Sunday, 10 February 2013

All that pizzaz!

Deep Pan Pizza

Last Friday and this Friday were pizza nights. Something very very rare for us- to have pizza twice in succession, for over the years pizza takeaways have become a meal of last resort or convenience. Not without reason. The cheese is inevitably hot or rubbery by the time the pizza is delivered and the base is leathery and chewy. The combination is abrasive enough to skin the roof of anyone’s mouth, a condition called pizza palate and the tart sauce and the oregano add insult to the injury.

I had been on this search for the best and failsafe recipe for a soft, fluffy, crisp and crunchy crust. Along with a recipe, I was also looking for reassurance from the cook, for it takes great guts and confidence in the recipe to promote it as the best ever! 

My search ended when I chanced upon this blogger who happened to be a full time physician, a mother of two little kids, who loves to cook and take photos and in her spare time writes a lovely blog called Annie’s Eats. Something about this woman’s being a doctor inspired confidence that she might understand the bio-chemistry of fermentation of dough… 

Try this recipe for the crust- I did once and then again within a week, thinking the first time was a fluke! As is my wont, I did tweak the recipe a little. The first time on, I added sugar as I thought Annie had forgotten to mention it. The second time I added half a teaspoon salt extra – is it our Indian palates? Moreover, both the times the pizza was made impulsively, so since I didn’t have bread flour I used just regular plain flour. 

The corn meal was substituted with semolina, as I had chucked out the polenta from last year just a few weeks ago. The cornmeal is to allow the pizza to slide from the wooden paddle onto the hot pizza stone. I had neither a paddle nor a pizza stone, but discovered the semolina gives the crust a nice crunch.

The result was spectacular. After more than a decade we enjoyed a deep-pan pizza as a gourmet meal. 

And the roofs of our mouths are still intact!

Pizza Crust

½ cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 sachet active yeast (2 ¼ tsp)
4 cups plain flour (maida) + 2-3 tbsp extra
2 tsp salt
1 ¼ cup water at room temperature
2 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp cornmeal or semolina
Extra olive oil for brushing

In a warm bowl, take half-cup of warm water and add the sugar and dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast granules on the surface of the water. Cover and keep in a warm place for 10 minutes till it becomes frothy. Then add 1¼ cup water to this mixture and mix well.

In a bowl, mix the plain flour and salt. Then add the yeast solution and mix and knead well. When all the flour gathers into a dough, apply the olive oil and knead it well for about 10 minutes. Then oil a bowl and place the dough in it, patting the dough into a smooth ball with the oil and cover with a cling film and keep it in a warm place to rise for about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Then remove the wrap and knead and punch the raised dough back to the size it started at. Place the dough back into the bowl and cover it again with the wrap and allow it rise back for another 30 minutes or so.

Remove the wrap and divide the dough into two balls. Sprinkle some semolina on a rolling surface. Roll the dough into the shape of your choice. Then stretch the rolled dough in your hands and lay it a well-oiled pan, semolina side down. Brush all over with olive oil.

Top the base with sauce, a mixture of grated mozzarella, tasty cheese and parmesan cheeses and top it with onions, peppers, black olives, pineapple, corn, sliced mushrooms, etc. Drizzle a little olive oil Sprinkle some red chilli flakes and bake in a very hot oven for about 15 minutes or until done. 

For the Sauce

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium brown onion, chopped finely
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp chopped green pepper (for flavour)
A handful of sliced mushrooms (for flavour)
1 tbsp oregano
1 can (375g) chopped tomatoes 
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste


In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion. Then add the garlic, green pepper and mushrooms and sauté till well done. This is for flavour- you will need to add more vegetables as topping. Add the chopped tomatoes and a little water. Add oregano and let it boil for about 20 minutes, till the sauce thickens. Add salt and sugar to taste. Remove from heat and cool.

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