How To Make The Perfect Pizza

Pizza in New Zealand is so often a disappointment. But don’t worry, here’s PAT PILCHER to show you how to do it just right – how to make the perfect pizza!

 

How To Make The Perfect Pizza
A perfect slice of homemade pizza

Soggy, bready, stodgy pizza bases, slathered in sweet yet bland pizza sauce and cheap cheddar. It’s the way we do things in NZ, as much of the Western world.

All of this pizza horribleness is usually groaning under the weight of an improbable amount of toppings that transforms an already lacklustre experience into a confusing mess. (And don’t get me started on the pineapple!)

Here’s the thing. Making a really good pizza isn’t difficult. The real irony is that pizza isn’t actually fast food in the common use of the phrase. You’ll need to set aside an hour or two the day before you’re wanting pizza to get a delicious light and crispy pizza base. While this sounds like a lot of fuss and bother, I promise you that the tiny amount of effort needed up-front will pay huge dividends.

You’ll need some simple tools:

 

Cooking equipment

Pizza stone

Pizza wheel

2-3 bowls

Tin opener

Oven

Blender

These are inexpensive and can be bought through most kitchen stores as a one-off purchase.

 

Ingredients (Pizza Base)

The all-important ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make my favourite and perhaps one of the simplest pizzas – the Margherita

110g of warm water

1x teaspoon dried instant yeast

200g flour

½ teaspoon of salt

15-20g olive oil

 

Ingredients (Pizza Sauce)

1 x 400g tin of whole tomatoes in juice

1 clove of fresh garlic, finely chopped

Pinch of salt

Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

 

Ingredients (Topping)

Fresh Mozerella in brine (not dried)

Chilli flakes (optional)

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Olive oil

 

Method (Pizza Base)

How To Make The Perfect Pizza
An oiled bowl

Make the dough a day before you want to eat the pizza. Doing this allows for the yeast to work its magic on the flour by rising for several hours at room temperature and then overnight at a much slower rate in the fridge.

An extended cooler rise in the fridge allows the yeast to react with the sugars/starches in the flour to release a small amount of alcohol and co2, which makes for a light dough that crisps up with delicious crusty yeasty flavours. Don’t leave the dough to rise any longer than overnight as you’ll end up with a dry dense unpleasant base.

The dough is kneaded and ready to rise

Grease a large bowl using a good slug of olive oil. Set the bowl aside.

Using another bowl, pour in the lukewarm water and add the yeast. Gently give it a single stir and leave it to sit for 10-15 minutes. This activates the yeast so it can do its thing with the flour.

Add in the flour, salt and olive oil and mix using a fork (or blender with dough attachment) until a dough forms into a sticky ball.

Knead dough until it starts to feel smooth, adding in small amounts of flour as you knead until the dough is no longer sticky.

Transfer the kneaded dough to the oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave in a shady but warm spot covered for 1-2 hours until the dough doubles in size (1 hour on a warmer day and 2 hours if it’s cooler).

How To Make The Perfect Pizza
The dough covered and left to rise

Covering the bowl with glad-wrap or an airtight lid, transfer the dough to the fridge and leave overnight (using an airtight lid or glad-wrap will stop the dough from forming a dried crust, which makes shaping it into a pizza more difficult later on). This is the slow rise phase which will give you the incredible crusty taste and crisp, chewy texture that can be the difference between a good and a great pizza

 

The Following Day

Remove the dough from the fridge and leave covered on a bench out of direct sunlight for an hour to warm up.

Dough is left overnight to double in size

Putting the pizza stone in your oven, set the temperature to 250c and preheat on fan bake.

Empty tin of tomatoes into a bowl.

Finely slice the garlic.

Add the garlic, salt and olive oil to the tomatoes.

Blitz in a blender until the sauce is smooth.

Cover the bowl of smoothly blended sauce and set aside for 30 min so the sauce flavours can develop.

Using a clean fork, place a ball of fresh Mozzarella in a covered colander to drain for 30 minutes.

Tip the pizza dough out of the oiled bowl onto a floured and clean work surface.

Using the tips of your fingers prod the dough’s surface into a rough flat circle that is 2-7 mm thick, leaving the edges of the dough (which will form the pizza crust).

Creating an arch with your hands, place the flattened pizza dough over the top of your hands.

Gently stretch and turn the pizza base by opening the arch with the back of your hands, being careful not to let the dough get too thin or tear.

Remove the pizza stone from the oven (be careful as it will be extremely hot) and place it on its stand on the work surface. You will need to move quickly as you don’t want the pizza stone to cool down.

Use a serving spoon, drop a dollop of pizza sauce onto the centre of the pizza and spread it out in a spiral using the rounded underside of the spoon. Repeat until the pizza base is covered, but not drowning in sauce (leave the edges uncovered).

Tearing the mozzarella into pieces scatter over the pizza to evenly cover.

If you wish, lightly sprinkle chilli flakes over the pizza.

Add toppings and sauce

Slide the pizza stone into the oven, closing the oven door.

Change oven settings from fan bake to top and bottom grill or bake (check your oven’s manual for its recommended pizza cooking settings).

Set a timer for 5 minutes.

Check to see if the top of the pizza is cooked (it should have golden patches). Gently lift a section of the pizza to make sure its underside is cooked.

Once cooked, remove the pizza from the oven, scatter basil leaves over the top.

Leave to cool for 1-2 minutes.

Slice and serve.

The delectable finished item!

Buon appetito!

 

 

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