I have made many, many pizzas in my short life so far, and eaten many more of them, and I have to say, as immodest and irritating as it may sound, that this is one of my favourite recipes. So much so, I remade it three days running, ostensibly to make sure that I had the recipe right, but really because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. There’s something therapeutic about making pizza dough; grinding your palms into it, shoving it across the worktop, stretching it and kneading it and then leaving it well alone to recover…. And at the end of it all, you have a pizza to enjoy!
As a nod to health I have used half wholemeal flour in this recipe; if adapting it back to all white flour, reduce the liquid a little, as wholemeal is huskier and thirstier than its bleached brethren. Blitzing the flour in a blender may seem a little ostentatious, but the finer grind makes for a more supple and superior dough, so skip this step at your peril. I discovered it on a whim, and now annoyingly I feel the need to do it every time I make it.
First pop the flours into the large cup of a bullet blender and blend for 30 seconds. Pause, give it a shake and blend again. This grinds the flour down finely, a sort of a cheat between the cheapest stuff and the finest 00 flour that other chefs recommend – it works to make your pizza dough more pliable, and crisper, and just, better. You can skip this step if it seems like an unnecessary fanny, but it helps merge the wholemeal and white flours together and lose the dry husky bits, if you need any further convincing.
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, then add the yeast, salt and sugar. Measure the beer into a microwave-safe jug and heat on High for 30 seconds, until it’s warm to a tentative finger, but not too hot. Pour it into the mixing bowl and mix well with an oiled butter knife or silicone spatula to form your dough.
Heavily flour your worktop and tip the dough onto it. Knead for a few minutes until it starts to feel springy in your hands. Return it to the mixing bowl, cover it, and leave somewhere warm to rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size. I am lucky to have an airing cupboard in my current rented house, with a hot water immersion tank in it, so I pop mine in there and it is done in what feels like no time at all.
While the dough rises, make your pizza sauce; the flavours will develop and benefit from a rest, so get this on as quickly as you can. Blend the tomatoes to smooth in a bullet blender or the jug of a standard blender, and pour into a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the vinegar, salt, garlic and herbs and cook gently over low heat for 20 minutes, or until thick and glossy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
When your dough is risen, turn your oven on to 220°C/200°C fan/ gas 7, and place two shelves close together in the middle. Lightly grease two baking trays – I use a spray of Frylight or a dab of oil spread thinly with a pastry brush. Tip your dough out onto your worktop, reflouring it if you need to (mine is usually still floury from its previous outing!). Halve the dough, and gently knock each half into a ball. Roll out swiftly until as thin as you can bear it, then carefully transfer each base to each baking tray. (I use a sharp heavy knife to gently lift it from the worktop and the flat of my hand to quickly transport it to the tray. Don’t worry if it stretches out of shape slightly in the process.)
Top each base with 2 tablespoons of sauce and divide the mozzarella between each pizza. Grate Cheddar over the top and finish with a pinch each of dried herbs, chilli and black pepper. Bake for 8–10 minutes, until sizzling, golden and crispy, and serve immediately.
Cooked pizzas will keep in the fridge for 24 hours, loosely covered. Warm through gently but thoroughly before serving.
© Jack Monroe, 2020