Mangia Mangia!…Submitting to Pizza Margherita

I’m spooling the tape back to childhood. Do indulge me while I unfold a tiny snippet from the past. Sukh Sagar, the famed eatery’s italic lightbox glimmered under the city’s night sky. Serving meals to patrons parked outside the restaurant while they reclined in the comfort of their cars was quite à la mode in 90’s Bangalore. The 5 of us(the parents, the 2 brothers and me), huddled in our car outside the restaurant while the food was brought and stationed on the bumper. The tray wobbled precariously as it hosted glasses of water and other snacks. For the next hour or so, the brothers and me devoured 4-inch discs of dough studded with bell peppers, onions and smothered with a tomato sauce and topped with visible strands of cheese. This was our first pizza and it has tethered itself unrelentingly to fond childhood memories much like the way mozzarella cements itself unyieldingly to a pizza base.
We’ve come a long way since then. Simplicity has transpired into a labyrinthine experience and I say this bearing no complaints. The thin-crust, the thick crust, the cheese-burst, the white sauce, the red sauce, the neopolitan, the Italian version, the Chicago version, there’s also the Indian version that I bake by splashing the base with a spicy Paneer Tikka Masala. Suffice to say, the options have no end.


We also bake our own pizza. When Little Brother #1 visited us  last month, he pampered us with a beautiful Deep-dish pizza(baked from scratch) outpouring and trickling with mozzarella and the works. I lazed on our sofa, unfurling the recipe, an explicit list of instructions from the book, all well accompanied by little extracts of my sage wisdom. Precisely what one would commonly expect from an elder sister. Lest I forget to mention, he cleaned up too. I basked in my proud-sister moment that night.

This week, Little Brother #2 embarked on his baking journey by making a Pizza Margherita.  We baked the fare together as we silently said a thankful prayer to technology(never have I been more grateful for video calling). Him in Bangalore, me in Toronto. 5pm for him, 6:30 am for me. Clearly, no lounging for me this time around! We kneaded our yeasty doughs together, watched as our tomatoes bubbled boisterously into a sauce and exactly 3 hours later, we revealed our pizzas together. He relished a dinner of earnest hardwork while the husband and me savored an unusual but very delicious breakfast.
I’m going to interrupt my proud-sister moments for now and move on to the the making of this cheese-laden indulgence.

The recipe for this authentic pizza has been adapted from Rachel Allen’s cooking show that I stumbled upon many years ago. The following evening, we had an enticing dinner. I’ve relied on this recipe many a time and continue to do so, sharing it with friends and family because of its unerring ways. Simple in make and always results in a contented smile. The length of time that any bread demands may be overwhelming at first but that is something one will get the habit of fairly soon. My suggestion : bake the pizza often; patience is directly proportional with frequency of make.
The original recipe uses all-purpose flour while I’m sharing the one with wholewheat flour owing to its health benefits. But, either way, there isn’t much of a difference make. The other  significant component is the sauce. Summertime farmer’s markets are brimming with San Marzano tomatoes and I haul back heavy bags splilling with these dainty, deep-red fruits. But other times, I depend on Roma tomatoes. Quite frankly, use whatever tomatoes you can get your hands on.
Moving on to the recipe:

RECIPE FOR WHOLEWHEAT PIZZA MARGHERITA (Makes 2 large pizzas)

INGREDIENTS- 
TOMATO SAUCE FOR THE PIZZA
4-5 tomatoes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
10 basil leaves
Salt
Ground Pepper
1-2 tsp sugar
Thyme and oregano can be added for flavoring as well
PIZZA DOUGH
250 ml warm water(a little extra if the dough feels too dry)
1/2 tsp castor sugar
1.5 tsp active dry yeast or 1 x 7 gms sachet of fast acting yeast
350 gms or 2.5 cups wholewheat flour plus extra for dusting(all purpose flour can be used too)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil plus extra for dusting
Semolina for dusting
TOPPINGS
A few basil leavesGrated Mozarella – roughly 1-1.5 cups(I say roughly because I throw it on my base without restraint!)

METHOD TO MAKE THE PIZZA SAUCE
1. Boil water in a large vessel. Make an ‘X’ at the bottom of each tomato and add into the boiling water for a couple of min. Transfer to a bowl of ice water and peel them.
2.Heat oil in a pan, add onions and cook for 4-6 min, till browned. Add tomatoes, herbs, salt, pepper and sugar and bring to a boil.
3. Simmer till sauce thickens for about 45 minutes, or until the raw smell of tomatoes goes away (Add 1/4 cup of water while cooking if necessary).
4. Cool & blend into a smooth sauce.

METHOD TO MAKE THE PIZZA DOUGH AND THE PIZZA MARGHERITA
1. In a bowl, mix the warm water with the sugar & yeast & leave it to stand for 5 min or until looking frothy. (No need to do this if it’s fast acting yeast. Just add the yeast directly to the olive oil and sugar).
2. Add olive oil into the yeast mixture.
3. Add the wholewheat flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the olive oil-yeast mixture into the well and mix by hand, until the dough is wet & sticky.(Add extra water if it is too dry).
4. Next, knead with your hands on a floured counter for about 10 min(5 min in the food mixer) or until smooth & springy to touch.
5. Grease the bowl with olive oil & place the dough back in. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size. ( if you gently press the dough with your fingertip, the dent should stay, and that means it’s ready).
6. Preheat oven to 240C or 465 F.
7. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and divide into 2 portions. Keep the one that you’re not using covered.
8. Roll out each disc to a 10″ inch circle.
9. Place the rolled out dough on a tray sprinkled with semolina. Alternatively, use a parchment paper.
10. Spread a good dollop of sauce on top of the base and spread it with a ladle.
11. Place the shredded cheese(toppings can be added too)
12. Bake at 465 F / 240 degree Celsius for 15 minutes.
13. Slice and serve hot.

#TIRAMISU

“…food is not simply organic fuel to keep body and soul together, it is a perishable art that must be savoured at the peak of perfection.”
– E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly
“Change is inevitable”, they say. Well, I’ve never been the type who fancies coffee. I’ve always been more of a “tea girl” and I still am. Naturally, I wasn’t the least bit motivated to indulge in a dessert that owes part of it’s magic to coffee. Nevertheless, a couple of months back, at an authentic Italian restaurant, as I debated with myself whether to opt for a gelato with biscotti or a tiramisu, something came over me and prompted me to finally take the plunge and give this age ol’ dessert a chance. I haven’t looked back since. My palate ostensibly decided to go on an adventure and Tiramisu for some reason decided to placate itself into a personal favorite. As you will see me describing further below, what caught my attention in particular was the perfect balance of the sweet & the bitter. Continue reading “#TIRAMISU”

#Spaghetti with Pumpkin Sauce

The pumpkin mania continues…This pasta has the goodness of pumpkin, walnuts, basil & sundried tomatoes. The first time I tried pumpkin in a pasta was in a restaurant called Toscano in Bangalore where they make the most heavenly pumpkin ravioli with a silky sage butter sauce. It’s melt-in- the-mouth perfection! But, to be completely honest, the addition of walnuts to the sauce was a little odd for me although I did end up liking it.(Italian cuisine was synonymous with pizza for many, many years until we started to discover the myriad of pastas, cheese & breads.) Continue reading “#Spaghetti with Pumpkin Sauce”