Words by Brad King Images by Brydie Thompson
Summer—the perfect time to enjoy al fresco dining in our backyards. And since we remain unable to escape overseas, there is never a better time to create a taste of Italy at home with freshly baked pizzas using homemade bases and served with a crisp glass of pinot grigio.
Food made from scratch is a trademark of The Falls Retreat, and over the past 10 years, our wood-fired pizzas have become legendary. This is thanks to our great dough recipe (see below), availability of fresh produce from our organic kitchen vegie gardens and being able to maintain a consistently hot temperature in our oven.
The wood fired oven has always been at the heart of our kitchen, and if you are lucky enough to have one at your place the smell of freshly baked pizzas wafting over to the neighbours will have them begging for a dinner invite. Don’t worry if you don’t have a woodfired oven. You can still achieve great results using your regular convection oven with this recipe.
It’s all about the base!
The secret to great pizzas is in the dough and a consistently hot oven. I recommend preparing the dough the day before. These bases can also be batch-made in advance and frozen once they are at dough balls stage. When ready to use, just defrost the dough ball and roll as per recipe.
Preheat wood oven to 350°C. The average domestic oven will only get up to about 250°C (about 500°F). Of course, the cooking process will be a little different at these lower temperatures but if you want to get as close to possible to the real thing, you have to turn that oven up! If you have a fan assisted oven, make sure the fan is turned on as this will improve the airflow and increase the overall temperature inside the oven. A minimum of 30 minutes preheating is essential and using a preheated pizza tray or baking stone will also help to achieve that crispy base!
Wood-fired oven around 4 minutes
Cooking will be longer in a conventional oven, around 7–10 minutes, and use a preheated baking tray or stone.
Pizza Dough – 1kg. Makes 8 medium size pizza bases
625ml warm water at 26–28°C
3 tsp instant active dried yeast
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
750g 000 Tipo pizza flour or strong white flour
125g fine semolina flour
125g wholewheat flour
1 tbsp table salt
Patience is a virtue!
Make sure you allocate plenty of time for the dough to rest, grow and do its thing.
Add yeast, olive oil and sugar to the tepid water. Mix with a whisk and leave for a few minutes until it froths on the surface.
Mix the flours and salt in a large, suitable bowl and make a large well in the centre.
Pour the water mix into the well and slowly bring in the flour, mixing until it forms a rough, shaggy ball.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes, which allows the water content to be absorbed fully.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball until smooth, springy and soft.
Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for a further 15 minutes (out of bowl).
The dough will relax so knead once more into a smooth tight ball.
Grease a medium bowl with olive oil and place dough inside. Rub a bit of olive oil (just enough to stop it drying out on top) over the top of the dough and cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight. It will double in size.
Remove dough from fridge, punch it down and divide into 8 x 200g portions. Using the palm of your hands, rotate dough anticlockwise, pressing gently down and allowing your hand to cup around the dough and knead into a smooth round ball.
Lightly dust the top and bottom of each dough ball with a little bit of flour and then flatten with the palm of your hand.
Place on a floured tray and cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed. Leave for at least 2 hours before rolling as this allows the dough to relax.
Using a rolling pin, place dough ball on a floured surface and sprinkle the top with more flour and semolina. Roll dough to about 26cm in diameter, using sufficient flour and semolina to stop the dough from sticking to the surface or rolling pin, flipping the base every so often.
Topping it off!
Let your creative side flourish with a variety of topping combinations depending on your guests’ dietary requirements and whatever you have available in your fridge or vegie gardens.
- Meatlovers pizza may be able to incorporate Sunday lunch leftovers with added bacon and/or salami.
- Steer away from a traditional sugo base and incorporate a house-made onion jam on your meatlovers pizza or maybe an apricot chutney as a base with chicken and zucchini.
- Stick to the simplicity of fresh homegrown tomatoes and basil on a traditional Margherita with a rich home-made sugo.
Brad’s Top Tips:
- Smear your preferred sauce evenly over the pizza base, leaving about 2cm from the edge to create delicious crispy crusts.
- Sprinkle cheese over the sauce before adding other toppings, preferably using grated mozzarella as it melts easily and gives great flavour.
- Remember, less is more—3–4 ingredients for toppings is ideal to avoid overloading!
- Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and seasoning.
- If using a wood-fired or outdoor pizza oven, use a dusting of semolina on your paddle, as this acts like a marble helping to move the base around.
With several components that can be prepared in advance (and utilised for other quick fix meals), pizzas are quick and simple to put together on the night, making them perfect for entertaining and meaning “Pizza Night” can become a regular fixture at home this summer! So get rolling!