Wholemeal Pizza

Got some time on your hands today? Fancy a pizza? A nice pizza, I mean. I feel sorry for pizza after what it’s been through at the hands of fast food joints and supermarkets. I can understand how Italians laugh/recoil in horror when they see monstrosities like the baked bean pizza or the chicken tikka pizza – a double insult to two great nation’s cuisine in one fell swoop. A well made pizza is a thing of beauty, a thing of joy not a crap, greasy take-away delivered by some poor sod risking his life on a dodgy scooter for minimum wage.

I like to use a wholemeal base for my pizzas because I think the wholemeal flour makes it more crisp. I’ll never understand the why people would choose those thick, stodgy bases over a thin, light crisp one. I also use fresh yeast which I buy from the bakery counter at Sainsburys. Did you know you can freeze fresh yeast? I buy a huge block for 99p, bash it up into use-able size chunks, put it in a zip-lock freezer bag and it lasts me for months. I make all our own bread, rolls, pizza bases, etc – anything that needs yeast (although I do have some dried active yeast in reserve in case of emergencies). I work full time and I have a one hour commute each day into town but there are little cheats I use to help me make sure we always have fresh bread. First, I have a bread machine which I use to knead the dough and then sometimes, if I’m in a hurry in the morning (which is most mornings) I take take the kneaded dough out of the machine and put it in a bowl in the fridge to rise(see photos below). The cold won’t kill the yeast, it just slows it down so when I get in from work there is my dough all nicely risen for me to knock back, shape, re-raise and bake. On a friday i sometimes make focaccia dough and that can be re-raised and baked in 30 mins flat (Flat. Geddit? Sorry).

This particular pizza recipe is vegetarian but that’s because I made it during the week and I don’t generally eat meat during the week but toppings are the most change-able element of pizza (just don’t put pineapple chunks on them). If I’m making pizza at the weekend I sometimes use nice salamis or fresh seafood or I sometimes make three different ones so we can have a bit of each. It’s a good recipe to get the kids helping with, too. Obviously you have to make the bases and the sauce but once you have all your toppings prepped in separate bowls kids love to design their own pizza.

Make your tomato sauce base thick but spread it thin. Your toppings should not be swimming round in watery tomato sauce but by the same token, the sauce should make it’s presence felt by packing an intense flavour punch. Don’t be shy with the garlic and make sure it’s properly seasoned. Tomatoes generally need a fair bit of salt.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a pizza stone, I don’t either and my pizzas are still gorgeous. The thing with using a pizza stone is that you need a really large oven and most of us have only got a domestic one. I make mine in the same shape as my baking trays to maximise space. I pre-bake the bases on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and then turn them over to get that wonderful crisp underside. This recipe makes three huge pizzas so there is often some left over for lunch.

The trick with all your toppings is to prep them to their own strengths; for example, peppers are nice chargrilled on a naked flame (see photos above), skins rubbed off and thinly sliced. I also take the seeds out of the tomatoes before thinly slicing and I make the courgettes into ribbons with a potato peeler. With fennel bulbs I slice them through the root into wedges and pre-roast them in the oven otherwise they would not be cooked enough. But the most important thing by far with all the toppings (apart from the cheese) is to turn them all in a little oil and season them. This is because they are only in the oven for a very short, very hot period of time and without the oil they will be sort of dry – not moist and unctious, which is what you want.

With regards to cheese, you can use whatever you want but there should be at least some mozarella in the mix – and it should be cubed. I always like to use grated parmesan on pizza, too. It adds real depth of flavour compared to the mozarella whose strength is more it’s texture than it’s flavour. I had some super strong cheddar that needed using so that went onto mine as well. In light of what I said earlier about the bastardisation of pizza the purists might rail against this but I’ll risk it!

 

Ingredients

Using fresh yeast:-

1/2 lb strong white flour, 1/2 lb strong brown flour, 4 oz stoneground wholewheat flour

14 fl oz warm water

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

For dried active yeast:-

1/2 lb strong white flour, 1/2 lb strong brown flour, 4 oz stoneground wholewheat flour

1 tbsp dried active yeast

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

14 fl oz pint warm water

Tomato base:-

2 tins tomatoes, whizzed

3 large tbsps tomato puree

1 bulb garlic

salt, oil

Toppings:-

Whatever you fancy! I used:-

2 large courgettes, ribboned, tossed in oil and salt

1 red pepper, chargrilled, sliced and tossed in oil and salt

1 bulb fennel, cut into thin wedges, tossed in oil and part cooked in the oven

2 onions, thinly sliced, tossed in oil and salt

2 – 3 tomatoes, seeds removed, flesh thinly sliced, tossed in oil and salt

Dried chilli flakes

1 pack mozarella, cubed

3 oz parmesan, finely grated

3 oz extra strong cheddar, thinly sliced

Method

First, make your dough. If you are using fresh yeast, add it to the warm water with the sugar, wait until it’s dissolved, give it a good stir and then knead it into the flours and the salt (or chuck it into the bread machine and let it do the kneading for you like I do). If you are using the dried active yeast, again place it in a jug with the warm water and sugar and give it a stir but this time wait until a 2 inch froth appears on top (about 10 – 15 mins) and then proceed in the same way as for fresh yeast. Put the well kneaded dough in bowl, cover it with cling film or a tea towel and put it somewhere warm to rise for an hour.

To make the tomato sauce, finely chop your garlic, saute it in oil until it’s soft but not brown and throw in the whizzed tomatoes. Reduce by two thirds, add the tomato puree and cook for a few mins more. Season well and set aside.

Prep all your veg (or seafood/meat) and your cheese as directed above and put them into seperate bowls. Your dough should now be ready for the next phase which is: knock it back and roll it out to fit your prepared baking trays (prepared by lining with baking parchment). Leave them somewhere warm again for around ten minutes and then pre-bake. If you’re making pizza in domestic oven this phase will give you that authentic crisp base that proper pizza ovens give, or as close as you’re going to get to it. To pre-bake just put them in an oven on gas mark 4 for about 6 mins. Then turn them over. The top is now the bottom.

Next, whack the oven up to gas mark 9 and load up your pizzas! Divide the tomato base between the three pizzas and spread thinly. Now, layer up your toppings starting with the thinly sliced onion in a single layer and then arrange your other toppings equally. Now add the cheese: make little piles of mozarella cubes, scatter your parmesan liberally and lay the slices of cheddar around wherever they fit. Finally, scatter over the dried chilli if you’re using it and bake – directly on the oven shelf. Your pre-baking of the bases will help them be firm enough to get them onto the shelf, although it will still take a bit of dexterity! Try transporting them right up to the shelf on the baking tray and then doing a quick one-two onto the shelf and the same in reverse on the way out. Cook each pizza for around 9 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and turning golden.

Mmmmmmmmmmm. Serves up to six.

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5 Comments

Filed under Recipes

5 responses to “Wholemeal Pizza

  1. I often make pizza and the kids have learned to make it too. They love prepping up all the toppings. Since time is a premium, I always start the dough off in the bread maker and let it do the work for me. Then we roll it and continue on from there. We call the tomato sauce a sugo….. which is a Pugliese word for a basic tomato sauce. Mozzarella is a must but different cheeses on top are good too. Personally I like ricotta, rucola (rocket) and roast peppers.
    On an aside, I took massive umbridge with a woman doing cookery demonstrations for kids, who described pizza as junk food to the assembled classes. Real pizzas are nutritious, healthy and a great way to introduce kids to cooking.
    Fiona – Sciolti Chocolates

  2. how yummy!
    check out my baking blog and tell me what you think:
    http://thegodscake.wordpress.com

    Michael

  3. i make my own pizza base, but dont make my own bread – you really are good to do that yourself, especially if you are working full time

    i use dried yeast for convenience – my pizza dough consists of a similar mixture as yours, but i always add about half a wineglass of olive oil to the dough. i also place the leftover dough in the fridge in a plastic bag – it lasts up to five days, and means that i am getting 2 meals out of 1 effort

  4. Fiona, the woman doing the cookery demo should have said take-away & supermarket pizza is junk but like so many foods, the real mcoy bears is a totally different story. I will remember the word ‘sugo’, thanks.

    Maria, I didn’t know the dough would keep that long in the fridge so I’ve always frozen mine instead – that’s good to know, thanks.

    P.S. to Both, I often make up a big batch of what I will now call sugo because so many meals are based on it. What I haven’t used by the end of the week I freeze off in batches. Honestly, it beats me why people eat crap when good food is so easy!
    jo x

  5. Pingback: What Food to Eat to Lose Weight?

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