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
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.
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.
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.
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