from one generation to the next
Elizabeth David writes scathing observations about English pizza in the introductory pages of the section dedicated to Pizza and Pissaladiere in her erudite tome “English Bread and Yeast Cookery,” this month’s book of choice for The Cookbook Guru. She was writing in the 1970s, at the same time as pizza was making a hesitating entry into the London food scene. She tells us through publicity clips that pizza quickly gained popularity before it’s reputation was subsumed by poor quality, cheap fast food outlets.
Quoting references dating back to Roman times, David finds similarities between pizza and foods in other Mediterranean cultures that make use of scraps of leavened dough, long before the tomato was introduced into Europe. She goes to great lengths to explain that simple toppings baked onto a yeast leavened crust make the best pizza, cooked tomato, cooked onion, anchovies and olives. She scorns the addition of bacon, mushroom, prawns or cheese.
Recipes for pizza dough enriched with egg are included in the book, but in the tradition of using dough scraps I have made pizza dough using my needy sourdough starter.
Weigh your sourdough starter into a bowl then add the oil and salt.
Add the equivalent weight in spelt flour then add the water a small amount at a time until you have a firm but pliable dough.
Set the rough dough aside to rest for 20 minutes, loosely covered with a clean tea towel.
Tip the dough onto the floured bench and lightly knead until it feels smooth and pliable.
Wash out the mixing bowl, lightly oil the surface and return the dough to the oily bowl.
Turn the dough over on the oiled surface to coat, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
I use my oven with the light turned on.
Tip the dough out onto the floured bench again, knead lightly, then divide the dough in half.
Roll each piece of dough into a 30cm circle and set aside on a piece of baking parchment to rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven and pizza stone to 200C fan forced while the dough rests.
Par bake the pizza bases until the dough is cooked, but do not allow it to brown, 5-7 minutes
Reduce the oven temperature to 180C.
When the pizza bases have cooled a little, spread with your topping of choice.
Return the pizzas to the oven for 10 minutes to cook the toppings onto the base and brown.
I used my homemade tomato passata, kalamata olives, dried oregano, and contrary to Elizabeth David’s recommendation, delicious locally made fiore di latte.
You can easily vary the size of the pizzas you make. From the rolled dough you can cut bite sized pieces to serve as party finger food, or alternatively create personalized pizza sizes to suit your family’s appetite. Once par baked, these bases will store well in the fridge for a couple of days or freeze until needed.
Thanks to Leah for hosting the Cookbook Guru. Click on the link to see what other food bloggers are making from Elizabeth David’s “English Bread and Yeast Cookery.” Better still, why not join in?