Pizza is arguably the most loved food in the western world, but mastering the fine art of the perfect pizza is something that has been argued for centuries. MaZi’s own John Lanzafame has won multiple world championships in pizza making and knows exactly what it takes to make good pizza at home. While we may never reach the lofty heights of world pizza champion, John has shared some woodfired pizza tips that will help everyone’s technique. And the tips are just as useful at home with your regular oven. Read on for John’s top five tips for creating the perfect pizza.
Tip 1: The Right Sauce
You need to start with Italian San Marzano tomatoes, which are the best tomatoes in the world. They sound exotic, but you can buy them in most supermarkets, and if you can’t find them there, try your greengrocer. In comparison to Roma tomatoes, San Marzanos have less seeds, and a more fleshy texture. Flavour-wise they are also sweeter and less acidic, which works perfectly for pizza sauce. For this recipe, you can use tinned San Marzano tomatoes. Just empty the tin into a deep bowl, add a splash of extra virgin olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and nothing else (unless you’re a garlic freak). Then all you need to do is puree and you’re done.
Tip 2: Thin Base
There is nothing worse than doughy pizza that tastes mostly like bread. It’s important to make pizza dough using the right sort of flour, to work the dough until it’s really elastic, and to spread it out nice and thinly before you put the topping on. You may be tempted to use a pre-prepared base, and if you’re running short on time, we’ll forgive you! For the perfect pizza, however, you really do need to set aside time to make your own dough. The best sort of dough for this purpose is a stretched pizza dough made with high protein wheat flour, water and salt. To be considered a traditional pizza, the dough must be stretched by hand only. No using a rolling pin! Here’s the recipe to make dough for four pizzas, each one about 30cm in diameter:
- 600 mL of warm water
- 7 cups (1kg) type ‘00’ flour
- 2.5 – 3 tablespoons (25 grams) of fresh yeast or 2 teaspoons (7-8 grams) of dried yeast
- 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
*In Italy, ‘00’ (doppio zero) flour is the whitest, most finely ground flour available. If you can’t find any, normal all-purpose plain flour should work just fine.
Once you have assembled your pizza ingredients, follow these steps:
- Sprinkle the yeast into a medium bowl with the warm water. It’s important that the water isn’t hot, and it isn’t cold – it needs to be right in the middle! Placing cold water in the microwave for about 1.5 mins should be about right. Stir it up until the yeast dissolves.
- Pour almost all of the flour onto the bench in the shape of a volcano. Don’t forget the crater (otherwise, it would just be a plain old mountain, right?).
- Pour the yeast mix, as well as all the other ingredients, into the crater.
- Knead everything together for 10 to 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, keeping your bench very lightly floured.
- Grease the insides of a bowl with some olive oil and put the dough inside. Turn the dough about a little so that the top is lightly oiled too.
- Cover the bowl and put it aside so that the dough can rest for four to five hours at a minimum.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Tip the dough back onto the floured bench. Press it down to get rid of any air bubbles. This can be done in place of today’s gym workout.
- Divide the dough in half and let it rest for a few minutes.
- Press each half between your palms into a 30cm circle. Remember it will go a little puffy when you cook it.
- Transfer the dough onto an oiled pizza pan or baking sheet, then add your pizza sauce followed by your toppings.
Tip 3: Less is More
John Lanzafame is a big believer that the perfect pizza must not contain more than a couple of quality toppings. If you’re a lover of Pizza Hut’s Supreme Pizza, this may come as a bit of a surprise. While the origin of pizza may have been about throwing leftovers and scraps on a bit of bread, the world has moved on from there! A hero ingredient will be swamped if you cover it with other ingredients. A quality cured meat like salami or pepperoni always works well with pizza because they provide so much flavour on their own. Meats that have been ‘pulled’ such as pork or lamb are also great pizza toppings as they provide texture and flavour.
Tip 4: Turn Up the Heat
While many meals are baked for long periods at around 170 degrees to cook the food through, pizzas need to be cooked hotter and faster at about 200 degrees. If you’re adding ingredients that require thorough cooking – for example meats and vegetables – it’s better to pre-cook them before they’re placed on the pizza. This will also ensure that the ingredients aren’t carrying too much water. Nobody likes a soggy pizza! The quick cooking of pizza gives it the dry, light and crispy texture that we love.
Tip five: The Finishing Touch
Another Lanzafame law in making the perfect pizza is to add a finishing touch AFTER the pizza has been cooked. Adding flavoursome ingredients like herbs such as rocket or basil, or a squirt of lemon or lime juice. Of course, different things go better with certain toppings, but that’s the beauty of trying to find your perfect pizza! Another popular Italian touch is truffle. Yes that little piece of fungus is amazing on top of a pizza, and we strongly advise you to try it with your next MaZi woodfire pizza!
Some bonus perfect pizza tips:
Many families have squabbled over which topping makes the perfect pizza over the years, but here’s a great idea to satisfy everyone. Start with a very basic pizza with minimal ingredients, such as tomato sauce and a bit of cheese. Then when serving, have offerings of extra toppings much like you would when having homemade tacos. This style is very rare in Australia but it’s how it’s done back in Italy. This will be also a feature introduced by John Lanzafame for MaZi’s new woodfire pizzas, which start cooking in the brand new woodfired pizza oven from the end of November.
Drinks to Match
Now that the perfect pizza is cooked, you’re going to need a beverage to match, right? Of course Australians love to have a beer with their pizza (or with anything really!). But with your flavoursome perfect pizza, you may want something a little more unusual in your bottle than your regular lager. Try an Italian or local pale ale to really get the tastebuds working. For wine lovers, let your pizza topping direct your choice of bottle. MaZi has launched DeBortoli’s Woodfired Heathcote Shiraz, which goes perfectly with a pepperoni pizza. If your topping is prawns or another seafood, try it with a 2015 Deen Sauvignon Blanc. Belissimo!
Feel like leaving the cooking to someone else?
If all this talk about pizza has made you hungry, but you’ve run out of pizza dough, come on in to MaZi Restaurant at Lantern Club. Here, you and your friends and family can relax while you devour delicious pizza prepared by a world champion in a pizza oven imported from Italy! Now that’s something not everyone can claim! Just to whet your appetite, here’s a quick peek at our menu. Call us on 02 8037 8200 to book a table, or just fill in our online booking form.
© Lantern Club, Roselands