TAILOR-MADE TREAT Making your own pizza is fun – and it won’t taste like cardboard.
After a recent long beach trip, I was looking for a lazy dinner. There were some nice-looking pizzas in a supermarket chill cabinet, just the ticket. The frozen pizzas I sometimes have with the kids are fine. These were not. Zero flavour. A cardboard base topped with plastic cheese. My wife, not a fussy person, gave hers to the dog. The dog didn’t go mad with joy. To exorcise the horror, I decided to make my own pizza.
Italian chefs say the only authentic pizza comes from Naples. Absolutely. But since most of us can’t zip to Naples for dinner, I think it’s okay to have a go at making our own. The biggest obstacle for home cooks is the lack of a wood-burning oven that reaches temperatures over 400°C. Just heat your oven to its highest for an hour before the pizza goes in, and heat the baking trays too; it’ll still be great.
My friend Patrick O’Reilly, the talented baker, set up the pizza bar at Gracy’s restaurant in Westport House. He warns: Pizza is easy to make, but it’s not quick. It is, however, very enjoyable and if you have children they will be happy to help!
Patrick advises adding olive oil to your dough, and a bit of honey – it gives a nice, caramelised brownness to your base. The cheapest mozzarella is best – the expensive Buffalo is watery and will make the base soggy. The toppings? Up to you!
What you need
- Two tablespoons of olive oil
- A white onion, chopped
- Four garlic cloves, crushed
- Two 400ml tins of chopped tomatoes
- A teaspoon of sea salt
- A teaspoon of sugar
- A teaspoon of dried oregano
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
(Make two 12-inch pizza bases)
- 550g 00 (strong) flour (plain flour will not do)
- A 7g sachet of dried yeast
- One teaspoon of table salt
- One tablespoon of honey
- 320ml warm water
- A glug of olive oil
- One ball of the cheaper (harder) mozzarella, grated
- Choose from anchovies, olives, salami, goat’s cheese, parma ham, rocket, peppers – whatever takes your fancy
What you do
Preheat your oven to full blast for an hour before the pizza goes in. For the sauce, sauté the onion in the olive oil in a saucepan. When translucent, add the garlic. Sauté carefully; don’t let it brown. Pour in the tinned tomatoes. Add the salt, sugar, oregano and thyme sprigs. Simmer on a low heat for about an hour to reduce. At the end, remove the thyme sprigs. Blitz the sauce if you like.
For the dough, sieve the flour, and add the salt. In a separate jug, mix the water, yeast, honey and olive oil and give the yeast three minutes to activate.
Pour the wet mix into the dry ingredients, and gently stir with a wooden spoon. Next, use your hands to mix and knead the dough for ten minutes. Patrick advises setting an alarm for this – less time and the dough won’t be right. It should be elastic but not overly sticky.
Next, place the dough in a bowl, cover with a damp tea towel, and leave to proof for at least one hour and until the dough has doubled in size.
Take it out and knead again for a few minutes. Divide in two, and roll on a floured surface until you have what look like bases. (Instead of two larger pizzas, you can make lots of “pizzette” or baby pizzas – kids love these.)
Lightly oil the baking dishes and dust with flour. Top the bases with your tomato sauce, grated cheese and toppings of choice. Less is more here.
Bake until done. The timing really depends on your oven. It might take 20 minutes for a twelve-inch pizza, or a lot less. Keep an eye on them. Little pizzettes should be done in under five minutes.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.