Step 3: Topping and baking your pizza
Welcome to the creative step. This is where you get to craft a masterpiece and bake it to perfection.
In the last few years a lot of mobile outdoor pizza ovens have popped up. They run on wood chips or gas and can replicate a wood fired oven as they achieve tremendous heat. The main options in the UK are the Gozney Roccbox, a great little oven used by a lot of mobile pizza chefs at markets, and the Ooni range.
For the purpose of this guide though, I'm going to assume you're planning to use either your domestic oven, or a BBQ with a closing lid. It doesn't matter which one you choose as the process is the same.
Get it blazing hot
Neapolitan pizza is generally baked in a wood fired oven at around 430°C. You won't get your home oven anywhere near this, but you need it as hot as possible so turn it up to full heat about 30-45 minutes before you're ready to bake. In the case of the BBQ, close the lid to get as much heat into it as possible.
Choose your baking weapon
Pizza needs heat from both above and below, to crisp the base and cook the toppings. The most common way to do this is using a pizza stone, but in recent times they've found a 6-8 mm pizza steel delivers even better results, and is virtually indestructible, though a bit more expensive.
You can also use a pizza crisper tray which you can pick up on Amazon for around £10, or even a standard flat baking tray. For either of these, lay your round pizza base onto the tray before you add tomato, and when ready just pop it into the oven.
If using a stone or steel, get them into the oven when you start heating it as you want it as hot as possible when the pizza is launched. This will mean you need to launch your pizza into the oven. You can get yourself a pizza peel, or you can use parchment paper on a thin tray and slide it off onto the stone/steel.
A lot of people struggle with launching, mainly because their dough is sticky. You shouldn't have this problem with our dough as it'll slide off wood or steel very easily. Just make sure you don't wet the bottom when topping as that may well cause it to stick.
Do the initial bake with tomato only
Because your oven isn't as hot as a pizza oven, the ingredients will cook much quicker than the base, so we need to work around this and give the base some time to cook before we add the ingredients. Don't worry, once it's been in the oven for a few minutes it becomes very easy to handle.
Spread your sauce
Using half the tomato sauce per pizza, start by spooning it into the centre of your pizza and moving outwards in a circular motion, spreading it around the pizza, but keep it off the edge.
Using a pastry brush or anything that works, brush some olive oil onto the crust to help it brown nicely.
Get it into the oven and bake it for around 4 minutes.
It's topping time
Sprinkle half the grated Grana Padano cheese on each pizza. Then tear 3 or 4 basil leaves in half and put them on. Top your pizza with mozzarella, covering the exposed pieces of basil to protect them from the heat. Finish it by squirting some olive oil around the pizza.
Pop your pizza back into the oven and cook it for another 3-4 minutes or until the mozzarella is fully melted. If you overcook it, the crust will go very hard, so do check on it to test if it's ready.
The crust should've puffed up nicely and the cheese should be melted or bubbling. Take it out the oven and toss a few fresh basil leaves on the top.
The video below was made by Vito Iacopelli when testing the difference between baking on a stone vs a steel at home oven temperatures. It's actually a great video for showing you the process of cooking a pizza at home, so it makes for a great demonstration.
It's pizza time
Your pizza is ready to devour. Just before you do, snap a quick photo and enter our weekly competition.
I hope it's delicious and was fun to make. Enjoy!