Did you know that 9th January is National Pizza day?! The perfect excuse to fire up your pizza oven and join in with the celebrations. “Hold the toppings!” That’s right, cheese is all you need when celebrating this pizza holiday.
There is nothing more rewarding than baking your own pizza in a wood-fired oven, especially if you are making a classic Brooklyn styled cheese pizza. Those lovely charred spots dotted all over a perfectly puffed up pizza crust are pure food heaven. Simplicity is all about the quality of ingredients, so make sure you buy it fresh and local where possible.
Is your mouth watering yet? Ours certainly are! We’ve scoured the review sites, the forums and the chat groups to discover the ultimate wood-fired cheese pizza recipe just for you to enjoy on this momentous occasion! Don’t worry, it can be baked in a conventional oven too.
WOOD-FIRED CHEESE PIZZA
(adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Wood-Fired Pizza recipe and inspired by the research from the team at Manna from Devon).
FOR THE PIZZA BASE:
• 1 kg strong white bread flour, (or 800g strong bread flour mixed with 200g semolina flour)
• 1 level teaspoon fine sea salt
• 2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
• 1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
• 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE:
• 4 cloves of garlic
• olive oil
• 1 bunch of fresh basil
• 3 x 400g tins of whole plum tomatoes
• sea salt
• freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE TOPPING:
• Mozzarella – 1/2 ball per pizza or more if you like it extra cheesy. It’s recommended to break up your mozzarella balls and drain in a sieve over a bowl for 6 hours, or overnight, prior to baking your pizza. Pre-grated mozzarella can also be used although it’s not as stringy and can be quite dry.
• Parmesan – approximately 200g, again more is best when you love cheesy pizza!
• Fresh basil leaves
• Start with the tomato sauce; peel and finely slice the garlic, then fry in a good amount of olive oil until lightly coloured. Pick and tear the basil leaves, then add to the pan with the tomatoes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mush and squash the tomatoes as much as you can. Season to taste.
• As soon as it comes to the boil, remove the pan from the heat. Strain the sauce through a coarse sieve into a bowl, using the spoon to push any larger bits of tomato through. Discard the basil and garlic left in the sieve, but scrape any tomatoey goodness off the back of the sieve into the bowl. Pour the sauce back into the pan, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Cook until it’s the perfect consistency for spreading on your pizza bases.
• For the pizza dough, sieve the flour and salt onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into 650ml lukewarm water and leave for a few minutes, then carefully pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. When it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough. Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm place for an hour until the dough has doubled in size.
• Remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out. You can use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straight away, divide the dough up into 6 to 8 balls.
• Timing-wise, it’s a good idea to roll the pizza bases out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Stack the pizza bases, with a square of oiled tin foil between each one, cover them with clingfilm, and pop them into the fridge. Now’s the time to check your wood-fired oven, or conventional oven, is fully heated up to optimum temperature (around 400°c). Place a couple of heavy baking trays in the oven to heat up, too.
• When you’re ready to assemble your pizzas, remove a tray from the oven, put a pizza base on it and assemble it quickly – smear tomato sauce on the base tear over the cheese and sprinkle with ripped basil. Place in the oven immediately while you prepare the remaining pizzas. If you’re using a wood-fired oven the pizzas should cook, one by one, in about 3 to 4 minutes – you want them to be puffed up, crispy and delicious. In a regular oven, they’ll take 8 to 10 minutes.
• Serve hot and marvel at how delicious a few simple ingredients can be.