Tuesday, January 09, 2007

January 7, 2007: Pizza

For a few days leading up to the weekend, I was mentally putting aside Sunday afternoon to prepare some pizza bases for dinner. Then I read about Kitchen Wench's best pizza base ever and the deal was sealed. Her pics confirmed the crispy base and soft doughy centre that Ellie went gaga over. Furthermore, Michael and I had just received a belated wedding gift from our friend Zoe, which included a talking Homer Simpson pizza cutter that emits one of four catchphrases with every slice.

I pretty much followed Ellie's recipe (doubling the quantities), except that I used strong wholemeal flour instead of white. I was a bit slack with the meticulous measurements, guessing water temperatures and quantities of sugar and salt since I lacked the necessary implements to do any better.

My initial yeast mixture bubbled up promisingly, but then I used my large and medium bowls the wrong way round, meaning that I gradually added the dry ingredients to the liquid, instead of the other way round. It was a bit difficult to get all the flour incorporated into the dough, and I don't think my mixture was the "soft, sticky mess" that it was supposed to be.

During the subsequent hour or two of kneading and proving, the dough didn't expand as much as I expected it to, based on what I'd experienced with another recipe. But time was getting on and it looked edible, so I split it into four and rolled out some thin bases.

The result was very thin and crisp, smaller and lacking the breadiness that I was hoping for. I guess the whole yeast thing didn't really work out for me this time. Nevertheless, thin and crispy is the best way to approach a wholemeal base, I reckon, and houseguests Emma and Simon were very complimentary of my homemade effort. Their ideas in the morning inspired some pretty special topping combinations too.

This one has tomato paste, mozarella, mushrooms, zucchini, capsicum, marinated eggplant and capers.

Satay sauce, fresh basil leaves, spinach, steamed pumpkin, pine nuts, fetta and a little mozarella.

Tomato paste, dried oregano, fresh basil leaves, mushrooms, mozarella and parmesan.

Edit 11/01/07:
Within hours of posting this, the lovely Ellie (a.k.a. Kitchen Wench) emailed me with some extra tips. Here are the important bits, copied with her permission:

I’ve just spoken with my colleague at work (who is quite the experienced baker/cook and my resource for information when I’m stumped!) and he’s said wholemeal flour is a lot less refined than white flour, so the end result will be something a lot heavier than what the result would be like made with white flour. To combat this you’d need to use more yeast to get it to rise nicely. Also, though not 100% certain, he said he’s fairly sure that wholemeal is a lot ‘thirstier’ than white flour, so you may need to add more liquid to get the dough to the same consistency.

Since I’ve never baked with wholemeal before, I’m only guessing here, but perhaps you could add another 1g of the yeast for the initial blooming, and use 150g white flour and 100g wholemeal? I’m not sure about adding more liquid – if you find that the dough that comes together at first isn’t sticky at all, perhaps add another 50grams (a little less than approx ¼ cup) to see if it helps? If you’re feeling up for experimentation, this could be a good starting point :) Also, if you’re up for something not quite *so* thin, what you can also do is try and roll it into the full shape (about 4mm thick) the first time around, layer the toppings then cover it with a dishcloth and leave it to proof for about 10-15 minutes, that *should* get you something a bit puffier/breadlier :)

Perhaps I'll make-over the kitchen as a secret pizza laboratory on a weekend soon...



  1. Mmmm....pizza. I love the look of your toppings, some real originality there.

  2. Thanks Neil! Credit must go to our houseguests, Emma and Simon, for the satay/pumpkin/spinach idea. It was so tasty, and not too time-consuming when you steam (rather than roast) the pumpkin.

  3. Neil's right, those are some lovely toppings! I've got to admit that I love my roast pumpkin & spinach pizza, but I usually do it with sundried tomatoes and goat's cheese. I'll bear the steaming in mind next time I'm in a hurry and can't wait an hour for my pumpkin to roast!