Homemade pizza is a great way of making a few basic ingredients go a long way and unlike the commercial product, you have control over what goes into it and the calorie count. Half a kilo of flour feeds a lot of people if you turn it into pizza dough, roll it thin and add the toppings of your choice. Children love helping knead and shape bread dough and the family can choose their own topping preferences.
A few slices of a luxury item like Parma ham or proscuitto may disappear in a flash if you serve them on a plate but as a garnish for pizza, they look impressive and everyone gets a taste. As the other ingredients are quite cheap the over all spend is actually quite reasonable.
Adding olive oil to the dough isn’t obligatory but it does keep the dough tender if you want to eat leftovers cold the next day. This is an ingredient commercial manufacturers often leave out to save money and increase profits. There’s nothing wrong with cold pizza for breakfast when it is homemade!
You can make the dough ahead of time and let it rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight or during the day while you are at work. You can also prepare the tomato and mushroom mixture ahead of time so that in the evening all you have to do is roll, assemble and bake.
For the dough
500 grams all purpose or 00 white flour
1 sachet dried yeast
15 ml olive oil
5 ml sugar
2 ml salt
250 ml warm water
For the topping
1 jar or can of your favourite good quality tomato pasta sauce or a can of chopped plum tomatoes
200 grams of mushrooms, finely sliced
half an onion, finely diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
mozzarella or other mild melting cheese, shredded or diced
80 grams of Proscuitto or other fine air-dried ham
Baby rocket leaves to garnish
First make your dough. Sift the flour, sugar, salt and dried yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hooks. Make a well in the middle. Warm the water to blood heat and mix with the olive oil. Turn the mixer on at slow speed and slowly add the water and oil mixture. Knead for 5 minutes or until silky and smooth. You may need to use slightly more water as flour varies in its capacity to absorb moisture, depending on the weather and storage conditions. Be careful not to make the dough too sticky as it will be difficult to roll out later. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the weather.
Then make the topping. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet or large frying pan and cook the onions over gentle heat until they just turn soft. Add the mushrooms and cook until lightly golden, tossing the pan to brown on both sides. Be careful not to over cook as you don’t want them to shrivel up. Add the tomato sauce to the pan, stir well to combine. Season to taste and set aside to cool.
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees centigrade or as hot as it will go. Lightly oil two baking sheets or four pizza pans, depending on the size of your oven and how many racks it has.
Knock down the risen dough with your fist and knead it lightly to get rid of any big air bubbles. If it seems sticky and difficult to handle, sift over a little more flour and knead it in. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured clean work surface and knead into a big ball. Cut the ball into four quarters with a sharp knife and shape each portion into a ball.
Roll each ball out into a circle and place it on the prepared baking sheets or pizza pans. You can pat it out with your hands directly onto the pans if you like.
Divide the tomato and mushroom mix between the four and spread thinly and evenly, avoiding the very edges. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake until golden and the cheese is bubbly. The base should be cooked through without being hard. About 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven. You may need to turn them at half time and swop the trays from top to bottom to get even baking if you don’t have a fan oven.
Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. Then garnish with the ham and the rocket leaves and serve immediately.
If you like a thick base, let the prepared circles rise for about 10 minutes before baking.
If you prefer a very thin base, divide the dough into 8 instead of 4 and roll it out thinner. Just remember that if you have to bake it in two batches, the second will be thicker than the first as they will have had a second rise while waiting.
If rocket is out of season or not available, try a few baby spinach leaves instead.