When my friend asked me at the beginning of July whether I’d go on a short vacation with her, because our respective main vacations are still months away, I agreed to go to the Lago Maggiore in Italy. I hadn’t been to Italy in decades, and then only to typical tourist resorts. I didn’t have any specific expectations for this trip, but I still got a lot of nice surprises. The people were extremely friendly – even if you outed yourself as a tourist -, the weather was great, the lake water was clear and inviting, the prices were surprisingly low for a tourist area (actually much lower than in my hometown), and the food… oh my God – the food!
The first night our concierge recommended a pizza place to us, and I had a fantastic pizza called Bufalina – tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, and cocktail tomatoes. On our last day after checking out of the hotel we hit a supermarket and loaded the car with Italian goodies: burrata, buffalo mozzarella, different kinds of tomatoes, parma ham…
During my UK cookery course last year we learned how to make pizza dough. So I decided to combine my UK recipe with my Italian ingredients and make Pizza Bufalina. The pizza dough we made in England was not like any pizza dough I’d made or seen before. Those were all dry doughs whereas this one is an untidy mass of moist dough that looks like cottage cheese in the beginning. Looking at it, you’d never think it could turn into a perfect ball of dough. But it does. It also requires a different kneading technique to get this dough into shape.
The pizza recipe says to roll the dough into an irregular round shape. Which was fine with me because I honestly – even after the cookery course – can not for the life of me manage to get a piece of yeast dough into a round shape. In the course we made a thin crust pizza but I didn’t roll the dough thin enough for that, so mine was about 1 cm thick.
For the tomato sauce, I used bottled passata that I also brought back from Italy, but you can use any kind you like; I just didn’t feel like making fresh tomato sauce. I also added parma ham to my pizza, which is not part of the original bufalina, and the recipe below is without parma ham.
450 g strong white flour (I used “00″ type flour)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
320 ml warm water
15 g fresh yeast
pinch caster sugar
1 ball buffalo mozzarella, pulled into pieces
cocktail tomatoes, sliced
Makes 2 pizzas
Mix the yeast with 3 tbsp of the warm water and a pinch of sugar. Sieve flour into a bowl, then crunch the salt in the palm of your hand with your fingers before adding it. Create a well in the centre.
Add the yeast water to the well in the flour, add the olive oil, and all but a small amount of the remaining warm water.
Bring flour into the centre to form a soft sticky dough. [I used rubber gloves as the dough is very sticky.] Should you see large flakes of dough, or dry floury patches, add the remaining warm water. [As mentioned above, don't worry about the dough being really wet and looking like cottage cheese - it'll change.]
Knead the dough for 10 minutes on a very well floured surface using the following technique: use one hand to push the dough forward on the surface, then pull it back. It’ll look like a real mess but it’ll come together beautifully after doing this long enough. You can also add a little flour if it sticks to the surface too much. [I tried to capture the push-forward and pull-back action in the picture above. I had the camera stuck between my right shoulder and ear while operating it best I can with my left hand, so you proably need to use your imagination a little...]
Once the dough has come together, form a ball and place it in an oiled bowl to prove. Leave covered with lightly oiled cling film for between 1 – 2 hours until it has doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and knead back into a ball. Roll out with a rolling pin into an irregular shape, then place onto a non-stick baking mat.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the base, leaving about 1 cm around the edge without any sauce. Season with a little freshly ground salt and pepper. Brush the 1 cm edge with olive oil, then add the buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes.
Bake at 250ºC for 7 – 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the dough and the amount of ingredients on the pizza.