If you know me, you know I love pizza—a major understatement. When I was in Japan, I even sacrificed one meal, one opportunity to indulge in fabulous Japanese food, to seek out some Japanese prize-winning pizzaiolo in a suburb. Yes, I turned my back on Japanese food to chug along on a train to queue up (the pizzaiolo had acquired quite a reputation since he came back from Naples) under the hot sun to eat pizza. In Japan. Where I cried that I had to whittle down my list of places to eat. (For the record, it was not bad, only thing was because we were one of the first customers, I suspect the oven was not as hot as it should have been, and the crust did not cook as quickly as it should have and wilted somewhat under the sauce.) But I digress.
For me, not surprisingly, it’s all about the crust, the base. It’s hard to come by something that you really like, but when you do, it just sticks in your memory. In the meantime, you suffer the ersatz pizzas. And maybe even enjoy them for what they are.
While I know I can never get that sort of pizza in my home oven, I still would like to get a home-decent one. I’ll have to reconcile myself to the fact that my current oven will not heat up as well as my old one. It takes 15 mins (!!!!) to make a pizza. In the meantime I can still get excited about flours, can’t I?
When I first got hold of Tipo 00 flour, I thought I was on my way to better pizza. I quickly found out that Tipo 00 means nothing – just like an APF labelling. Then I heard about specialised flours for pizza with strength and elasticity and the ability to support long fermentation, indicated (if at all) by W, ranging anywhere from 250–300. Over here, there’s also something called farine de gruau, which is usually used for enriched dough like brioches. I’ve tried this flour from one source but didn’t like it. It didn’t feel as strong as the Canadian strong flour I’ve used before, it didn’t bake up into something strong and strandy and airy, the flour was dry, and when I used it for pizza, in spite of an overnight fermentation, the crust was flat-tasting.
On a recent trip to Italy, I lugged back Molino Rossetto Manitoba Tip 0 flour. The ‘W’ strength was not indicated, but I recognised the Manitoba wheat. I quite liked this flour! It was strong and elastic, you could feel it immediately. And when pizza night was postponed, it stood up very well to the almost 48-hr wait in the fridge. It also stood up to my usual clumsy attempts at stretching the dough balls. It didn’t tear at all, and I think, had I taken the dough out of the fridge earlier to thaw, I could have gone thinner.
Very airy, bubbly dough after almost 48 hrs in the fridge
I was thinking of how to get more peaches in (other than, you know, just eating them one after another over the sink), when I thought of pizza. Bob snorted. But the last laugh was on him when he admitted it was delicious. It was quite terrible. From the time I hit on this idea, grilled peach on pizza was all I could think of, and when we had to postpone the pizza, I just had to do it to get it out of the system!
Pecorino, caramelised red onions, peach slices, mozza and basil – in that order.
I’ve since made a salad with bulgur, panfried courgette (bad idea), wonderful sweet tomatoes, peaches and basil and a light vinaigrette. Must ditch courgette. Must replace with avocados and cucumbers. Must make while peaches are with us.
Mozza, lightly grilled fennel, figs, goat’s cheese and fresh fennel. Imagined figs melting and oozing into the pizza so I popped them in towards the end, but mistake— they turned out rubbery and dried instead. Could be jazzed up with mustard? balsamic vinegar? But I loved the taste of the fennel.
Sometimes, just occasionally, I think I deserve a pat on the back for self-restraint in random food purchases. For a whole year now, I’ve managed to resist buying at the Turkish epicerie, that jar of Oncu red pepper spread beckoning me. I didn’t know what it was for, or even what it was, but sitting beside, as it did, a giant VAT of the same sauce (they must supply restaurants as well), I would have liked to buy baby jar, if not giant vat. What would that dark crimson sauce taste like? Was it purely pepper? Was it spicy? Sometimes I like not being able to read labels, taking a stab in the dark. For one (!) whole (!) year i managed to resist, only to, quite anti-climatically, just slip it into my shopping basket the other day. So I thought of lahmajuns (or is it lahmacuns?). Bypassing the is it Armenian or Turkish or ?? quarrel, I remembered seeing an Anissa Helou recipe involving sumac, another spice I like. So it was simply: red pepper paste (turned out to be too salty) and diced tomatoes spread across base, minced beef marinated with cumin, coriander, sumac, salt and pepper, garlic and onions, then garnished with parsley.
Not the right sort of dough of course—too doughy and thick to be rolled up, but what I like about lahmajuns is the spice, the meat spread thin, and the crunch from abundant onions and tomatoes and fresh herbs.
For the pizza dough, I used a recipe from Bonci, which you can find anywhere on the Internet:
500g flour (I used Molino Rosetto Manitoba Tipo 0)
20g olive oil
3.5g instant yeast
Mix well, fold a couple of times over one-two hours, pop into fridge for a day (I did two days).
I saw the man himself at the Salone del Gusto in Turin last year. He was quite the superstar. He couldn’t go anywhere without people tugging at him and wanting to take pictures with him—all of which he patiently indulged although he looked absolutely knackered. I imagine it’s like Jamie Oliver showing up at a food fair. I managed to try the famous Bonci pizza there. I went at off-peak hours so the pizza wasn’t at its ideal temperature, but the base was tasty and I had an interesting fresh tuna on a white bean hummus-like spread.