Broccoli and Bacon Pizza

Cost: at a guess, I’d say between £6-8 to make enough pizza for 16 (i.e. eight large pizzas). It’s approximate because the dough and tomato sauce were purely ingredients we regularly have in the cupboard, and the cheese and broccoli happened to be in the fridge. Emergency bacon from the freezer.

This dough can be stretched very thin in the middle to make a crisp base, which is crackly and chewy at the edges. A barely-there slick of an intensely flavoured tomato sauce, heaps of cheese to turn bubbly and stringy in the oven, and little broccoli florets to char and sweeten. Also bacon. Always bacon.

Broccoli and Bacon PIzza

“What shall we have for dinner?” We came back last night after church and a weekend away at my in-laws. The cupboard was bare, and both of us were in a state of happy exhaustion after the world’s most wonderful party at our friend Freddie’s house the night before. We live just around the corner from a couple of overpriced metro supermarkets, so the Husband suggested frozen pizza. In fact, it was probably the same amount of effort to knock up some dough, stick some cooking bacon and a tin of tomato sauce on the hob and leave it to prove/fry/reduce whilst we assessed how our little garden had coped with two days of summer without watering. In the heat, the dough rose after only about half an hour, so we heated up the oven to high, stretched out the dough, slicked it with sauce and heaped it with cheese, tiny florets of raw broccoli and nuggets of cooked bacon.

Barely 15 minutes later, we were eating pizza on the sofa and watching a surprisingly good documentary about a charismatic particle physicist, Richard Feynman. He was a Nobel Prize winner who devised the eponymous Feynman diagrams, which are a very elegant and simple way of constructing and solving immensely complex calculations of the way electrons and their antimatter counterparts interact (I THINK!), but was also renowned for the engaging way he could communicate his ideas. He became well-known through his televised lectures, and a student at the university told a story of how he approached Prof. Feynman to tell him that his mother had really enjoyed watching his lectures and ask if he would write to her to give some encouragement, as he was trying to teach her Physics. Prof. Feynman did indeed write to her, saying something like:

Happy Birthday Mrs Chown! Tell your son to stop trying to fill your head with science—for to fill your heart with love is enough. Richard P. Feynman (the man you watched on BBC ‘Horizon’). “

What a dude!

Recipe: Bacon and Broccoli Pizza

The pizza dough here makes enough for about 8 oven-tray sized pizzas, and each pizza is enough for two, I think. It keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge, loosely tied in a freezer bag, but will expand further so give it some room. Apparently it also freezes. Each pizza only uses about a spoonful of tomato sauce, and the merest sprinkling of bacon/broccoli – cheese is entirely subjective.

To be honest, I think you could use almost any fridge leftovers on this – after all, anything goes these days. I happened to have a head of broccoli that a friend gave me because she was going on holiday(!) but if I’d had peppers, courgettes or mushrooms I would have used those. We didn’t have any meat but I’d happily have used leftover roast chicken, slices of salami or even shreds of pulled pork. As it was, I pulled out a freezer bag of cheap cooking bacon and put the frozen lump of meat straight into a dry frying pan over the heat to defrost and then fry as I ignored it completely.

400g tin chopped or whole tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato purée
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
One head of broccoli
200g cooking bacon, cooked through
About 100g grated cheese per pizza e.g. mozzarella, something hard and mild
Chilli oil to serve, optional

1. If the bacon is frozen, put it on a medium heat to defrost and then cook. Meanwhile, gently fry the garlic in a little oil until fragrant and golden, and then add the tinned tomatoes, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a good squeeze of tomato purée. Leave this on a simmer to reduce down slowly whilst you make the dough.

Pizza dough

(adapted, but only barely, from Jamie Oliver)

800g white bread flour
200g semolina
2 Tbsp active dry yeast (or convert to another type of yeast here – but I like active dry because it keeps easily and you can use as much or as little as you need, unlike the sachets. Bit of a faff to activate but at least gives you confidence in its rising power)
1 Tbsp sourdough starter (optional – and I just used it straight out of the fridge without reactivating)
1 Tbsp sugar, e.g. golden caster
1 tsp salt (cheap table salt is fine)
650 ml warm water (i.e. about a quarter straight from the hot kettle, the rest made up with tap)
4 Tbsp olive oil

2. Firstly, activate the yeast (if using active dried) by stirring it into the warm water along with the sugar. Leave until it bubbles into a big foamy beer head, which in warm weather like this only takes 10-15 minutes but in winter is more like 20-25.

3. Measure the salt, flour and semolina into a big bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer), with the salt on the bottom to keep it apart from the yeast as long as possible and make a deep well in the centre.

4. When the yeast/water has a good few cm of foam on the top, stir it all up and pour into the flour well, and add the olive oil and sourdough starter (if using) at this time.

5. Mix the dough. It’s easiest with a machine and dough hook but very do-able by hand (not mine – this was one of the ways in which the Kenwood was promoted above the Husband) – masses of YouTube videos available. For the stand mixer, I start it on the minimum speed and then bring the speed up if it’s taking too long to combine – but watch carefully if it gets up to 2 (out of 5) because it comes together very quickly and is quite hard work for the machine. When all the dry ingredients are combined it should be shaggy – keep going until it is smooth and elastic. It should be stretchy – keep going until you can stretch the dough so thinly that you can see a bright light through it (the windowpane test – but because of the semolina, it won’t get really thin enough to see through)

Pizza dough

6. Leave to rise in the bowl, covered with cling film in a warm place. (i.e. just about anywhere right now)

7. Whilst the dough is rising, cut the broccoli into tiny florets by shaving it off just under the dark green ends. The stems can be peeled and eaten as a delicious snack. Check that the bacon and tomato sauce don’t burn!

8. When the pizza dough has doubled in size, knead it on a lightly floured surface. It will collapse – that’s fine! This knocks it back – it will rise again. I’m sure even Richard Feynman had the odd setback in his research into particle physics. Then slap and stretch it out onto your baking sheet (e.g. a sheet of floured baking parchment). I’m no expert on dough slapping – I try to do it the way I saw Paul Hollywood demonstrate it on the Great British Bake Off once, and the best way I can describe it is in terms of the action you use to whip a younger sibling with a wet towel, if you know what I mean. The dough smacks satisfyingly onto the work surface , and stretches out. Keep doubling it back and slapping it again and it becomes incredibly elastic and bouncy. Divide it into eight, and stretch each one out gradually, turning as you go until it covers your baking sheet.

Stretchy pizza dough

9. Preheat the oven to 240C (or as high as you are comfortable going) with the metal baking sheet for the pizza inside. Meanwhile, slick a spoonful of tomato sauce over the dough, and add the grated cheese, broccoli and bacon. Give it a generous grinding of black pepper.

Broccoli and Bacon Pizza (before cooking)

10. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until the crust if puffy and golden and the cheese is bubbly and browned.

11. Serve in squares, drizzled with chilli oil if you like that sort of thing.

An oddly sinister photo with the looming shadow and the Husband's clenched fist in the background. Maybe because we were hungry?

An oddly sinister photo with the looming shadow and the Husband’s clenched fist in the background. Maybe because we were hungry?

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