I love a good pizza. I grew up on Pizza Hut and freezer pizza, and didn’t fully appreciate the greatness of a good pizza until, aged 10, I was in New York and tried my first slice of genuine pizza pie – bigger than my plate and glistening with cheese fat. In an Italian restaurant in Germany I first ate proper Italian pizza, and learned the proper way to eat pizza is not in triangular wedges with your fingers but with a knife and fork. Back in New Zealand “artisan” pizza was on the rise and it is now possible to eat pizza with all manner of strange and wonderful toppings, Satay Chicken or Moroccan Lamb for example, or even dessert pizzas such as Apple Crumble pizza. Incidentally, if you are in London and want a New Zealand pizza experience, go to Hell Pizza – on a Tuesday if you want all you can eat for £6.
Nevertheless, I found the type of pizza I go back to most often is good, old-fashioned, minimalist Margherita. Thin base, tomato sauce, mozarella and basil. It is essential that a Margherita pizza have good ingredients. And the most important ingredient of all is the base.
I was very excited when my friend Ben told me he had hit upon the secret to the best pizza base. Ben is a keen maker of pizzas and makes them on a regular basis. A couple of weeks ago, he came up to London and made pizzas for some friends and me. I observed the making of the bases with interest. The dough looked very stiff to me, and I said so. Ben told me he planned to add even more flour before it was done. This was to help him roll the dough out without it breaking. I was surprised and intrigued. But, to be completely honest, the end result tasted, well, a bit like cardboard to me. It was a bit tough and I couldn’t really taste the yeast. I thought he may as well have left out the faffing with the yeast and the rising and just made scone dough. But my friends (including resident Italian) loved it, and I realised that everyone has a different idea of what constitutes the perfect pizza.
I’ve decided on a quest to find my perfect pizza. If anyone has any dough recipes or even (vegetarian) topping suggestions, toss them my way! I’m going to start today with my usual basic recipe as a control: 1 part warm water to 3 parts bread flour, 1 sachet yeast, a little sugar, lightly oil the dough.
Now to see where I can buy a pizza stone in Camden!