This summer has been busy and tiring - not just for me, but for friends, family, and plenty of other bloggers who seem to be taking blog breaks for short spells. Case in point was meeting up with Mr A&N's brother and wife to celebrate my birthday...two and a half months after the date. The catch-up was multi-pronged (celebrate my birthday, celebrate brother-in-laws birthday, see how both pregnant ladies - due within 6 days of each other - were on the bump front). Lucky me, I was also given in two spanking new pizza stones that promised to transform my at-home pizza eating.
The stones were given in memory of a trip the four of us took to Italy 3 years ago. The house we rented had an outdoor pizza oven, and the memory of the food that came out of it can still turn all of us misty-eyed. I had heard that the best way to mimic the brick-built pizza oven experience in the kitchen was to get a pizza stone or to pick up a large ceramic tile from a tile shop and pop that in the oven when it was pizza time. I never got around to food shopping at my local tile store, so the pizza stones were a gift received with genuine thanks.
I've tried out two pizza dough recipes since getting the stones, one that I've had for ages (and am not sure from where I got it) and one from Giada de Laurentis I found on Epicurious. I tried the Giada recipe first, and though the dough looked good and crisped up nicely, both Mr A&N and I found it very ordinary. Ordinary in the way that cheap frozen pizza can be ordinary, so perhaps not even deserving the praise of 'ordinary'. It was a bit tough and tasteless in a cardboardy way, and once we ate all the toppings we left the crusts uneaten, without being tempted to finish them off and push ourselves past our fullness limit (as a good pizza crust ought to do).
Having my friend Alex and her family around for lunch this last weekend, I decided to turn it into a pizza event and to go back to my normal pizza dough recipe. I wanted to engage 3 1/2 year old Freddie with the food making and give him as much involvement as he wanted so he could have fun when it came to eating thigns. He wasn't keen in getting his hands dirty by shaping and rolling out the dough (his mother, on the other hand, loved it and vowed to make pizza herself some day soon), but he fastidiously decorated his pizza with the toppings of his choice (which bravely included capers as well as his beloved black olives).
These pizzas turned out wonderfully well, with a crust that both crisped and puffed up slightly, and made you want to leave nothing left on your plate. Freddie ran into the kitchen after his first bite to tell me he thought it was delicious and he was very happy. Although his number of bites didn't go much higher than 10, he did eat all his toppings and saved just enough room for his cupcake afterwards. Parents and adults all managed to gorge themselves on both the pizzas and the cupcakes, but didn't then have the same energy as Freddie to run around the garden chasing a football after the eating was done. We instead flopped out on the sofas, which is a much more grown-up thing to do.
makes about 6 crusts
- 1 packet fast action yeast
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 3 Tbs olive oil
- 1 Tbs salt
- 2 C warm water
- 6 C bread flour (you can swap in 1/2 C of wholemeal flour for one of the half cups if you wanted to make it a bit healthier)
- Combine the yeast, sugar, olive oil, salt and warm water. Stir well.
- Add in about half the flour, stirring well.
- Add in the rest of the flour, stirring for as long as you can and mixing with your hands if stirring becomes impossible. The mixture should be slightly wet but not overly so - you may need to add more flour to balance it.
- Knead for a few minutes.
- Turn the dough into another bowl which is lightly oiled (with olive oil). Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise until double in height (about 1 1/2 hours).
- When nicely risen, turn out of the bowl and knead very lightly on a well floured surface before dividing the dough into balls and shaping them into pizzas.
- Cook on pizza stones or ceramic tiles - pre heat the oven to as high as it will go with the stones/tiles warming up inside. Slip the crusts with their topping onto the heated stones and cook until cheese is melted and crust is golden (time depends on how hot the oven is).