Like many, I have been on a hunt for the best pizza dough recipe for years. I first baked pizza in a normal oven on a sheet pan. When I started baking bread and using a baking stone, my pizze got better and were almost as good as the ‘real thing’ that I had tasted in Italy. Two problems seemed to persist: 1. At moderate temperatures like 220°C the pizza lost a lot of moisture during baking and the dough needed a little sugar to develop a healthy color 2. At very high temperatures like 250°C the cheese was burnt before the dough was cooked.
Last year I bought a portable pizza oven. When I now say “I own a pizza oven”, I get big eyes, open mouths and distant acquaintences are transformed into long lost friends. But my trusty old “Alfredo” may not be what most people associate with a real pizza oven. It is a red metallic contraption which looks like a giant waffle iron. There is a thin baking stone in the center, which is heated from the bottom and the top by two single circular shaped elements. Constant checking is required. A pizza takes about 5-7 minutes to bake, if everything goes well. After 10 minutes the whole thing and the kitchen will be filled with thick black smoke. A guess: After 12 minutes neighbours will have placed numerous calls to the fire department. 15 minutes of unattended operation….bye, bye, sweet home. People like me are not supposed to have it.
That is the problem with “Alfredo” – the perfect-seeming portable pizza oven; it is not safe and the half-life of these things cannot be high. On the inside mine looks like it was built in the 50s and used frequently ever since throughout the 70s and then dumped and forgotten on some attic. Admittedly I have used it a lot. So every pizza I now make is always the last. Maybe that is the best premise ever when sitting down to a meal. Make it as if it was your last. Or maybe that is a little grim.
Pizza dough (Yield: 2 crusts)
- 250g plain flour (I use German Type 405)
- 150g warn water
- 10g fresh yeast
- 7g sea salt
- 1 scant tsp honey
- 1 tbsp plain olive oil
- Stir together the water, salt, honey, olive oil and yeast.
- Add the flour and mix to a shaggy mass. It will be a soft dough.
- Let stand for 10 minutes.
- On the floured countertop knead the dough to a smooth and silky conistence.
- Let rest for 30 minutes.
- Divice the dough and shape each portion into a tight ball.
- Let the balls rest on a floured counter, covered, for 20-30 minutes.
- Shape your pizze, add toppings and bake in anything very hot.
When using a conventional oven, this dough is best baked at 220°C for about 12-15 minutes. It will stay soft because of the olive oil and have a smooth mouth-feeling.
Toppings (optional or according to taste)
- 1 can of Italian tomatoes
- 2 handfuls of mushrooms
- 2 tbsp good olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
- 2 handfuls of parmesan or pecorina cheese
- 1 tsp dried or fresh oregano, or very good “pizza spice”
- Olive oil, salt, pepper
- Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and cut off their tops. Blitz with their juices in a blender.
- Cut the mushrooms into slices and saute them in the olive oil together with the peeled garlic clove. Add pepper and salt right away. You want the mushrooms to lose some of their moisture quickly. After 3-5 minutes remove from the heat and drain.
- Cut the mozzarella into strips the size of your little finger. In the oven it should melt but not into a huge puddle of cheese
- If using dried oregano, sprinkle onto the pizza before baking, otherwise sprinkle the chopped oregano onto the pizza after baking.
- From bottom to top: A little olive oil, tomato puree, cheeses, mushrooms, oregano
Note: Pizza is a playful dish. The above is just one of many combinations of ingredients and ways to add them together and should be taken with a healthy dose of scepticism.
The most extravagant pizza I had in a restaurant (the Mocca d’or in Münster) had a topping of potatoes, pesto genovese, green beans and walnuts.