm water

25mls olive oil

  • mix the sugar and dried yeast into the warm water and leave it to stand for 5 minutes or so
  • put the flour into a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter, then mix in the salt
  • pour the olive oil and water/yeast mixture into this and mix it all together well either with your hands or a wooden spoon
  • turn the whole lot out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it for about 10 minutes (n.b. this is the ideal opportunity to work off any bad temper – just take it out on the bread dough and you’ll soon start to feel better!)
  • if you are the fortunate owner of a food processor the method is even simpler – just chuck everything into the bowl together and mix it for 4 or 5 minutes!

Anyway, regardless of which method you’ve used, the dough then needs to be shaped into a ball, put into a greased bowl and left to rise until it’s about doubled in size. If you cover the dough with a bit of greased cling film it prevents a skin forming on the surface. (When I made this yesterday it took about 2½ hours at room temperature) If you could be bothered, you could make the dough the night before, leave it in the fridge overnight and then bring it out for a couple of hours the next day.

Whilst the dough is rising, assemble the ingredients for the topping. The most important of these is to drain a tin of chopped tomatoes in a sieve to get rid of most of the juice, then add a squirt of tomato puree and mix them both together (1 squirt  = 1 tablespoon). This tomato mixture will be spread over the base before anything else is put on. The rest of the toppings may be anything you like, but here are a few ideas:

  • salami or pepperoni
  • mozzarella cheese and/or some grated cheddar
  • sliced red onion
  • sliced fresh tomatoes
  • sliced mushrooms
  • olives and capers
  • anchovies
  • fresh or dried mixed herbs
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Anything goes really for the topping, so if you only run to cheese and tomato that will still do the trick!

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C
  • Retrieve the dough and tip it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide it into either 2 or 4, depending on how many pizzas you want. Don’t knead the dough again, just roll each piece out very thinly and place onto a well greased baking tray
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  • without adding anything else to the bases, cook them for about 5 minutes so that they look like this:
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  • remove the bases from the oven, share the tomato mixture evenly between them and spread it to the edges
  • add the rest of your toppings. You may of course let your imagination run riot here, but as a general rule I would say stick to a maximum of about 6 different toppings otherwise the flavours tend to get a bit lost. However, feel free to use whatever you fancy!
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Bake the pizzas for about 15 – 20 minutes until the edges are starting to crisp a little. Serve them with a bowl of mixed salad and then try to imagine that you’re sitting in a little trattoria somewhere in Sicily!

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