Sometimes you happen upon something that makes your previous efforts seem like a colossal waste of effort. Years spent altering a bit of this and a bit of that, wondering which combination will be just right are looked back on as misguided and foolhardy. Now, I do know that life, and all it entails are about the journey, not about where you end up but, I have decided, that as far as pizza crust goes, we have arrived and reflection on the past will not be happening.
I have had a pretty decent pizza dough recipe that I have used for about twelve years. It makes a divine focaccia, which is really all about the olive oil and salt ratio. The pizza crust it makes, if your oven is hot enough and you are lucky enough to be using “00” flour, is pretty good. I have spent many hours kneading this dough, in all its flour combinations, trying to come out with just the right taste and bite. Rarely with overwhelming success and, when successful, rarely repeatable which I chalk up to our nomadic tendencies.
I like kneading bread, I love it in fact. I love it more when I have no one underfoot and something good to listen to, and by good I don’t mean Sharon, Lois and Bram. Under these circumstances, I don’t even mind the clean-up. It used to be a retreat, the morning bread making, hiding out in the galley before anyone woke and broke the silence. Sadly, or happily, these circumstances are pretty much a thing of the past and I look to simplifying, even if it means giving up on cheap therapy.
When I saw this recipe and heard about the the book it came from, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, like my friend Kate when I told her about it, said, ‘I don’t believe it.’ I still haven’t read the book but if this pizza crust recipe is anything to go by, it holds great promise.
I have made it with several different types of flour, all resounding successes. Our favourite is making it with all Speerville Mills Whole White flour. It has a great crunch and a nice toastiness on the crispier bits. The half white bread flour, half whole wheat was really good too. I wouldn’t go more than 50% whole wheat personally but to each his own.
I know what I am about to say will leave pizza purists reeling. Don't get me wrong. I love perfect pizza. I have been lucky enough eat it here and here and here repeatedly (I apologize for the music). I spent four months working in and out of Naples and when in Rome, er, I mean Naples, you do as the Neapolitans do. I also think that when you are not in Naples and you don't have a 200 year old oven or family tradition to carry on, you can use a little license.
We have been topping pizzas with everything and have discovered fruit pizzas. The first was a caramelized shallot, fresh mango and brie number with a bit of fresh chive that was scrummy. The next, a few days later, was the same caramelized shallots, apple and cheddar and I think I almost liked it better simply because the apples held a slight crunch.
The girls are loving their pizza bianca. Our version is a smear of garlic scape pesto with feta or cheddar. It’s also so good with spinach and artichokes.
While we haven’t been, and don’t, eat pizza everyday, this dough is great because a batch makes enough for about five or six thin crust pizzas. You can divide it after it rises and put it in bags in the fridge for up to twelve days. I am sure it would freeze really well but, I have to admit, we haven’t had to yet.
Tell me, what is your favourite pizza topping. Are you a traditionalist? Can you stomach pineapple? What’s your most adventurous?
Olive Oil Dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Makes enough for five to six thin crust pizzas (about 4 pounds of dough)
2 3/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 1/2 cups flour (be adventurous)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one, or a large mixing bowl, mix the water, yeast, salt, sugar and olive oil together.
Mix in the flour until it all comes together.
Turn into a large bowl and cover, I use cling film because I know it will reach the top of my bowl. If your bowl is big enough, use a damp tea towel.
Let rise at room temperature until it falls back on itself (it rise so much that the bubbles burst and it collapses), or until it flattens on top.
Use immediately or divide, if you want, and refrigerate for up to twelve days, or freeze.
If you freeze it, although I haven’t tried, thaw it in the fridge without opening the bag or container.
Prepare it as you would your usual pizza.