Pizza is so easy and rewarding to make. Here is a basic dough that you can use to make focaccia or as a base for a pizza.
500g of plain flour
14g of dried yeast
240mls tepid water (hand-hot)
1 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 220ēC/Gas Mark 7.
1. Put the flour in a bowl.
2. Put the yeast into a clean cup with the salt and almost fill the cup with tepid water (about 240mls of water). Mix. (If you are using fast acting yeast from a sachet just add it with the salt to the flour, and add the water, bit by bit until the dough forms, drawing the flour into the liquid as you go. Stop adding water before you think you need to - you can always add more, but you can't subtract.).
3. After a few minutes, when the yeast mixture looks frothy (this shows that yeast is alive), make a hole in the middle of the flour and pour the contents of the cup into it.
4. Draw the flour into the liquid with your hands until it forms a sticky mass. When it comes together, wash and dry your hands and turn this sticky mess onto a floured board or table.
5. Begin to knead, pushing the dough down with the palm of your hand, and turning it each time before you give it the next push. Flour your hands again if you need to.
6. It will take a while but eventually the dough will begin to look smooth, a bit like a baby's bottom. This should take about 10 minutes. Don't knead for less time even if the dough become smooth because this kneading action is what activates the yeast.
7. Leave the dough to rest, lightly covered with a clean teatowel or loose cling film, for 30 minutes while you get the ingredients ready for the topping.
8. This quantity of dough makes 2 large and 4 mini-pizzas. When it has rested and you are ready to make your pizza, cut it into 2 or 4 pieces, and press it out into a round or roll it into shape. Leave it for 10 minutes to rise in a warm place (cover it loosely).
9. Arrange your toppings on each pizza and place on a preheated baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil and bake until the base and toppings are cooked (about 20 minutes).
Here are some ideas for toppings.
Smear it with tomato passata or sauce and top with any of the following combinations:
Asparagus, blanched first with sliced tomatoes, chillies and cream cheese.
Smoked salmon and cream cheese
Sliced softened onions, sliced tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and fried pancetta.
Sliced par-boiled potato slices and rosemary.
You can leave the salt out of this recipe if you wish - salt actually inhibits yeast - however, adding it will give you a firmer crust. If you wish you can leave it out.
If you are using a salty topping - say anchovies, it is good to include salt in the dough to balance the flavour in the base with the flavour in the topping.
If you want a softer dough, use a tablespoon or two of milk instead of some of the water.