Top Ten Pizza Tips
I'm sure most of you have noticed from my recipes I love making Pizza. Pizza is a great easy meal to make, the ingredients can be as basic or elaborate as you want to make them, you can use up left-overs or you can combine your favourite ingredients in any way you want. Personally, I prefer traditional Pizzeria style pizza's using traditional Italian ingredients such as cured meats, shellfish, vegetables and so on, but modern pizza's can have all manner of toppings, Thai ingredients, Asian ingredients, Chinese Ingredients, the list is endless.
Homemade pizza is great, kids love eating them and also they are a great way to get your kids cooking and experimenting with food by creating their own toppings.
Here are my top ten tips on making your own great pizza at home -
(1). Dough - Pizza dough is probably the main area where so many pizza's fail to live up to expectations. There are many different recipes for pizza dough - Neopolitan, Calabrian and so on .. so experiment and find a recipe that works for you and stick to it.
(2). Practise - Like anything else in life, the more you do something, the better you will become at it and making a good pizza dough is no exception. If it goes wrong - don't give up on it - try again, practise makes perfect.
(3). Flour - There are many different views on which flour to use for a pizza dough and many people will tell you different things. Having read quite a few recipes and made quiet a few pizza's I have decided that there is only a couple of rules to follow when making a good pizza dough. I like a thin crispy dough base, so I have found that "00" Italian pasta flour works well for thin based pizza's. But if you like a deep pan or thick crusty dough then use bread flour as it works better when you want the base to rise and become thick and fluffy.
(4). Homemade - Many pizza purists will tell you that a homemade dough is always best and to a point they are right. But today's modern world not everyone has time to make their own pizza dough from scratch and opt for the pizza base mixes (where you just add water) or the pre-made pizza bases themselves. I am not against either of these and there are some very good pizza mixes and pre-made doughs on the market . . . however, always remember you get what you pay for, many of the cheaper-end dough mixes will rarely crisp up or rise evenly but there are some that work very well.
(5). Pizza Stone - The main problem with cooking a good pizza at home is a domestic oven will rarely be hot enough to cook a pizza as quickly as a traditional wood-fired oven. Wood-fired ovens work at temperatures around 450 -500 Centigrade (900 Fahrenheit) and most domestic ovens peak at around 250 centigrade. The best way to get around this is invest in a pizza stone and place it in a pre-heated oven for at least half an hour before placing your pizza on to it to cook. The pre-heated stone will help cook the pizza base the minute it touches the stone and make your base crispy underneath ... a common failing of many homemade pizza's . . so treat yourself, you won't regret it. Always remember to be careful when getting your pizza onto your heated stone, traditional pizzerias use a "paddle" on which they make the pizza then flick it onto the floor of the wood-fired oven or onto the heated stone. This can be done at home by making your pizza on a up-turned non-stick baking tray dusted with semolina flour and then carefully slide your pizza onto your stone.
(6). Semolina Flour - This may sound really silly, but it really will make a difference. Buy a bag of semolina flour and dust your work surface with it when rolling out your pizza and when you pre-heat your pizza stone sprinkle the semolina flour over the top. The dusting of semolina flour will help your pizza base crisp up and give the cooked dough a snap to its texture.
(7). Sauce (less is more) - The more sauce you put on your base remember the more soggy your dough will become. A very thin layer will do you just fine, literally just a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce spread evenly over the base will be enough. Just remember…less is more!
(8). Passata or Pizza sauce - You don’t need to use a fancy pizza sauce, I prefer a simple tinned tomato sauce cooked with a little chilli, garlic and dried oregano then pureed in the blender and spread thinly on to the base. Nowadays there are many good Passata's available flavoured with chilli and garlic but just remember the usual rule . . you get what you pay for. The cheaper end passata tends to be very watery and often lacks flavour, if you have time make your own and you can add or leave out ingredients of your own choice.
(9). Cheese - I use a combination of mozzarella and either Parmesan or Pecorino on my pizzas. By adding a final thin topping of freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino on the very top will give your pizza much more flavour and a crunchy texture as well. Always think about how strong a cheese is before putting on your pizza as you don't want the cheese to drowned out the flavours of your other toppings. Unless your making a four cheese pizza, then be as experimental with cheeses as you like .
(10). Toppings - Be experimental but also be sensible. many people get a little carried away and load on far more topping the the pizza dough can handle. Don't forget pizza is traditionally eaten with the fingers and not with a knife and fork so think about how much topping you put on, there's nothing worse than a pizza where half the topping falls into your lap before you get it into your mouth.
The main thing to remember about pizza is it is meant to be a fun, sociable food to be enjoyed with family and friends, its not a fine dinning experience, so if you like a certain ingredient and your guests don't then put it on a section of the pizza and visa versa. A pizza can have many different toppings on it . . so just have fun.