I still remember the warm summer’s day when I first baked a home-made pizza. It tasted fantastic, fresh flavours and a crisp thin-crust base, served with both a glass of wine and a sweet sense of victory. And the desire to make many more. Which I did.
This post covers the basics of with a ham and mushroom pizza using home-made dough. From this foundation, it’s easy to make most pizzas for baking in a standard kitchen oven, wood fired pizza oven or ceramic oven such as a Big Green Egg.
Ham and Mushroom Pizza
The method below is based on a recipe in Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard. The book is, in Dan’s own words, a “blueprint for great home baking”, imparting much wisdom in a concise and approachable style. Dan is a master baker, and wrote a baking column for The Guardian newspaper for several years.
The book was a real game-changer for me. His minimal knead bread-making method was inspirational, and one of the catalysts for me getting into baking and, in turn, this blog.
What I present here is what works in our kitchen, whilst staying true to Dan’s approach. The result is great pizza, every time.
- Pizza stone
- Measuring jug
- Mixing bowl
- Timer (kitchen, phone app)
- Wooden chopping board
- Kitchen cloth or plastic carrier bag
- Kitchen scales
- Baking parchment
- Pizza wheel or sharp scissors
Makes dough for two large (13-14 inch) or three smaller pizzas (8-10 inch). Leftover dough can be bagged in portion sizes and kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen for up to one month.
- 500g ’00’/Pizza flour plus a little extra for kneading
- 350 ml warm water (250 cold + 100 boiling)
- 1 sachet dry instant yeast (or 2 tsp from a jar)
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp salt
If you don’t have ’00’ flour, use 250g strong white and 250g plain flour. Having experimented with flours though, ’00’ flour does seem to make better pizza dough.
- Shredded ham and/or smoked lardons
- Sliced mushrooms
The pizza dough is made using the same minimal knead method for making bread.
- Put the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the water, mix together into a dough ball. Cover the bowl with a towel or cling film.
- Rest the dough in the bowl for 20 mins. Go do something else.
- Stretch and knead dough on lightly oiled surface for 15 seconds. Return to the bowl, cover once again.
- Repeat previous two steps two more times, kneading on a lightly floured surface.
- Divide the dough in ball shaped portions.
- If you’re not going to use all the dough balls in one cook, the remainder can be bagged and placed in a fridge for a few days, or in a freezer for up to a month. Letting the dough prove in a fridge for an extended period does improve the flavour.
- Rest the dough ball(s) in a covered shallow bowl or tray until they have doubled in size, takes around 45-60 mins.
Preparing and Baking the Pizza
Oven temperature for cooking can be up to 275°C/525°F, for the first pizza though go for 220°C/430°F and get hotter with subsequent pizzas. It’s easy to cook an underdone pizza for a bit longer, but impossible to recover a burnt pizza.
- Pre-heat the oven with the pizza stone in it to desired temperature.
- Fry sliced mushrooms and lardons in a frying pan. Dry using kitchen towel and set aside.
- Shape some dough into a pizza base, transfer to baking parchment. See the hints, tips and pictures section for how to do this.
- Add toppings – passatta first, then cut mozzarella, ham/lardons and mushrooms.Add some more mozzarella on top for the full cheese experience.
- Transfer pizza to the pizza stone in the oven.
- Bake for 8 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
- Remove pizza from the oven, discard baking parchment.
- Garnish with basil, cut and serve.
Hints, Tips and Pictures
Make Dough The Day Before
Pizzas are better if the dough is made the day before and stored overnight in a fridge (or even for two days). Simply remove the dough from the fridge 2-3 hours before it is used and let it warm up to room temperature.
Pre-Heating The Pizza Stone
Having a long pre-heating time for the pizza stone and baking at higher temperatures of up to 275°C/525°F results in better pizzas. Ensure that your pizza stone can handle high temperatures.
Toppings and Soggy Pizzas
The easiest way to make a pizza base soggy is to overload with toppings. For the passata base, spread lightly and evenly using a kitchen spoon.
Toppings that have natural fluid retention, e.g. pineapple, peppers, onions and mushrooms, also contribute. Dry them before layering onto the pizza.
Shaping The Pizza
The video clips below show a few methods of how pizza dough can be shaped:
Shaping takes a bit of practice, if you find it’s not shaping well and the dough starts to resist/tear, rest the dough for 15 minutes and try again.
For this blog post I used the rolling-pin method, rolling the dough on a surface with polenta/cornmeal and some flour. The polenta gives the base a nice crunch, just use flour if you prefer a non-crunchy base.
Using Baking Parchment to Transfer Pizza
I have found that sometimes pizza dough can stick to pizza peels, so for oven pizzas I use baking parchment instead (not greaseproof paper – this will stick to the pizza), cutting it to shape using the pizza stone as a template.
Once the base is shaped, transfer it onto baking parchment. This makes it easy to transfer the pizza onto the stone in the oven, especially if you have a pizza peel. The parchment can be slid out from underneath the pizza after 2-3 minutes.