I love pizza, I’d say it’s one of the best foods out there – it’s comforting, it’s covered in cheese and (don’t tell the purists) you can customise it any way you like. (But please, hold the pineapple!) While even I am guilty of ordering in pizza, there is absolutely nothing better than making your own. You don’t need a fancy woodfire oven in the backyard (although that would be nice…).
If you have an oven with a bottom heat element, this is what you should use to get a crisp pizza bottom. Brands such as Miele, Gaggenau, Smeg, Ilve and Neff often include these as standard across their ovens, just check your manual or call your local stockist for help if you can’t find it.
If you don’t have an oven with a bottom heat element. have no fear! I’ve created some great pizzas in those cheap, nasty $500 ovens you often find in older rental houses. (Honestly, a basic Westinghouse is only a couple hundred more… landlords are scabs.)
Pizza stones, which mimic the results of a woodfire oven in your own home, can be picked up for as little as $20 – and are great for homemade bread, roasting vegetables and even baking quesadillas faster than your stove top can.
I often just use my basic metal baking trays/cookie sheets, because in my kitchen, space is a premium. To get the best results from these, crank up your oven up to the highest temperature (and I mean highest!) and throw your cookie sheet in upside down to heat up for as long as possible. (I aim for at least 30 minutes) While this is happening, roll out your dough and have all your toppings ready to go. Working quickly, pull the tray from the oven, brush on a little olive oil, place your dough on top and quickly top with your toppings. Return to the oven and cook until it’s golden and bubbly.
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- Pinch of sugar
- 2 tsp dried yeast (1 sachet, if you buy it that way)
- 4 cups plain flour, plus extra for kneading
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- In a bowl or jug, mix the water, sugar and yeast together. Let sit for five minutes, or until it begins to foam
- Measure the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and the olive oil and stir together with a wooden spoon
- When the mixture begins to clump, turn it out onto your work bench (which you should dust with a little extra flour) and knead the mixture until it is smooth and elastic (what the hell does that mean? see below). This should take about 10 minutes
- Divide the dough into two (or more!) equal parts and roll out to your desired thickness with a rolling pin or wine bottle
- If you have a stand mixer, do all of the above and use your dough hook. Far easier, much quicker.
Once my dough has come together in a ball, I like to lift it up, throw it against the bench (while still holding onto it, it should be forced to stretch a bit to do this) and then push it in over itself. I then turn the ball a quarter clockwise in my hands and repeat the process.
Smooth and elastic means your dough has a smooth outer appearance and when you poke it, it springs back at you. I also like the ‘bubblegum test’, where you stretch a small piece of the dough and if you can create a window, a bit like when you stretch bubblegum out, it’s ready!
Store bought pizza sauce is great, but it’s so easy to make your own quickly. Heat a little oil in a pot over a low heat, add 2 tins of whole peeled tomatoes, a big pinch of dried oregano and half a teaspoon of each salt and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it all breaks down. Let cool completely before using.
Alternatively, get creative with your sauces! I love pesto, bechamel and even just a quick brush of olive oil are all delicious options.