When you make friends in the virtual world of blogging, it turns out you can have a virtual party too — an online pizza party, in our case. A few Irish foodies were chatting on Twitter last week, a few pizza craving comments were casually tossed around and before we knew it Sarah had taken the lead in planning a #twizzaparty last Thursday, where nine of us were to all make homemade pizzas, tweet about it and blog it, with Lorraine volunteering to judge the results and even donate some prizes from her Italian deli in Limerick.
Sure, it’s easier to order take-out, and with a good pizzeria only a five-minute drive away we certainly do our fair share of that, but one of the great things about making your own pizzas is that kids love helping out with it, so it’s a fun way to get them involved in the kitchen. But if you’re not crazy about the idea of making your own dough, then you could buy ready-made pizza bases or dough at the grocery store and load them up with your own fresh toppings. I’ve included a list of all the toppings made for the twizzaparty (we would appear to like Parma ham a lot), as well as a few more from around the internet to get you going.
This dough is absolutely foolproof and is the only recipe I use now. Resting the dough overnight is a tip that’s new to me, and if nothing else I found that it made the dough easier to roll out the next day (Lorraine also passed on a tip to cover it with a damp tea towel to keep it from rising too much in the fridge). And everyone loves a secret ingredient, so I’ll let you in on the one in my tomato sauce — anchovy paste. Don’t worry, it doesn’t make the sauce taste at all fishy, it just adds a little hit of umami goodness.
Basic Pizza Dough
adapted from The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Makes enough for 2 pizzas or 1 loaf of white bread
4 1/4 cups (500 g) strong white flour, plus extra for dusting the work surface
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons (1 x 7 g sachet) easy-blend (fast-action) yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar or honey
1 1/4 cup (300 ml) warm water
cornmeal/polenta, for the base of the pizza (optional)
To make the dough in a bread machine, simply follow the usual instructions for your machine, then skip to the last step.
To make the dough by hand, put the flour in a large mixing bowl, add the salt and yeast and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Pour the warm water into a measuring jug, then add the olive oil and sugar (or honey). Stir well. Pour the water mixture onto the flour in the bowl, a little at a time. Either with the wooden spoon or your hands, work the water into the flour and gradually bring it all together into a mass of soft, slightly stick dough. If the dough feels very sticky, add a little more flour. If it feels as if it won’t come together, then work in some more warm water — a soft dough is much easier to knead.
Flour the work surface and turn the dough out onto it. It will look rough and saggy at this stage, so it has to be kneaded until it’s smooth and bouncy. Keep kneading for at least 10 minutes (or you could use the dough hook of a stand mixer). Shape the dough into a neat ball, put it back in the mixing bowl and cover the bowl with some cling film or a damp kitchen towel to prove in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size — this will take 90 minutes to 2 hours.
When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Lightly grease a pizza pan or baking sheet with olive oil, then sprinkle over some cornmeal, if using. Knock out the air and roll the dough out into a 12-inch round (or whatever size will fit your pan/sheet) and place in the prepared pan or baking sheet. Cover the dough with your toppings and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden (check after 10 minutes to make sure nothing is burning). Allow to stand for 10 minutes, then cut into slices and serve immediately.
Tomato Sauce with a Secret Ingredient
Makes more than enough for 2 pizzas
2 x 6 oz cans (or 1 x 300 g jar) tomato paste (a.k.a. tomato puree)
3/4 cup (175 ml) water (or more if you prefer a thinner sauce)
2 or 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup (25 g) finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons anchovy paste (optional, but come on, it’s the secret ingredient!)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sugar
In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste and water, stirring to combine. Add the garlic, Parmesan, anchovy paste, basil, oregano and chili flakes. Add seasoning to taste, but watch the salt if you’ve used the anchovy paste, as it’s quite salty. Mix together well and add a generous pinch of sugar (or to taste) to counteract the acidity of the tomato paste. Allow the sauce to stand for at least 30 minutes to blend the flavors (though the longer you can leave it, the better), then taste again and adjust the seasoning if needed. Spread the sauce over your pizza dough, then pile on the toppings. Use any leftovers as a pasta sauce, or freeze.
Here’s what we made for the twizzaparty:
- Hickory BBQ sauce, smoked Applewood cheese, red onions and roasted chicken (my pizza, pictured)
- Mushroom, Manchego cheese and sage (An American in Ireland)
- Chicken, asparagus, sweetcorn, feta, red onion, mozzarella (Babaduck Babbles)
- Parma ham, salami, garlic mushrooms, Taleggio, mozzarella (Babaduck Babbles)
- Pork, onion, tomato, mushroom, mozzarella, basil (Babaduck Babbles)
- Roast asparagus, soft Knockalara sheep’s cheese and roasted hazelnuts (Bibliocook)
- Parma ham, mozzarella, chili oil and fresh basil (Gluttony for Beginners)
- Caramelized onions and goat’s cheese with cherry tomatoes (I Can Has Cook?)
- Parboiled asparagus tips, Parma ham and mascarpone cheese (I Can Has Cook?)
- Wilted spinach, cherry tomatoes and ricotta cheese (I Can Has Cook?)
- Buffalo mozzerella, Parma ham, black olives, green olives stuffed with pimento paste, capers and sun-dried tomatoes (Like Mam Used to Bake)
- Caramelized onion and goat’s cheese (Musings of a Med Student)
- Mozzarella, mature cheddar, Gruyère, baked ham and Parma ham (Smörgåsblog)
And here are some more suggestions from around the internet:
- Asparagus, fingerling potato and goat’s cheese
- Artichoke and feta
- Baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, goat’s cheese and pine nuts
- Bacon, potato, rosemary and fontina
- Balsamic vinegar, onion and goat’s cheese
- Broccoli rabe, fennel and hot sausage
- Butternut squash, Parmesan and sage
- Cashel blue cheese, caramelized onions and thyme
- Chorizo, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion and mozzarella
- Four cheese (quattro formaggi)
- Four seasons pizza
- Greek pizza (feta, Kalamata olives and/or tapenade, tomato, onion, green pepper, spinach and gyros meat or chicken)
- Italian sausages, peppers and onion
- Grilled California pizza
- Pissaladiere (French pizza with onions and anchovies)
- Puttanesca pizza
- Red peppers and feta
- Reuben pizza (Swiss cheese, sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, mustard and caraway seeds)
- Roasted peppers, ricotta and capers
- Roasted squash and Gorgonzola
- Roasted vegetables with a drizzle of basil pesto
- Sausage, red onion and wild mushrooms
- Smoked salmon pizza
- Southwestern pizza with black beans and corn
- Sweet potatoes with goat’s cheese and pine nuts
- Check out these five tips for awesome pizza at home
- Or go to www.epicurious.com or www.foodnetwork.com and do a search for pizza to see hundreds of results.