Dad’s Pizza is the best
Saturday night growing up with dad was always special. Pizza night, not just any pizza, but his homemade pizza for which he had a passion and a talent. We never found its equal outside the home. When it was ready, dad would shout through the house for us to come down. If we didn’t ASAP he would not be too pleased.
It was all about timing, not least of all the minute we were all sat, the pizza would emerge from the Aga, and Frank Sinatra’s “It’s Nice to Go trav’ling” would start on the CD player. He lit candles, in fact he did everything, and the moment the words “get my slippers, make a pizza” came on we were allowed to attack his masterpiece of the week. Between bites, dad put the next one in the oven as they were consumed with ferocity and increasing hunger. Dad wrote and photographed the following for this blog:
Dad’s basic pizza
Bernard Shaw said that the greatest love is the love of food. I’d narrow that down a bit to the greatest love being the love of pizza, that is, of course, the love of homemade pizza, not ‘buy in a box pizza’.
There’s something satisfying about making things yourself rather than getting it off the shelf. Making a pizza from scratch, pizza dough and all, is just that, even if you mess it up, which I have many times.
Anyway, here’s the way I make a pizza:
Ingredients:Makes 4 large pizzas.
For the dough
1 lb 2 oz of white flour. Funnily, I find the cheapest is best.
1 sachet of fast acting yeast
About 10 fl oz of ‘baby bath’ temperature water
A pinch of sugar (what you can ‘pinch’ between your thumb and first 2 fingers) A splash of olive oil (quick tilt of the bottle)
Tin of chopped tomatoes blended in a mixer or hand mixed and mashed with garlic and salt to taste
Pinch dried chilli flakes
Squirt of tomato paste or even better, dried tomatoes
1 ball of mozzarella per pizza.
Pepperoni or chorizo slices
Dried or fresh oregano
Making the dough
Knead the dough ingredients into a dough ball. You can do this by hand or use a mixer with a dough hook. Make sure you add the water slowly (not all in one go) to the dry ingredients until they come together into a nice ball. Do not add salt to the dough as it stops the yeast from acting. The sugar helps it to act.
Leave the dough ball in a covered bowl in a warmish (not hot) place. Outside in the shade on a sunny summer’s day is perfect. Leave for 45 mins and then move the bowl to a cool place for 30 mins.
Push down the now (hopefully) risen dough, remove from bowl, shape into a ball and divide into four smaller balls.
Preparing the pizza
The great and late Keith Floyd always used to say that you should not overload a pizza with too many toppings as it turns it into a dustbin. Think of the dough as a canvas and paint it discreetly i.e. ‘less is more’ and all that zen jazz.
Spread the dough out on a bread board by hand or with a rolling pin until its thin but not too thin. To prevent it sticking and ending all over the floor, I put some medium cornmeal on the board and then it slides off easily when you put it the oven. Also, I put some flour on my hands or the rolling pin.
Spread the tomato sauce on the dough, leaving a clear edge all around for picking up purposes. Adds a nice crunch too. Then put your toppings on top, remembering what Keith Floyd said, and drizzle olive oil over it.
Place into your hot oven. Think wood fired oven here even if you haven’t got one. An Aga is the next best thing. Check from time to time until the edges are golden brown and then remove and scatter basil leaves as desired.
Put Frank Sinatra’s “It’s very nice to go travelling’” on and when he sings the line at the very end that goes “Make a pizza” start finishing the next pizza, as the first one will last but a moment.
Tip – prepare all 4 doughs and just add the toppings when ready.