Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Perfect Pair - Beer Pizza

Beer and pizza is a classic pairing, especially when having a quiet night in on the couch. Or when you’re hanging out with friends. Or…well, any occasion really. A good beer cuts through the tasty, oily, carby pizza and cleanses the palate of the strong flavours of garlic, tomato and cheese. They are such a great pairing, you can even put one into the other. Of course, I mean you can put beer into your pizza…not sure if it will work the other way around. You can try if you like.

I found the original basic recipe for pizza dough on Chris Badenoch's 'Cooking With Beer' blog and it's actually the recipe that started me on this whole cooking with beer journey. Don’t let that put you off because you think it might be difficult - I am no Masterchef. I’m proof that even the most amateur cook can make amazing pizza from scratch. So far this recipe has a 100% success rate – even when cooked on the BBQ.

The ‘BASE-ic’ ingredients…

300ml beer  - a good pale ale, malty amber or brown ale
7g dry yeast (one standard sachet)
500 g plain bread flour, plus some for working
A good pinch of sea salt and pepper (If you have small, girly fingers like me, use two pinches.)
3 tablespoons olive oil

How to make the magic happen…

This is quite similar to the beer bread recipe, as you are essentially making another kind of bread. So, just like in the beer bread recipe, you need to make sure the beer is warm and the yeast is awake and ready to get to work. You can do this by standing it in a bowl of warm water while you prepare the other ingredients.

If you have a mixer with dough hooks, you can use that. If you don’t, your hands will do the job just fine. So, in the bowl of your mixer, or just a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper.

Once your beer has warmed up, you mix it with the dry yeast. Yes, there is already yeast in beer, but it needs a little help. Let’s call them…reinforcements. I find the best way is to tip the dry yeast into a mixing bowl or jug large enough to hold the full bottle of beer…plus a little more. When you pour the warmed beer in with the yeast, it might foam up a little, so you need a bit of space. Mix well, until the yeast has dissolved into the beer. It won’t look pretty, but that’s okay – it’s not for looking at.

Beer + yeast = not pretty.

If you are using a mixer, put it on the lowest speed and add the yeasty beer mix to the flour slowly. Follow this straight away with the olive oil. Once it starts to look combined, turn the mixer up to medium.

If you are using the hand method, make a well and pour the beer in with one hand while stirring it in with your other hand. Drizzle the olive oil over and continue to mix with your hand. Either way, the dough should end up smooth and elastic.

On a floured surface, tip the dough out and give it a gentle knead to make sure everything is well combined and work the gluten slightly. Form the dough into a ball and place into a greased bowl before covering with cling film and placing in a warm place to prove. If you’re not sure if your have a warm spot it can sit safely, try turning your oven on to the lowest temperature and placing the bowl inside. You need to leave it for one hour minimum. If you can, leave it for up to three hours.

Ready for proving

As soon as you take the bowl out of the oven (or wherever you put it to prove) turn your oven up as high as it will go. If you use pizza stones, make sure they are in there.

Your dough should have doubled in size by now. Knock it back, tip out onto your floured surface and knead gently. Divide it up depending on the number and size of pizzas you are making. (It should make four medium pizzas.)

...all proved and ready to knock back.

Roll the bases out to the size you want. You may need to dust them with flour to prevent sticking. If you are using pizza trays, transfer the bases onto them and top with whatever you like. The options are pretty much limitless – just try not to overload. The best pizzas have 3 -5 toppings. Put them in the oven once it has reached critical mass – it should only take 10-15 or so minutes until they are done (depending on how good your oven is. Mine is…not so good.)

Mix and match toppings
If you use pizza stones…please let me know the easiest way to transfer a topped pizza to the hot stone in the oven. I’m still experimenting with this and it’s still messy and difficult.

Enjoy your fresh pizza. It’s well worth making the effort if you have the time to prepare the dough. I swear you will think twice before heading to your local pizza shop next time.

Herb & garlic pizza.
BBQ baked pizzas - yum!

…and obviously, pair with a good craft beer. That goes without saying…but I’ll say it anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Big props to the Bridge Road Brewers Beechworth Pale Ale for this recipe. It always seems to work beautifully in this pizza base!

    Hopefully Slowbeer growler fills of Holgate's Big Reg lager will be available this year, since Holgate are no longer bottling it (boo!)...and it's my favourite craft beer to match with any pizza.

    I also recommend the Epic Lager from NZ!