Making pizza at home is one of those things I’d wanted to do for ages, and being in lockdown was the spur I needed. That and discovering the secret of no-knead pizza dough as I’m not blessed with a stand mixer nor the patience to knead bread dough for twenty minutes. Here’s what worked for me.

Equipment

You will need…

  • A pizza stone or a pizza steel. This is a lump of metal or stone with the ability to absorb a lot of heat. It simulates the cooking from below that a pizza sitting on the floor of a wood burning stove would get. Some people use both in combination. A steel is more expensive, and I got a stone because I’m cheap, which is why my pizzas, although crisp on the bottom, are still very pale. Mine cost about £25.
  • A pizza peel. Don’t under-estimate the importance of this bit of kit. Transferring a pizza from the worktop to the stone/steel is very tricky without it. Mine cost about £40 and has a nifty handle which rotates under it for easy storage.
  • Some kind of blender or liquidiser for the tomato sauce.

The principle here is to let time do the work for us. So this has the benefit of requiring very little time actively spent making pizza, but you do have to plan ahead. If you’re starting this Monday morning, the earliest you’ll have pizza is Wednesday lunchtime.

Dough ingredients

Makes four small pizzas

  • 500g flour. I use strong white bread flour but you can use almost anything.
  • ¼ tsp active dry yeast (yes, that’s all you need)
  • 2 tsp fine salt
  • 350ml water

This couldn’t be easier. Put the ingredients in a bowl and stir them together. The result will look like a shaggy mess, but you don’t have to get everything incorporated. Just stir until there isn’t any dry flour left. Then cover with a tea towel and leave on the kitchen workbench for 8-24 hours. Active time spent so far: five minutes.

At the end of this time, your shaggy bowl of nonsense will have transformed into a much more homogenous, but still very sticky dough. Pizza nerds will tell you that this dough has a 70% hydration, which is another way of saying it’s very sticky. Generously flour the worksurface and your hands. Turn out the dough, ball it up, and divide it into four. Shape each quarter into a ball and put in a Tupperware container or bowl covered with clingfilm and stash in the fridge for another 8 hours or up to a week. Active time spent so far: 10-15 minutes depending on if you count cleaning the work surface, washing up the bowl etc.

Sauce

During one of these intervals, you can start thinking about sauce. A few experiments taught me that I prefer a raw tomato sauce – it gets plenty of cooking on the pizza in the oven. Whole canned tomatoes have better flavour than the chopped variety but tend to be watery. I dump the can of tomatoes into a bowl, fish out the tomatoes, leaving the juice (presumably made from less good quality tomatoes), spoon them into a liquidiser and blitz them for 20 seconds or so. Even this tends to give me a sauce which is too watery, so I transfer the pulverised tomatoes into a sieve and strain off most of the water until I end up with two or three tablespoons of richly flavoursome tomato goodness. To this I add a generous pinch of salt, a slightly less generous pinch of black pepper, a half teaspoon of sugar and a whole teaspoon of oregano or dried mixed herbs. One 420g can makes about enough sauce for one pizza, but it’s as easy to do two cans at a time, and you can stash the sauce in the fridge next to the containers of dough. This all takes about another ten minutes including the washing up. With dough balls and tomato sauce in the fridge, you can have a pizza ready to eat in only about twenty minutes, with over half of that spent watching it cook in the oven.

Pizza

Okay – it’s pizza day. First, put your pizza stone on the top rack of your oven and crank it up as high as it will go. With my oven, that’s 275 degrees. Leave it there for 45 minutes. Now, assemble your pizza station. I prefer my mozzarella finely chopped or grated as opposed to in big slices. About 50g per pizza. Do that first, as well as any other toppings you want.

Now, sprinkle flour and/or semolina on your pizza peel, and flour on your work surface. Plop a dough ball out on to the floured worktop and start pressing and stretching it out as thin as you can get it. Once it’s nice and thin and round(ish), quickly lift it up and drop it on the peel. Give the peel a shake to make sure it isn’t sticking. Work fast! It will stick eventually and then you are completely screwed.

Spoon on the tomato sauce and spread it almost to the edges, then any other toppings you want, then the cheese. Carry the pizza on the peel to the oven and jiggle it off onto the hot stone. Every oven is different, but I’ve settled on 12 minutes to get the crust a nice colour and all the cheese melted. It will go faster if you turn the grill on, but then there’s the risk that the underside of the crust won’t get crisp.

Grab some tongs and yank the cooked pizza off the stone onto a plate or cooling rack and now you can start work on the second pizza. Do not let a fully assembled pizza sit on the peel while the pizza ahead of it cooks. It will stick and you will have no way of removing it intact.

Here’s the result of a recent batch. Light, crispy, chewy, salty, cheesy and pretty much perfect.

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