Make perfect Saturday pizzas – any day of the week

Philip Denhardt and Kristin Jensen bring their Ballymaloe pop-up into the home


Philip Dennhardt, a master butcher, and Kristin Jensen, an editor and food writer, have written what might just be the only book you’ll ever need about the art of making pizza.

Dennhardt is the brains behind Saturday Pizza, a weekly pop-up at the Ballymaloe Cookery School (Darina Allen is his mother-in-law). This has grown into a full-time business, Saturday Pizza at Home, supplying retails outlets in Cork city and county – and some further afield – from a converted shipping container in the cookery school grounds.

Jensen has been described as “Ireland’s top cookbook editor”, and has worked with a long line of authors including Neven Maguire and Susan Jane White. She specialises in crafting recipes that are succinct – and always work.

Their skills have come together in Saturday Pizzas from the Ballymaloe Cookery School, which demystifies the skill of the pizzaiolo and puts great pizza within reach of the home cook.

The pizza novice will garner much from their advice: what equipment to buy, what ingredients to use, tips for achieving great results, and common mistakes and how to avoid them. Then it’s time to get baking – but bear in mind they recommend resting their classic pizza dough for at least six hours, and up to 48 hours, before use.

For the more experienced pizza maker, there is lots of inspiration to be found in the 90 recipes using toppings which include home-made sausage, cured meats, roast meats, seafood and vegetables. Calzone and panzerotti get their own chapter. There are even dessert pizza suggestions, some of them using chocolate dough.

  • Saturday Pizzas from the Ballymaloe Cookery School, by Philip Dennhardt and Kristin Jensen, is published by Ryland Peters & Small, £16.99.

Classic Pizza Dough

Makes enough for 2 x 25cm (10in) pizzas

  • 200ml cold water
  • 300g “00” flour or strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ½ x 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • Makes 4 x 25cm (10in) pizzas
  • 300ml cold water
  • 500g “00” flour or strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 7 g (¼ oz) sachet of fast-action dried yeast
  • 2 tsp fine sea salt
  • Makes 6 x 25cm (10in) pizzas
  • 550ml cold water
  • 950g “00” flour or strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1½ x 7g (¼ oz) sachets of fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt

Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, then add the flour on top of the water and add the yeast and salt in separate piles. Mix for 10 minutes on a medium-low speed. For the first few minutes it will look shaggy and you might be worried that it won’t come together, but leave it be and by the end of the 10 minutes the dough should be smooth, springy and slightly sticky. Check the dough after a couple of minutes, though, to see how it’s coming along. If it’s really dry and isn’t coming together, add another tablespoon of water. If it looks really wet, add another tablespoon of flour. Alternatively, if you don’t have a mixer, you can knead the dough by hand.

Sprinkle your work surface with a little flour and tip the dough out onto it. Knead it by hand a few times to bring it together into a smooth, round ball that holds its shape well and springs back when you poke it. If it doesn’t pass those tests, knead it for 1-2 minutes more.

Using a dough cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough in half. Pressing it firmly into the work surface, roll each piece into a smooth round, like a tennis ball. Put the dough balls on two side plates or a baking tray dusted with flour. Cover tightly with clingfilm or soak a clean teatowel in cold running water from the tap and wring it out really well, then cover the dough with the damp cloth. Place the covered plates or tray in the fridge for at least 6 hours, but ideally overnight or even up to 48 hours to let it have a long fermentation and a slow rise. The longer you let the dough sit in the fridge, the more flavour it will have.

Take the dough out of the fridge 1 hour before you want to cook the pizzas, making sure you keep it covered with the clingfilm or damp cloth so it doesn’t dry out. When you’re ready to shape the dough, dust a pizza peel or a thin wooden chopping board generously with flour. You can either stretch the dough by hand or use a rolling pin. If you’re using a rolling pin, dust that with flour too.

Take the rested dough ball off the plate or tray using a dough cutter or a bowl scraper, making sure the dough ball stays round at this point. Place the dough ball onto the floured peel or board and dust some flour on top of the dough too. Press down the middle of the dough with your fingers, but don’t press the edge of the dough ball, as that will be the crust later. It should already look like a little pizza.

The dough is now ready to be stretched by hand or rolled out.

The best tomato sauce

This sauce is so versatile. Not only can you use it for pizzas, but it works well as a simple pasta sauce too and it can be frozen for up to six months. Freeze it in ice-cube trays for handy portions – just pop the cubes out and store them in a food bag, then take out only what you need and let them thaw ahead of time. But if time is tight, you can make a perfectly good sauce simply by blending a can of good-quality whole plum tomatoes with some salt, sugar and freshly ground black pepper, which is what pizza-makers in Naples do.

Makes 800ml (31/3 cups). Recipe makes enough for five pizzas

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • ½ carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 x 400g (14oz) cans of good-quality whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan set over a medium-low heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and season with the salt and some freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables for 8-10 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook, uncovered, for just 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 3 minutes on a low heat. Good-quality canned tomatoes don’t need to be cooked for very long, plus the longer you cook the sauce, the more water evaporates and the thicker it becomes, which isn’t the consistency that you want – pizza sauce should be thin but not watery.

Whizz the sauce with a hand-held blender until smooth, or you could leave it a little chunkier if that’s what you prefer. Taste and check for seasoning – add a teaspoon of sugar if the tomatoes are too bitter or acidic.

The sauce is now ready to be used right away, or it will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week or it can be frozen for up to six months (see above).

Roast red peppers, cherry tomatoes, Crozier Blue cheese, rosemary

Makes 2 x 25cm (10in) pizzas

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 balls of pizza dough
  • 160ml (2/3 cup) tomato sauce
  • 250g (2 cups) grated mozzarella
  • 100g (3/4 cup) crumbled Crozier Blue cheese
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 250°C/480°F/gas mark 9. Line a baking tray with foil.

Place the whole peppers on the lined tray and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, turning them once or twice during that time, until the skins are blackened all over. Remove the peppers from the oven and tightly wrap them in the foil. This will steam the peppers, which makes it easier to peel them. Set aside for about 30 minutes, until the peppers are cool enough to handle, then peel the peppers and remove the stems and seeds. Cut each pepper into thick strips, then cut each strip in half widthways. Set aside.

Once the peppers come out of the oven, place a pizza stone or an upside-down baking tray in the oven to heat up too. Get all your ingredients and equipment ready, including taking the dough out of the fridge 1 hour before you’re ready to cook.

Place the halved cherry tomatoes in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper.

Stretch the pizza dough by hand or roll it out. Sprinkle a pinch of salt evenly over the dough, oil onto the rim with a pastry brush to help it turn golden.

Using a ladle or big spoon, pour the tomato sauce in the centre of the dough.

Spread the sauce over the pizza in concentric circles with the back of the ladle or spoon, leaving a 2.5cm (1in) border clear around the edges for the crust. You only want a thin layer of sauce.

Place a big handful of the grated mozzarella in a mound in the middle of the dough. Use your palm to spread it out evenly across the pizza, leaving the edges clear for the crust. Scatter the strips of roasted red peppers, cherry tomatoes and crumbled blue cheese on top of the mozzarella, aiming to get a good balance of ingredients across the pizza.

Check that there is no liquid on the peel or board or your pizza won’t slide off it. Shake the board gently to see if the pizza will move easily. If it doesn’t, lift it with a dough cutter or spatula and sprinkle a little flour on the board until it does move easily.

Slide the pizza off the peel or board onto the pizza stone or upside-down baking tray in the hot oven. Cook for 7-10 minutes, but start checking it after 5 minutes – you want the bottom and the crust to be cooked through and golden and the cheese should be melted.

Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack, then scatter the rosemary across the top. Allow to stand for 1 minute before cutting into slices.

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