Pizza is one of those dishes that has become so varied and has adjusted so easily to different cultural tastes that the concept of authenticity in relation to it is largely obsolete. Of course, pizza has a specific time and place of invention (Naples in the 18th century to be precise, but the first documented use of the word “pizza” was in 997), but most preferences for this food are a far cry from Antica’s recipe.
When I first arrived in South Africa, I was pretty elated to discover that South Africans love pizza, and that there wasn’t any mayonnaise, seaweed, or larval fish on it like so many pizzas in Japan. However, I did find that pizza in the Cape has its own unique features. Although the pizza scene in Cape Town has changed considerably since my arrival (for instance, New York Slice opened on Kloof Street, and more recently in Seapoint), my Midwestern stomach was very disappointed to be presented with many a crackery crust loaded with toppings that I thought belonged in a smoothie, like bananas, avocados, or figs. Not only that, South African pizza-makers seem to be very happy to play around with the rest of the pizza, too; “tomato jam” is a sauce I’ve seen at more than one stylish pizzeria in the City Bowl…
The easygoing Capetownian attitude towards pizza made the Midwesterner in me pine for a chewy crust and a stricter attitude towards toppings. The only way to avoid another paper-thin letdown was to figure out how to make my own. And so, I did.
Yield: 1 pizza, serves 2 (or one really hungry person)
For the crust:
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon active dry/instant yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup water
- glug of olive oil (for greasing the bowl)
For the sauce:
About 6 tablespoons of the Red Sauce we Deserve
For the assembly:
- 150-200g shredded mozzarella (about 1/2-3/4 cup, depends on your preference for cheesiness)
- toppings of your choice (this can include fruit, you’re the one eating it)
Sift the flour, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the water. Stir with a fork or a dough-hook until the dough comes together. Roll out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth, elastic and uniform, about 5-8 minutes. Use the oil to grease the bowl, then return dough to bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for about at least 30 minutes, or until about doubled in size. Alternatively, place the dough in a sealed container (a zip-close bag is a good idea– the dough needs room to expand and release air) in the fridge and store for up to 5 days. If you make the dough in advance, take it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to use it.
Preheat the oven to as hot as you can get it, at least 250-280C (480-550F). Punch down the dough (you can achieve this by kneading it for 1-2 minutes) into a ball and lay on a floured surface. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a round. Don’t be afraid to use flour as liberally as needed. To obtain the most consistent shape and thickness, rotate the round about 45 degrees (add flour each time, otherwise it will stick) after about two turns with the rolling pin, and flip the dough over occasionally. Continue this process until you have reached the desired thickness.
Place the dough on a floured (I suggest using polenta instead of regular flour) pizza stone or baking sheet. Spread the sauce evenly, using the back of a spoon, to about 1-inch (2cm) of the edge of the dough. Sprinkle the cheese over the sauce, and arrange your toppings over the cheese. Feel free to sprinkle the cheese over your toppings, if that’s how you pizza…
Place the pizza in the preheated oven and bake for 7-10 minutes (this will depend on how hot you can get the oven, so keep an eye on the pizza), or until the cheese is bubbly and developing golden-brown spots. Remove from the oven, slice it up, and eat it.