Making your own pizza is one of the ultimate cooking experiences. No matter how misshapen, over-sauced or charred it comes out, it will always be in a different league to what you can pick up from a takeout pizza chain.
HOW TO MAKE PIZZA
Why? Your hands have been in the dough. They’ve stretched it, torn it, and reworked it. They’ve spread the sauce, torn the mozzarella, and they slid it all into the oven. It almost doesn’t matter how it comes out!
There are, however, a few simple secrets that will help you turn your humble homemade pizza into something that’ll make your guests gasp, and Jamie’s chef director across his specialist restaurants, Steve Pooley, is here to spill the beans. He’s worked at Jamie’s Fifteen, opened and headed up both Union Jacks and Barbecoa, as well as numerous Jamie’s Italian sites. We invited him into the office to take us through the process behind the perfect homemade pizza.
Combine these tips with Jamie’s basic pizza recipe and what you pull out of the oven will be perfect every time.
First, thoroughly clean a sturdy surface. Making sure it’s dry, heap your flour onto it, and in a bowl, mix some warm water with yeast, salt and sugar.
Using warm (roughly blood temperature) water will help the yeast react better – not too fast, and not too slow.
Making the dough
Make a deep, high-walled well in the middle of the flour. Slowly start adding a third of the water. Using a fork, bring the flour in from the middle, retaining the well shape. Gradually add the remaining water until a sticky dough is formed. Don’t worry if it feels too wet – go with it!
Kneading makes a huge difference. Working your dough for 10 minutes will help to release the proteins in the flour and give you a stronger, more stretchy end product.
Transfer to an oiled bowl. Here, fold the dough into itself a few times – this will help to delay the process slightly. Cover with clingfilm and allow to double in size (about 45 minutes to an hour).
Divide your dough into balls – a general rule is approximately 200g per portion.
Now it’s time to form your dough into rounds before their final prove. Use both hands in a scissor motion, bringing the edges of your palms together – this will give you a smooth top and pinched bottom, ensuring an even rise.
Place, evenly spaced, on a lightly floured tray. Leave approximately three centimetres between each round. When they’ve expanded enough to touch each other, they’re ready!
Carefully remove each round with a fish slice or pastry scraper, taking care to retain their shapes. Turn the smooth side down onto lightly floured surface.
Option one (playing it safe)
Using fingertips and middle of fingers, gently stretch your round into a flat circle, and keep pushing the edges out until it reaches your desired size.
Option two (for the brave)
Get to the end of option one and pick up the dough, place fists together, and stretch the dough out with a circular motion to increase its diameter.
Option three (for the showoff)
Toss in the air and use the weight of the dough as it lands to stretch it even thinner. This takes practice – don’t do it in front of guests until you’re confident!
Topping & baking
Place your base onto a baking tray that’s been lightly dusted with semolina or flour.
To achieve a good, even spread of sauce, it’s worth purchasing a flat-bottomed ladle. Alternatively, ladle as evenly as possible and spread with a large tablespoon to fill in the gaps. Next, cover with your chosen toppings.
It’s best to place the topping ingredients where the sauce is thinnest. This will reduce the final weight and make it easier to transfer into the oven in one piece.
To ensure a great bake at home, make sure your oven is as hot as it can possibly get. Don’t put your pizza in while the oven is still getting up to temperature.
Using up leftover pizza dough
Dough remnants can be rolled into grissini (breadsticks). You could also try a plait, or little dough balls.
To do this, smear a little oil onto a baking sheet and space your leftover dough shapes about a finger width apart.
Bake in a hot oven until golden and crispy. Try adding toppings like sesame seeds, black pepper, or dried chilli by brushing a little egg white over, then sprinkling them on top.