There was a period where I was really focused on making my 7 year old like pizza. He didn’t like pizza! I couldn’t understand it. What child doesn’t like pizza? I bored all my mum friends about it.
We don’t eat meat, so at the very least I felt like when he goes to other children’s houses he needed to be able to eat pizza. No meat and no pizza was a bridge too far.
Anyway the good news is – and I’m sure you’ll all be as relieved as me to hear this – he does like pizza now, so my constant haranguing didn’t give him some kind of lifelong phobia (seemed likely, at the time).
The road to pizza acceptance came via a completely delicious and ridiculously easy homemade pizza dough, with a recipe from Rachel Allen.
If you chill it for 30+mins as she describes, it is very easily shaped and, the best part – I always make enough to freeze half and then pull the dough out on those nights where I am wondering how to make a meal out of a fairly empty fridge. Plus pizza feels like a much more wholesome option when it has the very smug – and pretty lazy, given how easy it is – accolade of being homemade.
Plus, if you are feeling particularly dilligent (smug) then you can have your children assemble the pizzas with fun toppings.
So – the recipe (from ‘Home Cooking‘ – actually quite worth a look for other recipes too).
350g (12oz) strong white flour
2tsp caster sugar
1 x 7g sachet fast-acting yeast
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
175-200ml (6-7fl oz) lukewarm water
Plain flour, for dusting
1. Place the flour, salt, sugar in a large bowl. Rub in the butter until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add yeast, mix together.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the oil and most of the water and mix to a loose dough. Add more water or flour if needed.
2. Transfer the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured work surface, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Uncover and knead the dough for 10 minutes until it feels smooth and slightly springy (You can do this in an electric stand mixer with the dough hook attachment for half the time – REVELATORY as I now have a stand mixer – living the dream).
Let the dough relax again for a few minutes, covered with the tea towel.
3. Shape the dough into six equally sized balls, each weighing about 110g (4oz). Lightly brush the dough balls with olive oil. Cover the oiled dough with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes while you make the tomato sauce (or mediate fights between your older children).
The dough will be easier to handle when cold but can also be used immediately. (Or, frozen at this point – or left for another hour or two in the fridge before the next step)
4. Preheat the oven to 230C (450F), Gas Mark 8 (reduce as necessary for fan ovens)
5. Place 1-2 baking sheets in the oven to heat up, to cook one or two pizzas at a time. On a floured work surface, roll each dough ball out to a disc about 25cm (10in) in diameter. Place each pizza base on a cold baking sheet with no edges so that the pizza can slide off, dusted with flour to prevent it from sticking.
6. Spread the tomato sauce over the base, leaving a 2.5cm (1in) border around the edge. Scatter your choice of cheese over the sauce, followed by your choice of toppings (or none, if you have fussy children like I do)
7. Slide each pizza off the cool baking sheet onto the hot sheet in the oven and cook for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pizza and heat of the oven, until the pizza is golden underneath and bubbling on top.
Enjoy, feeling tremendously smug and just a little bit additionally lazy, if you, like me, decide to rely on a (whisper it) shop bought tomato sauce.