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Chicken stir-fried with holy basil and chilli


You'll need

5 gm (1¾ tsp) dried yeast 700 gm “00” flour 15 gm (1½ tbsp) sea salt 60 ml (¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil


  • 01
  • Combine yeast and 100ml lukewarm water in a bowl, stir to dissolve and set aside until foamy (5 minutes).
  • 02
  • Combine flour, salt and olive oil in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  • 03
  • Add yeast mixture and 320ml water and knead until well combined.
  • 04
  • Stand at room temperature, covered with a damp tea towel, until doubled in size (1 hour). Or refrigerate overnight to prove.
  • 05
  • Turn onto a bench and knock back, dusting lightly with flour, and bring mixture just together to form a smooth soft dough. Do not overwork.
  • 06
  • Divide into 6 balls, then place on a lightly floured surface and cover with a lightly floured tea towel until doubled in size (20 minutes). Meanwhile, preheat oven to highest setting, placing a pizza stone on the top shelf to heat.
  • 07
  • Working with a ball of dough at a time, place onto a flour-dusted 22cm-diameter pizza tray and press outwards from the centre to flatten, making the edges slightly thicker than the centre.
  • 08
  • Spread with pizza sauce (see note), then transfer base to hot pizza stone with a metal fish slice. Add toppings (see recipes at right), then bake until edges are puffed and golden and base is crisp (12-18 minutes). Repeat with remaining dough balls and serve hot.

Note Makes 6 x 22cm-diameter pizze. To make pizza sauce, blend 400gm canned whole peeled Italian tomatoes with 1½ tsp dried Greek oregano, 1 garlic clove and 2 tsp tomato paste in a small food processor or blender. Bring to the boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat for flavours to infuse. Season well to taste then set aside.

Pizza Margherita
Prepare pizza bases, divide 500gm torn mozzarella among bases, then bake as per step 8. Scatter with basil leaves and serve hot.

Salsicce, Gorgonzola and broccoli pizza
Trim 2 bunches broccolini, halving thick ends, and cut into 4cm lengths. Blanch in salted boiling water until just tender (1-2 minutes), refresh and drain well. Prepare pizza bases, then top with broccolini, 400gm coarsely crumbled pork and fennel sausage, 200gm crumbled Gorgonzola dolcelatte and dried chilli flakes to taste and bake as per step 8.

Pizza bianca
Prepare pizza bases, omitting the pizza sauce. Top with 24 thin slices salami, then 200gm each of grated mozzarella, Asiago and Fontina, then 24 anchovy fillets, and bake as per step 8.

A pizza can be as simple as making a dough, pressing it out, and baking it with your favourite toppings. Or it can be as precise as the one dictated by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. The Associazione insists that a true Neapolitan pizza starts with handmade dough, that the base should be no more than 4mm thick at the centre, that it must be cooked in a woodfired oven with a temperature of 485C, and that the end result should be "easy to manipulate and fold". The association also specifies the use of canned peeled San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella from Campania.

With all that in mind, we've opted for a method here that's somewhere in between authentically Italian and Australian practical - allowing for both personal taste and the discrepancies of a domestic kitchen. If you have a good, hot wood-burning oven and San Marzano tomatoes handy then all the better.

The dough requires strong flour such as "0" or "00", plus yeast, salt and water. The addition of olive oil adds chewiness and richness. While fresh yeast is preferred by many experts, we use dried yeast for its consistency and convenience. Dried yeast works best if it's activated in lukewarm water first, then combined with the remaining ingredients and either slowly kneaded by hand or in an electric mixer on slow speed to produce a very soft and almost sticky dough.

Allow the dough to prove in a draught-free place, covered with a damp tea towel, until it doubles in size. Or, if you have the time, prove the dough in the refrigerator overnight - the longer, slower process produces more flavour.

Once the dough proves, knock it back, then divide it into portions and set it aside on a lightly floured surface until it has doubled in size again. Dusting with extra flour helps to keep the dough manageable and prevent sticking, but be careful not to add too much because it will make the dough too firm. Dust a tea towel with flour and cover the dough while it proves a second time.

You need to press the dough gently into shape by hand to avoid overworking it. To do this, place the dough on a heavily floured pizza tray or pizza paddle, then press with your fingers from the centre outwards so that the edges are slightly thicker than the centre. Now's the time to spread it with sauce, if you're using one, and transfer it to a pizza stone that has been heating in the oven. A pizza paddle definitely makes the job of sliding the pizza onto the stone easier, although here we've used pizza trays as a guide for size and shape. It takes a little practice, but with a heavy dusting of flour underneath, a large flexible metal fish slice and a quick hand, moving the prepared dough from tray to hot stone becomes manageable.

Once the base is on the stone, it's time to add the toppings, so ensure they're all ready to go. A quick survey of the GT office proved anchovy an all-round favourite, but topping ideas are endless and depend entirely on personal preference (keeping it to just a few ingredients is a tradition worth sticking with, though). A couple of classic combinations include broccoli, sausage and Gorgonzola, and Margherita, but they're only the beginning.

Cooking the pizza in a woodfired oven above 450C gives you the best chance of a perfect crust. The crust should be chewy and the base crisp, with good pockets of air formed by quick rising in a very hot oven. It's impossible to replicate this result in domestic ovens, which only reach around 270C. The next best thing is to cook the thin dough on a thoroughly heated pizza stone in the oven set at its highest temperature. Once the base is golden and crisp and the cheese is bubbling, your pizza should be served without delay. Add a cold birra or two and you've got yourself a great night in.

At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people

Featured in

Mar 2013

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