Backyard Pizza

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We’ll be honest, part of the reason we bought this house was the pizza oven in the back garden. There’s something very London about tossing pizza dough to the blast of St George’s bound ambulance sirens and the psycho-esque squeal of foxes fornicating over the fence. 

 

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I’ve always loved great pizza, I’m not talking Domino’s or pizza hut, anyone found to be a customer of such establishments will be kindly asked to leave our Pizza Party, or make a donation in the form of alcohol. Yes, pizza party. The name summons imagery of some sort of mumsnet/women’s institute monthly meetup; but this isn’t Surrey, we’re in Tooting. At risk of sounding boastful, our pizza parties are infamous. A constant conveyor of fresh wood fired crowd built pizza washed down with plenty of wine and freshly made mojitos. Everyone can have a go at making pizza; Wolfie Smith would be proud.
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ingredients
 
Beneath a God’s Own Junkyard sourced neon pizza sign, amidst clouds of flour, various concoctions are thrown atop thinly stretched dough and briskly cooked in the 600 degree plus wood fired oven. Some more successful than others. I’ll take you through the recipes of 2 of the best loved productions below.
 

The dough

There’s a lot of recipes online. After a bit of experimentation I’ve settled on a hybrid of Neapolitan and New York Style dough, using 00 flour and a 24 hour proving period. The recipe is super simple:

 

Ingredients (makes roughly 5 – 6 pizzas. Multiply as necessary)

  • 1kg 00 Flour
  • 650ml lukewarm  water
  • 14g instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
To truly geek out about pizza dough, check this post on serious eats for a run down on the three main types of pizza dough

Method

  • Don your finest apron and clear a nice flat clean space on your worktop
  • Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and sieve it out onto your work surface. Regress to childhood and make a flour fort with a well in the middle, round or square, be creative – see my attempt in the photos
  • In a jug, mix the yeast, salt and olive oil into the warm water and leave for a few minutes, then pour the mix into the well.
  • Using a fork, or your hands, bring the flour into the water gradually from each side and work into the liquid.
  • Keep on mixing the flour into the water until it starts to come together until you have a dough.
  • Knead it until smooth and springy.
  • If the dough is a bit wet, add more flour but be careful as you don’t want it too dry.
  • Place the dough ball in a flour dusted bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for up to 24 hours.
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The flour well
The 24 hour proving time gives the dough some depth and complexity, however if you’re in a rush an hour of proving will do and only pizza purists will question your commitment.
  • After proving, remove your dough ball and place it on to a lightly floured a flat surface.
  • Knead the dough slightly to remove some of the air. This is called knocking the dough back.
  • Now split it into smaller portions ready for making into pizzas.
You can try the tossing technique, however I prefer to keep it simple and use 2 hands to stretch the bases out on a flat surface, rotating and stretching to keep as round as possible. If you’re really struggling, use a rolling pin but make sure you keep it well dusted with flour.

Cooking

We’re lucky enough to have a wood fired clay pizza oven, however for those with just a normal oven, a pizza stone and the highest temperature is a must.

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Toppings

For the tomato base I like to keep things simple and use a basic passata – Cirio is great.
Cheese -Take your pick, but I like :
Buffalo Mozzarella
Grated Mozzarella
Cheddar
Provolone
Goats Cheese
Mascarpone
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

 

As promised here’s 2 of our favourite pizzas

Neapolitan Margherita

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Spoon out your passata base onto the dough, not too thick or you’ll get a soggy bottom
Tear mozzarella into large chunks and distribute evenly
Rip a few basil leaves
Drizzle with olive oil
Cook for 2-3 minutes (wood fired oven) or 7 – 8 minutes (normal oven)
A classic neapolitan is slightly charred when cooked so don’t be worried if it looks like its slightly burnt

Goats Cheese & Caramelised Onion

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Spoon out your passata base onto the dough
Throw on plenty of goats cheese (stronger the better)
Add sliced red onion
Spoon on caramelised onion chutney
Cook until ready
Finish with fresh rocket if you like
 
Like I said earlier, we bought this place mainly for how the back yard felt, our mini oasis in the bustle of SW17, the pizza oven had a lot to do with that.I cannot recommend one of these in your garden enough!! its greatly enhanced our summer evening experience. If you are the creative DIY  type you can build one of these yourself. Alternatively we found some decent ones from Direct stoves.
Bon Appitit
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