Well gentle reader, we did it. Kind of. Well, we tried anyway.
My friend Natasha’s idea was to support Food Revolution Day by gathering our kids and letting them make pizza. Good hands on stuff. Food from scratch. Reconnecting with nature’s bounty and all that.
If, through these posts, you are getting the idea that my friend is the more grounded of the two of us, you would be right. It had been a very long day, Natasha suggested that she bring along some good quality ready made pizza bases. We would provide simple toppings. It made good sense. Very good sense even.
But I had finally got my head around the idea of the kids making pizza dough and a nice mess in the kitchen. It was new for me. If I could do it tonight with the calming influence of guests, then perhaps I, too, could become one of those mothers who look serene as their kids cook the kitchen into a new and unintended decor. For once, there was real hope for me. It had to be done for the sake of my children. And besides, why do something the easy way if you can find a way of making it more difficult?
Now, I have more cookbooks than I care to admit, and many pizza dough recipes among them, but for now, almost all are inaccessible (more on the new bookshelves another time). Besides, Food Revolution Day is Jamie Oliver’s thing, so it seemed reasonable to give one of his recipes a go.
I’d tell you what it was like, but it seems I can no longer read a recipe accurately. My proportions were different and I also decided to add fine cornmeal polenta in place of fine ground semolina flour (which I do not keep on hand).
Result? Absolutely. We may never get around to trying the original.
Use this recipe when you are in the mood for a crisp thin crust with a pleasant cornmeal crunch. It made four fairly large (c. 45 x 30cm or 18 x 12 inch ovals) and four smaller plumper ones slightly under half the size. It’s not a dough that is going to take well to too much topping, so go easy with cheese and wet toppings or you’ll be dishing up a soggy grease slick.
We made some with a “white” base: a little olive oil, minced garlic and sea salt. Very good with some sliced mushrooms, pitted calamata olives and finely sliced onion rings and an ideal choice for anyone who struggles with dairy or saturated fats. Predictably, the kids all opted for the more traditional “red” base, which, according to their preferences, ranged from tomato sauce (of the ketchup variety) to tomato paste.
My own preference in this department was to use a little tomato paste and lift it with a dash of Rocket Fuel sauce for sweetness and spice. Not traditional and too spicy for the kids, but it goes nicely with a topping of zucchini, mushrooms or in season, eggplant and a light sprinkling of cheese. Besides Rocket Fuel is made locally in Petone. There’s something satisfying about using local products.
What about the children? Well, the overnight guest lives in a TV free home and was more interested in the Disney Channel. The rest tended to follow. Child involvement was not exactly what it could have been. My older two, being perhaps more deprived of hands on experience, still had a pretty good go at kneading and rolling out. Turns out that little Lydia is a dab hand with a rolling pin. Who knew?
The kids had no great interest in the toppings and happily left the mums to arrange them. Well, horse, water, drink. You can only make the opportunities available.
This lot have all been involved in growing fruit and vegetables, and one was all but born at Moore Wilson. They know what fresh real food looks like. As for the skills to put it all together? One night does not a revolution make. So I’m challenging myself to make sure that every week we make at least one meal or dish that the children can get involved in.
Here’s my version of the pizza dough recipe:
Apologies to American readers. Next time I make it I’ll try to record the flour measurements by volume also. In the meantime, here’s a link to a conversion tool that will provide you with approximate equivalents by volume. I make no representation as to it’s accuracy.
1kg or 2 lb 3oz bread flour (a.k.a. strong or high grade flour)*
200g or 7oz fine polenta
700 to 750ml or 2 3/4 to 3 cups of lukewarm water
1 tbsp** sugar
4tbsp olive oil
1level tbsp dried yeast
1. Put the flour into a large bowl or heap on a clean working surface. Jamie Oliver’s recipe said to sift it which would be ideal, but I was in a hurry and didn’t bother. Stir in the salt and polenta.
2. Measure out the smaller quantity of water. Be careful it’s not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast. When the sugar is dissolved, sprinkle on the yeast. I usually whisk it in to avoid lumps.
3. Set the yeast mixture aside until is starts to fluff up: you’ll know you’re working with live yeast. Make a well in the flour, pour in the yeast mixture and gradually stir in the surrounding flour. If it looks like it’s going to be dry, add a bit more water. Mix until it forms a rough dough, then knead on the work surface until smooth and soft. You might notice blisters forming in the surface of the dough.
4. Pop the dough into a lightly oiled bowl about twice the size of your dough. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size. It could take longer if your kitchen is particularly cold.
5. Set your oven to heat to 220 deg Celsius or 425 Fahrenheit.
6. Knock the dough back, knead briefly then divide into 6 or 12 even pieces depending on what you want to back. See above for sizes.
7. Roll the dough out to size. Dough can be about 1/2cm or 2/8″ thick, I like it a smidge thinner, but take into account what you are going to put on top – more topping needs more crust. You can push it out with your hands or use a rolling pin or clean bottle. Transfer the dough to baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Let them rise for 20 to 30 minutes.
8. Top as desired and bake in batches in a hot oven until your topping is done and the crust is cooked through and golden. Timing will vary depending on topping.
*You can make it with regular all purpose flour. The result might be slightly different and you might find that it affects the amount of water you need to form the dough.
**Australian readers note that tablespoons are only 15 and not 20ml.