Fast-action dried yeast has revolutionised pizza making. It is mixed straight into the flour without any pre-blending and the dough only needs to be left to rise once. Packet bread or pizza mix also makes a good, speedy pizza base; as a guide one 284 g (10 oz) packet is roughly equivalent to a pizza dough made with 225 g (8 oz) flour. When making up the mix, substitute a little olive oil for some of the liquid to improve the flavour. Included below is a recipe for a quick scone-like alternative base that doesn’t need proving.
Before the toppings are added, the dough is usually covered with a layer of tomato. This may be homemade tomato sauce, canned chopped tomatoes, bottled passata or even sliced tomatoes. The golden rule here is to make sure that the tomato mixture isn’t too wet or it will make the base soggy. If using homemade tomato sauce ensure it is well reduced and thick; drain excess juice from canned tomatoes. Tomato puree has an intense, almost bitter, flavour and is best avoided. If you don’t like tomatoes in any form, brush the dough with a well flavoured olive oil instead.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings! All manner of ingredients can be arranged on the tomato base. Uncooked meat and most vegetables need to be cooked first, as they will not cook through sufficiently on the pizza. In addition to the main ingredients, don’t forget flavourings such as garlic, herbs, chillies, olives and capers. Try the following suggestions:
Vegetable: Almost any vegetable is good on a pizza. Try steamed fresh spinach (or well drained frozen leaf spinach); roasted, skinned and sliced peppers; sliced canned artichoke hearts; or mushrooms, aubergine, courgettes or baby onions, cut into chunks or sliced and sauteed in olive oil.
Spicy sausage: Scatter sliced chorizo, chopped salami or other spicy sausage over the pizza(s) before cooking.
Cheese: Most firm cheeses with good melting properties are suitable for topping pizzas. Mozzarella is traditional, but try Bel Paese, Fontina, Taleggio, Gruyere or Parmesan.