MARGHERITA AND BASIL PIZZA

New Straits Times - - Pulse - For the crust For the sauce For the top­ping METHOD:

WHAT is chewy, crispy, cheesy, sour, savoury, causes an ex­plo­sion of flavours in your mouth and comes packed in a card­board box? If you don’t know the an­swer to this rid­dle, think again. It’s also some­thing that you’ve prob­a­bly had de­liv­ered to you on a weekly ba­sis for as long as you can re­mem­ber, usu­ally ar­riv­ing in 30 min­utes or less. If you haven’t fig­ured it out yet, the an­swer is “pizza”.

Pizza has been a global sta­ple for the last few years and for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. It’s one of those rare foods which can be served ev­ery­where — local pizze­rias, high-end restau­rants, fast-food restau­rants — and tastes amaz­ing. It’s a per­fect food choice for both chil­dren and adults, and suit­able for most oc­ca­sions.

Work­ing late at the of­fice? Or­der a pizza! Birth­day party? Or­der a pizza! Home alone and hun­gry? You guessed it — or­der a pizza!

De­spite the sat­is­fac­tion we de­rive from this epit­ome of a per­fect snack, most of us are clue­less about how to make pizza. It’s totally un­nec­es­sary for some of us to fig­ure out the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of crispy crust drenched in savoury sauce, con­cealed un­der a mountain of melty gooey cheese. After all, what are pizza de­liv­ery num­bers for, if not to dial up a de­liv­ery to be sent straight to our homes?

But there are a good num­ber of rea­sons why you should make it your­self. For one thing, it’s ex­tremely fun to do and quite an easy process at that. It’s also far cheaper than or­der­ing it from a restau­rant. After all, let’s face it, the melt­down of the ring­git has struck our wal­lets and bud­gets big time, so cost-sav­ing and DIY cook­ing projects are al­ways great ideas.

THE PER­FECT RECIPE

So what should you do if you want to make the per­fect pizza at home?

The first thing you should con­sider is find­ing the per­fect recipe. This might seem a lit­tle dif­fi­cult but it’s ac­tu­ally the eas­i­est part of the process. All you need to do is choose from dozens of recipes on­line. Al­ways re­mem­ber to pick a recipe that has gar­nered a lot of good re­views to en­sure your first at­tempt is a suc­cess.

More im­por­tantly, choose one you’re com­fort­able with. Don’t pick some­thing that re­quires an ob­scure type of flour or a com­pli­cated knead­ing process. Pizza making should be easy, not a chore.

Be­sides pick­ing the right recipe, there are other things to con­sider. For one, you need to learn which cheese to use. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to choos­ing cheese. If you like to use brie or even parme­san, go right on ahead. What’s im­por­tant is that you don’t choose a cheese that has been overly processed. This means avoid­ing those that are preshred­ded or come in pow­der form or sliced. Processed cheese con­tains a lot more than just cheese, it has chem­i­cals and all sort of other things to pre­vent it from clump­ing so it will not melt very well or have the best flavour.

Another im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent you need to be care­ful about is the pizza sauce. It’s tempt­ing to get a jar of pasta sauce be­cause it’s con­ve­nient. But typ­i­cally, jarred sauces tend to be too sweet or salty. When it comes to home­made pizza, home­made sauces are the best. They don’t need to be com­pli­cated. You just need to blend canned toma­toes with a lit­tle bit of aro­mat­ics like gar­lic and onions, throw in a lit­tle salt along with herbs and it’s pretty much ready to be used.

One of the most im­por­tant fac­tors to cre­at­ing a de­li­cious pizza is the crust. A pizza crust needs to be crispy and chewy at the same time. For this to hap­pen, you need an oven that’s hot and I mean, re­ally hot! Chefs will tell you that you need to crank your oven to its high­est pos­si­ble tem­per­a­ture and let it pre-heat for at least 30 min­utes to get your pizza as crispy as pos­si­ble.

Another great trick to get­ting a crispy crust is to learn how to use olive oil. For ex­am­ple, spread a thin layer of it on the bot­tom of your bak­ing pan so that when the oil heats up, it will lightly “fry” the bot­tom of your pizza. You can also driz­zle some on the crust to give you the same ef­fect. Just be mod­est with your oil — you don’t want your pizza to taste greasy.

Top­pings are also some­thing you should use spar­ingly. The more you put on top, the less crispy your pizza will be­come. Use a hand­ful of meat, cheese and veg­eta­bles. If you want more, you can al­ways add on the side.

In the end, pizza will al­ways be de­li­cious. Even if you don’t get it right the first time, chances are you will enjoy the process. And if you’re still un­cer­tain about which recipe to choose, try mine. It’s a simple and ba­sic recipe for a thick crust pizza that I’ve been us­ing for years. The best part is that you don’t need to knead the dough.

Get ready to chan­nel your in­ner Ital­ian and serve up a pizza!

(Makes two piz­zas)

300g wa­ter

22g in­stant dry yeast 3 tbsp sugar

50g olive oil

1 tsp ta­ble salt

550g all-pur­pose flour

1 can peeled toma­toes 4 gar­lic cloves

½ onion

½ tsp dried basil

1 tsp ta­ble salt

1 tsp black pep­per

200g mozarella cheese, shred­ded 2 toma­toes, sliced

1 bunch fresh basil

Olive oil for driz­zling.

1. Mix wa­ter and sugar to­gether and pour in yeast. Let it sit un­til yeast starts to bub­ble.

2. Mix in the rest of the in­gre­di­ents,

and form a dough.

3. Let the dough rise in a cov­ered bowl, for at least two hours at room tem­per­a­ture. Or un­til the dough dou­bles in size.

4. Blend all the in­gre­di­ents for the

sauce, and set aside.

5. Pre-heat oven to high­est pos­si­ble

tem­per­a­ture for 30 min­utes. 6. Once the dough is ready fold it unto

it­self twice and form into two discs. 7. Spread olive oil on two bak­ing pans

and place the pizza dough on top. 8. Spread sauce on the pizza dough, cheese and toma­toes and driz­zle with olive oil.

9. Bake in the oven for 30 min­utes or

un­til the crust starts to darken.

10. Once out of the oven top with fresh

basil and serve.

Margherita and Basil Pizza.

Pizza In­gre­di­ents: Un­baked dough in the mid­dle, olive oil, basil, toma­toes, gar­lic and onions.

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