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My fiancé loves pizza and I must say I am quite a fan too, even though it is not the healthiest option it tastes very good and is to me somewhat of a comfort food. When I lived at home my parents hardly ever brought readymade pizza's, my mum either made a fresh dough base or my dad made pizzas from using a French stick as a base. But a few weeks ago I decided to give my own quick pizzas a go and they turned out to be a great success.
On a trip to Tesco's I spotted a new product in the bakery isle in the form of Warburton's sandwich thins. They are basically like a flat Panini but sliced through the middle making an instant sandwich case. When I brought them I did intend to use them either to make normal sandwiches or toasted sandwiches, but then I thought that maybe split into two they would make little pizza bases.
So I decided to give the pizzas a go, I began by lightly toasting the sandwich thins in the toaster as I didn't want them to have a soggy base once the toppings went on. I then mixed a tin of chopped tomatoes with some tomato puree and a few mixed herbs to add a little bit of extra flavour and placed a good spoonful on each base. After this I topped them with grated cheese, ham and thinly sliced mushrooms.
To warm the pizzas through and to cook the topping I placed them under the grill for a few mins until the cheese was bubbling and beginning to brown. My partner absolutely loved my mini pizza creations and we had them again the next evening with the leftover ingredients. The sandwich thin bases were as good as a proper pizza base if not better, as with them being so thin and crispy they allowed the taste of the toppings to be more prominent.
I would definitely recommend trying this recipe, you can add whatever toppings you like to make great little pizzas. They would also be good to make with children allowing them to make their own pizzas that are quick, easy and versatile.
I do think that encouraging children to take part in cooking encourages them to eat a wider selection of food. I have occasionally watched TV programs where children don't recognise basic vegetables such as carrots which has really shocked me and I have been determined that my son will grow up competent to be able to cook for himself. My theory hasn't always worked as I once got him to make dumplings to go with the stew due to the fact he can be very hit and miss with this meal however he ate the dumplings and left the stew. The good thing with Pizza is that he can make it himself with whatever he likes and he doesn't' pick round but eats the whole pizza.
Some things I do tend to prepare prior to my sons arrival in the kitchen. I make the tomato base up with a small tin of chopped tomatoes mixed with tomato puree and reduced down so it is thick and easily spreadable on the pizza. I used to make my own pizza with just tomato puree but think the taste is probably too strong for my son's taste buds. I have occasionally mixed a little tuna into the sauce. I leave the sauce to cool.
Dependent upon what my son is up to will prepare a selection of vegetables to put on the pizza. My son does like to put large quantities so do put them in small pots for him. I will vary the ingredients. I have tried pepper (I always choose orange or yellow as they are the sweetest), Mushrooms ham, Peas, sweet corn, Courgettes (which need to be very thinly sliced and used sparingly due to high water content). You can add whatever ingredients you fancy or want them to try.
I do cheat a little with the base and make it up form a base mix this is simply because of my son's concentration span at three isn't great. To make the packet mix you simply add water and knead for five minutes , roll out and leave to rise for 15 minutes somewhere warm. My son does enjoy rolling his pizza out and I don't tend to worry too much about the shape although an oval type shape at least is encouraged. If this is too much effort you can buy pizza basis but do feel you would be missing out on a fun part of the session. I then get him to put the tomato base on with a spoon. He sprinkles on the cheese and then this is where we do vary our approach.
We do make pictures with the pizza but as my son is only three these are often unrecognisable. He does however have a great imagination and on our last pizza making session we did a bug picture and anything could be a bug from peas to a mushroom slice which was a lady bird. It is a great way for a child to explore a creative side and explore touch and handle food.
Pizzas take about fifteen minutes to cook in the oven so a child will get a result in a relatively short time.
My son always enjoys this pizza and not only has a fun time but does get to experiment with new type of food. I highly recommend this for children but even also adults can enjoy been creative with very little effort.
+The Myth Debunked+
The first thing to say about Pizza, is that Pizza is an Italian or more specifically a Neapolitan (from Naples) creation, and not American, in any way, shape, or form. In addition, it has to be said that the Pizza you get from most takeaway chains, most of which are American in origin, are plain awful.
The bases are vile and artifical. Basically tasting as if they are made from the contents of vacuum cleaners, and pure salt. This is then compounded, by the toppings and sauces ranging from barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, pineapple, chicken curry, jalapenos. All of which DO NOT belong on a real Pizza.
OK I grant you, these Pizza's may taste nice, they are certainly convenient. I am not even unduly knocking what is essentially a part of culture in many parts of the world.
Is it however, a real Pizza?
Would Italians recognize it as a Pizza?
The answer has to be an undisputable, No! No Way!
Far from being a relatively healthy meal, most Pizzas from a takeaway, cheaper chains, or in the frozen food aisles of supermarkets have been turned into salt laden, artery clogging affairs.
In all honesty I would strongly urge people to avoid these, other than the rare occasional treats. Certainly NEVER poison your children by feeding them these vile creations too often, as unfortunately many parents seem to enjoy doing.
+The Real Deal +
Now think of a Neapolitan Pizza, a freshly made ultra thin base, using fresh ingredients. Think of a freshly made sauce using fresh garlic, real tomatoes, and herbs. Think of real fresh mozarella torn into pieces over the top. And finally think of all this being placed into an exceptionally hot, wood burning, clay oven.
Do you suppose the ever so slightly smokey (slightly charred in places) base, and beautiful fresh herby tomatoey tasting topping has any similarity to the aforementioned American variety, NO., Absolutely not.
However with a tiny bit of effort you can create an Italian pizza in your home oven. A Pizza which is healthy to eat, and a million miles away from the awful ready made ones.
I admit, very few people (although I do) are going to own, or have a clay oven in their back garden, but modern home ovens are capable of reaching fairly high temperatures, and a whole host of special pizza baking trays are available.
So as I want to demonstrate here, absolutely excellent results are achieveable at home. The taste is pretty close to what you could enjoy on the Amalfi coast, at a fraction of the price of a resturaunt, and as is the case with all Italian recipes, VERY little effort is needed.
+Making the Pizza+
(for 2 large 12" square pizza's)
SIMPLE PIZZA DOUGH:
1/2 teaspoon of fast acting dried yeast (like the stuff you would use in a breadmaker)
300g (11 ounces) Strong white flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried Oregano
2-3 cloves of garlic finely diced, or grated
2 tablespoons of Tomato Puree
Salt and Pepper (to season to taste)
This is a matter of conjecture, you can in theory add whatever you wish, to be traditional though why not make a simple Margherita Pizza.
Delicious and cheap, and to most peoples tastes.
1 Mozeralla ball torn into small pieces
Dozen or so Basil leaves torn up
Some Olive oil,
Freshly greated parmesan to sprinkle before baking (optional)
As mentioned though, you can add any of your favourite ingredients on top, imagination is your only limit.
-The Pizza Dough; OK there a million methods of doing this, you can do this by hand, in a food processor, or even in a breadmaker. Essentially you mix together all the ingredients, and allow for leaving the dough in a warm place to "prove" for around 20 minutes. Basically you want the dough to stretch slightly in size. While your waiting for proving, you can prepare your topping sauce as in the next step.
-Heat the olive oil, and throw in the sauce ingredients, stir, and allow to gently simmer for around 20 minutes. Then switch off the heat, and allow to cool slightly. As mentioned. You can make this sauce while you are waiting for your to dough to prove. Or you can make an extra large batch, and portion it, and freeze it for next time. Just obviously defrost thoroughly first.
-Once all your ingredients are ready, preheat your oven, and pizza tray. It is important you heat your pizza tray. Turn the oven upto around 475 Farenheit which is Gas 9, or higher, if your oven allows. If you do not have a fan assisted oven, arrange your shelves, so that the pizza can go in at the very top. At this point MAKE SURE ALL your ingredients are to hand, and can be quickly applied to the pizza, when needed in the next couple of steps.
-Next cut your dough into two halves. With a little light dusting of flour, stretch and work each half seperately, so that they form a very thin base, and will fit onto whatever tray your using. Use your best judgement, but it should feel very thin, like paper almost.
-USING OVEN GLOVES, remove your hot pizza tray, and quickly onto it, (using caution) place your pizza dough upon it, stretch it out as needed. The tray needs to be hot to prevent sticking, and to ensure a crisp base! Nobody likes a soggy bottom!
-Next drizzle the base with a little oil, and quickly smear over your sauce (not too much, not to wet), and finally add the toppings, waste as little time as you can, aim to get the pizza into the oven within a minute of removing the heated tray. Hotter and quicker you work, the better.
-After about 10-12 minutes baking in that hot oven, your pizza will be ready. I like it slightly charred, but obviously use your judgement. The beauty of baking at a high temp, means that the base wil be well done, but still pliable. This is also another important reason why the base NEEDS to be thin.
Once your happy, slice it up with a pizza roller, or a knife, share and eat while hot to enjoy at its best! Although cold pizza isn't too bad neither! Enjoy it!