Pizzas or manoush (in Lebanon) and me have had a convoluted history. To me, a good pizza is all about the base. For years, I have been trying to make the perfect pizza base: it needs to have bite, be thin and crisp and, ideally, a little charred in places. A big call for a domestic oven.
I have tried many recipes, the best of which require a couple of days to prove. But the problem is: inevitably, it will be 5:00pm and I will ask Maus, “What do you want for dinner?” Or I will say, “I feel like pizza tonight.” Tonight being the operative word here. I want pizza tonight, not tomorrow or the next day.
This has led to most of my pizza bases being made with instant yeast. I have finally concluded that it is the way to go. Pizzas are supposed to be quick and easy meals, not tortuous affairs.
I don’t think it matters too much what recipe you use, as long as you do three things you will get a very good pizza, though not as good as a pizza from a wood-fired oven.
- Cook your pizza directly on a pizza stone or tile (no pan).
- Have a very hot oven. That means your oven needs to be preheated as hot as it will go (which, for domestic ovens, is usually 250°C).
- Have a hot stone. Put your pizza stone or tile in the oven and turn it on, at least, one hour before you want to cook your pizza.
Do these three things and you will, with a bit of trial and error, get pizzas as good as it gets in a domestic oven. Last night’s pizzas were fantastic. The recipes I used are manoush with spinach and cheese and manoush with za’atar, both from Saha, by Greg and Lucy Malouf.
- 355g bread flour
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- ½ tsp salt (I didn’t think there was enough so next time I will go with ¾ tsp)
- ¼ tsp sugar
- 200 mls warm water
- 1tbs* olive oil.
- Mix the yeast and sugar into the warm water and set aside for a minute or two.
- Add the salt to the flour and stir to combine.
- Add the water mixture and the olive oil to the flour mixture.
- Knead the dough. You can knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes, or in a mixer for 5 minutes or in a food processor for 1 minute. I went for the last option.
- Lightly oil a bowl and put the dough into the bowl. Cover in plastic wrap and leave for two hours.
- After an hour or so, put your tile or stone in your oven and preheat your oven to 250°C.
- Divide the dough into 12, 6 or 3 pieces (depending on the size you want). Form into small balls and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Roll out your dough to the thickness you prefer. We like ours thin. I went for six portions and rolled them out to the size of butter plates.
- Add your topping and put your manoush on a well floured paddle, upside down baking tray or piece of three-ply.
- Slide your manoush onto the hot tile.
- Cook for 5 minutes. (The books say 3 minutes but I can’t get my oven hot enough for them to cook in 3 minutes.)
Spinach and cheese topping:
- 1 bunch of spinach, cooked until wilted or 250g of defrosted frozen spinach – squeeze out as much fluid as possible.
- 125g mozzarella, grated
- 60g haloumi, grated
- salt, to taste
Combine all ingredients. I found this amount was enough for half of my base dough. For the other half, I used:
- 3 tbs* za’atar (You can buy za’atar or make your own)
- 1 tbs* sumac
- salt, to taste
- 100mls olive oil
Combine all ingredients. This makes enough for all of the base so if you are doing both toppings, you may wish to halve it.
* I think these are 15 mil tablespoons. Greg doesn’t advise in Saha but, in Arabesque, he uses 15 mil tablespoons.