You can get great satisfaction from making pizza bases homemade. Not only is the kneading process a great way to relieve stress, but the end result will also taste better than any bought alternative! It is important when making bread, to understand your ingredients in order to achieve the best result possible within your limitations. Environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity will all play a part, as will the age of your flour, the hardness of your water and the freshness of your yeast.
One single bread making experience will never be the same as the next. Understand your dough and follow your instincts. If it feels a little dry then add more liquid early on, if it is too wet then add a little more flour. As always, our recipes are not set in stone. With practice you will become more aware of the signs to look out for and you will always end up with a soft and silly dough.
If you are pressed for time, we offer alternatives to making your own base, which can make your pizza making experience quick and very user friendly without the extra flour mess!
Making Pizza Dough
Mixing. This involves the mixing together of flour, water and yeast – as simple as that. At this stage the gluten proteins begin to unfold and form water protein complexes.
Secondly, the yeast begins to feed on the sugars and starts the process of fermentation and the production of carbon dioxide. In some of our recipes we use the “sponge” method, which involves mixing up to half of the flour in with the yeast and water mixture. This can give a slightly more aerated end product due to the longer time of fermentation.
Kneading. This improves the aeration of the dough and furthers the development of the gluten. It is best done by hand if you prefer s product with larger air bubbles, but some bread machines and food mixers these days do have dough hooks, which will result in a very fine, cake-like texture. Your technique for kneading will determine he final texture of your bread or base. Your dough is well kneaded when it takes on a silky, satiny appearance. Rich, buttery or sweet dough generally requires longer kneading than others.
Rising (fermentation). The stage when the dough is set aside and covered with a clean tea towel in a warm place. The gluten development is still happening but the main activity is the multiplication of yeast cells, which causes the dough to rise and expand. The yeast is producing more carbon dioxide, which in turn expands the air pockets resulting in the final texture. The dough should approximately double in size and then it is ready. At this stage it is important to punch the dough back to release the pressure, shape it and leave it for a further short rising. Then it is ready to be rolled out and topped.
Baking. When the dough is initially put in the oven, it will experience a sudden expansion as the heat will cause a rapid production of carbon dioxide. When the interior of the dough reaches about 140 degrees (60 C) the yeast cells will die and the rising will cease. The dough will then undergo a phase of browning which will give the dough its crispy texture. The perfectly cooked dough should sound hollow when tapped.
Freezing Dough. Your dough can be frozen as individual balls after the rising (fermentation) stage. Just know the dough back, reshape into a ball and place in a freezer bag. Remove the dough from the freezer about six to eight hours before you need it. Leave it to defrost at room temperature. When you are ready, turn the plastic bag inside out and, using a floured hand, pull the dough from the bag. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for five minutes. Shape into a ball and leave for 20 minutes before rolling out.
Pizza Base Alternatives
Pita-bread. Use pita breads to make mini or individual pizzas, which are great for the kids. Let them top their own and experiment with the ingredients.
Tortillas. These make a thin and crispy base. These can also be cooked in a frying pan and even topped with a second tortilla to make a quesadilla. Great served as a quick finger food snack chopped into wedges.
Naan bread. Choose an Indian inspired topping, such as spinach and paneer cheese, and finish it off with an authentic naan bread base. This is a breadier alternative to tortillas.
Puff pastry. It's hard to say whether making a pizza with puff pastry is cheating or not. Most of us would call this a tart but it's basically the same concept and a quick and easy alternative if you buy ready rolled sheets.
Bought bases. Bought pizza bases come in many shapes and forms and are available from all good supermarkets. Try frozen, vacuum-packed or ready-rolled bases from the refrigerated case. Some supermarkets or delicatessens may also sell frozen balls of pizza dough, which just require defrosting and shaping. Alternatively, get friendly with your local Italian restaurant and they may sell you frozen balls of dough.
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