One of the books on food i’ve enjoyed most over the last couple of months has been ‘Heston Blumenthal – In Search of Total Pefection’. It combines his two series looking for the best possible version of several classic dishes. The recipes occasionally use unusual ingredients, but tend to steer clear of specialist equipment (no sous vide or centrifuges needed). I’ve dabbled with the burger recipe before, but the first one i’m following end to end is the pizza.
Heston’s idea of a perfect pizza is a simple Neapolitan-style margarita – a tomato sauce, smeared over a thin, crisp base with mozzarella on top.
The dough is made in two stages, an initial pre-ferment and a final double raise. You make a small batch of dough one day in advance, then make the ‘final batch’ using that pre-ferment as a starter. 00 Grade pasta flour is used to get a really high protein content while keeping a light texture and malt syrup (available from health food shops) is used to boost the sugar content evenly. The dough is left to rise in the fridge so it genereates a lovely sourdough style flavour before being punched down and raised a second time.
The tomato sauce is made from really ripe cherry tomatoes – skinning 45 small tomatoes is a bit of a chore, but the resulting reduction is gorgeous – nothing is added, it’s just pure tomato.
Oven dried tomatoes (dried with garlic, bay, thyme, basil and a little sugar) add individual bursts of intense tomato sweetness, a perfect example of Heston’s flavour encapsulation. Buffalo mozzarella adds a gorgeous creamy contrast and smoked sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil finish it off beautifully.
The real magic is the way it’s cooked. Heating a large iron/carbon steel frying pan over a hob over a very high heat for at least 15 minutes means it’s smoking hot. You then flip it over and place it under a grill, also set to high, as close to the element as possible. Leaving it for another few minutes reaches a peak temperature far hotter than a domestic oven. Carefully sliding the pizza inbetween cooks it in around 90-120 seconds and results in a beautifully light puffy crust with a gentle char. Perfect.
I’ve always loved making bread dough – there’s something deeply satisfying about watching it rise happily and the smell is incredible. After seeing several good recipes for American style ‘cinnamon rolls’ I decided to have a crack.
The texture is lovely – fresh out the oven it was warm and pillowy. The smell as it cooked was incredible. I’m not sure how well they age – I didn’t have enough icing sugar on hand to glaze them there and then, so I had to put them in a Tupperware overnight. The days after they were slightly firmer, but still yum. It’ll be interesting to see what people at work think of them tomorrow – fingers crossed!