I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like pizza, who has a pizza-aversion so to speak. I suppose it is a pretty easy food to love because it is so versatile and can be so delicious and even healthy!
The origins of the pizza is not as straightforward like we would like it to be – it all came from Italy. No. Apparently foods similar to the humble pizza have been prepared since the Neolithic age (last part of the Stone Age) and in different countries. There is the Greeks’ flatbread consisting of large round and flat breads covered with some oil, salt and herbs. Then the focaccia, the pita bread, the paratha (Indian), the naan (Asian), the roti, the rieska (Finnish) and many more! And throughout Europe there was also the flat pastry with cheese, vegetables and seasoning such as the Flammkuchen, the Zwiebelkuchen and the lovely quiche which I have already written about in a previous blog.
In some parts of Italy a flatbread was referred to as a pizza and was known as the dish for poor people and not considered a kitchen recipe for a long time. Only later – in the 19th century – oil, tomatoes and cheese were added. Interesting though was that the dish was sweet, not savoury, to start with!
A bit tired of the bought-type pizzas we recently followed one of Rachel Allen’s recipes for Homemade Pizzas and it was a huge success I might add. Not only was everyone making his or her own pizza, but it was a very sociable evening in the kitchen with lots of fun and laughter.
Her basic recipe for pizza dough makes about six pizzas. I doubled the recipe and that worked out fine. This is the basic recipe:
350g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp caster sugar
1 x 7g sachet fast-acting yeast
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
175 – 200 ml lukewarm water
Plain flour, semolina or fine polenta for dusting
– Place the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, add the yeast and mix together. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the oil and most of the water and mix to a loose dough. Add more water or flour if needed.
– Transfer the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured work surface, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
– Uncover and knead the dough for 10 minutes or until it feels smooth and slightly springy. You can also do this in an electric food mixer with the dough hook attachment for half the time. Let the dough relax again for a few minutes, covered with the tea towel.
– Shape the dough into six equally sized balls, each weighing about 110g. Lightly brush the dough balls with olive oil.
– Cover the oiled dough with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. The dough will be easier to handle when cold but it can also be used immediately.
– Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius (450F), Gas mark 8.
– Place 1 or 2 baking sheets in the oven to heat up.
– On a floured work surface, roll each dough ball out to a disc about 25cm in diameter. Place each pizza base on a cold baking sheet (with no edges so that the pizza can slide off) that has been dusted with flour, semolina or fine polenta to prevent it from sticking.
– Spread the tomato sauce on and scatter with your own toppings (see below).
– Slide each pizza off the cool baking sheet onto a hot sheet in the oven and cook for about 5-10minutes, depending on the thickness of the pizza and heat of the oven. The pizza need to be golden underneath and bubbling on top.
Toppings we used:
– Tomato puree as a base or you can make your own tomato sauce with tomatoes and garlic or onions.
– Chorizo or any salami thinly sliced
– Mozzarella cheese mixed with cheddar or Gruyere or on its own
– Basil leaves
– Cherry tomatoes cut into half
– Pieces of ham
– Spices and herbs
Our youngest had an interesting take on his pizza. He would spread tomato puree as the base, add some slices of chorizo and top it with….wait for it….syrup! So maybe the sweet idea of the pizza isn’t so bizarre after all.