Dave's Famous Pizzas -

a legend in his own lunchtime

There are as many pizza styles as there are chefs, from the infamous kiwi pizza pie (Watties canned spaghetti in tomato sauce spread over a pizza or pastry base, with grated cheese on top) to the classy dessert pizzas and sourdough bases featured in the American industry magazines. I delivered pizzas for a couple of years as an extra job, and got into the kitchen often enough to pick up a few principles from the great Malcolm Cooper himself.

Malcolm used the dough conditioner, Volmoyst, which I've never seen in a supermarket, but I haven't suffered too much from the lack of it.

You can, of course, use the frozen pizza bases available in the supermarket, but whipping up your own dough is simple, and much more satisfying. You'll need a couple of hours or thereabouts, so it's probably a weekend project, but no more hassle really than getting ready for a barbie. And plenty of interim time for sampling a glass of red.

(You can also spend days and weeks culturing your own sourdough and importing your own special purpose flour and even making your own cheese, and learning how to remove the canned taste from your selected variety of canned tomatoes but this a level I don't aspire to.)

Note: This dough makes a very acceptable naan bread or wraps, and can be stored, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator.

For four average or two huge pizzas, you will need:

  • 3.5 cups High Grade Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Liquid Honey, Brown or White Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Plain Unsweetened Yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons Cooking Oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil contributes a special flavour of its own which I prefer.
  • 3 teaspoons Active Dried Yeast
  • 2 teaspoons Garlic Paste (optional, but highly desirable, especially if you're using this as a naan recipe.)
  • 150 ml Warm Water

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a mixing bowl, with a teaspoon of the sugar, and leave till frothy. (Not really necessary if your yeast is fresh, but a good idea if it's been sitting in a jar in the fridge for a few months.)

Reserving the oil and a quarter of the flour, add the rest of the ingredients and just barely combine. Leave for twenty minutes, add the oil, then mix with dough hooks, slowly for the first minute or two, then at slow-moderate speed for about 5 minutes, gradually adding the remainder of the flour. You should finish with a soft and stretchy dough.

The purpose of the twenty minutes wait is to allow the liquid to be as fully absorbed as possible by the dry ingredients. This improves the stretch of the finished product considerably.

Remove it from the bowl, and knead it by hand for a further five minutes or so, by which time it will be getting noticeably more elastic.

Put the dough in a very lightly oiled ceramic or glass bowl that has been previously warmed in the microwave, or under the hot tap and dried off. Barely coat the surface of the dough with the oil, cover the bowl with plastic film, and leave it to rise for about 45 minutes. Punch down, knead lightly and return to the bowl for another fifteen minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 220C. (Hotter than this and a pizza in a conventional oven will burn on the outside before it has had time for the dough to cook right through)

Punch the dough down again and knead lightly. Divide into two or four pieces, form each into a ball, then roll each piece out to about 5 mm thick, dusting with flour to prevent sticking.

It is important to get the pizza rolled out to 5mm or so, no more, if the dough is to cook through when it is loaded with toppings. However, do not overwork with the rolling pin or the dough will be more leathery than you want.

If you want a thicker crust, use a slightly lower temperature and a longer cooking time.

Allow one pizza per baking sheet, whether you are making two or four pizzas.

Place on a floured baking sheet, and, just before they go in the oven, add toppings.

Bake for about 5 - 10 minutes, until the cheese is beginning to brown on top and the dough is beginning to brown around the outside. Most ovens will cook two pizzas at once if you switch them top and bottom half way through. Place about a third of the way from the top and bottom. (Those with pizza stones, do your stuff, you lucky sods. I have a potter mate who uses a dedicated sillimanite kiln shelf for this. Excellent.)


High Grade Flour

In New Zealand has a slightly higher gluten content than Standard Flour. High Grade Flour is used for bread. Standard Flour is used for cakes or "softer" baking, though having said that, I would normally use High Grade Flour in a fruit cake, as a fruit cake made with Standard Flour will occasionally have most of its fruit at the bottom of the cake.


Our system is to put the toppings out in a row and get the kids/guests to build their own. First onto the pizza base is a light coating of a tomato based sauce, sprinkled lightly with a little cheese. This provides an anchor for the other ingredients to sit in. Depending on how I'm feeling I use a commercial pasta sauce of the Dolmio or 5 Brothers variety, or if I have a little more time, I make my own.

The cheese is a mixture of 6 parts grated tasty cheese, 3 parts grated mozarella cheese, and 1 part of grated parmesan. Or suit yourself. The mozarella is what gives pizza cheese it's stretchy quality when you bite into it.

In commercial pizzerias there is a whole range of "traditional" combos - vegetarian, pepperone, quattro stagione, marinara, Hawaiian, and so on. In its original form in the USA, not Italy as some sources will tell you, the pizza was simply leftovers on bread with cheese sprinkled over and toasted. Experiment to find what works for you. In our household, the bowls of topping ingredients are prepared and people build their own personal pizzas.

I usually have a small bowl of frozen peas and chopped red and yellow capsicum, perhaps a finely chopped stick of asparagus in season. In another bowl, there is finely chopped onion and garlic. In another there are some sliced mushrooms. In another there is some chopped fried bacon or uncooked salami pieces, and for "Hawaiian" lovers (= teenagers), add a small dish of crushed pineapple to go with the bacon. Perhaps a bowl of sandwich tuna. (I like that in combo with chopped boiled egg.) At times, instead of bacon, I have brought home a cold roast chicken from, the supermarket and used the meat from that, chopped into bite-size pieces.

For a vegetarian pizza, I usually include either chopped hard boiled egg, or else I lightly mix two eggs in a small frying pan and gently cook until it is solid, then chop into squares. Layer these evenly around the pizza.

A small bowl contains some chopped olives, another some anchovies and another some capers. (Sometimes you can get an English anchovy sauce from the delicatessen. I've used that successfully, and your fingers don't smell of anchovy for ever after because you've been pulling little fish to bits to put on pizza.) Peeled shrimps provide another flavour variation.

If you like you can line up some crumbled blue vein cheese as a vegetarian alternative to anchovies, or some Indian lime pickle. These are dotted here and there immediately before adding the final layer of cheese. If you want to you can place a whole stuffed olive for each planned segment.

Do not make the final layer of cheese too thick. One, it will treble the calories. Two, it will be much harder to digest. Three, it will drown the flavour of the other ingredients.

Home-Made Pizza Sauce

This is a variable item. The essentials are tomato puree, some oregano, some garlic, and possibly a splash of port or madeira, with a little water as necessary to keep the consistency about right. I have also been known to add a little plum jam or sauce, or a half teaspoon of cumin, or paprika. And so on. Combine the ingredients. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, and cook for a minute or two. When you spread it on the dough, think about how dominant you want the tomato flavour to be.

Naan Bread/Wraps

If you're using this to accompany a curry, call it naan. If you're covering it with smoked fish and coleslaw and mayonnaise or whatever else takes your fancy and rolling it up, call it wraps. Not quite as stretchy as the Subway ones, but tastier, definitely.

To start, heat a heavy base pan to around 5.5 on a 12 unit scale , wipe the pan with an oily paper towel. Melt about 50g of butter in a microwave.

Weigh out the dough into approximately 80g pieces, shape each piece into a ball and then roll to approx 200mm. (You'll need to dust the rolling surface with flour.)

Brush one side of the dough with melted butter, and place butter side down in the pan. As soon as the bubbles start, brush topside with melted butter and when bottom is spotted golden brown, reverse naan and cook other side.

There's an Aussie red I really like with Pizza - it's a Rosemount Pinot Noir, a little sweet, very fruity and velvety, and big enough and simple enough in flavour to cope with and improve a good pizza. (NZ Pinot Noir will be about 4 times the price, somewhat more austere, and pizza will simply mask the complexity you've paid good money for.) Alternatively, a robust Villa Maria Riverstone Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend will do the trick nicely. Similar comment: very big, very fruity and very smooth.







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