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A slice of the action

Posted by: Richard Abbey
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Celebrate National Pizza Day in true Italian style – this recipe, from Salvo’s Restaurant in Leeds, is a great place to start.

 

Pizza is one of the world’s favourite foods. From Headingley to Helsinki, it needs no further explanation whatever the language.

Little surprise then that there are thousands of versions and modifications to the original flour, yeast, salt and water recipe. But I find this original one the most satisfying.

The best pizza is baked directly on stone and uses simple but good ingredients. Anyone who has eaten a pizza margherita in Campania would agree that magic happens when San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, mozzarella and basil or oregano in the right quantities are baked at the right temperature by a pizzaiolo of note.

If you do not happen to have an oven that can reach a very high temperature and with a stone floor (preferably volcanic tufo from the Vesuvio area) your homemade pizza will be an approximate version of the real thing. It may even be tasty but the time taken to cook it in a conventional oven means it cannot hit the spot properly.

The recipe and method here is the nearest I get to a proper Neapolitan pizza. It is light, tender and made to be wolfed down immediately! Once you have made the dough you can knock a pizza out in ten minutes.

You will need a strong North American type flour like Manitoba with a high protein/gluten content and some ‘00’ flour.

The dough is a 24-hour slow fermentation recipe so it is made the day before. This helps develop the flavour and makes the dough easier to manipulate. It freezes well so this recipe will make around eight balls which defrost and are ready to bake in one hour.

You will need some tomato sugo. In Italy we use raw plum tomatoes, either fresh or tinned but not cooked. A thicker sauce is called for here to avoid the base becoming too soggy.

The mozzarella can be cow’s milk or bufala and should be well-drained and patted dry.

Set your oven to 275?C or the highest setting. The most important piece of equipment will be a 25cm/10-inch heavy cast iron or Le Creuset pan with a lid. This will be put to work as your hot, fast pizza oven!

 

Makes 8 small pizzas

Ingredients

450g strong bread flour (12-14 per cent gluten) 

200g ‘00’ flour

400g cold water

20g salt

6g fresh yeast

Olive oil

 

For the topping:

16 tablespoons of tomato sugo (refer to recipe on page 40

320g mozzarella

Olive oil

8 basil leaves

 

Method

Make the dough like you would bread dough. In a bowl, first dissolve the yeast in the water, add the salt then the flour, half first then the rest. Knead well for 20 minutes until soft and pliable. If you have a food processor it will take a lot less time. It should be pliable but not sticky – add more flour if necessary. Keeping everything cool means the proving process doesn’t start too soon as we will rest it before baking.

Divide the dough into eight (approx. 130g) and roll into balls. Dust a tray with flour and cover with a tight-fitting lid or clingfilm.

Leave in the fridge for 24 hours. Take out the ones you are going to use to get to temperature for an hour and put the rest in the freezer. When they are semi-frozen you can individually wrap them in clingfilm.

Next make the pizza. Using the heel of your hand, gently flatten out the dough ball, trying to keep the round shape. Do not fold any part of the dough onto itself. You can use a rolling pin at this stage as we do not need a thick edge for a raised crust. Roll out to 25cm/10 inches.

Heat the heavy pan on the stove while you are rolling the pizza out. When it is very hot pour a tablespoon of olive oil into it then carefully lay the base into the pan. It will cover the bottom completely.

Put the lid on, turn the heat down and carefully shake the pan around.

The little bit of oil in the pan gives that side of the base a lightly sautéed appearance. When it is flipped over the other side will be fluffy but dry of oil.

The base takes just two minutes on each side. Lift the base up on the corner after 30 seconds or so to check it is not burning (Yes, I know a circle doesn’t have corners but you get my drift!).

Flip the pizza base on to an oven tray and repeat if you are making two.

Spread two large tablespoons of the tomato sugo and 40g mozzarella on each. Dress with olive oil and a couple of basil leaves and put into a hot oven at 275?C for five minutes until the cheese has melted.

 

Taken from the book My Family and Other Italians, by Gip and John Dammone. Published by RMC Books.

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