Pizza Recipe


The River Cottage Bread HandbookThe best way to bake pizza is in a fiercely hot (400°C+) brick-floored, wood-fired oven. Cooked this way, your pizza will be charred, blistered and ready in as little as 1½ minutes. It will also taste sensational. If you do not have a wood-fired oven or home-built clay oven, the next best way is on a baking stone in a domestic oven. The base won’t char as much and it will take longer, but it will still be amazing. You’ll need a peel, or rimless baking sheet, to slide the pizza on to the stone. If you do not own a baking stone, you can lay pizzas on baking trays. They will cook more slowly and won’t blister, but they’ll still taste good. Make either the roast tomato sauce or garlicky olive oil, and choose as many toppings as you wish.

  • Yield: 8 small pizzas


  • 250 g strong white bread flour
  • 250 g plain white flour
  • 5 g powdered dried yeast
  • 10 g salt
  • 325 ml warm water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • A handful of coarse flour (rye, semolina or polenta), for dusting
For the roast tomato sauce (optional) and For the garlicky olive oil (optional)
  • 500 g tomatoes
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Toppings to add before baking and Toppings to add after baking
  • A small bowl of grated Parmesan; grated Cheddar; sliced buffalo mozzarella
  • A ramekin of good salami; chopped dry-cured bacon; air-dried ham; anchovy fillets; thinly sliced cooked artichoke hearts; wild mushrooms fried gently in olive oil with garlic and thyme.
  • A sprinkling of capers; finely chopped rosemary leaves; black pepper; thinly sliced mild red chilli
  • A scattering of basil leaves; rocket leaves; chopped parsley; wild garlic flowers
How to Make It
  1. To make the dough by hand: mix the flours, yeast, salt and water in a bowl to form a sticky dough. Add the oil, mix it in, then turn the dough out on to a clean work surface. Knead until smooth and silky.
  2. Or, to use a food mixer: fit the dough hook and add the flours, yeast, salt and water to the mixer bowl. Mix on low speed, then add the oil and leave to knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and silky.
  3. Shape the dough into a round, then leave to rise in a clean bowl, covered with a plastic bag, until doubled in size.
  4. To prepare the roast tomato sauce, if using, preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Halve the tomatoes and lay them, cut side up, in a roasting tin. Mix the garlic with the oil, pour over the tomatoes and shake the tin a little, to distribute the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30–45 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and slightly charred. Rub through a sieve into a bowl.
  5. Or, for the garlicky olive oil, simply mix the garlic with the oil.
  6. Have your toppings laid out in little bowls, or in piles, so everyone can make their own selection.
  7. If using a domestic oven, preheat your oven, with your baking stone (or tray) inside, to 250°C/Gas Mark 10, or as high as it will go. (Alternatively, have your clay oven raging hot and rake the embers out.)
  8. To shape and bake the pizzas
  9. If using a wood-fired oven or a baking stone in a domestic oven, take a lime-sized piece of your risen dough and roll it out until about 5 mm thick, keeping it as round as you can. Dust the peel or rimless baking sheet with coarse flour, and lay the dough on it. If you are using a baking tray: either roll out a lime-sized piece as above, or you could take a larger piece, and press it into the tray, to fit.
  10. Think thin and delicate with your toppings, including the cheese, as befits thin, delicate bases. Overloaded pizzas will be hard to handle and will quite probably tear; they will also come out soggy. Try to use only three or four toppings on each pizza. The following combinations work well: •Garlicky oil, artichokes, Parmesan and basil •Garlicky oil, anchovy, capers and Parmesan •Roast tomato sauce, mozzarella, black pepper and basil (Margherita) •Garlicky oil, chilli, mozzarella and rocket •Garlicky oil and rosemary •Roast tomato sauce, salami, Parmesan and parsley •Fried wild mushrooms with their oil, Parmesan and parsley (my favourite)
  11. Apply the toppings to be added before baking, then either slip the pizza briskly but carefully on to the baking stone (or brick floor), or transfer the baking tray to the top shelf of the oven. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling: this should take about 1½ minutes in a wood-fired oven; more like 7–9 minutes in a domestic oven. Remove from the oven and scatter over any leaves or other raw toppings you may be using. Cut your pizza up and dig in... while somebody else bakes the next one.

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