I definitely need to make pizza from scratch more often. Making pizza dough is just about as satisfactory as making bread, but without the long wait. As far as toppings go, you can pretty much choose what your heart desires. Next time, I thinking of cracking an egg into the middle.
My recommendation for toppings? Keep it simple. Don't overload it. Use mozzarella.
The pizza dough freezes really well. So what I did was to freeze it in portions then just grab one out in the morning for a really quick, and cheap meal in the evening. And, to have a slight change from pizza, I made it into a calzone - the Italian equivalent of a Cornish pasty. It's a great way to use up leftovers.
Roll the dough out and add a thin layer of tomato pizza sauce. Then pick your fillings. I went for spinach, mozzarella, salami, and pickled chillies - what I had in the fridge. Remember to only put them on half on the dough, you'll need to fold it over. And don't jam pack it. Use a pastry brush to apply a little water around the edges, then fold it over and crimp with the back of a fork.
This was my first attempt at making a calzone, and I've learnt from my mistakes. The underside was soggy, so next time I need to preheat the baking tray and flip the calzone over during cooking.
But it was good. Oozy, stringy mozzarella. Mmmm...
When I made the tomato sauce, I used oven-dried tomatoes but you can make it with fresh tomatoes by cooking them with some vinegar, sugar, garlic and herbs, or tinned by cooking them with just the garlic herbs.
It's a lot easier to start a dough by using a food processor or to make it in a kitchen machine, like a Kenwood Chef (corporate plug!) with a dough kneading hook.
Makes 4 large pizzas
For the dough
2tsp dried yeast
1tbsp caster sugar
325ml warm water
500g strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1tbsp fine sea salt
For the tomato sauce (very roughly)
Soft brown sugar
Salt and pepper
Toppings: mozzarella, goats cheese, olives, salami, bacon, egg, chillies (pickled and fresh), spinach, chicken, anchovies, ground beef, prawns, smoked salmon, courgette, mussels... the list goes on.
In a bowl or jug, mix together the yeast and sugar then add the water and give it a little whisk. It's important that the water isn't too hot (as this kills the yeast) and isn't too cold (as the yeast won't activate), something around body temperature (37°C) is about right. Leave for 10 minutes.
Next, mix the flour and salt and incorporate the yeast mixture into it:
If you're doing it by hand, you'll have to make a well in the centre of the flour on a work surface and gradually add the liquid. Once it comes together start kneading for 10 minutes.
If you're using a processor, place the flour and salt into the bowl with a dough blade and, using a slow speed, slowly add the liquid until it forms a ball. Then knead for 10 minutes.
If you're using a kitchen machine, place the flour and salt into the bowl with a dough hook and, using a slow speed, slowly add the liquid until it forms a ball. Then knead for 4 minutes.
Sprinkle some flour over the kneaded dough then cover with a slightly damp, clean tea towel or lightly greased cling film and leave for an hour, until it doubles in size.
Once risen, sprinkle some more flour around the work surface and knead it a bit to knock the air out. Then portion the dough into 4 balls (or more if you want smaller pizzas) and either use straight away or wrap in cling film and pop into the fridge or freezer for use later.
When I made the tomato sauce I wasn't really paying much attention to what I was doing. But, basically I just blitzed all the ingredients together then cooked it for a few minutes.
Roll the dough out to about 5mm thickness. Spread a little of the tomato sauce on (I don't like lots), leaving a slight gap before the edge. Then add you toppings and bake in a preheated oven (200°C) for 10-15 minutes.