A pizza story

Living in a modern city like Singapore, it is so convenient and affordable to call for a pizza delivery for various occasions. If you’re growing up in a city, you probably find it difficult to imagine that pizza wasn’t accessible at all to me when I was young.

I grew up in a small village in Malaysia where the nearest local chained fast food shop was at least 7 km away. McDonald was available about 33 km away and the first Pizza Hut outlet was opened until much later. As kids, my siblings and I came to know about pizza through the Pizza Hut advertisement aired on the major TV channels from Singapore. That round, flat and colourful food with stretchy cheese was so attractive to us but it was pretty impractical to cross the immigration checkpoint merely to have a pizza.

We had another version of pizza frequently in our childhood although we didn’t had that authentic pizza that we wished for. In many weekends, my mum made her own version of “pizza” for our Saturday lunch. Her pizza was actually a crepe full with vegetables like carrots and cabbages. She first made a batter with flour and water and then asked us to mix it well by keep stirring the batter until the batter was no longer lumpy. To imitate those stretchy cheese of the pizza, my mum cut the cabbage into very fine strips. Those fine vegetable strips were pan fried with the flour batter using a wok and slowly cooked into a disk shape. Sometimes she cracked an egg into the crepe as extra topping.  As I could see short trails of cabbage strips from the crepe, I naively thought that was the pizza. Those were the special weekend when we used plates, knives and forks for meals at home (we use only chopsticks,spoons and bowls normally), just like those western food diners seen in the TV. Although my mum version of pizza had nothing similar to a real pizza except both of them used flour as one of the main ingredients, her pizza brought so much joy to us as kids. Many years later, we finally got to try a real pizza when the first Pizza Hut outlet was opened in town. It was new and exciting and made me realised that I was not a cheese lover. LOL

Knowing my mum was a very practical and busy working mother, it touches me deep in my heart when I recall this version of pizza at my 30s. It was an effort from a mother to make her children happy with limited resources and created precious weekend memories for them. So when I managed to get those beautiful thin crust pizzas out of my oven, I sent the photo to my family immediately and set the date for a pizza party.

I have tried different pizza toppings since then. Many of them are rather commonly seen at pizza shops except the one with anchovy fillets. As L getting sick of pizza lately, I shall explore more flavours later in the year ; )

  • Vegetable combination : 3-4 inches of zucchini (sliced), 1/4 red bell pepper (sliced) and 1/4 yellow bell pepper (sliced).
  • Mixed mushrooms : various type of mushroom (sliced), drizzle one to one and a half teaspoon of truffle oil on top after the pizza is done baking.
  • Ham and rocket : Lay a few pieces of ham on the pizza and bake according to the recipe. Spread over fresh raw rockets on top right before serving
  • Baby spinach and mushrooms : Any type of mushroom (sliced) and a handful of spinach leaves.
  • Anchovy and onion : 1/2 medium yellow onion (sliced), 1 can of anchovy fillet and 1/4 bell pepper strips. Sauté the onions over low heat until they have turned transparent, soft and sweet. Spread the onion, bell pepper strips and anchovy fillet directly from the can on the pizza base and bake.

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Thin crust pizza

Serves 2 pizza (24 cm in diameter)
Prep time 1 hour, 30 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups water (lukewarm)
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 86g tomato paste
  • 2 cups Mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese (grated)

Optional

  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic (minced)
  • A handful fresh basil (chopped)

Directions

Step 1
Add all purpose flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast on one side of the bowl and salt on the other side. Make a well in the center and slowly add in the water. Stir the ingredients together to form a firm dough.
Step 2
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes until it reaches a smooth and elastic dough. Cover the dough with cling wrap or kitchen towel. Allow it to proof in somewhere warm and moist until it has doubled in size. Or leave the covered dough in the fridge for overnight.

It takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour to rise to the correct size. At low temperature, the dough rises slowly.
Step 3
Preheat the oven at 260C for at least 30 minutes.

Once the dough has doubled in size, place the dough on the lightly floured top gently knead to squash the air out. Add the minced garlic to the dough and knead for another 1-2 minutes to distribute the garlic evenly in the dough. Roll out the dough to a round disk shape (24 cm in diameter) or any shape that you preferred. The dough could be stretchy and starts to shrink back in the process. Let it rest for a few minutes and continue to roll. If your dough is left in the fridge overnight, leave it at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before you start to work on it.

If you are using a pizza pan, roll the dough out on a separate surface. Transfer the base to the pizza pan and rearrange it later. If you do not have a pizza pan, roll out the dough directly on the parchment paper. Once the pizza is cooked, the base will be easily detached from the paper.
Step 4
Using the back of a spoon, spread the tomato paste evenly on top of the pizza base. Lay the cheeses evenly and then place the toppings on top. Lay another layer of mixed cheeses on top as the final layer.

Add variation to the tomato paste by adding chopped basil leaves into the paste and mix well.
Step 5
Bake the pizza for 5 minutes. Rotate and bake it for another 3-5 minutes until the crust and the cheese layer look golden brown.

Note

The original recipe of the pizza dough is from the kitchn.
Please refer to the main text for various combinations of pizza toppings that I tried before.

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4 comments on “A pizza storyAdd yours →

  1. Hi Mrs L,
    Is there a reason why you use 1.5 tablespoon instead of 1.5 teaspoon of salt (per original recipe in Kitchn)?

    I first followed your recipe using 1.5 tablespoon salt and more water to put the flour together to achieve a dough and left it in the fridge overnight. First time I am handling a dough and as my feeling told me, the dough really could not rise. I watched the video on Kitchn again and again till i get all the small details in my head and re did the dough by following the recipe closely but 1.5 teaspoon of salt and no extra water. Fortunately, the dough rose in the warm afternoon and ready for dinner.

    The pizza base tasted good when warm but turned hard when slightly cooled. Which step/ingredient determines the crispiness of the base? I was hoping to make a thin and crispy base.

    Thanks for the recipe! Hope to hear from you so that i can improve!

    CML

    1. Dear Mei Ling,

      I used 1.5 tps of salt. That was a typo when I was choosing the unit from the drop down menu. I have updated the recipe.

      There could be many reasons when a dough doesn’t rise but mainly due to the lost of activity of the yeast. Do you use instant yeast followed this recipe? Cos different kind of yeasts requires different ways of handling for e.g. active dry yeast needs to be awaken before adding to the flour. Too low temperature and too much salt also inhibit the yeast activity, in your case the 1.5 tbs salt together with overnight in fridge very much slow down the yeast activity (Sorry for the typo I made)

      I noticed that you used extra water, which I would suggest to be careful with the mount of water when making a bread dough. I had a few failed experiences due to extra water added. I usually gradually add the water to avoid over-adding. This is because different flours absorb different amount of water at different conditions, and the flour takes some time to fully absorb the water added. Under the usual warm humid weather of Singapore, if my dough doesn’t rise a single bit within 10-15 mins on my kitchen top, I know something must be wrong then decide what to do next. Maybe you can try this method to determine if the dough works before putting it in the fridge for overnight proving.

      My crust was crispy and thin but turned soggy, soft and chewy (in a way was hard to bite off) after a while, which is pretty normal due to the moisture from the pizza sauce and toppings. To get a crispy crust, I think first the dough needs to be right. Secondly, it needs to be rolled out thin enough, so the base can be fully cooked, crispy but not burned under high heat. The baking time is rather short, so if the base is thick from the beginning you will likely not getting a crispy base after 8 minutes.

      If you notice, the dough is elastic and stretchy which does not maintains the shape nicely after you roll it out. It stretches back, making it not so easy to be as thin. Let it rest for a while and roll again as described in the recipe until you have achieved your desired thickness. I know some of the recipes suggest to preheat the pizza pan/stone together in the oven, so the pizza base will be heat up immediately right after it is transferred to the oven. This will help to cook and crisp your crust. But that will be a bit challenging without a long-handled tool so I didn’t use this method.

      Nevertheless, I really hope the above could help and you will get a thin crispy crust next time you try!

      1. Thanks Sally!

        You are very right about the water, i was panicky the first time so added water too quickly. I did not have to add more water the second time when i added the water more gradually.

        I only have 1 pizza pan, so the first pizza turned cold and chewy while 1 was baking the 2nd one. So the 2nd pizza tasted much more crispy! I was pretty happy nevertheless that my pizza turned out good enough. After all, it is my first time making a dough!

        Cheers
        Mei Ling

        1. Dear Mei Ling,

          You can try with pizza on parchment paper and bake on the preheated oven tray which is bigger to fit more.

          Or prep the second pizza while along the first one, and eat the first one while the second one in the oven (that’s what we do hehe)

          I think I can see more dough coming from you. 🙂

          Sally

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