Friday, 12 October 2012

Perfectly Puffy, Crunchy Pizza Bases

Yey.  It's Friday, and in our house that generally means pizza night!!!!  We love making pizza, especially on a Friday night.  We used to make pizza using a pita bread base, unfortunately we've turned into pizza snobs and only like real pizza bases now.

I have read and tried so many pizza base recipes, and in the end I've settled on my own version which is a mix of them all.

500g flour  (you can use plain, Italian 'OO' flour, strong bread/pizza flour or a mix)
10g salt
10g dried yeast (you can also use fresh yeast if you can get it - 15g or 1/2oz)
pinch of sugar
300-340ml water (it just depends on the flour and room temperature)
1 tbsp (20ml) extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Measure the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Add 150ml of lukewarm water to a measuring jug.  The best way to get the correct temperature of lukewarm is to use 1 part (50ml) of boiling water from the kettle and 2 parts (100ml) tap water.  Measure 10g of yeast and a pinch (maybe half a teaspoon) of sugar and add it to the water.  Whisk in gently to combine, then leave it to allow the yeast to activate.  If you are using fresh yeast you don't need to wait for it to activate, just stir it into the water.

Once the yeast is activated, add 1 tablespoon of EVOO.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture.  Pour in another 150-190ml of water and start mixing.  I use my Kitchenaid with a dough hook, but you can also mix it using your hands. 

The dough will gradually come together and form a rough ball.  When it has done this, transfer the dough to a workbench.

Knead the dough (see notes) until it is smooth and elastic.  This will only take a few minutes.  Lightly oil a large bowl (I use the Kitchen aid one), roll the ball of dough around in  the bowl to coat it with oil, and cover with some cling film or a tea towel and leave it in a warm place for a few hours so the dough can rise.  It will double in size.  You can also make the dough in the morning and leave it to prove slowly in the fridge all day.

The dough will get twice as big as this

Once the dough has risen, get one hand down each side of the bowl, lift up the dough and flip it over upside down into the bowl again.  This is 'punching' the dough back to it's original size.  At this stage you can either refrigerate the dough for up to 4 hours, or freeze it to use another time.  Bring the dough back to room temperature before continuing.

Divide the dough into portions.  The amount of dough in this recipe will make 4 large bases or 6 individual ones.

Now if you're very talented you will be able to push, stretch, and throw each ball into a round flat pizza base.  I'm not that talented, so I start by pulling or stretching the dough out, and then lightly roll it from the centre outwards, trying not to roll the outside edges.

The dough is now ready to be topped with your favourite toppings.  Make sure you leave the outside edges of the pizza empty as this will be the crust that puffs up.

Now this is my secret.  I use a pizza stone to cook my pizzas on.  You can get them from most kitchen shops.  The stone has to be really hot to cook puffy cruchy pizzas.  Most ovens have a top temperatures of about 250C/480F, but our gas BBQ can get to 350C/660F, so the secret is to cook the pizzas in the BBQ.  If you're really lucky and have access to a wood-fired pizza oven, then this is even better as they can get to temperatures above 400C/750F.  Quick cooking at high heat is the key.

Transferring your pizzas from the workbench to the oven/BBQ can be tricky.  Either make sure the bottom of your pizza base is well dusted with flour or semolina, or place a small piece of baking paper under the base.  Use a wide pizza paddle to lift the pizza bases (available from kitchenware shops).  Cook the pizza in the hottest source you have for 5-10 minutes until the base is puffy around the edges.

It might sound like a lot of fluffing around but when I get puffiness like this ...

It's all worth it.

Season:  Pizza's are in season all year round
If you are going to knead the pizza dough on your kitchen bench, first wipe it down with white vinegar to ensure it's food-safe clean.  Then scatter a light layer of flour over the bench and start kneading.

Kneading - Richard Bertinet is a French Chef living in the UK. His French method of kneading plus two others are shown in this quick Video

You will notice that the toppings vary in the photos.  That's because Friday night is also wine night.  Sorry!

For more tips on homemade pizzas see - Taste
Interesting Facts:
Pizzas originate from Naples, Italy.
The first pizza's were just dough and tomato sauce - no cheese.  Cheese was only added in 1889 when an Italian chef made a pizza for Queen Margherita of Italy to try.  He created a pizza based on the colours of the Italian flag - tomato, basil and mozzarella.


  1. They look scrummy!
    Sunday night is our pizza night here, we used to make a base like yours, but now we make a GF base and it is so yummy you can't even tell!

  2. Second the pizza stone, they make such a difference to getting a good base.

  3. Snap! Friday is pizza night in my house too. I cheat and make my pizza dough in the bread maker so it's all ready when I come in from work. I use wholemeal flour and it gives the bases a lovely flavour. I do have a pizza stone, but have never really seen any difference before - now I know why...I haven't been getting it hot enough. Thanks for the tip. Enjoy your Friday pizzas (and wine!)

    1. Thanks Beth. I have been meaning to try wholemeal flour. Will give it a go!

  4. We have Friday night pizza night as well. I have tried many recipes over the years and none have been quite right, I will give this one a whirl tonight!! x

  5. MMM,I can almost smell and taste it. Love the crunchy bits. This will be a good one to try with my grandchildren,they love to cook. x

  6. Great idea to cook it in the BBQ - would never have thought of that and will definitely try it. Enjoy this glorious weekend (especially now those crazy winds have gone!)

    1. The heat from the BBQ makes such a difference. I know what a glorious day it is today. Makes me happy.


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