an ode to a pizza.

a pizza would be the ideal comfort food, finger food or even a date food. but how on earth can it be home food? of course it can be. so says my 10 year old, as she plasters her portion of dough ball on to the kitchen counter. i don’t disagree a bit, why compromise on a doughy flat bread topped with stingy bits of meat and clumps of cheese that come in soggy boxed cartons. move on. let’s take our pizza home.

what goes in:

all purpose flour   –       250g
fresh yeast     –       13g
gluten          –       4g
improver        –       4g
water           –       140ml

about what goes in:

i used to make dough without gluten and improver. i was quite satisfied with the results. but i should tell you this. i get this satiny finish dough with proper rise after using improver and gluten. i prefer fresh yeast to active dry yeast. just enquire at your local baker. i use the brand ‘Tower’ which comes in 500g blocks. it should be refrigerated. it doesn’t keep well. so use it up. my last block started to bloom after a month or so in the refrigerator. blame the power cuts for that. about improver and gluten, they give power to the dough, help it rise properly and hold it’s shape while oven spring. always use a digital scale to measure the ingredients. 4g approximately translates into just less than a teaspoon.

kneading:

no. you can’t skip this step. forget all those no-knead-breads. Our breads should rise, fall, and rise again. just like us. and who would miss a chance to feel the flour as it transforms into an elastic pliable dough with your every stretch. The satiny yolk, as it slides through your fingers. Who wouldn’t want to be one with the elements. So knead.

in an electric stand mixer (or for that matter, in any food processor with a dough hook) mix up the dry ingredients first in speed 1 and after a few seconds, start pouring in the water little by little. pour half of the water and let the machine run in speed 2. pour in more water and increase the speed to 4. add rest of the water and keep it going for say 5 – 7 minutes. the dough should be elastic and should have this glossy finish.

in hand kneading, the process is technically the same. gradually mix in the water. it would be slightly loose than a chappathi (indian flat bread) dough. its fun and very therapeutic as you get to beat in your stress and mix it with the dough. knead for around 8 minutes or so. pushing the dough out with your palm and bringing it together.

proofing:

just slide the dough bowl inside a fresh garbage bin liner, puff it up and tuck the edges in. leave it there for say around one to one and a half hr. the dough should rise double in volume at least. once you touch it, it shouldn’t stick to your finger and should spring back slowly.

turn the bowl over and let the dough fall on a floured work surface. the 250g flour dough should give you 4 medium pizza bases. so divide the rolled up dough into 4. roll up the dough into a circle as thin as possible with a rolling pin. and leave on the floured counter top for another half n hour.

drizzle olive oil on your baking tray and straight away pop in the base. you can freeze this base for about a month or so also, for instant pizza.

about filling:

i use whatever left over stuff in the refrigerator. improvise on your toppings. just take care to drain out all the water content from the topping.

the sauce:

you can buy it off shelf. Better still, make your own with fresh basil, parsley, rosemary, dil, and all those exotic herbs and veggies everyday!

tomato-basil pizza sauce

tomato          –       blanched, 1kg
fresh basil     –       some 50 g or as much as u like
garlic          –       as much u like
olive oil

blitz the blanched, skinned tomatoes with half basil in a blender. chop up the garlic. saute the garlic in olive oil and pour in the tomato puree. season with salt. let it simmer for half n hour and add in the rest of chopped basil. substitute basil with the herb/herbs of your choice. cool the sauce and bottle it after topping it up with a good layer of olive oil. use it up in 2 weeks or so.

baking:

top the base only just before baking. pour a good dollop of sauce, tip in the toppings, grate in the cheese. season the toppings accordingly. bake in a preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes at 200 degree.

to freeze the base, bake one base at a time in a preheated oven at 200 degree for 5 minutes or so. the dough will firm up but wont cook completely. cool the dough and freeze it in ziplock pouch.

invest in a pizza cutter. don’t shy. trust me.

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