Introducing……My brother Karl-Heinz’s guest blog post. Karl-Heinz says…
I’ve been making crap pizzas since 1983.
In fact, I’ve turned it into something of an art and even won the Turner Prize for a Pizzarium i Crapio installation in 2002.
It all began when I was given a Floyd on France cookbook and attempted to make the ‘classic Provencal Pizza’. Over 34 years later I can confirm that until very recently I’ve made hundreds of crap pizzas. After the Floyd recipe failed me on a number of occasions, I took to playing a tape of La Bohème and drinking a nice Chianti whilst kneading. It didn’t help.
Soggy bottomed, or as hard as a dog biscuit, slathered in toppings and with the strong taste of yeast generally present, they were consistently grim. Floyd, Oliver, Hollywood, David and Ramsey have all contributed recipes to my collection of failures.
Along with recipes I have gathered items of pizza related cookware. In the loft resides a large metal pizza peel (previously hidden under the bed as an anti-burglar device). Beside the cooker another wooden pizza peel leans. Somewhere, there is a metal pizza crisper and another wooded paddle. I’ve thrown away at least three cutters and still possess two.
Every Christmas, Poppy and Rocket are very generous and diligent, seeking out my ridiculous requests for books and cookware but even he was perturbed at spending £50 on a ‘fucking paving slab’. I tried to explain, without much conviction, that it was a ‘high-quality pizza stone’. Fortunately, they still bought it and Santa had a struggle getting my sack down the chimney.
And then, a few months ago, it happened. The epiphany! I realised that you can’t cook traditional pizza in a domestic oven. They just don’t get hot enough. A traditional Neapolitan Pizza requires a cooking temperature between 450-480oC, and your average Baby Belling can generate nowhere near that level of heat.
Five minutes of research revealed that Pizza Al Taglio is the answer. Italian for pizza by the slice — literally “by the cut” — sold by weight and, crucially, baked in rectangular metal trays. The combination of a metal tray and an ‘effin’ paving slab, imparts enough heat to crisp the bottom of the dough, bake the middle to fluffy perfection (channelling Nigella there) and cook the toppings.
I’ve used a metal baking tray without the stone and the results are nearly as good as the metal tray/pizza stone combination.
The real irony is that without realising it, I had eaten pizza al taglio at the venerable Malletti in Soho for years. Sadly, like so many W1 institutions, Malletti has closed, driven out by extortionate business rates.
My mild obsession has been reignited, and my pizzas are no longer crap.
I’ve spent some time studying Gabriele Bonci videos on YouTube for technique. He is recognised as the prime exponent of Pizza Al Taglio and was christened ‘the Michelangelo of Pizza’ by Vogue. It seems appropriate that a magazine famed for size 0 models used a painter to describe a baker. Look, don’t eat.
Two prime ingredients have also made a difference; glorious Mulino Marino flour is amazing to cook with, and Saf Levure dried active yeast gives a consistently good rise.
The recipe might seem like a lot of bother but after a 30 stretch in Wormwood Crust Pizza Prison I’ve had plenty of time to reflect, and in my humble, the results are well worth the effort.
Minxy’s favourite is Pizza Bianci. Simply a base brushed with oil and sprinkled with salt flakes.
Caprese flavours work well but your own favourite toppings are always the best option to go with, Bonci invents them by the dozen, and they’re easy to locate online.
The recipe is makes about 950g dough and will feed four normal people.
As a guide to the size of baking tray, I use 0.5g of dough per cm2 , so a 36 x 26 tray requires about 470g of dough.
500g Mulino Marino Type “0” organic flour
5g Saf Levure active dried yeast
350ml tepid water
½ a teaspoon of sugar
20ml olive oil, plus more for greasing
- ½ teaspoon of sugar dissolved in 200g of the tepid water
- Add the yeast and allow to activate for a few minutes. Good to go once frothy.
- In a large non metal bowl stir the salt into the flour
- Mix 20ml of olive oil with 150ml of water and then stir into the flour and salt
- Add the yeasty water
- Stir together gently
- Cover with cling film and leave in a draft free spot for an hour. I put the oven on at 180oC and stand the bowl toward the rear of the hob.
- Gently scrape out the dough on to a work surface dusted with flour. With lightly floured hands pull the sides of the dough up and out, and then fold them back over. Do this several times. Place back in the bowl, wait for 10 minutes and repeat. Put the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Remove from the fridge and allow the dough to come up to room temperature. As it does so, boils of yeasty gas will form underneath the surface. However tempting it is to burst them, leave them alone.
- Dust the work surface with flour. Carefully weigh the dough and cut to size. Fold each piece several times as before. Then tuck into a ball. Leave to rest for an hour.
- Set the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7
- Gently stretch the dough on a floured surface. Use your floured fingertips to spread it out into a rectangle. Like playing chords on a piano, press gently to create dimples, whilst retaining small pockets of air. Lift carefully onto to a lightly oiled baking tray and tickle into the corners.
- Apply your toppings
- Bake for 25 minutes or until the surface is pale golden and puffed with bubbles. This can vary depending on your oven.