Our Classic Pizza

Homemade pizza is an almost weekly feature in our diet. Everytime we make it, I intend to take a photo to share with the recipe, but I always have this thought right after I've devoured half my slice. I finally managed to hold off munching on my hearty slice long enough to take a photo.

We have adapted the recipe for the pizza base over time to include a higher proportion of wholemeal flour, but if you wanted to only use white flour, the base works brilliantly like this. Our sauce has a lot more ingredients to it than the average sauce - you might think it's slightly odd to add carrot and celery to a tomato sauce on a pizza, but we love it this way. Everything is very finely diced, so the texture of the sauce is not adversely affected by the extra ingredients.

ingredients for the base (makes 2 large bases)
400g strong wholemeal bread flour
100g strong white bread flour
7g dried yeast
half tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
325ml water
Cornmeal for coating the dough (optional)

ingredients for the sauce
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 stick celery finely diced
1 carrot finely diced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 chicken stock cube (for flavour - no need to add water)
squeeze of tomato puree
1 tsp paprika

method for the pizza base
1) In a jug, combine the sugar, olive oil and yeast with the water, lightly whisking to bring everything together. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the yeast time to activate. I often put my jug in a warm place to aid this process.
2) In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a freestanding mixer, combine the flours and the salt.
3) Gradually stir in the liquid from the jug, bringing it together with a fork. As the dough starts to come together, it's time to get your hands involved and mix in the rest of the flour.
4) If the dough is sticking to your hands, pop a bit of olive oil on them and see if that helps. If it's still sticky, add a little shake of flour and that should do the trick. Knead the dough for 5 - 10 minutes (5 if using a freestanding mixer), until the dough is stretchy and has a bit of a shine to it.
5) Rub a little oil on the inside of the mixing bowl, then place the dough back in the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for one hour.
6) Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out of it, divide it in two and roll out. We like the texture that cornmeal adds to a pizza base, and so sprinkle both surfaces of the dough in turn with some cornflour, and roll it into the surface of the piazza base.

method for the pizza sauce (makes enough for 2 bases)
1) Heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Saute the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, along with the sugar and balsamic vinegar, until softened (about 10 minutes).
2) Add the stock and paprika and stir.
3) Add the tinned tomatoes and stir, then allow the sauce to simmer over a gentle heat for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the sauce and add a splash of water if it looks like it's drying out.
4) Finally, add the tomato puree at the end to help thicken everything up.
5) Spread the sauce on top of the rolled out bases.
6) Once you have added your desired toppings, bake in a pre-heated oven (200C / gas mark 5) for 20 minutes.

As for toppings, this is where you can freestyle. I love how versatile pizza is when it comes to adding different toppings. Being creatures of habit, John and I tend to stick with the same old toppings, which tend to include:

cooked, shredded chicken (we normally use leftovers from roasting an entire chicken to use for multiple meals)
sun dried tomatoes
mozarella (always, without fail, mozarella)
gorgonzola or other blue chees (though this is more of a rarity for us)
fresh chilli
fresh peppers

How about you? What toppings do you like on your pizzas?