Thursday, 6 August 2009

Starting small: Pizza Dough

Pizza is always an adventure in Japan.

Aside from being on the expensive side, the choices of topping can range from 'OK', to 'inventive', to 'Oh God Why?'. Toppings include sweetcorn (something I have no problem with as it is often available on pizza back home in the UK, but it tends to freak my friends out a little), fried eggs and whole wiener sausages, mini hamburger patties, all kinds of seafood, squid ink sauce, shredded seaweed, and (it seems most important) it is often topped with either/both lashings of mayonnaise or a poached egg. Not being a fan of mayo at the best of times (though my tolerance has greatly improved since my arrival), seeing some of the combinations tends to do a number on my appetite. A perusal of the Pizza 10.4 menu should give you an idea what you're facing (site in Japanese, but the pictures are worth a thousand words).

With that in mind I decided homemade pizza was the way to go.
Recipe adapted to taste from this recipe on Exclusively Food.

350g (2 cups) white bread flour
7g (1/4oz or 1 packet) dry active yeast
180ml (2/3 cups + 3 tbsp) warm water
40ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)

Recipe makes enough for two 30cm (about 12 inches?) thin crust bases, or smaller bulkier ones. My baking tray is 30cm by 20cm to give you some idea of picture scale.

1) Stir the yeast and 40ml lukewarm water (not hot or boiling) in a small bowl and leave for 10-15 minutes until it's bubbling. My supermarket sells yeast in packs of 6g so I used that instead of measuring exactly and no harm done.

2)Add oil and remaining water to bowl and stir

3)In another bowl, stir salt and flour together

4) Make a well in the centre and pour in your yeast mixture. Combine using a spoon and/or your hands until the dough just comes together. It will feel and look a little rough/lumpy at this point, but don't worry, kneading will sort that out.

5) Dump out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

6) Either wash out the bowl you made the dough in or grab a clean one, and film the inside with oil. Place your ball of dough in it, turning to coat it's entire surface with the oil. Cover the bowl with cling-film/saran-wrap/a clean tea-towel and leave it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (approx 1-1 1/2 hours).

While the dough is rising you can take the time to make your own tomato sauce for topping, or you can use a store bought one and have some valuable TV time. I whizzed some fresh tomatoes I had that needed using up, some garlic, oregano, and sauteed onions, but I made the mixture too thin so I added a can of chopped tomatoes for a little bulk and reduced it down in a pan.

7) Check your dough to see if it's the right size. If it is, switch on your oven to preheat to 250C/480F, or 230C/450F for fan assisted ovens. My microwave oven has an odd feature where you can only jump from 210 to 250 with nothing in between, so I went for a higher temp and it was fine, just keep an eye on it when your baking. If you're fancy and have a pizza stone, put it in to heat.

8) Remove the dough from the bowl onto a surface, gently deflating (this deflated itself as I removed it). If you're cooking for one as I was, now is the time to half the dough and put one half covered in the fridge for use another day.

9) Carefully stretch or push out the dough until it's roughly the size and shape you want it. If it's too springy and keeps going back into it's original size, leave it to rest for a few minutes before trying again.

10) I'm often told to scatter cornmeal on my pan to stop the dough from sticking. Not having cornmeal available to me, I oiled and floured my baking tray and it was fine. Put your dough on the tray, brush it with olive oil (to help stop it going soggy from the sauce) and add your toppings. I used tomato sauce and mozzarella, try not to go too heavy with the toppings.

11) Bake for 13-16 minutes (adjust depending on crust thickness/toppings) until the cheese is melted and golden brown.


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