Pizza has always been a part of my DNA. To say that I had a pizza-infused childhood is an understatement.
Back in Argentina (where I was born) gourmet, hand-crafted pizzas are available for home delivery. Did I hear you say “WUT!”? I’m not talking about the stodgy, greasy specimens that are passed off as pizza by London’s take-out joints – no way. These are stone-baked, cheese-oozing, artisan beauties, and they’re just a phone call away. Having lived in Europe for the best part of my life, I have come to miss how easy it was to get my hands on a quality slice (or eight) without having to lift a finger.
To me, there’s nothing more comforting than a well-baked pizza dough with a simple and classic topping. If done well, a straightforward Margherita can be life-changing. Shoutout to my favourite, Franco Manca’s in London. Their base is so thin in the middle that you don’t need a knife and fork. I always go for it, (clean) hands first, and eat it like nobody’s watching.
If you haven’t yet ditched Pizza Hut and Dominos for homemade pizza, I’m hoping this recipe will change that. It’s by far, the best pizza I’ve ever made at home. It does come with its ups and downs, and yes, it’s not as straightforward as mixing yeast, flour and water together, but it produces the puffiest dough ever. The idea to turn this recipe into a calzone stems from my personal love for this Neapolitan delicacy. Stuff it with chorizo or your favorite marinara sauce, but please don’t cut back on the cheese.
As tasty as this pizza recipe is, it’s also very delicate. Add too much flour during the kneading process and you will have ruined it from the very start. This dough only gets better with each proofing. Give it love, warmth and plenty of time and it will reward you with soft, chewy and crispy “I-want-to-eat-this-for-the-rest-of-my-life” goodness.
The pizza dough recipe was adapted from Nancy Silverton’s cookbook “Mozza” (2011).
For the dough
- 625ml warm tap water
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 740g bread flour, more to dust
- 1 tablespoon dark rye flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons wheat germ
- 1 ½ teaspoons mild-flavoured honey
- 1 tablespoon salt
- olive oil
- semolina, for dusting
For the filling
- 80g basil leaves
- 60g pine nuts, can be replaced for 30g almonds
- 60g parmigiano reggiano
- 2 garlic cloves
- 100 ml olive oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- a handful of fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
- a handful of black olives, halved
- 150g grated mozzarella
- Lightly dust your worktop with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces ( you could divide into more pieces if you’d like to make smaller calzoni). Tuck the edges of each piece under itself so it becomes a nicely formed ball. Then cover the dough balls with a clean dishtowel. Let them proof for 1 hour.
- Place 425ml of the warm water and the yeast in the bowl of your standing mixer. Mix together and let it sit for a few minutes so the yeast dissolves, you are basically bringing the yeast back to life. Next, add 370g of the bread flour, followed by the rye flour and the wheat germ (wheat germ is what companies take out of flour to make it white, wholemeal flour still has the wheat germ in it). Stir everything with a wooden spoon until well combined. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl, making sure it’s securely covered. Now wrap kitchen twine around the perimeter of the bowl to seal the bowl completely. Set the dough aside for 1 ½ hours at room temperature (ideally 20-22C). Now you can chill out as per the instructions of this recipe. You’re welcome.
- Uncover the bowl, making sure you keep the plastic wrap and twine as you will need it again. Add the remaining 370g of bread flour, the remaining 200 ml of water and the honey. Fit your standing mixer with a dough hook and mix the dough on a low speed for 2 minutes. Next, add the salt and continue to mix for 8 minutes on a medium speed. The dough should slowly pull away from the sides of the bowl, it won’t completely clean the bowl, but if your dough seems too sticky and it’s not pulling away at all, you may add a small handful of flour to make it less sticky. (Note, the dough is sticky by nature so don’t go adding handfuls and handfuls of flour or you will have wasted some precious time AND DOUGH.) While the dough is still mixing, grease a large bowl with olive oil – the bowl needs to be large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size. Place the dough into the oiled bowl and cover tightly with the plastic wrap. Then further secure it by tying the twine back around the bowl. Set aside for 45 minutes. Why not pour yourself a glass of wine? You’ve earned it.
- Uncover the bowl and rub your hands with some olive oil so the dough doesn’t stick to you. Carefully pull the sides away from the bowl and start folding the edges of the dough towards the center. Do this a couple of times over. Turn the dough over, folded sides down. Cover the bowl once again and let it rise for a further 45 minutes. Another chill break, another glass of wine.
To make the pesto: Simply add the basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan, salt and pepper to a food processor with a bit of the olive oil and start processing. Add the remainder of the olive oil in a constant stream while still processing. Taste and season as desired.
To make the calzone: Nancy Silverton’s recipe recommends using a pizza stone to achieve a crisper crust but it’s not necessary at all. Preheat your oven to 250C. Prepare all your filling ingredients in bowls, ready to be used. Sprinkle some semolina on your round pizza tray and set aside. Place one round of dough on your lightly floured worktop. Using your fingertips, tap the centre of the dough to flatten it. If you are feeling lucky, pick up the dough with your fists formed into a ball and start moving the dough in a circular motion so the dough stretches downward. You can also stretch the dough by tapping it with your fingers. The dough should be around 10 inches in diameter.
- Place the pizza base on the baking tray and spread a light coat of the pesto all over the dough. Sprinkle the mozzarella on half the pizza, followed by some cherry tomatoes and some black olives. Sprinkle some salt and pepper followed by a light drizzle of olive oil around the rim of the dough. Fold one half of the pizza over the other half and pinch the rim together. Now it’s just the baking left and you’ll be enjoying a glorious calzone in approximately 15 minutes.
- Place the calzone in the oven to cook for about 8 – 12 minutes. Keep an eye on it as it could brown faster, depending on your oven. Once cooked, remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving as it will be really hot.
- Repeat with the rest of the dough rounds. You could also make pizzas or even turn some into garlic bread. Yum!
There you go, this is not the type of recipe that will take you 20 minutes to whip up! But the long proofing hours are a small price to pay for the amazing dough you’ll have at the end. If you can’t be bothered to bake it as a calzone, make a pizza instead!