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Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Chris can’t cook… yet! Home-made pizza

Welcome back to Chris Can’t Cook… Yet! This time – Chris is amazed at the alchemy of bread (well pizza dough) making. For those unfamiliar with Chris, he’s 31 years old, a kitchen novice, and here telling the story, in his own words, of his food awakening.

So if you know someone like Chris who would like to get into cooking, please send this on, or get them to sign up to our newsletter. Happy reading, Jenny

Lesson 4: Home-made pizza

So far in my culinary awakening I’ve been shown over and over that making food yourself, from scratch like, makes all the difference to the taste and the price. With that in mind, I wanted to tackle a regular favourite of mine – the pizza.

Whenever I have mates over to watch a movie or to play a bit of PlayStation, we normally  order a couple of dial-a-dinner pizzas. This does the job of keeping us fed, but is basically fast food, very stodgy and quite greasy, leaving us full but lethargic (and therefore unable to a/ stay awake to watch the next film, or b/ conquer whoever we’re battling on screen).

The challenge – to learn to make a proper pizza. A thin, crispy and tasty one that won’t slow down the console action!

Alchemy!

Jenny and I started out by making pizza dough from flour, dried yeast and warm water. Jenny explained how we needed to use warm water (blood temperature) to activate the yeast . I couldn’t quite get my head round this part, but apparently when you add the warm water to the dried yeast it awakens the organisms that makes the dough rise. Does this mean it is not ‘alive’ when in powder form? I’m creating life just to make a pizza! My mates best appreciate my divine efforts….

Did I say I was up for a work-out?!

Anyway, this is where things got physical. The yeast/water mix is added to flour with more water and some olive oil and salt to make the dough. We then knead it for about 10 minutes, which is just enough time to knacker you out, especially if Jenny is stood there shouting like a boot camp leader on Greenwich Park! Our lovely, soft, elastic pillow of dough is now ready to be placed in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with clingfilm and left to ‘prove’. It takes about half an hour for the magic to happen, the dough ball will just about double in size.

Knocked up? No, knocked back

Now it’s time to make a sauce for the pizza base using chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, dried basil and oregano which we reduced down on the hob to drive out lots of the liquid. With that done the now huge dough ball gets ‘knocked back’, which involves punching all the air out of the poor fella and kneading again for a minute or so.

To bake off, I cut the dough into two balls and rolled and spread them out on oiled baking trays. Cover with the sauce and add whatever toppings you want. I went with some chopped garlic, buffalo mozzarella, sun ripened tomatoes, chilli oil and young spinach also known as a Chris Byrne special! 7-8 minutes in a very hot oven and it was ready to serve.

My perfect pizza, crisp and thin as you like with the perfect combo of fresh toppings, left Chris CAN cook a very happy lad.


The recipe

Makes 2 large pizzas

INGREDIENTS

For the pizza dough:
225g strong white bread flour or ’00′ flour
7g dried easy bake yeast
150ml luke warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
A small pinch of salt

For the topping:
200g tinned chopped tomatoes
A pinch of dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato puree
4 slices Parma ham
1 ball of good buffalo mozzarella
A handful of rocket leaves
Chilli oil for finishing

METHOD

1. For the pizza dough: Sift the flour into a bowl. Place the yeast in a cup and pour a little of the water over to get it activated. Pour the yeast mixture and almost all of the remaining water into the flour and quickly combine to with a wooden spoon. If there is still dry crumb in the bottom of the bowl add the remaining water before you bring the mixture together with your hands. You’re looking for a nice soft dough.

2. Knead the bread for about 8 minutes till smooth and elastic (you can use the dough hook on a food mixer if you have one).

3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.

4. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a pan with the tomato puree and oregano. Reduce over a mid-high heat until the mixture is drier with much of the liquid evaporated.

5. Preheat the oven to its highest setting – around 240 C.

6. Divide the dough into two balls and roll out on a floured surface into large rounds or rectangles. This dough is best used for very thin pizzas so roll as thin as you can without tearing.

7. Transfer to lightly oiled baking sheets (or your pizza stone!) and stretch out further as the dough will tend to spring back on itself.

8. Spoon a thin layer of the tomato mixture onto each pizza. Tear pieces of mozzarella and dot around the pizzas then drape torn bits of Parma ham on top.

9. Bake the pizza for 8-10 mins (depending on how thin they are) until the crust is golden brown and the dough in the centre is cooked.

10. To serve, place rocket leaves over the pizza and drizzle with as much chilli oil as you like!

Hope this one works out for you… let me know how you get on. Or, book an Ginger Jar Italian cookery lesson and we’ll run you through it in person!

Next time: Chilli with guacamole & salsa

Next time on Chris Can’t Cook… Yet! I teach Chris to make chilli con carne with all the trimmings. I like it with jacket wedges, so we had those, Chris needs the classic long grain rice, and we all wanted a few nachos, some guacamole and a spicy salsa…

See you soon, Jenny

Pizza Home-made pizza with parma ham, rocket and mozzarella
 

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