by Leanne Bracey
Giuseppe Cafaro knows how to make proper Italian pizza, as the bread and pizza chef (or a pizzaiolo, if we're being really Italian) at L'Anima Cafe in London. I went down there to try making my own – under strict instructions from Giuseppe, of course. Here are his top tips for getting perfect pizzas every time.
1. The all-important dough
The best pizza base is very simple – just '00' flour, water, salt and yeast. The yeast Giuseppe uses is fresh, and then it's all about how long you leave it to work its magic. This dough makes a much lighter pizza that's easier to digest and not so heavy on your stomach. There are two main types of pizza dough – Romana, which is very crispy, and Neopolitan, which is softer. L'Anima Cafe go for a mix of the two for the optimal pizza. And, of course, their dough is a family recipe that remains under lock and key. When making your dough, leave it to rest in the fridge in portion-sized pieces.
2. It's all about the base
The dough feels like very soft and stretchy chewing gum and is wonderful to work with. You simply press it down with your fingers, leaving about an inch around the edge, flip it over and repeat the process. You then start to stretch it with the edge of your hands as you turn it and flip it over. I loved hanging the dough on the outside of my hands while I slowly turned it. Remember to add lots of flour to the worktop so it doesn't stick. After a bit of practice, it's actually surprisingly straightforward.
3. Ban soggy bottoms
Buy good-quality mozzarella and prepare it for the pizza the day before. To do this, simply cut it into chunks and leave to dry out in the fridge. This releases the water so the mozzarella is drier and more curd-like. You can then sprinkle this onto the pizza – and guess what? No soggy pizza!
4. Veggie crunch
Aubergines are great on a pizza but they are naturally very watery. To avoid a wet mush, add salt to thinly sliced aubergine, which draws out the moisture, and leave it for 10 minutes. Next, coat it in flour and fry it lightly and quickly. This dries it out first so that the natural moisture won't seep into your pizza and ruin it.
5. Simple sauce
Take a simple tin of tomatoes, add crushed garlic, basil, oregano, salt and a little sugar, warm through, then leave to chill for 24 hours. There's no need to heat it up when you add it to your pizza – simply take a small ladleful in the centre of the base, then use the bottom of the ladle to push it around in a circular motion. Remember to leave about an inch around the outside to allow for a crispy edge.
6. Nice and crispy
Giuseppe uses a huge professional pizza oven that gets extremely hot – 443°C! The pizza takes just 2 minutes to cook. Although home cooks won't have access to this kind of heat, there is a simple technique you can use which will mean you can still get a crunchy base. Ideally, you'd use a pizza stone, but you can also use a baking tin – making sure it fits the diameter of your pizza. Light a ring on the hob and place the pizza stone or baking tin on it for about 4-5 minutes to get it really hot. Put your pizza on top, then put it in a hot oven until the cheese starts bubbling. It might be a little tricky to get the pizza onto the tray, but try sliding it off a cold tray onto the hot one.