It took me years before I felt brave enough to make my own dough. I always thought you had to do so many things to the ingredients and then lock it away into an airing cupboard for hours to rise! Well, I don’t have hours to wait around and I no longer have an airing cupboard so I just continued buying bread from the baker’s and buying ready made pizza bases and added my own combination of toppings.
One day I decided I needed to take the plunge if I wanted to call myself a real cook! So I watched lots of videos on YouTube and read lots of books on making dough. Not an airing cupboard in sight – you just let the dough rise in a warm-ish place – and you can go off and do other things while you’re waiting for the dough to rise. I even found one bread that doesn’t use yeast – Australian Damper Bread. So easy and yet so delicious!
To save you some of the trouble and angst, here are a few tips and techniques so that when you decide to have a go at making one of the bread or pizza recipes on this site or from elsewhere you won’t make too many mistakes with your first few attempts.
When making pizza:
- Always use “00” Italian flour. You can buy this from most supermarkets. I always buy the Barilla variety from Amazon. You can really smell and taste the difference. You do feel that you are eating an Italian pizza when you use Italian flour.
- Use a pizza stone – not one of those baking trays with holes in them! They are a great investment and don’t worry about then turning black. This means they are becoming seasoned and develop a non-stick patina. I never wash mine. I just rub all the ‘bits’ off with some kitchen roll and then put it away.
- You need that pizza stone extremely hot to make a lovely crispy crust. Place the baking stone on the 2nd lowest rack position in the oven and preheat at gas mark 8 for one hour.
- Pre-bake the crust for 3 minutes before adding your toppings. This means that you don’t have to transfer a soft dough piled high with toppings to the pizza stone. Once it’s pre-baked for 3 minutes you take the pizza stone with the pizza base out of the oven simply flip it over and then add your toppings before returning to the oven for 20-25 minutes.
- Don’t worry too much about the best place for your dough to rise. It just needs to be left in a warm-ish place away from draughts. This could be the kitchen where the oven is pre-heating your pizza stone!
When making bread:
- Don’t worry too much about the dough being sticky and gooey looking when you first start bringing the basic dough ingredients together. This is normal. You are just bringing the dry and wet ingredients together. It won’t look nice at first! I used to add more and more flour when this happened to me and then wondered why I had a bread that hadn’t risen to well and was heavy! Learn from my mistakes. Leave the bread well alone. If the recipe calls for so much flour and so much water do not – and I repeat – do not add more flour. It will eventually all come together – I promise! Sticky is good when making bread.