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Knead-to-know dough

Knead-to-know dough

Finalising a reliable dough (Leigh recommends the no-knead, 18-hour fermented recipe popularised by Sullivan Street Bakery’s Jim Lahey) can be a long process. “It took us two years,” says Richards. “It’s a living thing. Prove it somewhere you’ve got consistent temperature or you’re screwed.”

Whether using Italian 00 flour (elastic, chewy base), stronger UK bread flours (crisper, stronger base) or a mix of the two, you need a flour of 12-14% protein in order to create the gluten web that supports stretchy, aerated dough. Beyond that, however, to what extent you dilute your dough with water to soften it, the yeast you use, how long you prove it or what you add (semolina flour for bite, say) is up for grabs. For instance, you could try 5-10% rye flour, or a little wholemeal in the mix. “A more interesting flour mix adds layers of flavour, as a sourdough starter adds complexity and acidity,” says Pamela Yung, who uses heritage wheat flours at London’s ASAP Pizza.

“A little sugar and olive oil helps the dough caramelise,” says Heyes. “But the main thing is time. Make your dough the day before.”

Settling on a sauce

Helen Collier, co-owner of Pizza Fella in Leeds, is a purist. “Don’t mess, use quality tomatoes, add salt. That’s it.” You can work wonders with tinned tomatoes and a sieve.

But, at home, Peter Gleave, co-owner of Little Furnace in Liverpool, is less militant: “When we started out, we had a secret sauce – cooked tomatoes, onion, stock and star anise, remove star anise and blend – that people went mad for.” Add in flavours, from roasted peppers to barbecue sauce, or forgo tomatoes altogether. “We had a belter in Naples, squash and fennel seed sauce with fennel salami and smoked mozzarella. Don’t be afraid to experiment.”

The rise of tomato-free white pizzas embodies that attitude. White pizzas were traditionally loaded with mozzarella, cream or béchamel sauces. But, increasingly, lighter (garlic) oil, ricotta or creme fraiche provide the necessary lubrication. “Mushrooms or seafood are better on an oil or garlic butter base,” says Gleave. “Some flavours lose subtlety when tomato is involved.”

“It doesn’t have to be dairy-based,” adds Yung. “Chickpea puree is nice vegan sauce.”

Next-level toppings

Reject the tomato-and-mozzarella orthodoxy and pizza’s creative parameters open up. Suddenly, this is a topped flatbread. “That’s the thing,” says Richards, considering her crab with samphire and lemon on a marinara base. “When does it stop being pizza and become flatbread?”

Kitchin is untroubled by such semantics. A former Neapolitan-style minimalist, he now takes inspiration from the innovative, eclectic pizza found in New York. “Pizza is just bread. Anything that went with bread previously goes on pizza, even stews, ragu, curry – spicy lamb curry on a pizza is unbelievable.”

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