All you need is an oven and a recipe for pizza dough. To get the best results, the pizza recipe you use should contain bread flour (strong white flour) and yeast. We’re not specifying a recipe as what’ll really make a difference to the pizza is your method.
It’s all in the kneading
Once you’ve mixed your ingredients together, you should have a ball of dough. (If not, and you are holding, say, a lightly cooked sea bass, you are probably reading the wrong article.) Flour up your hands and the surface of your counter and get kneading. It should take you 8-10 minutes, which – if you’re doing it right – will seem like an eternity.
The time-honoured technique is to push the heel of your hand into the dough and away from you, then fold the dough in half, rotate it by a quarter and do it again. When your dough is a consistent ball that has started to firm up, stop. Your dough should still be sticky, otherwise the pizza will end up stodgy and dry.
On the plus side, by this point your fingers will be so strong that you will be able to scale a wall like Spider-Man.
Prove your dough
If you want a really incredible pizza, make your dough in advance. Your recipe should include yeast, which means leaving time to prove the dough. When you’ve finished kneading, dust your dough ball with flour, place it in a bowl, cover it with clingfilm and put it in a warm spot.
Leave it to rise for 1-2 hours, until it has doubled in size.
Remove it from the bowl and punch down the dough, so that the CO2 inside is released and the yeast is redistributed. You can literally just karate-chop the dough ball a couple of times to do this.
Then, cut the dough into portions and reshape them into balls. Put the portions of dough into Ziploc bags and stick them in the fridge. You should leave them for at least three hours but they can be used for up to three days afterwards.
When you remove the dough from the bags, they’ll have air pockets. Try not to break them as you stretch the dough and you’ll get an incredible pizza texture.
Never use a rolling pin on pizza dough. Lift your disc of dough. Begin in the centre and stretch it gently by hand, then move outwards, turning it as you go.
Punch up the taste with flavoured oil
Before you start the pizza-making process, make a flavoured oil marinade. Put some extra virgin olive oil into a bowl and add some minced garlic, chilli flakes or fresh, torn-up basil leaves. Let the oil sit while you prepare the pizza and when the dough is ready and shaped, brush your marinade over your pizza’s crust.
Make a proper tomato sauce
We’re not Medieval peasants here, content to sit in a puddle and gnaw on a tree root. If you want your pizza to taste like pizza, don’t use passata or worse, tomato paste.
Make a proper tomato sauce. It’s really easy to do, although it will take 35 minutes. Empty a tin of tomatoes into a pan. Add several tablespoons of butter and a teaspoon of sugar. This will take away the acidic sharpness of the tomatoes. Peel an onion and cut it in half. Peel two cloves of garlic. Add these to the sauce as they are. They’re just in for flavour and you’ll remove them when the sauce is ready.
Let it simmer on a very low heat for half an hour. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon as the sauce heats up.
When it has thickened and absorbed the flavours of onion and garlic, your sauce is ready to be spread on the pizza with a spoon. Do this right before it’s ready to go in the oven.
Lightly pre-cook your meat toppings
Pizza toppings will only be lightly cooked, which means that you can’t put raw meat on top. Any meat you want on your pizza – unless it’s a cured meat, like pepperoni – should be pre-cooked.
Make sure it’s safe to eat but leave it slightly underdone as it’ll continue to heat up on the pizza. If you put a piece of perfectly cooked bacon on your pizza before it goes in the oven, the topping you’ll end up with is non-delicious fire and ash.
Use fresh mozzarella and basil
Slice the mozzarella ball and shred the leaves over your tomato sauce. Don’t overdo other toppings as they can make your pizza soggy.
Make a stuffed crust
Did you know you can make a stuffed crust pizza? Well, you can. This means there is no reason to ever leave the house again, which is great because you’re not allowed to.
Here’s how you do it.
Make your dough base a little larger than you want it to be (at least 16cm wider in diameter, giving you 8cm at each edge).
Slice up mozzarella into thin strips, and place them around the edge of your pizza. Then roll the edge over them and firmly tuck it into the base of the dough. The key to the stuffed crust experience is to ensure that the cheese doesn’t leak out over the pizza when it’s cooking, so ensure that the inside edge is completely sealed. You can use a little water on your fingertips to help create the seal.
Rumour has it that Marmite makes a good addition to the cheese inside the crust but don’t try that kind of thing if you’re trying to impress a pizza traditionalist. Relationships have ended over less.
Cook your pizza in a very hot oven
I mean, really hot. How hot does your oven get? That’s about the temperature you want.
Don’t forget to start pre-heating your oven long before your pizza is ready to go in.
Put your pizza in the correct spot in your oven
If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can mimic the effects of one in your oven. A pizza stone cooks the base of the pizza very evenly, which helps it to get really crispy.
To achieve the same results, place your pizza on a sheet of baking paper directly on the floor of your oven.
Keep an eye on your pizza while it’s cooking
For best results, use your oven’s window. Don’t keep opening the door.
This pizza will be done very quickly. Don’t leave the room. As you’re using such a high temperature, your pizza will go from perfectly cooked to charred frisbee in about a minute and you’ll be left hungry and heartbroken.
Want to read more? Check out our ten kitchen hacks for limited supplies and breadmaker troubleshooting tips.