Friday, 26 June 2015

PIZZA: Two ways (featuring caramelised fennel, crispy prosciutto and roasted red peppers...)

Caramelised fennel, mozzarella, black olives & crispy prosciutto pizza

I had a bad experience with yeast. It scarred me. As touched upon briefly on my date with a bacon scone, I created a monster. Unfortunately it had been whilst using a recipe with a significant amount of chia seeds, meaning I had pretty much rolled up a wad of cash, dunked it in some fizzy yeast and baked it. Moral of the story - don't experiment with large quantities of expensive ingredients. Another moral - research a bit more about yeast and DO NOT WING IT.

Roasted red peppers, mozzarella, capers & basil pizza
So, now I work at a bakery. This means I should know a bit more about yeast (I like to think). However, the bakery knowledge unfortunately doesn't cover the difference between instant dried yeast, dried active yeast and easy baking yeast (we only use fresh yeast and sourdough, dahhling). Dried active yeast needs to be 'activated' before adding to the rest of your ingredients (it is alive remember), whereas easy bake and instant can be added right away. This time I went for easy bake to avoid messing up the activating. I'm still researching so I can be a bit more elaborate on yeast descriptions in the future, however, please make sure you know what type you're buying and how to use it!

Pizza dough

Timings: 1 hour 15 mins prep
Quantities: 4 pizzas
Kitchen Stuff: large bowl, rolling pin, cling film, rolling pin (or substitute)

5 tsp dried yeast
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing and drizzling
1 tbsp honey
750g (6 cups) strong plain white bread flour plus extra for dusting
170g (1 cup) semolina plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt

1. YEAST FEAST: Pour 480ml tepid water into a bowl and sprinkle in the yeast, olive oil and honey; whisk with a fork until dissolved. Set aside.

2. VOLCANO: In a large bowl (some people just use a surface with no bowl but I’m not confident enough for that), sift in the flour and salt. Make a well (volcano) in the centre and add the yeast mix. With a fork or a small whisk, slowly start bringing in the flour from the edge of your well and mix it into the liquid. Keep mixing until you’ve brought in all the flour. When the dough comes together and is too difficult to mix it, drop the fork and use your hands to bring it into a ball.

3. I KNEAD PIZZA: Flour a clean surface and tip out your dough onto it. Start kneading the dough and continue for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic ball. It will probably be quite sticky at first but just keep dusting on flour until it isn’t sticky any more. 

4.  PROVE IT: Pop your dough in a lightly greased bowl with some greased clingfilm over it and leave to prove in a warm place (on top of the dryer, airing cupboard...) for 45 mins or until doubled in size.

*Note – my good old pal Lucy tells me that you can dash off to the pub for a couple of hours and leave the dough to prove with no worries. This will cause the dough no harm and it will simply be bigger. Cheers Lucy.

5. WE KNEAD MORE TIME!: Preheat the oven to 230C. Brush some baking trays with olive oil and dust with semolina. Dust the work surface with flour. Turn the dough out and knead for 1 minute, then divide into 4. Cover with oiled clingfilm and set aside for 15 minutes while you prepare your toppings.

6. ROLLIN': With the palm of your hand, flatten out a piece of dough into a rough oval, then roll out to about 30cm x 12cm. Roll them a bit thinner than you think, my first one was a little fat. The dough is stretchy so don’t be scared to push it. Transfer to a prepared baking tray, ready to top.

*If you don't want to make all your pizza today, wrap the balls of dough and freeze them for another time.

Then, to choose your     TOPPINGS:

Mine are...
1. Roasted red peppers, mozzarella, capers & basil

2. Caramelised fennel, mozzarella, black olives & crispy prosciutto

Roasted pepper, mozzarella, capers & basil pizza

This one is the easier and quicker of the two. These flavours are a classic combination and will never fail you. 

Timings: 20 mins
Quantities: 1 pizza
Kitchen Stuff: rolling pin, baking tray

1-2 roasted red peppers torn into strips (mine were from a jar, delish)
Good quality mozzarella
2-3 tbsp passata
1 ball of pizza dough (see recipe above)

*You'll see I don't have many quantities here. I believe this part is totally up to you, add as much or as little of each ingredient, just make sure they are good quality and you don't go overboard!


1. Preheat the oven to 230C

2. Roll out your pizza until quite large and thin (thinner than mine in the pictures!).  Transfer to a baking tray dusted with semolina or lightly oiled. I used foil because my baking tray is vintage and I didn't want my lovely pizza to touch it.  

3. Spread out some passata and season with a sprinkle of salt. Tear over the mozzarella, add the pepper strips and scatter the capers. Bake for 7-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like it. I like it crispy. Scatter over lots of basil and serve immediately. 

Caramelised Fennel, mozzarella, black olives & crispy prosciutto pizza

These flavours are slightly more complicated and utterly delicious. This recipe is slightly adapted from Bill Grangers version in his Italian recipe book.

Timings: 40 mins
Quantities: 1 pizza
Kitchen Stuff: rolling pin, baking tray, 2 roasting tins

1 fennel bulb, halved and cut into thin wedges - remove the green bits (fronds, what a silly name) and keep them for decoration
1 ball of pizza dough (see recipe above)
1 orange, cut into small wedges
handful of black olives
good quality mozzarella
half a red chili, finely sliced (or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes)
olive oil
a few strips of prosciutto

*You'll see I don't have many quantities here. I believe this part is totally up to you, add as much or as little of each ingredient, just make sure they are good quality and you don't go overboard!


1. PREP: Preheat the oven to 230C. Prepare your baking tray by dusting with semolina or lightly oiling it.

2. FENNEL: Lightly oil a roasting tin and arrange the fennel slices and orange wedges on it. Drizzle with olive oil, season and sprinkle with a few pinches of sugar. Roast for about 20 minutes or until the edges of the fennel have just started to darken. Squeeze over the orange juice and set aside. 

3. PROSCIUTTO: Whilst the fennel is roasting, arrange the proscuitto on a baking tray and put it into the oven with the fennel for about 5 minutes or until crisp. Keep a good eye so it doesn't burn, but you want to be able to snap it.

4. PIZZA: Press out the pizza dough with your hands and roll it into your desired shape and thinness (remember go thinner than you expect). Move to your prepared baking tray. Arrange the fennel, mozzarella and olives on the pizza base and sprinkle with the chili. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. 

5. BAKE: Bake the pizza for 10-12 minutes or until melted and crispy (to your desired crispiness).

6: TOP: Top it off with the crispy prosciutto bits, the green fennel fuzz and serve right away.