Leading franchises and pizzerias across the country serve up the finest selection of pizzas, but many people often neglect the fact that a perfectly edible and scrumptious Italian classic can be made at home with relative ease. You might have to forgo a wood-fired oven for the job but you can follow a few essential tips to make a pizza to be proud of.
Hot grill or oven: An extremely hot oven or grill is required for the perfect pizza, so ideally you want one that soars to temperatures of at least 240C/475F. A good way to find out if your oven is in the right shape to cook your homemade pizza is to bake a loaf of bread beforehand. Once cool, check to see if the base of the loaf is paler than the top. If it is, your oven might not be up to the task, but don’t fret! You can combine both a hob and a grill for a pizza. In addition, a metal griddle or heavy pizza stone, heated prior to cooking, can help pizzas to look lean and tasty rather than flabby.
Soft white bread dough: Crust diversity in pizza should be celebrated so don’t fuss over how exactly you will make the base. Pizza is generally made from a mix of yeast dough, flour, salt, and water. Aim for very soft and stretchy. You can use Italian 00 flour if you are really going for the traditional, authentic Italian taste, though a strong bread flour is equally good, as your rolling pin can squash and stretch without the fear of breaking. Using fat during the process can also lead to a more tender crust that is less likely to become dry and brittle in the oven. Fat also adds color to the dough, as does malt or sugar. These ingredients are essential for a crisp, tender and moist base.
Stretch it: Now comes the fun part! Stretching a thin crust is a prized art and it requires deft work with both hands and utensils. The best way to get a thin base is to divide the dough roughly into portions. For example, you should aim to use 200g of dough for each 10-inch pizza. Shape these portions, then cover and leave on a dusted worktop for around 15 minutes. You and your dough can now relax; this time is especially useful for the latter as it will be easier to stretch for a perfectly circular pizza.
Dry toppings: The blazing hot oven will change any of the ingredients you use and bring the sauce, cheese, vegetables, and meats together into a delicious mess of a tasty pizza. For best results, ensure that all of the toppings are dry. You can remove the excess moisture from a wet cheese such as mozzarella with a paper towel or dry cloth. Also, pay close attention to the sauce – it needs to be spreadable and thick but not completely runny. You should also take any fats released from meats such as pepperoni into account before adding extra olive oil.
Stay light: It can be tempting to throw on all the meat and veg you can find in the fridge, but it might be best to show some restraint. It is generally accepted that less topping makes a better pizza. Too much cheese, beef or sauce can cause the toppings to run out onto the crust, which can make it more difficult for the heat to penetrate, lower the temperature of any tray or stone you are using and generally contribute to a less than excellent pizza experience.