Pizza margherita: Masterchef Australia season 2 recipe

Happy New Year! On New Year’s Eve, Mr Salford Kitchen and I made homemade pizza. We make pizza from scratch fairly regularly and have tried out various recipes and methods from different chefs. This time we decided to test out a pizza dough recipe that was featured in a masterclass in Season 2 of Masterchef Australia, presented by Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris. In the masterclass Gary recommends that you use a stand mixer, however it is also possible to make the dough entirely by hand.

The resulting pizza dough was beautifully light, soft and silky and most importantly had a nice taste! That being said, we found it quite difficult to work with – the dough is quite high in hydration (76% hydration – with 530ml liquid to 700g flour), which made it sticky. We kneaded the dough longer than the episode instructed and also left it to prove for longer (around 1 hour rather than 10 minutes), because the dough didn’t handle the same as Gary Mehigan’s in the episode that we watched. We weren’t confident that the recipe would work for us, but by the second prove, the texture looked as we would expect and had beautiful air bubbles throughout.

The challenges we experienced might well be due to the milling and brand of the flour we used, and also the chilly weather! We’ve had a white Christmas this year in the UK with consecutive mornings of snow and frost – even with the heating running, the house has been on the cold side and draughty, which isn’t bread / yeast’s best friend. The finished result was very tasty though, so a good result! In this recipe I’ve quoted instructions for pizza margherita, but you can of course jazz it up and add whatever toppings you like!

One tip that I would like to share before you begin is on different mozzarella types. Pre-grated supermarket bought mozzarella tends to be more hardy and drier in texture, withstanding the full baking time well. Fresh mozzarella only takes a few minutes to melt, but has a much higher water content and can release that liquid onto your base if it continues to sit on your pizza as it bakes. For that reason, we recommend using a mixture of mozzarella types and adding the fresh mozzarella towards the end of the bake.

Ingredients

For the bread dough

Makes around 6 pizzas

  • 700g flour – 00 or strong white bread flour
  • 14g fresh yeast
  • 420ml warm water (around 29°C)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 ½ tbsp salt
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 50ml milk
  • Additional flour, for kneading and shaping.

Toppings for pizza margherita

  • x1 quantity tomato and basil sauce
  • Supermarket bought pre-grated mozzarella cheese, to taste
  • x1 large ball fresh mozzarella cheese (Fior di Latte)
  • Basil leaves
  • Dried oregano
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Weigh the flour out into a mixing bowl; if using a stand mixer, the bowl should fit into the mixer.
  2. In a separate jug, weigh out the fresh yeast and add 20ml warm water (around 29°C), stirring it until it has dissolved and the water has become cloudy.
  3. Add the rest of the warm water (400g) and 2 tablespoons sugar to the yeast mixture, stirring well until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Pour the liquid into the flour and set the stand mixer to a slow knead. Knead for 30 seconds – 1 minute, until just combined. Add the salt, oil and milk, then knead for a further 4 minutes.

    Note: if you are not using a stand mixer, knead the dough for around 10 minutes, until soft and springy.
  5. Tip the mixture out onto a flat surface, and finish the dough by kneading by hand. Keep some additional flour to hand and add it by feel, as the dough needs it.
  6. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and put in a warm place to prove for 10 – 15 minutes (or longer if it needs it). The dough should rise slightly, but this recipe does not require it to double in size.
  7. When the dough has completed its first prove, tip out the dough onto a clean counter and divide into 100 – 140g balls using a dough knife or scraper. Toss each ball lightly in a little flour, and bench rest for 30 minutes, covering the portions with a tea towel dusted with a little flour to prevent a skin forming on the surface of the dough.
  8. Meanwhile, place a baking sheet / pizza stone on the middle shelf of your oven. Pre-heat the oven to 250°C/500°F/gas 9.
  9. When the dough is ready, dust a clean surface with a little flour. Roll out each section of dough into a rough circle, about 1/2cm thick. Prick the base a few times with a fork, and brush all over with a little olive oil.
  10. At this stage, you can apply your topping: for pizza margherita, spread tomato sauce over the base, spreading it to the edges. Sprinkle over pre-grated mozzarella and dried oregano to taste.
  11. Cook the pizza for 5 minutes, then pull out the baking tray / stone and dot over pieces of torn fresh mozzarella. Finish cooking for another 3 – 7 minutes, until the pizza is golden and crispy. Scatter with a few fresh basil leaves and enjoy!

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