February is a fitting time to celebrate one of history’s greatest love affairs.
Yes: I’m talking about pizza and beer. I hardly need to explain why the two go hand-in- hand, why there’s carbful chemistry between the cheesy and chewy and the bubbly and refreshing.
While it’s pretty much impossible to dismiss the match, there are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to the pairing specifics. Some argue for lager’s thirst-quenching fizz, while others bat for IPA as pizza’s natural partner. Me, I think Cloudwater’s newly canned IPL El Dorado Mosaic is the best of both worlds. As bold as it is boshable, it’s perfection with a slice of pie. There’s even a whiff of the floral on the nose, which means it plays beautifully with ingredients like fresh basil and delicate ricotta.
All that’s left to do, then, is to make yourself some pizza from scratch. If that sounds a little intimidating, you’re not alone; baking with yeast seems to be one of those culinary challenges that strikes fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned cooks. But trust me: you don’t have to be Bake Off-worthy to master this dough (it takes less than 10 minutes of active time to throw together).
Created first by Jim Lahey — the man who’s best known for his cult favourite no-knead bread — and tweaked by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, this dough recipe yields a pizza that, in a cast-iron skillet, takes on an appealing crunch but has a rustic, bready heartiness to it, too. Combined with a sauce made of whole, canned plum tomatoes, it’s as good as homemade pizza gets.
If you ask me, any pizza worth its salt needs at least three kinds of cheese, and this one also obliges. I’ve topped mine with mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano and ricotta. Add a finishing flourish of chilli-infused honey and fresh basil to make a showstopper.
(The only downside? The dough recipe may be ludicrously simple, but it needs roughly 24 hours to rise. Best get cooking.)
Cast Iron Skillet Pizza
Yields 2 25-30cm pizzas
For the dough:
375g (3 cups) all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp fast-action dry yeast
1 ½ tsp sea salt 300ml water
For the sauce:
2 400g tins whole, peeled plum tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
¾ tsp sea salt
¾ tsp caster sugar
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the pizza:
200g mozzarella (preferably not packed in water)
Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano
Extra virgin olive oil
Ricotta Fresh basil
First, make your pizza dough. Roughly 24 hours before you plan to eat your pizza, add the flour, yeast, sea salt, and water to a large bowl, stirring until fully combined. Cover with clingfilm and let sit in a non-draughty part of your house for one day.
The next day, preheat your oven to as hot as it will go (mine went to 300 degrees C). Before you get back to your waiting dough, prep your sauce. Drain the tins of tomatoes, emptying contents into a sieve set over a large bowl. Allow the excess liquid to drain off for 20-30 minutes, stirring and pressing on the tomatoes to make sure as much is removed as possible. (As Deb Perelman points out, this reserved tomato juice is ideal for Bloody Marys - don’t throw it out!)
Once the tomatoes are drained, add them to a food processor with the garlic, salt, sugar, and pepper. Blend until smooth. Set aside.
Next, prepare your cast iron skillet (note: if you don’t have one, you can also make one large pizza on a full-sized baking sheet). Pour a bit of olive oil onto a paper towel and wipe a thin layer onto the skillet. Take a small handful of cornmeal and sprinkle over, knocking away any excess into the sink.
Onto your dough: when you remove the clingfilm, you should find it looking bubbly and smelling wonderfully yeasty. Ensure your countertop is covered with lots of flour before dumping out the dough. This dough is almost alarmingly liquid and sticky, and will nearly puddle onto the counter. Don’t worry: this is how it’s supposed to be. Cover the dough’s surface with a sprinkling of flour, and, with a pastry cutter or sharp knife, divide into two equal portions. With floured hands, scoop one of the portions into a rough ball-shape, allowing it to stretch and fall onto the counter from your hands several times. Then, pick it up and place it into the centre of your prepared skillet. This dough is too soft to roll out; instead, use your fingertips to press it delicately towards the edges of the pan.
Once the dough is ready, top with half of the prepared sauce, leaving a small margin at the edges. Slice half of your mozzarella into thin pieces and arrange on top of the pizza. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmigiano before placing in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes before rotating slightly to prevent burning. Bake for another 3-5 minutes until it emerges risen, leopard-spotted and audibly sizzling.
Remove from the oven and allow the pizza to rest for 1-2 minutes. Before serving, finish it off by topping with another handful of Parmigiano, scoops of milky ricotta, fresh basil leaves and a generous crosshatch of chilli-infused honey. (Once it’s been devoured, don’t forget about the other half of the dough — make a second pizza, which should keep well for a day or two. Breakfast, anyone?)
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. And pick up some Cloudwater IPL El Dorado Mosaic while stocks last in store or at our online shop.