What’s the most disappointed you’ve ever felt about something? What’s your all time ‘ahh rats’ feeling? Maybe it’s when you drop your smart phone down the toilet or maybe it’s when you accidentally run over your neighbours dog/kid/beach ball? My ‘ahhh rats’ feeling has always been Pizza related.
I’ve had some good pizza in my time and in different parts of the world – most recently in my Sister’s home town of Taranto, Italy and before that in a town called Noosa, Eastern Australia. But I’ve had some stinkers, and in places that really should have been blowing my mind….New York and Rome of all places spring to mind!
Maybe it’s just me, Pizza has a special place in my heart for no other reason than I dearly love it and when you’ve had good pizza anything slightly below par, for me is akin to being cracked on your bare butt cheek with a wet towel whilst standing naked in the snow….in February.
I get very cranky about pizza, in truth I never eat pizza out or get it delivered I make my own (and I get very cranky with myself if I get it wrong….which on occasion I do). I’ve been making pizza regularly for 10 years, but from time to time little things go wrong…base is too thick, sauce is too thin, salami is bland, Mozzarella is too dry…..getting one of these wrong and the whole pizza house of cards comes tumbling down!
Making pizza is akin to planetary alignment if you wanna get it right and stay away from the ‘ahh, it’s OK’ sentiment. Heat, moisture, seasoning, simplicity – I don’t wanna put anyone off trying Pizza baking, you should, even if you get it wrong, it’s good for your soul….just be aware you might end up decorating you kitchen walls with the ones that don’t measure up……..or is that just me? My kitchen was, for a long time was like Francis Bacon’s work studio…a maelstrom of creative frustration, failure and minor success.
Like all baking, Pizza is about the feel of things. I can give you a million recipes for a million different pizzas but there are only really two things that you have to feel with your heart…1. The base and 2. the red sauce.
250grams strong white bread flour
7 grams dried yeast
150 grams luke warm water
Semolina flour for scattering
10 grams salt
Mix the yeast and water and let stand for about 5 minutes. Mix the salt with the flour then add the yeast mixture, combine to a dough then knead for 15 minutes (no less). Form into a ball, oil, sling in a big bowl, cling and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour.
After 1 hour the dough will have risen to at least 2-3 times it’s original size. Punch it. Get the air out of it and form into your preferred shape – square, circle, triangle…whatever, the more rough assed it looks the better. If you a want a think a crispy base, you need to stretch the dough down to at least 2mils……and believe me, you do want think and crispy.
Tomato (red) sauce
I agonised over this for years and years, I would make a paste of red onion, garlic, herbs, oils and fry it off a little like you would a curry paste. I would then add the chopped tomatoes and cook out for hours. In truth, it’s a great method and produces a great red sauce….but what an effort!
Try this instead:
1 carton chopped tomatoes
2 good squeezes of tomato puree
2 tps garlic salt
1 tbs dried oregano
a few torn basil leaves
1 tbs white wine vinegar
Take all of the above and bring to a boil in a pan, reduce and simmer for 5 minutes. Pass through a strainer and let cool.
That’s it – everything else is window dressing…..but keep it simple. For my sins I went to Millers pizza in Dublin about 8 years ago and ordered a simple salami pizza, what arrived looked like a 3 star Michelin chef has made love to it, towers and turrets of meat, herb flowers, cheese strings draped everywhere….the only thing missing was a couple of Unicorns and a fairy playing a lute……bye, bye!!