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Wednesday 10 August 2011

Quick & Easy Homemade Pizza

Pizza, despite being among my favourite foods, seems like way too much effort to make from scratch. Even though it is (or was, at least) possible to buy a pizza base mix (also used for making doughballs), that's more effort than I'd tend to want to put in. Some time ago, however, I happened to be defrosting some bread and realised that, in it's warm, moist, fresh-from-the-microwave state, a couple of slices could be relieved of their crusts and squashed together to form a quick and dirty (and square) pizza base. I didn't get round to attempting that experiment, and it was a type of bread I don't always buy, so I started considering alternatives. The first one that sprung to mind was Pitta bread... it's almost the right shape anyway, more or less the right consistency, and it's certainly flat enough to support the other makings of a pizza.

So, how does one turn Pitta bread into pizza? Here's the breakdown for a 'Margarita' equivalent - add your own toppings as you please...

  • Pitta Bread
  • Tomato Purée
  • Basil
  • Black Pepper
  • Garlic (either fresh - crushed or sliced - or granules)
  • Mozzarella (can be bought ready-grated or in chunks)
Preparation Time: about 15-20 minutes

Tools Required:
  • Table Knife or Spoon (for spreading the purée)
  • Um... That's it, I think...
  • Unless you're chopping or crushing the garlic, or grating your own Mozzarella, in which case a Kitchen Knife, Garlic Press and/or Grater will be needed

The Process:
Preheat the oven to about 170C (slightly higher for non-fan-assisted models). For each Pitta Pizza, spread a generous helping of tomato purée over one side of the Pitta. Sprinkle on some basil, black pepper, garlic and finally the mozzarella. Add whatever toppings you prefer.

Place the pittas directly onto the middle shelf of the oven, and leave to cook for about 15 minutes, keeping an eye on their progress so they can be pulled out early if necessary.

Wow... How easy was that?

The Results:
I went for wholemeal Pittas, got a bit clumsy with the granulated garlic, and topped my pizzas with large pepperoni slices. In 15 minutes, they were done to perfection, and tasted great (let's face it, you'll never know yourself if you used too much garlic... but someone else might point it out to you). The tomato purée was sweeter than the tomato sauce used on the average shop-bought pizza, or the kind of thing you'd tend to be served in a restaurant, so the addition of basil, black pepper and garlic toned it down somewhat, and gave it a more full-bodied flavour. Because of the size of pepperoni slices I used, each pitta could only usefully accommodate 3 slices, but other toppings could certainly be added more liberally.

The downside to using Pittas is their tendency to open up, making a 2-layer base. That said, if you were that way inclined, you could add more Mozzarella to the interior, creating your very own stuffed crust. The Pittas I used crusted up quite nicely, but this did lead to a rather crumbly base.

Addendum: Having now tried this under the grill, I can confirm that this is the preferable option - in the oven, while the Mozzarella melted perfectly, the toppings remained essentially untouched (well, the pepperoni started leaking its oils, but that's about it). Grilling will not only melt the cheese, but start to cook the toppings too, giving a much more authentically 'cooked pizza' quality to the end result.

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