Pizza the Action
This is the first pizza recipe to make it on to the blog in its 4.5 years of existence. 3 pizza dough attempts down the line, I can see why I left it this long.
When Kimberly from The Little Plantation whom I met at a photography workshop earlier this year asked if we could collaborate on a joint project to make and shoot together in her kitchen I jumped at the chance. We both shared our Japanese noodle salad efforts a month back, so today is our second joint recipe – a pizza! Kimberly was the one who suggested pizza and I realised this was the kick I needed to work on the impossibilities of a gluten free dough. Kimberly was happy with a gluten dough so we decided to create two different pizzas to fuel our creative needs, and give our readers more options. Kimberly chose wholemeal flour (and experimented with spelt) and you can find her recipe and photos on her beautiful blog here. Despite our diligent efforts on our collaboration day neither of us were happy with the end result (my pizza broke apart in the oven) so we have both worked on our recipes and photographed the end results again flying solo. We just had to get this fig on a pizza thing nailed!
This isn’t the first time I’ve tried making pizza; this time 2 years ago I was enjoying Black Mission Figs in San Francisco and had an idea to use them on top of a chestnut flour pizza dough, along with some kale and local Point Reyes Blue cheese. The flavours were brilliant, the pizza dough was not. Too heavy, almost cakey and in much need of finesse. So how to finesse? Try a completely new dough, use my kale pesto instead of kale, blue cheese from the UK and Turkish Bursa figs since Black Mission figs are best enjoyed not far from where they have been picked.
First thing to get right was the base. I very vaguely used a recipe I had in my Bauman college cookbook as a starting point. But then the research began. First whether to yeast or not to yeast, which type of yeast to use (dried active rather than instant worked best), how long a dough needs to rest given there is no gluten, and also which combination of flours to use (because I like to keep my baking as whole grain as possible). Attempt 1 was great but too gummy (too much tapioca), attempt 2 shattered in the oven, and attempt 3 was just about right and I believe the addition of chickpea flour (higher in protein than buckwheat), as well as the natural fibre pysllium husk (which acts as a binder) was the reason for this. The dough is quite fragile, so I found though various attempts that an extra smear of olive oil on top of the base before cooking really helped.
Next for the topping. I had initially thought a tomato free base with just the figs, kale and blue cheese would be perfect. But by the time the pizza had come out of the oven on attempt 2 we were faced with a beige melted cheese overload (is there such thing as cheese overload?) that didn’t look quite as appetising as I’d hoped. So, a simple tomato base with just a scattering of feta and a good dollop of kale pesto before serving is where I ended up. The figs started to caramelise in their short time in the oven, and are a delicious contrast for the creamy feta.
Kimberly is dairy free so took a different approach with kale pesto being the star of her show. I really like this idea too!
In our trials separately and together Kimberly and I examined many different ways of cooking the pizza. The thing with making pizza at home is that unless you have a wood fired oven, your pizza is never going to taste like you want it to; cooked evenly all round, in almost an instant, with a thin crispy base acting merely as a vehicle for the star flavour of your chosen toppings.
My method maybe somewhat unconventional but it worked! Since I don’t have a pizza stone (available from kitchen shops), I used the next best thing – my Welsh bakestone (usually reserved for Welsh cakes). I preheated the bakestone in the oven on its hottest temperature so that when I slid the pizza in on the bakestone the pizza base would start to cook quickly from the contact heat. Genius.
Do you have a method for cooking pizza at home? Do you have a good gluten free recipe? My method is below and do check out Kimberly’s gorgeously styled blog for her recipe and photos.
- 200mls warm water (40 - 45 C)
- tsp unrefined cane sugar (rapadura)
- 2 tsps dried active yeast
- 250g buckwheat flour
- 40g tapioca flour (also called starch)
- 30g chickpea flour (gram)
- 1 Tbs psyllium husk
- Tsp salt
- 1 Tbs olive oil + extra for drizzling on base
- 1 x quantity tomato sauce (see notes)
- 4 figs, thinly sliced
- 60g feta, crumbled
- A few dollops of kale & almond pesto (see here)
- Black pepper
- First activate your yeast. Stir the sugar into the warm water, then sprinkle over your yeast, and leave it for 5 minutes, by which time it should be frothy. If not then your yeast is likely dead, start again!
- Meanwhile mix your dry ingredients together - buckwheat, tapioca, chickpea flours, psyllium husk and salt. Make a well in the middle then when the yeast is ready pour in along with the olive oil. Stir clockwise with a wooden spoon bringing the ingredients together, Finally go in with your hands and work the ingredients into a dough. If too dry add a tsp of water at a time, the dough should be dry, not sticky.
- Place in a lightly oiled dough cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 20-30 mins. The dough will barely rise, be warned!
- Slide your cast iron pan/bakestone into the oven and pre-heat the oven to its highest setting.
- When the dough is proved, split into 2 and then roll out into a round pizza 0.5 cm thick by placing the dough in-between 2 sheets of parchment paper. I find using a rolling pin on top of the parchment to start with is helpful, but then I lift off the paper and use my hands to tidy and manipulate the edges into a pleasing shape. If pizza looks dry and like it might crack, brush over ½ - 1 tsp olive oil.
- Turn the oven down to 230C. Pick up the parchment holding the pizza and carefully slide it into the oven on top of the bakestone. Cook for 8 mins.
- Remove the pizza on its parchment and spread half of the tomato sauce on top. Next scatter over the figs and feta and slide back into the oven for a further 5 mins or until the cheese is browned.
- Remove the pizza from the oven, peel it from the parchment paper, slice and eat.
Unless you have 2 bakestones you can only cook 1 pizza at a time this way. You could also try cooking on a larger baking sheet instead.
Any unused pizza dough can be wrapped in clingfilm and kept in the fridge for a few days or the freezer for up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature before using.