Sunday, 17 July 2016

Pizza 101 (1): base and roasted tomato sauce

I have often said that my last meal on Earth would be bangers and mash with onion gravy. But pizza would be a close second. Good pizza - which, for my taste, is a thin and crispy base, a scant amount of deeply flavoured sauce, plenty of cheese (but not so much as to make the whole soggy) and a couple of carefully chosen, complimentary toppings.

That being said, up until last year I had never made it myself, being slightly intimidated by bread making. I've cracked that now, which means I can have homemade pizza whenever I like! Or, because D is forbearing but not THAT forbearing, on a relatively regular basis.

The amounts here make enough for 4-6 pretty decent sized pizzas. Once the dough has been proved it can be rolled into a ball, wrapped in clingfilm and popped in the freezer. Likewise, the sauce can be frozen in little pots. Defrost the two for 12 hours in the fridge. So, whack it in there in the morning and make pizza in the evening in less time than it takes to ring for a takeaway.

The trickiest part of pizza making (in my humble opinion) is rolling out the dough.  We have an excellent pizza restaurant at the end of our street and I have tried to study their technique as they effortlessly fling around dough creating perfect, thinly stretched circles.  But the fact is, if I try and throw dough it is likely to end up on either the ceiling or the floor.  A rolling pin is the only way forward.  But I've stolen an excellent tip from my Mum, and now roll it out actually on the lightly floured baking tray.

With regards the baking tray, another Mum tip was to use one with holes in to allow plenty of heat to get to the bottom of the pizza as well as the top.

When you are coming to make your pizzas, in lieu of a proper pizza oven, crank your domestic beast up to the highest it will go at least ten minutes before you intend to cook them so that they are up to temperature.  Roll out the dough as thinly as you can imagine and spread about a tablespoon of sauce over the surface.  You can, of course, use more sauce if you wish but to my mind a pizza should not be too saucey (oo-er).  Snow over a fine layer of Parmesan which adds seasoning and a touch of cheesy umami to whatever is coming next and then you are ready to add whatever toppings take your fancy.

For the base:


500g strong bread flour
10g salt
10g fast action yeast
4 tbsp olive oil
360ml cool water

I make this in a stand mixer using a dough hook and the instructions reflect that. If you prefer to make it without then just pretend that you hand is said hook! You may need to knead for a little bit longer.

Tip the flour into the mixer bowl then put the salt on one side and the yeast at the other so that never the twain shall meet. Make a well in the middle and pour in the oil. Put the bowl in the stand with the dough hook attachment and set off at a low speed.

Pour in the water, watching for the point when the dough forms a ball around the hook. You may not need it all. You can now crank the speed up a couple of notches and leave it to work away for 5-10 minutes. The dough is ready when it is soft, silkily elastic and not too sticky.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove for a couple of hours. I actually follow the advice of Mr Paul "Silver Fox" Hollywood, making it in the morning and allow to prove all day. You don't need to leave it in a warm place if you do this - ambient temperature is fine.

For the sauce:


6 medium tomatoes, quartered
Onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp olive oil
Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Tbsp tomato ketchup
Tsp sugar
Small knob of butter

Sprig of fresh oregano (or tsp of dried)
Small handful of basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 150.

Toss the tomatoes in a tbsp of oil, the balsamic vinegar, the oregano and plenty of seasoning. Roast for around and hour and a half.

Once the tomatoes are out, heat the other tbsp of oil and sweat the onion for five minutes until soft. Then add the garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Squish the tomatoes down in the pan and combine well. Stir through the ketchup, sugar and butter.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before stirring through the basil and transferring to a blitzer. Blend until smooth and then, if feeling really cheffy, pass through a sieve.


  1. I love good pizza - have you tried Franco Manca? Very good and a million miles from greasy, loads of cheese, doughy mess.


    1. I've heard of them but not tried them - am I right in thinking they do ones with a sourdough base? Yum!