Pizza, bread and wood-fired cooking recipes

Pizza variations

A classic Marguerita Pizza - with tomato, mozzerella and basil leaves

Pizza and dough recipes are all over the internet and vary from baker to pizzaiolo but there are few things which crop up again and again in almost every post or video: sugar and yeast and olive oil in the dough.

Contrary to what you may see or hear, you don’t need sugar to get yeast going. Just dissolve it in warm water and add it to your flour. Flour has enough sugar in the carbohydrate to activate the yeast. This goes for bread making as well. The dough will also taste better if retarded overnight in the fridge and then brought back to room temperature before you bake. The cooler the dough, the more it will ‘pop’ in the oven as the gas in the dough expands rapidly.

Olive oil is not traditionally added to a pizza dough. It is 00 flour, yeast, salt and water. Olive oil will make the dough softer and difficult to crust properly on the hot hearth and is not needed. It is added when topping the pizza, as a drizzle and will help to fuse the ingredients together.

As a well known pizzaiolo in the US quite rightly pointed out, pizza is NOT bread! Pizza is a leavened flatbread which should just bubble up in places and not puff up like a slice of Kingsmill. As a word, pizza is related to and derived from the ancient greek pita and similar breads are found all over the continent from pissaladiere in France all the way to Turkey’s pida and middle eastern pittah. Traditionally cooked at high heat in a brick oven, these breads are a staple food combined with simple fresh ingredients and not a dumping ground for anything that comes to hand from the fridge. The modern pizza has regional variations even within Italy and changed character somewhat when taken to the US with the deep pan pizza of Chicago. The humble pizza continues to evolve with new toppings added daily as the concept spreads across the globe.

Our recipe, which is baked whenever we fire up the wood-fired oven, is a thin crust pizza made from approx 300g of dough, stretched out by hand on a floured wooden peel and then baked in a very hot 450C oven. It is always cooked in under 90 seconds and usually a lot shorter, sometimes 45 seconds at the beginning of baking!

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Pizza variations

A Marguerita Pizza with wild mushrooms

Pizza dough

Ingredients to make 4 x 12” pizzas

  • 750g Tipo 00 flour (molino caputo blue or similar)
  • 450g warm water (60% hydration)
  • 2 tsp maldon sea salt crushed
  • 1½ tsp dried yeast
  • Combine and dissolve the yeast in the water. Crush the salt and mix with the flour.
  • Pour yeasty water into a well in the flour and slowly bring it together.
  • When the bowl is clean, pull the dough and flop it over itself twisting slightly as you flip it.
  • Keep working the dough until it is smooth and silky, about 10 minutes and then let it rest.
  • Either divide into 300g portions in a plastic proofing box or keep whole and let it rise in the bowl covered with a bag overnight in the fridge or as time allows. The flavour will be better the longer and cooler you can leave it. Some pizzaiolos leave their dough for up to 3 days!
  • When you’re ready to start preparation, mix some 00 flour in a bowl with about 10% fine polenta or corn meal and use this to dust your worksurface or wooden peel
  • Take your 300g portion of dough and press it into a flattened circle with your fingers. Keep pushing the dough out until its wide enough to pick up with both knuckles underneath.
  • Gently stretch the dough by pulling your knuckles apart and work your way round until the dough thins. Put it back on a dusted surface and push the thick edges thinner and thinner as far as it will go, stretching all the time until you reach about 12” in diameter.
  • To dress the pizza say for a Margherita, spread a ladle full of sieved tomato pulp or passata so it stops just short of the edge.
  • Don’t be tempted to put too much tomato on as it will get soggy, leave areas just touched by the pulp.
  • Add drained and squeezed mozzerella in dots all over the surface, sprinkle with fresh basil leaves and drizzle some olive oil in a spiral over the top.
  • Slide the finished pizza into the hot oven and leave on the hearth for 30 seconds before turning it with a small peel.
  • Continue to turn so the edge has faced the fire all the way round. When the top is hot and bubbling and the crust just starting to burn, slide a metal peel in and remove the fragrant pizza and drop it on to a plate for serving.
  • Sprinkle a bit more sea salt over, a good whack of black pepper and eat hot.

Pissaladiere

Pissaladiere

Pissaladiere

Try this French variation for Pissaladiere:

  • Make the same pizza base but spread black olive paste mixed with olive oil over it instead of tomato then add slowly cooked onion so it covers the olive paste.
  • Add salted anchovies as decoration.
  • Sprinkle with thyme leaves and bake as before.
  • You can also vary this recipe by using the onion first spread out over the base and then adding whole olives and anchovies

Coca de cebolla variations

Coca de cebolla variations

Coca de cebolla variations

Coca de cebolla variations

Coca de cebolla

Coca de cebolla

This is yet another regional Catalan variation made with slow cooked onions as a base.

  • The dough base is very thin and oily and the almost caramelised onions make this absolutely delicious as a lunchtime snack.
  • You can add anchovy and manchego cheese as a more filling meal.
  • Traditionally this is also made with wood roasted sweet peppers. Nowadays bakeries add all sorts of toppings like tuna, salmon, courgettes and tomato.

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