Dough patrol: Skye Gyngell cooks pizza

Roll out your base, crisp it up and let your imagination run wild: there's no end to the toppings you can combine on home-made pizza. Skye Gyngell shares her favourites

Few things are nicer than fine, crispy dough, scattered with all manner of good things, served piping-hot. I'm not talking about takeaway pizza, so often too thick, too heavy and altogether unsatisfactory, but the home-made kind: dough that has been made by hand, left to rise in a warm place, floured and rolled as thinly as possible, and strewn with whatever takes your fancy.

Neither at home nor at work do I have either a wood-fired oven or a pizza stone. The way to get around this is by starting the pizzas off in a hot pan with a little olive oil before adding the topping; then simply pop them in the oven at the hottest temperature and cook them for no more than 3-4 minutes.

Here, I've provided an almost foolproof recipe for pizza dough – it can be made the day before or on the day itself, but it needs a couple of hours to prove. This recipe is what I use to make pizzette – small pizzas that are perfect for a light lunch or as a starter in the evening. The dough recipe provides enough for 10 smaller pizzas or five large ones.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Pizza dough

25g/1oz baker's yeast
500ml/17fl oz cold water
1kg/2lb Tipo 0 flour (coarse Italian flour) or plain flour

First, crumble the yeast into the water; the mixture will become cloudy once the yeast is totally absorbed. Place the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture. Draw in the flour in circular movements until it is combined with the yeast and the water, working it into a soft dough. Knead for 10 minutes until you have a soft and sticky dough. Place into an oiled bowl, cover with a clean dishcloth and leave to rise in a warm place for two hours.

Flour a work surface and place the dough on top; knead again for another 2-3 minutes and return to the bowl for a further 30 minutes. Divide the dough into 10 small balls then roll into 20cm discs – they should be as thin as possible.

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas8. Place a non-stick pan on top of the stove over a medium to high heat. Drizzle a little olive oil into the pan and, when the pan is hot, add the pizza base and cook until the dough begins to bubble and becomes crisp. At this point, turn and cook the other side. This will take no more than a couple of minutes each side.

Add your toppings and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Cook until the topping is piping hot – if using cheese, until it has melted. Remove from the oven and serve at once on a warm plate.

Pizzette with Taleggio and girolles

Taleggio is a soft, creamy, washed-rind cheese from the Val Taleggio region in northern Italy. Although its aroma is quite strong, its flavour is gentle and nutty, with a hint of saltiness. It is lovely with pan-fried girolles or Parma ham.

Serves 4

Four pizzette discs (see dough recipe)
300g/10oz girolle mushrooms
1 tbsp mild-tasting extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little more for drizzling
A few drops of lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
A pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper
200g/7oz Taleggio
16 sage leaves

Using a pastry brush, gently brush over the mushrooms to remove any earth. Warm a pan over a medium heat and, when warm, add the olive oil. Now add the mushrooms, and sauté for one minute. Squeeze over the lemon juice, add the garlic and season. Cook until the girolles are just tender and remove from the heat. Cook the pizzette in the pan following the dough instructions and remove from the heat. Divide the cheese among the four discs and scatter over the sage leaves. Place in the oven and cook until the cheese has just melted, then remove from the oven. Place on warm plates and spoon over the girolles. Drizzle over a little more oil and serve.

Pizzette with roasted tomatoes, Jerusalem artichoke and chard

If you prefer you can substitute the Jerusalem artichokes with the finest possible sliced potatoes (they need not be cooked before they go in the oven). One or two very good-quality anchovies would also be good.

Serves 4

Four pizzette discs (see dough recipe)
500g/1lb artichokes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
20 small ripe tomatoes
600g/1¼lb chard
100ml/3 fl oz robust extra-virgin olive oil
100g/3 oz Gorgonzola dolce

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas8.

Now wash the artichokes well under cold running water and slice into quarters. Toss with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray on the middle shelf of the oven. Roast until golden-brown and tender – this will take about 35 minutes. Fifteen minutes before the end of cooking, add the tomatoes.

While the artichokes are cooking, prepare the chard. Rinse well and tear the leaves from the stalks. Boil a pan of well-salted water, plunge in the chard and cook for three minutes. Drain in a colander and put in a bowl. Pour over half the olive oil and toss together lightly using your fingers. Add the cooked vegetables from the oven and toss once more. Once the pizzette are ready to go into the oven, slice the cheese finely and lay on the base, dividing evenly between all four. Spoon over the warm vegetables and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Cook until the cheese is oozing and melted. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, place on warm plates and serve immediately.

Pizzette with crab and chilli

Serves 4

Four pizzette discs (see dough recipe)
300g/10oz fresh white crab meat
2 tbsp mild-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
A drop or 2 of lemon juice
1 red chilli, sliced finely on the diagonal

Pick over the crab meat to ensure there are no little bits of shell, place in a bowl and dress with half the olive oil. Season with salt and a little lemon juice then set aside while you cook the pizza.

Follow the instructions for the dough, removing the pizzette once crisp and firm – this will take about 5 minutes.

Divide the crab between the four discs, drizzle over the remaining olive oil, scatter over the chilli and eat while warm.

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