When you make pizza at home it is unlikely you will have a wood-fired oven. These ovens generate a temperature of around 300°C, the sort of heat you would expect in a commercial pizza oven. But even a domestic oven can manage a healthy 250°C, and there is a way you can give it a little help: treat yourself to a pizza stone. You’ll find these in cookware shops and good department stores, or you could make your own by getting an appropriately sized 2-3cm thick piece of unpolished granite from a stonemason. You simply place your pizza stone on the middle shelf of the oven. When your oven reaches 250°C/Gas 9, so will your stone and the heat will distribute effectively and evenly to the base of your pizza. Otherwise, make sure you put a baking sheet in the oven to heat up instead. You’ll also find it much easier to handle the raw pizza base (and its topping) with a pizza blade or ‘peel’. If you don’t have one, use a spatula or fish slice.

Now, a word on size. We make pizzette, which are slightly smaller then pizza, about 20cm in diameter rather than 30cm. As well as being prettier and faster, this size is also more convenient – you might get 2 or 3 pizzette onto your pizza stone rather than a single large one.

We use fresh yeast, which you can find in health food shops, bakeries and even by asking at the bakery departments of some supermarkets. Otherwise use sachets of fast-action dried yeast.

For twelve pizzetta bases:
15g fresh yeast (or 1 x 7g sachet fast-action yeast)
300ml tepid water
500g strong white flour – Italian 00 is good
15g (2 teaspoons) fine salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together the fresh yeast (if using) and the water. You can make cold water tepid by adding a splash from a boiled kettle. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and dried yeast (if using) with the olive oil and the yeasty (or plain) water and form the mixture in to a ball.

Now knead the dough on a floured work surface. To do this, push the dough backwards and forwards simultaneously with your two hands so that you are stretching it and then pushing it back down in to a ball. Repeat this, giving the dough a good working over. You shouldn’t break in to a sweat but it should feel like a little work-out for your hands and forearms, and you should be feeling the dough getting more and more springy. After 10 minutes of kneading, push the dough back into a ball, flour the top, place in a bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm. Leave to rise in a warm place. After at least 30 minutes, but ideally when doubled in size, your dough is ready. Divide the dough into 12 large golf-ball-sized pieces and then roll them in to thin 20cm discs. Top with the rest of your ingredients and cook. If you want to use the dough later, place the balls of dough on a tray, cover with a damp cloth and leave in the fridge for up to 12 hours. Just remember to take them out 30 minutes before you’re ready to use them. Remember that your pizza will benefit from being placed directly onto a hot baking sheet or pizza stone within a pre-heated oven – our pizzas take no longer than 5 minutes. At 250°C, yours will take about 6-8 minutes.

Finally, please don’t worry about getting totally round and even bases for your pizzette. In fact, it’s much better if they are not; you’ll get some lovely bubbling and occasional charring.

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The Polpo Team