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How can I make a good pizza at home?

The secret of a good pizza lies in the well-risen pizza dough, cooked to the right degree of softness, yet having a crispy bite; toppings must be fresh at the right quantity. The process of making a good quality pizza consists of five main steps:

1. Choosing the raw ingredients

To obtain a good pizza, the raw ingredients must be fresh. The following are particularly important :

Use drinkable water. If you use water from the tap, boil the water before use.

Use fresh or dried yeast for dough leavening. Fresh yeast is light in colour and crumbly. Dried yeast is easily available and has a longer shelf life, but it has to be reconstituted in warm water (38°C) before use.

Use only hygroscopic salt, which is the common table salt. It aids in the leavening of the dough, giving a pizza with a better texture.

Use fine plain flour to ensure a short leavening time (2-3 hours). This kind of flour has a good water absorption capacity of about 50%, which ensures a consistent moisture content of the dough.

The ingredients used for pizza toppings depend on individual preference. One useful advice is not to grate mozzarella cheese but to cut it into thin slices, so as to avoid modifying the taste.

2. The Recipe

For a good pizza dough, the following proportions of ingredient are suggested:

- 1 litre of water

- 2 kg of plain flour

- 20 g of fresh yeast or 7g of dried yeast

- 50 g of table salt

The above suggestion gives about 3kg of pizza dough, which is enough to make four standard pizzas. It is important to note that the amount of yeast should be reduced when the temperature is above 23-25°C (i.e. in the summer).

3. Making the dough

The flour is divided into 2 halves and each half is placed in two containers. The amount of water is divided into two glasses, with salt dissolved in one and yeast in the other. The salt solution is poured into one container containing the flour and the yeast solution in the other container. The contents in the containers are kneaded till the mixtures become consistent. Finally, the two mixtures are combined and the dough is kneaded until it becomes smooth and a bit damp.

If using a dough machine, first mix the flour with the yeast in water. The salt is dissolved in 2 dl of water, which is added to the well-mixed flour and yeast mixture. Avoid direct contact of salt and yeast as salt can inhibit yeast activity.

The dough is ready when

the mixture is well kneaded into a consistent dough. The dough is divided into small portions. The size and thickness of each portion are identical to those of a small bun. Thereafter, the dough is allowed to undergo leavening. The leavening time of the dough ranges from 6-8 to 24 hours, depending on the environmental temperature. If the unleavened dough is not used on the same day, it is recommended to store it in the fridge at 2-6°C.

4. The Rising

The yeasts carry out the leavening process, producing carbon dioxide gas that raises the dough. After leavening, the small dough portions are crushed by hands or with the use of a rolling pin on a tray that is pre-coated with some oil, to obtain a homogeneous and thin layer. The size of the layer is that of a standard pizza. The flattened dough can be spread with a thin layer of tomato sauce if you wish to eat a "red" pizza, or simply with oil if you like a "white" pizza. The pizza is completed with preferred ingredients as toppings. Pizza is left out at room temperature for at least 1 hour before cooking. If the dough has been stored in the fridge, it has to be left out at room temperature in order for the dough to rise.

5. Cooking

Cooking is one of the most important steps that determine the quality of pizza. If performed at the right temperature and time, it brings out all the aroma of freshly baked pizza.

Using an electric oven, the pizza is cooked at a temperature of about 250°C for 15-20 minutes. Before baking the pizza, the oven has to be pre-heated to the required temperature of 250°C. This will ensure a more uniform cooking, which will only begin when the required temperature is reached. For this reason, cooking is split into two phases:

The dough spread with tomato sauce or oil is baked for about 10 minutes;

The dough is taken out of the oven, topped with the desired ingredients, and the baking continued until the cooking time of 20 minutes is achieved.

To enjoy the aroma and taste of a freshly baked pizza, the pizza should be eaten warm from the oven.

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