Bake Like An Italian – behind the scenes ;) Sorrento Part 1

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So tomorrow September 19th my new cookbook ‘Bake Like An Italian’ – More Recipes for the Good Life is out. So in celebration of this exciting time for me, I am putting together a number of blogs to take you on the journey that brought me to this day.

As part of writing this cookbook I travelled to Sorrento to experience first hand just some of the delicacies of the area; For the next few days I will take you on that journey with some pictures, tips and of course recipes as a taster of what’s to come in ‘Bake Like An Italian’…

Why Sorrento? known for its mermaids and sirens, Sorrento has much to offer and makes the perfect landing spot to explore the Amalfi Coast to the South and the Island of Capri not to mention the city of Naples which is less than an hour away and home to the perfect PIZZA and an amazing choice of Pizzerias some in operation for 180 years.

Here are some of my tips on getting the perfectly thin crust I would like to share with you;

Time is of the essence; let the dough prove slowly. I’m talking anything up to 10 hours in the fridge before using it and then let it come to room temperature!!

Once rolled allow the base to rest for approximate 10 minutes before layering up your toppings. If you are using a round pizza pan or pizza stone, make sure the stone is sufficiently hot. This will take 40 minutes at 220c/200c fan/Gas 7.

For the rest of my tips and more, see the chapter on pizza in ‘Bake Like An Italian’. But in the meantime try my Margherita Pizza, the most popular of all pizzas and do let me know how you get on!

Catherine x

pizza_small Catherine making pizza
Classica Margherita

Makes 1 large pizza

This is the favourite pizza topping of all. The margherita is said to have originated when the queen of Italy, Margherita, visited Naples in the late 19th century. The colours – tomato red, mozzarella white, and basil green – are said to represent the Italian flag. At home in Ballyknocken we like our margherita bases very thin with loads of good tomato sauce and just a little torn mozzarella over the top. A dusting of semolina will help you roll the base very thinly without it sticking.

For the base:
200g strong white flour
11/2 tsp fast action dried yeast
pinch of salt
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
150ml warm water
semolina, for dusting

For the topping:
300ml classic tomato sauce (page 000)
freshly ground black pepper
200g mozzarella, drained and torn
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8–10 small basil leaves

1. Place the flour, yeast and a pinch of salt into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the dough hook. Drizzle in the olive oil and add enough of the warm water to form a soft dough, adding a little more flour or warm water if necessary. Knead on a medium speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.

2. Brush a large bowl for proving the dough with olive oil. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

3. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. Brush a large 40cm x 50cm baking tray with olive oil and dust with a little semolina.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knock it back and knead for about 3 minutes. Use a rolling pin to roll out a large rectangle to fit the tray. Carefully stretch the dough into the tray.

5. To assemble, spread the tomato sauce over the base, season with freshly ground black pepper and scatter over the torn mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20–25 minutes, until golden. To serve, sprinkle over the basil leaves.

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