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Posts Tagged ‘pizza’

sourdough pizza with chorizo, parma ham, red onion and chillies

After the success of the last sourdough pizza, Erika suggested having it again one night this week. Friday is definitely the night for pizza as not only is it the end of the week, but it takes three or four days to get the sourdough starter refreshed and the dough mixed in preparation.

My sourdough starter is getting towards being a year old. The bread it makes is wonderful and I’ve had some real successes since its birth: in fact I stopped baking any commercially yeasted bread for ages. It amazes me that the natural yeast living on the flour is enough to raise bread and result in a wonderful, soft loaf that stays fresh for days. A variation in the types and quantities of flour can yield light and airy white bread for sandwiches or dense rye bread which is perfect with some ham or strong cheese.

He’s been a bit neglected recently (yes, my starter is part of the family) and when I took him out the fridge he smelt rather iffy. I ended up taking just a teaspoon of the starter and mixing it with a small amount of flour and water. Two refreshes later it still wasn’t as active as I’d have liked but I was out of time and had to make the pizza dough. This meant that it was a bit sluggish rising, but thankfully after two days in the fridge there had been some activity and we set to work making the dough.

With the oven cranked up full, we created a simple tomato sauce using the same recipe as last night – garlic, diced onion, halved cherry tomatoes and some dried basil. A few minutes in the pan to soften then it was blended to make a smooth sauce. I topped my pizza with slices of chorizo, parma ham, red onion, red chilli and mozzarella; Erika had sweetcorn, red onion, mozzarella and more cherry tomatoes.

The base wasn’t as crispy as the last time which was a little disappointing but the pizza was delicious all the same. Erika was a bit disappointed as hers went a bit soggy due to the sweetcorn and tomato – a lesson here is to try and remove as much liquid as possible from your toppings in order to stop this from happening. Regardless, this is a million miles from your average takeaway pizza and despite having to get prepared a few days beforehand it is well worth the effort.

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Homemade sourdough pizza

I love pizza as much as the next person, but I’ve never seemed to have much luck when Rob and I have decided to make our own. I’m indecisive about toppings, my base is too soggy or it’s too doughy or it just falls apart before it’s even made it to be topped and baked! Thankfully, tonight was very different.

Rob has a sourdough starter that he uses weekly to bake bread – I’m sure he’ll tell you more about it one day, because frankly it’s a little beyond me! On Thursday morning, he mixed some starter with white bread flour, water, olive oil and salt and put it in the fridge ready for this evening.

We’ve tried spinning the dough before, but have always failed miserably so now just resort to a rolling pin, leaving the dough for a few minutes and rolling again then leaving it a few minutes more before adding the toppings. This seems to prevent it contracting as much as it otherwise might do. We’re yet to find the secret to making our pizzas round rather than square…

The tomato sauce was made by sautéeing crushed garlic in olive oil, adding a tin of plum tomatoes (Napolina), oregano and salt and pepper and then blending. I topped my pizza with some sauce, sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, shavings of Grana Padano cheese and torn pieces of mozzarella. The oven was preheated to its highest temperature with the pizza stone inside. The pizza went onto the stone on a baking sheet until it could slide onto the stone. At one point I admittedly did forget about it which is why it turned out a little overdone Рwhoops!

Once out of the oven, the pizza was topped with a few leaves of fresh basil and some freshly ground black pepper. It tasted absolutely incredible! The base was wonderfully thin and crispy – exactly how I like it. The onion added a delightful sweetness and the cheeses complemented each other perfectly. I think I would be happy to say that this was the best pizza I’ve ever had – anywhere.

One problem we’ve found with making a couple of pizzas is that a lot of heat seems to be lost from the stone after the first one is baked. This results in the aforementioned soggy-base-syndrome in the second pizza, which unfortunately Rob had to suffer tonight. We’re just going to have to learn to be more patient and let the stone heat up again properly. Rob’s toppings were the tomato sauce, chorizo, Polish kabanos, red onion, red chilli, chilli oil and mozzarella.

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Franco Manca Sourdough Pizza

I’ve read a lot over the last few months about Franco Manca, the wonderful pizza place in Brixton Market. It’s a bit of a pain to get to so has taken us a while to finally go there – last weekend seemed to be the first in ages that the Victoria Line was running so we seized the opportunity. As it transpired we had to get the bus anyway as the line was suspended between Victoria and Brixton!

Franco Manca make their pizzas using a 20-hour slow-rise sourdough from a starter which is apparantly 300 years old – quite a bit older than my own which isn’t even one yet. The pizza is then cooked in a wood burning oven for just enough time to cook the base and slightly melt the cheese. Having won Time Out’s best “cheap eat” in London last year and despite only opening at lunchtimes, the place appears to have a cult foodie following. Pizza at Franco Manca, Brixton Market

We arrived at about 12:30 to a packed restaurant and a queue of around 15 people. In hindsight this wasn’t the best time to turn up as we had to wait for everyone in the first sitting to finish their meal; eventually after around 20 minutes we were seated. The menu is wonderfully simple with just six pizzas and a selection of drinks (mostly organic). I ordered number 5 – tomato, cured organic chorizo and mozzarella – Erika had number 1 – tomato, mozzarella and basil.

Despite service being a bit chaotic – the head waiter was making me stressed – the food turned up very quickly and it tasted wonderful. The tomato sauce was just… wow, absolutely incredible. Erika wouldn’t stop talking about it, I think she’d have been happy to have just had a bowl of sauce! The chorizo had a spicy tang to it, the mozzarella was better than any mozzarella I’ve had before and the crust was beautifully charred at the edges – something you’d only get from a wood-burning oven. The only disappointment was that the base was quite soggy and the toppings were a bit stingy. Erika’s pizza had only one small basil leaf on it!

Two pizzas and water (free) was ¬£10.70 which means that it probably does deserve the title of best cheap eat – reviewers often seem to complain about poor service, but we didn’t see any of that – rushed, certainly, but we felt well attended to. Franco Manca is also quite a bit better than the usual chain pizza places but once again can’t seem to deliver a crispy base. We’ve experimented with pizza at home a few times – I usually have more success than Erika – so maybe it’s time to try again (with special attention paid to the tomato sauce!).

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