I make my pizza dough from scratch. It’s easy really. The ingredients are basic: flour, water, salt, sugar, yeast - and a lot of kneading. I could do it the easy way. I could throw everything in my mixer and let the dough-hook form it. But I prefer to knead the dough myself. In a strange way I find it relaxing, therapeutic almost.
The first time my husband suggested that I make pizza dough, I looked at him aghast. Me, I thought, make dough? I had never made dough in my life. We were living in St Louis at the time and I was thousands of miles away from home and from my mother’s advice. But I decided to give it a try. After all, I had seen my mum and Nanna make dough hundreds of times. How difficult could it be?
In fact, it wasn’t, and since that day I have continued to make my dough. And as I knead away with floury fingers (and nose and cheeks, usually), my thoughts chase unbidden through my head. In kneading and rolling the dough I manage to make time stand still. Because for centuries, countless women before me have gone through the same motions – maybe not to make pizza, but definitely to make bread. Kneading and forming and shaping – my hands almost feel like they have been taken over by the gentle spirits of those that have passed before. There is a continuity about it that goes back to ancient times. The most basic of culinary arts that produces that most staple of foods: bread. In the short span of 15 to 20 minutes it feels as if life has gone full circle. I could close my eyes and instead of my modern kitchen I could be in a rudimentary hut, hundreds of years ago. In essence, not much has changed.
7g (21/4 tsp) dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water
21/2 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons semolina or polenta
1. Combine yeast, salt, sugar and water in a small bowl. Stand, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place for 10 minutes or until mixture is foamy. Sift flour into a large bowl. Make well in centre, add yeast mixture, mix dough.
2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. For thick pizza roll out dough to 35cm round. For thin pizza, divide the dough in half and roll out each portion to 35cm. (At this point, I like to add dry basil or oregano to my dough to give it that extra kick.)
3. Brush a pizza tray with olive oil, sprinkle with semolina or polenta. Place dough onto tray, tuck edges under to form a rim. Top and cook according to your heart’s desire.