Basic Pizza Recipe
- Step 1
Brush two 27.5cm (base measurement) round pizza trays with the olive oil to lightly grease. Sprinkle with a little flour. The flour will help give the pizza a crisp, dry base (see Note 1). Measure all your ingredients (see Note 2). To make the pizza dough, place the plain flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Make a well in the centre and add all the water and olive oil to the dry ingredients. The water needs to be lukewarm to activate the yeast and encourage it to grow. If the water is too hot, it can kill the yeast. To test the water’s temperature, sprinkle a little on the inside of your wrist – it shouldn’t be too hot or too cold. Use a wooden spoon to stir until combined and then use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl. It should be soft and slightly sticky.
- Step 2
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 3 minutes, or until the dough is almost smooth. Use the heel of your hand to push the dough away from you and then lift it with your fingertips and fold it onto itself towards you. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat (see Note 3). For a pizza base, the dough doesn’t need to have a strong framework. Brush a large bowl with olive oil to grease. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it over to lightly coat the surface with the olive oil. This will prevent the surface of the dough from drying out as it proves. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean, damp tea towel, followed by a dry tea towel and place in a warm, draught-free place to allow the dough to rise – a process called “proving”. A wooden board on the open door of an oven set to its lowest temperature, or with the pilot light on, is a good place, or simply find a sunny, sheltered spot. If the temperature is too high, it can kill the yeast, making the dough useless. The ideal temperature for proving dough is about 30°C. Leave dough until it doubles in size – about 1 hour. The time it takes depends on the temperature where it’s proving (see Note 4).
- Step 3
Meanwhile, make the basic pizza sauce: Place the undrained diced tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and sugar in a medium frying pan and bring to the boil over high heat. Boil, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until the sauce is thick. (See Microwave tip.) Season well with salt and pepper. Transfer to a shallow bowl to cool. This quantity makes enough sauce to cover 4 pizzas. Store the leftover sauce in a jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Smooth the surface and pour over a thin layer of olive oil to prevent mould from forming. Once the dough doubles, punch it down in the centre with your fist. This step, known as “punching” or “knocking” down the dough, releases excess carbon dioxide produced by the yeast during rising. Knead lightly in the bowl for 20-30 seconds or until the dough is smooth and has returned to its original size. Do not overwork – the dough should be soft, supple and easy to roll out. This dough makes 2 pizzas with medium-thick crusts. You can use the dough to make 4 thin-crusted pizzas – just remember to double the topping. It will serve 6.
- Step 4
Preheat oven to 230°C. Place an oven shelf in the lowest position and another shelf 2 positions higher. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Sit 1 portion on a lightly floured surface and cover with a clean, damp tea towel while working with the other portion. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until almost large enough to line the prepared pizza tray. Lift onto the tray and use your hands to gently ease the dough out to the edge, allowing it to come a little up the side to form a thicker edge when baked. Prick the dough with a fork, avoiding the edge. This will help the dough rise evenly in the centre and form a thicker crusty edge to hold the topping. Repeat with remaining portion of dough.
- Step 5
Use the back of a spoon to spread about 1/4 of the pizza sauce over 1 pizza base, avoiding the edge. Top with 1/2 of the mozzarella, capsicum, mushrooms, olives and pepperoni. Spread 1/3 of the remaining sauce over the other pizza base, then top with the remaining mozzarella, capsicum, mushrooms, olives and pepperoni. Always place mozzarella under all the other topping ingredients so it remains soft and stringy. If placed on the top, it tends to overbrown and toughen. Cover with clean, damp tea towels and leave in a warm place for 15-20 minutes or until the edges rise slightly. Gently brush edges with a little water to help make them crisp.
- Step 6
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Swap trays around in oven and bake for a further 5-10 minutes. The pizzas are ready when they shrink from the sides of the trays and slide off easily. Use a pizza cutter to cut into portions or slide onto a board using an egg slide and cut into portions. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.