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Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita

They say you have never had a good pizza until you make one which means you “knead” to give it a try. My family prefers this plain margherita pizza which is practically dough, sauce and mozzarella cheese. I heard it was created by a chef, keeping Italian flag colours as inspiration; Green- basil, White – mozzarella cheese and Red – sauce.

I don’t know about you but my problem with boxed pizzas is the lack of sauce. There is hardly any! Even at famous pizza places there is NO sauce. I learned from a chef that most pizza places use baking soda instead of yeast as leavening agent. How can they do this to us?? Plus there are so many toppings which just take the focus away from the real deal, that is; the base, pizza sauce and mozzarella. Usually there is a combo of cheddar and mozzarella which makes pizzas quite heavy.

The ingredients for the dough would make about 2 large pizzas, depending on your definition of large size pizza and the thickness you prefer. If you wanna make to serve a crowd (first of all, good luck!) you can make dough in batches. It would be easier to knead and you would be able to get almost equal sized pizzas. I use food processor for making the dough but you can knead it by hands or with a beater, using dough hooks.

Ingredients for pizza dough:

1 1/2 tsp instant yeast

2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

3 cups flour

1 – 1 1/2 cups warm water

Ingredients for pizza sauce:

500 gm tomatoes, blanched and peeled (or used peeled canned tomatoes)

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, peeled

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp black pepper powder

1/4 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1 tbsp olive oil, optional

1/2 cup tomato paste

water if needed

Ingredients for assembly:

200-250 gm shredded mozzarella cheese

some dried basil, thyme and oregano

1-2 tbsp olive oil

Method:

for dough:

In a food processor combine instant yeast, sugar, oil, salt and flour. Add 1/2 cup of warm water and pulse the machine for about 8-10 seconds. This will give you the idea how much more water is required. Keep the machine running and add water, almost a tablespoon at a time through the food tube. Stop the machine when the dough forms a ball and check the texture of dough. It should be soft but not dry, slightly on the stickier side. You may not require to add the total volume of water mentioned in the ingredients list. It varies due to the humidity in your kitchen, how you scooped the flour, how fresh is the flour etc. If it gets too sticky, add little flour and run the machine to get desired texture.

Transfer the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl. Loosely cover and let it rise in a warm  place for about 90 minutes.

for the sauce:

Combine tomatoes, onion and garlic in a blender or food processor and process. You can keep it slightly chunky or form a smooth paste, it is your call. Transfer into a medium size saucepan and add salt, red chilli powder, black pepper powder, basil, oregano, thyme and olive oil, if using. Cook on medium flame, stirring after 3-4 minutes intervals, till the sauce is thickened. Add tomato paste and a little water if required. When it reaches the consistency of ketchup, turn the flame off and remove from the stove. Let it cool.

The time required to cook the sauce depends on the quality of tomatoes and their water content. Adjust seasonings according to your taste as the tanginess of tomatoes varies too. You can add a tsp of sugar if it is too tangy for your taste buds.

The sauce can be made upto 3 days ahead of time, kept covered in refrigerator. It freezes well too for about 4-6 weeks.

assembly:

Lightly grease two pizza pans. Preheat oven at 200 degree celsius. Divide the dough in two equal size portions. Roll out each dough on lightly floured surface to fit in the pan; around 1/4 inch thick. Place each rolled out base in each prepared pan. You can push the rolled dough to touch the sides of the pan. Make several pricks on the surface. It will make the base bump-free! Give it another 10 minutes rest.

Spread the sauce; around 1/3 to 1/2 cup on each base. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese (be generous please). Sprinkle a pinch of each herb and drizzle oil if using. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. Check the doneness by gently lifting the base with a heat proof spatula. It should be golden brown, more brownish than golden actually. Again time required for baking depends on your oven, thickness of the pizza base, quality of pan etc. So don’t fret, be flexible.

You can add any kind of topping you want; like olives, chopped capsicum, onion, tomato, sausages, cooked meat, jalapeno, pineapple on the sauce, followed by cheese.

Buy block of cheese and grate it. Grated and packed cheese has other ingredients added to prevent it from sticking and melting.

The idea of homemade pizza is more about enjoying cooking/baking rather than being perfect. Make changes as you like, experiment, enjoy errors and have fun with your family. It should be learning and progressing and not stressing and perfecting!



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