Nothing especially original or interesting here, but I wanted to post as it’s been a while, so as we had this (or rather these, this was just one of them!) yesterday, I thought I’d blog it.
Hold on, what am I saying? Nothing interesting? When isn’t a freshly made pizza interesting!? Straight out of the oven, cheese starting to brown in places, salami crisping up and giving off little pools of red oil. The crust starting to blacken and bubble…
The base was the same sourdough that I talked about a couple of blogs back (this one here). Actually, the starter went ‘funny’ last week, like it did some years ago, and the bread was starting to ‘pancake’. The lovely big air bubbles were shrinking and I sadly thought that was that. But I got in touch with the very talented and extremely helpful Dan Lepard, an author of numerous bread baking books and Australia’s answer to ‘Paul Hollywood’ (Dan is from the UK but he’s one of the judges on the Aussie version of ‘Bake Off’) who after bumping into at a gig in Balham a couple of years back has since been very supportive of my baking efforts and has even helped to promote my shows. Anyway, he gave me some pointers (I was using too much rye flour in the starter’s ‘refreshment’, and a bit too much water amongst other things) and after a week of nurturing my ferment like it was a poorly pet, everything was back to normal. Better in fact.
So yesterday, having made another batch of dough, (and still having a whole loaf from the day before only just started), I decided to make half of it into a small loaf and to use the other half for pizzas, inspired by my cousin Benj who’d made sourdough pizzas a week or so before. Benj said he’d had trouble with the bases sticking to the peel and confidently, cockily perhaps, I thought that a generous sprinkling of flour and polenta under mine would solve that schoolboy error. But the heat of the warm tomato sauce turned the dry floury lubricant into a sticky paste that dashed my cavalier hopes. The first one was a bitch to get into the oven, glued to the peel, stubborn as a textbook mule. But I came up with a solution: Get the base into the oven for 30-45 seconds, bare, straight onto the baking stone (or in my case the cast iron Welsh thing I found at a car boot some years back) to firm it up and dry it out just enough to stop the sticking, then back out, toppings on and back in to cook. Problem solved. And my goodness the crust was good – chewy, substantial, puffy, charred here and there. Delicious, and it looked quite ‘the business’.
The pizzas were simple: Tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil leaves dipped in oil and a scattering of Napoli salami, and then a bit more oil and parmesan at the end.
You probably don’t need it, but just so you have it, here’s the tomato sauce recipe.
Basic Tomato Sauce (for pizza, pasta, or a million other things)
Olive Oil (about 3 tablespoons, maybe more)
1 Red Onion (very finely chopped)
4 Cloves Garlic (thinly sliced)
Bunch of basil stalks (chopped)
Dried Oregano (about a teaspoon or so)
Dried Chilli (a pinch)
2 Tins Plum Tomatoes
Tomato Puree (A big squeeze)
salt and lots of black pepper
Gently fry the onion in the oil until softened before adding the garlic. Keep the heat low so you don’t burn it as that’s horrible.
After a minute or so, add the basil stalks, oregano and chilli, followed by the tomatoes and tomato puree. Break up the tomatoes a bit, or a lot (but I like them chunky), add lots of black pepper and a pinch of salt, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30-40 mins, stirring every now and then and adding a splash of water if it gets too dry.
That’s it. And you all know how to make a pizza of course, but my tips are:
• don’t use too much topping (not a lot of tomato sauce and no more than three other things. Keep it simple)
• have the oven as hot as it’ll go
• use a baking stone and a peel if you can (or a heavy baking sheet)
• press out the dough by hand and don’t try and make circles
• wait for a couple of minutes when it comes out of the oven or it’ll take off the roof of your mouth