Friday, 23 March 2012

Dan Lepard's Pizza Dough

Fool that I am, I decided that tonight would be beer and pizza night in the Squirrel household.  The seed for this idea was planted when Ocado suggested that I might like to try a bottle of Spicy Apple and Rhubarb Magners.  I should've stopped this plan dead at the point of reading Magners.  Instead I was seduced by the rhubarb bit.

I love rhubarb and adore Cawston Press Apple and Rhubarb juice.  I figured that the Magners might just be an alcoholic version of that.  How wrong was I?  I'd've done better leaving a carton of the Cawstons to ferment (no chance of that in reality, it's too nice to waste).  The Magners tasted like gnats pee with some unidentifiable synthetic flavouring in it.  Disappointed and a waste of £2.29.

However, the seed grew into a plan.  If you've read my 'Food Bloggers Unplugged' post, you'll know that I don't like pizza.  I'm not really sure why this is.  I like bread.  I like cheese.  I just about like fresh tomato sauce.  I like the toppings.  But together?  It's never really done it for me.  I know back in the eighties my mother used to try to bribe me to eat those horrible frozen pizzas.  But even with the explosion of pizza restaurants and their varying qualities of pizza, I will still without fail go for the pasta option or make do with the salad bar.  Or go hungry.

But having ordered the husband some Peroni and been repeatedly bombarded with tales of homemade pizza joy on Twitter, from @Tarb2010, @HollyBellMummy and @JBoylie to name but a few, I decided that I'd treat the husband to home made pizza to go with his beer.

Use the artichokes (top right) for perespective. It was huge!
When I'm away from home, he just about manages to feed himself thanks to the fact that Dominos now have an online ordering service so he doesn't have to speak to anyone in the entire process, nor have to figure out how to use the oven.  Prior to this, he used to phone me to ask me to phone the takeaway to place his order.  In fact, if he wants Chinese, he still does this.  And if I don't answer my phone, he'll phone my mother (assuming this is where I am) to ask her to tell me to order his Chinese takeaway.  I sense much eye-rolling from many readers.  I'm wondering how many (male) readers are thinking 'I wish my wife would do that!'

Of course, my next failure was to wimp out when he asked what was for tea.  Having spent the afternoon lovingly nuturing Dan Lepard's finest pizza dough recipe, when the husband asked what was for tea I said 'Well you can have homemade meat feast pizza or chicken and pesto pasta'.  He went with the latter.  I knew he would.  But I couldn't bear the long face if the pizza hadn't worked out.

I shouldn't have wavered in my faith in the master of baking however.  The dough turned out brilliantly.  Although it didn't brown quite as I expected, it had a lovely, crispy golden bottom, the edges were puffy and light and had just the right amount of chew to them.  I topped it with my home made tomato sauce and to show the husband what he was missing, I forewent my planned topping of chicken and marinated artichokes with Parmesan shavings in favour of tiny meatballs, Brunswick ham and Unearthed Hungarian Pepperoni.  From now on, I like this pizza.  And I have enough dough left to make the chicken and artichoke one for tomorrow.  The husband really missed out but that's his loss.

The recipe is from Short and Sweet.  I know I keep banging on about this book, but every recipe I've tried has just worked and tasted fabulous.  I don't think I can say that about many other cookbooks that I own.  I've adapted the text of the recipe here, but you really should buy the book because not only does it give you the recipe, it tells you how you can vary the method such as making a slow-rise dough or a sour-dough version.  I love that you get this extra info because it teaches you how to safely tweak without necessarily inciting disaster.

Anyhow, this is how I made my pizza

Pizza Dough

600g 00 grade flour (the type used for pasta dough)
400g warm water (I always weigh my water as the lines on my measuring jug have worn off)
1tsp dried yeast
1.5 tsp table salt

Place the flour in a large bowl.  Add the salt and yeast, taking care to keep separate in the bowl (apparently the salt can kill the yeast) and then mix until combined.  Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and then pour in the water.  Stir to make a sticky dough.  Cover and leave for 30 minutes.

Tip on to a well floured board, knead lightly for 10 seconds (this really works) and then pop back in the bowl and cover.  Leave for thirty minutes.  Repeat the kneading and rising twice more.  After the final knead, cover and leave to rise for an hour or so until doubled in size.  If you need to leave it for more than two hours before use, cover and place in the fridge.

Tomato Sauce

1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 tsp dark soft brown sugar
1 tsp Maldon sea salt (or regular table salt)
1 tbsp Garden Gourmet Basil or other herbs of your choice.
1tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp olive oil

Heat the oil in a small saucepan and fry the garlic gently for about a minute.  Pour in the tomatoes, add the sugar, tomato puree, salt and herbs and leave over a low heat for about 30 minutes (stirring occasionally) until reduced by about a third.  Season to taste.

To make up the pizzas

Heat the oven to 220c/200c fan/425F.

Divide the dough into five or six pieces and shape into circles (or wonky circles if you're like me). Make sure you leave a rim around the edge that is higher than the middle.  Place about two tablespoons of the tomato mixture onto the dough and spread around the middle indentation.

Add toppings of your choice, sprinkle with mozzarella (I went a bit mad with that) and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Enjoy! (Just not with a bottle of Magners Spiced Apple and Rhubarb!)

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