One of the best pizza experiences I had was in Italy with the excellent de Maria family who were lucky enough to have a wood-fired oven at the bottom of their house. Pizza after pizza kept coming, all thin and with only a few toppings on each. Very delicious. So here is the pizza base recipe we use at Berta topped simply with creamy mascarpone and fiery ’nduja. Feel free to add any other toppings you desire, but not too many at once, please.
- 100 ml water, at room temperature
- 15 g fresh yeast or 7 g dried yeast
- 100 g pasta flour
- 300 g water, at room temperature
- 325 g pasta flour
- 175 g durum wheat flour (fine semolina flour)
- 15 g table salt
- 100 g mascarpone
- 300 g ’nduja (see Note)
- 100 g grated parmesan
- 1 drizzle olive oil
- river salt
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time overnight + 1 hour 20 minutes
To make the biga (see note), place the water in a bowl, add the yeast and stir with a fork until it dissolves. Mix in the flour using a spoon until combined; it doesn’t need to be smooth. Place in a covered container and let it rest overnight in the fridge. If you find yourself wanting pizza more rapidly than that, leave the biga to rest in a warm spot for about 4 hours.
To make the dough (see note), place the water and the biga in a bowl. Use your fingers to jiggle the biga through the water so it disperses a little then add the flours and salt and continue mixing until it forms a ball. Turn it out onto a clean bench and knead it vigorously for at least 15 minutes. It is quite a sticky dough but do persevere as it does come together. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and allow it to prove in a warm spot for 1–2 hours. Divide the dough into 4 portions, roll into balls, cover and set aside to rest for another 20 minutes. (I know there’s a lot of resting going on but it is really needed to allow your dough to become as good as it can be).
Meanwhile, heat a wood-fired oven or oven to the hottest setting. If not using a wood-fired oven, place a pizza stone or heavy-based tray into oven to get hot. Place the mascarpone in a bowl, add a little water and mix until a nice spreading consistency
Roll out each dough ball on a floured bench until thin, to whatever shape you desire. Spread with the mascarpone, dot with ’nduja, sprinkle over the parmesan, drizzle over the oil and season with a little salt. Bake for 10–15 minutes. Serve with a bitter leaf salad.
• Using a biga is a technique found in Italian bread-making. It involves making a mix which is left to ferment and then used the next day for breads or doughs. It can work as an alternative to yeast or can also be used in conjunction with yeast. It adds fermentation time and is said to get extra sweet and nutty flavours from your dough. If you start exploring all the clever things you can do with doughs you’ll find endless things to entertain yourself with. It can easily become an obsession, be warned, once you start it’s hard to stop.
• The dough can also be made in KitchenAid mixer with dough hook.
• Nduja is available from Italian delis and select butchers.
Photography by Benito Martin
Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd
Bowl with bitter salad from The Fortynine Studio