Perfect pizza

Perfect pizza

  • makes 4
  • A little effort

Follow these simple steps and you'll have homemade pizzas that put any takeaway to shame

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Thin, crisp dough with a bubbly, slightly chewy crust; stretchy, molten cheese; and a rich tomato sauce… nothing beats a top-notch pizza. Making your own pizza dough isn’t perhaps the quickest recipe in the world (it needs time to do its thing) but it’s definitely worth making if you want that perfect, light-as-a-feather crust. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make absolutely perfect pizzas without needing a sourdough starter or bread oven – a hot frying pan and grill will do just as well.


How to make pizza

The poolish

A poolish is effectively a starter, as used when making sourdough, but using baker’s yeast. Using a poolish instead of adding dried yeast straight into the dough means there’s less yeast in the recipe overall, so the dough will take longer to rise (which makes it stronger, more elastic and better at retaining water). This long rising time makes for a light and bubbly dough, which will guarantee big, irregular blisters in the crust and just the right amount of chew. The long prove also gives the yeast more time to break down the flour, making for a golden, caramelised crust.

Mixing at the start

It’s important to really work the dough once the salt has been incorporated. The dough hook (or your hand) breaks the gluten bonds and realigns them into long chains, which allows the dough to rise and become bubbly.

Stretching and folding

Holding a corner of the dough, stretching it up and folding it over on itself builds strength, tension and elasticity. It also stops too many large air bubbles from forming.

Polenta/flour mix

This is quite a wet dough, so you’ll need to use some flour to stop it sticking to the worksurface and hands. When it’s time to move the pizza into the frying pan, the polenta acts like tiny ball bearings, sliding the dough easily into the hot pan. The polenta also gives a nutty, crunchy base to the bottom of the cooked pizza.

Shaping

Using your fist at the beginning of the shaping process helps spread the dough out evenly. Once the dough base is large enough, you can start using your hands to manipulate it into a bigger circle. Keep your fingers together (the idea is to create a large, flat surface) so that you don’t tear the dough or poke holes through it. Don’t worry if you do make a mistake, though – just pinch the dough back together to seal the tear. Remember not to push on the edge of the dough base though – you don’t want to pop any lovely bubbles in that crust.

Frying pan/grill

When using this method instead of a conventional oven it’s important to use aggressive heat. Direct contact with a very hot pan will give you the crispest, most delicious pizza base. The weight of the toppings keeps the middle flat, while the crust inflates around it – watch as those huge, hollow blisters form. A flash under the grill will caramelise the crust and pepperoni, and will also serve to melt the cheese and bubble the tomato sauce.


Pepperoni pizza recipe

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Ingredients

POOLISH

  • strong white bread flour 150g
  • fast-action dried yeast 1/8 tsp or a large pinch

DOUGH

  • strong white bread flour 500g, plus extra for dusting
  • extra-virign olive oil 2 tbsp, plus extra for the bowl
  • fine sea salt 1 tbsp
  • polenta a handful mixed with a handful of strong white bread flour

SAUCE

  • plum tomatoes 400g tin
  • tomato purée 1 tbsp
  • caster sugar ½ tsp
  • black peppercorns ground to make ½ tsp
  • red wine vinegar ½ tbsp

TOPPINGS

  • mozzarella 250g ball, drained
  • pepperoni 32 slices
  • basil a handful of leaves
  • extra-virgin olive oil to serve

Method

  • Step 1

    The night before pizza-making day, make the poolish by mixing together the flour and yeast with 150ml of lukewarm water. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave overnight. It should be very bubbly by the morning.

  • Step 2

    To make the dough, tip the poolish, flour, olive oil and 275ml of lukewarm water into a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Mix on low for 5 minutes until the flour is fully incorporated. Alternatively, mix together in a large bowl really well with clean hands until there is no unmixed flour left

  • Step 3

    Leave for 20 minutes, then tip in the salt with 2 tbsp more lukewarm water and mix for another 5 minutes – it should be a smooth, combined dough that has started to come away from the sides of the bowl. Alternatively, use clean, wet hands to stretch, pull and knead the dough for 10 minutes on a floured worksurface until it becomes a stretchy, single piece of dough.

  • Step 4

    Tip into a lightly oiled bowl and leave, covered with a clean tea towel, to prove for 3-4 hours, giving it a stretch and fold every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours (gently pull up one side of the dough with wet hands and fold it over the rest of the dough. Turn 90 degrees and repeat three times). Leave the dough until nearly doubled in size and is really bubbly.

  • Step 5

    Turn out onto a floured worksurface and divide into four equal pieces. Shape into four tight balls and at this point you have two choices: 1) leave the dough at room temperature for another 2 hours, lightly dusted with flour and covered with a clean tea towel, after which it is ready to cook; or 2) put the balls into a flat container or onto a plate, sprinkle with flour, then cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Remove from the fridge 2 hours before cooking to reach room temperature.

  • Step 6

    For the sauce, tip the tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, pepper and some seasoning into a food processor. Whizz until smoothish. Add the vinegar, mix and check the seasoning.

  • Step 7

    To shape the pizzas, sprinkle a chopping board with the polenta/flour mix, take one of the dough balls, sprinkle liberally with more polenta/flour, then gently use your fist to spread the ball wider, taking care not to push on the very edge of the ball. Gently press and stretch the dough, turning it so that it becomes an even circle roughly the same size as the base of the frying pan.

  • Step 8

    Heat a large, non-stick, ovenproof frying pan over a high heat and heat the grill to high, with a rack at the top. Once the frying pan is very hot, carefully slide the dough circle into the pan and, working quickly, spoon on some of the tomato sauce, swirling it to the edge, tear over some of the mozzarella and place the pepperoni slices on top. Cook on the hob, carefully lifting the base with a spatula every few minutes to check that the dough has crisped up and charred in places. Put the pan under the grill and cook until puffed, bubbling and charred. Carefully slide the pizza out of the pan, sprinkle over the basil leaves and drizzle with oil. Repeat with the remaining dough and toppings.

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Nutritional Information

  • Kcals 915
  • Fat 26.3g
  • Saturates 12.3g
  • Carbs 130.8g
  • Sugars 5.4g
  • Fibre 6.6g
  • Protein 35.6g
  • Salt 4.9g
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