Yesterday there was an article on the Guardian website that concluded that it was impossible to make a decent pizza at home (the humble domestic oven doesn’t get hot enough apparently). Au contraire, Mr Guardian journalist. Since I have learnt the art of making excellent pizza bases at home, I have never since bought a supermarket pizza nor even had a little man on a putt-putt scooter bring me one from the local takeaway. In our house, homemade pizza is a regular event – even more so since I bought my OH a pizza stone for his birthday which fits in the braai/bbq. This adds a little pizzazz to your pizza making and does away with any fears about said oven temperature.
My tried and tested pizza base recipe is Hugh F-W’s from “River Cottage Everyday.” (The recipe is also available on the Guardian website here.) It has never let me down and time and again, it has allowed me to produce perfect thin and crispy pizzas, whether from my oven or on the bbq. Thus when I found out that this week’s Short and Tweet challenge was to make Dan Lepard’s pizza dough from “Short and Sweet,” I was intrigued to see whether Dan could improve on Hugh’s pretty perfect pizza recipe.
Comparing the two, Dan and Hugh seem to use fairly similar ratios of flour, yeast, salt, water and olive oil. The main difference being that Hugh favours a 50:50 ratio of strong white flour to plain flour whereas Dan’s recipe uses 100% strong flour (or Italian “00” flour if you can get it). Dan’s recipe also has a lot of extra steps – principally due to his signature multiple kneading and resting stages – whereas with Hugh’s I usually whack all the ingredients in a bowl, beat it with my electric mixer for 10 minutes and leave it to rest for an hour. That’s it. Done.
After the dough has proved, Dan advocates shaping it into balls and then letting them rest for another 20 minutes to let the gluten relax and make it easier to roll out. I found this to be a bit of an unnecessary step as the dough seemed no easier to roll than normal. Also I think that part of the beauty of a homemade pizza is that it is a bit amoebic in shape in contrast to a commercially round one. Dan says that his pizza recipe makes “a good thin crust” but I have to say that the accompanying pictures in Short and Sweet look more deep pan to me. Being a thin and crispy girl myself, I made sure I rolled the dough extra thin.
After 15 minutes in the braai, the pizza was perfectly golden brown. The edges had just the right degree of crispiness but I don’t know if it was my imagination, but the base had the merest hint of flabbiness which I don’t find with Hugh’s. It was a good attempt, Dan, but I think for simplicity I will be sticking with Hugh’s pizza recipe in future. After all, I think when making something as unpretentious as pizza, simplicity is all that’s called for.
I must just mention my topping of choice. In homage to the Pizza Express “Fiorentina” (my favourite pizza as a student), it is left over roasted tomato sauce, wilted spinach, garlic, parmesan, mozzarella, fresh basil and an egg cracked on 5 minutes before the end of cooking time. And plenty of black pepper. According to the aforementioned Guardian journalist, spinach is an “unacceptable” pizza topping. As is pineapple, chicken, caramelised onions, blue cheese, sweetcorn, sausage and chicken all of which have found their way on to my homemade pizzas at one time or another. I may be a bit of a pikey when it comes to pizza but hey, it’s only pizza. No food snobbery allowed.