Friday, 17 February 2012

Fantastic pizza


 Pizza is one of those foods that people can be evangelical about, and I totally understand why. If you're gonna have pizza make sure it's excellent pizza. Sure, even a frozen pizza from the supermarket was such a treat when I was a kid. Through to when I was growing up and started ordering takeaway pizza. But then I went to Naples. I went to antica pizzeria Da Michele. It was made (even more) famous by being featured in Eat, Pray, Love, but it was doing pretty ok before that I would say! They have a ticket system, where you get a number. A line stretches out the door and you can go in when they call your number. Inside is pretty unassuming, actually almost a little clinical with white and green tiled walls that the light bounces off of. But, when the pizza arrives you're almost guaranteed to be a pizza convert if you weren't before. 

The pizza base is light, chewy yet crispy and the cheese just melts and falls apart in your mouth, carried along with the sweet tomato sauce. The pizzas are huge but they make you want to go back for more, MORE!

So trying to recreate that at home, I've been left a little disappointed by what's on offer, so I've been trying to accomplish in my own kitchen what I couldn't find in many Irish restaurants and I think, while maybe not quite Neopolitan pizza, I think I've come pretty close. 

While I don't have a wood fired oven handy in my apartment, There are a couple of things you can do to make the best pizza possible at home. 


Start by getting the oven on the highest temperature, for about half an hour before you start making the pizza. Place a baking tray on the bottom shelf, so that it will be hot when the pizza is ready to go into the oven.

For the base

250g tipo 00 flour
3.5g dried yeast
200ml tepid water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
a little semolina flour for dusting the base
olive oil 

For the sauce
1 tin of cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree 
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
juice of half a lemon

1 buffalo mozzerella ball  plus extra for sprinkling
parmesan or grana padano (optional) 

Start with the dough. Add the tipo 00 flour to a bowl and create a little hole in the middle. Put the yeast and a little water into the space you created plus the sugar and stir, try not to add the flour in yet. Leave for a few minutes until the yeast starts to froth. Add the salt at an outer edge as we don't want to mix it straight away with the yeast; salt kills yeast. Slowly stir the flour into the yeast in the middle, until you are bringing all the flour in and add the rest of the water. 

Now work the dough with your hands until it becomes silky and elastic. Cover and leave for 30-60 minutes. 

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce. Put the cherry tomatoes through a fine mesh sieve to remove the skins and seeds. Add the puree, salt, sugar and lemon juice to the bowl. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. 

When you come back to it, knead the dough again for a few minutes and roll out. The professionals might just use their hands, but I'd advise a rolling pin, especially if you want a thin crust. Dust the dough with the semolina flour. Now is when I put the dough onto the hot tray and speedily make up the pizza. I find doing it this way, makes it beautifully crisp underneath. Place it on the tray, seolina side down. The semolina add to the crispness

Drizzle with a little olive oil and spread it over the dough. Add the tomato sauce and the mozzerella. Place in the oven for 10- 15 minutes until the cheese is golden and oozy. 

Grate over some Parmesan or Grana Padano (optional) and enjoy some seriously good pizza.


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