Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Home-made Pizza recipe with a side helping of empty nest syndrome

Have you ever tried using 00 flour? This is an Italian standard, very finely ground, like talcum powder. Unlike British flour, Italian flour is not graded in terms of protein. In the UK, strong bread flour is high protein while plain flour is lower protein and good for cakes and pastry.
00 flour refers to the grind and the colour, for it is the whitest flour. There is low protein 00 flour and high protein 00 flour. You get a lovely fine smooth result but choose the higher protein version (around 13%) for pizza or add some strong bread flour. But, if you are a pizza obsessive you need to check out this site where 'pizza gods', mostly men, often professional pizza parlours, chat about achieving the perfect pizza. The bottom is referred to as the 'underskirt'. The forum members exchange pizza pictures. There is a chart describing all the different styles, from New York to Chicago and Neapolitan.
To get that authentic pizzeria vibe, use a pizza stone or a flat baking tray and heat it up before putting the dough onto it.
Use parchment paper to slide the pizza disk onto the pre-heated stone or tray on a low rack on the highest heat once it's in the oven. As an Aga user, I have a peel and use the paper with the peel to slide the pizza onto the floor of the hottest oven.
The topping? Well if I'm prepared then I'll go out and buy some good mozzarella balls, tearing them up rather than slicing. After scraping a layer of cooked tomato sauce on the pizza, I use whatever I have in the fridge, the end of a jar of pesto, a few thin bracelets of yellow pepper, some summer red wheels of tomato, a few mustardy capers.
If you don't have tomatoes, use strawberries, they have a comparable flavour compound called strawberry furanone. I once made a tomato salad with cream and sugar. Guests thought they were strawberries. This will be my next attempt: savoury strawberry pizza.
This week my daughter returned from university, just for a week. As a compulsive feeder, it's a relief to have someone around to cook for. I've been doing less supper clubs lately, having stiff deadlines to meet with my books. Blogging has also trailed by the wayside.
It has been painful to get used to living alone over the last two years and I miss her so much. But two days after she returns, we are bickering, mostly about feminism. I keep forgetting the difference between sex and gender. I upset her when I say something 'biphobic'. I have to look it up to discover my offence. I am updated with new expressions: 'TLDR' is 'too long didn't read'. We sit outside a pub and double date on Tinder. I swipe hers and she swipes mine. She wants me to date. It feels impossible, I'm out of the habit. She has recently split up with her boyfriend and is convinced that she will be alone FOREVER. She's 20 and gracefully beautiful, long glossy hair, velvety complexion, a perfectly symmetical face, curly thick eyelashes, tiny hands, trailing a sweet smell of coconut. She tells me terrible things. Stories from university. Of how boys her age, raised on porn, treat girls.
We discuss the weirdness of having a husband or a father. Mostly, having been a two person 'family' for 18 years, we don't realise that other people have them. (Like I don't realise that other people eat meat, it shocks me, over and over again). Having written two books back to back and now on my third, I've spent alot of time in isolation over the last year. My world is a Vipassana silence, burrowing into myself, seeking words. One resists, no no, but it is ultimately blissful.

Home-made Pizza Recipe

Makes 2 medium pizzas

Prep time: 1hour 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

15g fresh yeast or 7g rapid dried
1 tsp honey or maple syrup
320ml water
500g 00 flour with a high protein meant for pizza (13%)
Or 400g 00 flour (low protein around 9% with 100g strong bread flour)
20g semolina
10g sea salt
50ml olive oil

100g cooked tomato sauce
Half a yellow pepper
2 balls mozzarella, torn
2 or 3 good tomatoes, sliced wafer thin
A scraping of hot sauce
Olive oil
Sea salt
Shavings of pecorino

In a pyrex jug add the yeast and honey to the luke warm water. Measure out the flour, semolina, salt and olive oil, either in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the jug of yeast and water. Knead for ten minutes or mix with the dough hook for five minutes.
Then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave for an hour. Preheat the oven to it's highest possible temperature. Put in the stone or flat baking tray.
Then tip out the dough and cut it in half.  Oil a piece of parchment paper and with your hands, stretch out the dough onto the paper. Gather your topping ingredients.
Bake the dough for 2 to 5 minutes on the paper until the top is just firm. Pull out the pizza and brush on the tomato base. Add the rest of the ingredients, whatever you have. Last minute scrunch on some sea salt and zigzag some olive oil over the pizza. Stick the pizza back in the oven for ten minutes.
Pull it out and cut it with scissors into portions.
Repeat with the second half of dough.


  1. It's lovely to hear about another family of two. We definitely do the forgetting fathers and husbands exist thing too - I'm always surprised and even a bit shocked whenever I see fathers with their children (I've never met my father or had any long term father figures, so it's pretty alien to me - my mum does and always has done everything).

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Emma and by the way, congratulations of winning the Guild of Food Writers Award this year, you were the only possible choice in my opinion.
      Yeah it's weird, you just used to living in a gynocracy! Does your mum miss you when you are at university?

  2. Thanks Kerstin - it's lovely of you to say so. She struggled a lot when I first went, even though she'd left the empty nest and gone to the mountains to have fun. I think it got easier as the years went by. It's difficult when one person doing something different effectively splits the family. I find it weird too. It's all coming up again now as even though I've been living in a different country we've seen a lot of each other in the last three years since I left uni the first time, so going back to do an even more intensive course is scary. Though I guess we're just lucky to have each other!

    1. Ok, I want to know more about this having fun in the mountains story. I need that in my life.

  3. God you write beautifully! Like you're in the room. Elinor x


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