Can you explain the appeal of Pizza? It took a whole new meaning after our honeymoon in Italy. Making pizza at home never really replicated the ones we had at the pizzerias. I tried buying a pizza stone for the oven but taking it out was always a mess without a peel. And then I found out that pizza can be made on the stovetop. All under 20 minutes! The weather in Dubai right now is pizza conducive. The heat will allow yeast to bloom and rise in no time. Considering Iftar is late into the day, I’m looking for options beyond the fried food platter. This recipe is going to help me on that front this month. More than a good dough recipe, mastering a few techniques promises rustic pizzas every single time. I’m sharing my tips and tricks so that you can perfect the stovetop pizza.
Let’s talk about sauces. On this particular day, I made two pizzas. The first one was the Uber Supreme, a name my husband came up with, on an all-purpose flour base. For this I used a combination of his favourite hot sauces and assorted ketchup flavours. Yes, we have more than one ketchup bottle in the refrigerator.
The second pizza was a vegetarian one for the little one using a whole-wheat pizza base. For his pizza, I used his favourite homemade pasta sauce. It is a pink sauce that I have been making for him almost every Thursday. I start with a whole pod of garlic, sweet shallots and sliced juicy fresh tomatoes sautéed in oil and reduced for a while. After seasoning, in goes a pinch of oregano, a splash of heavy cream and grated cheddar cheese. I’ve made it so many times that I can do it in my sleep. It would be the first time he would be trying pizza and he’s usually a bit sceptical when it comes to trying something new. Since he is more than accustomed to the flavours of his pink sauce, I was hoping he wouldn’t run off after the first bite.
I use two cheeses for my pizza. Firstly, the sauce is topped with coarsely shredded mozzarella cheese before I pile the vegetables or meat depending on what pizza I am making. At the very end, right before I start cooking the pizza, I roughly tear chunks of fresh mozzarella straight out of its brine. (There’s nothing like the real stuff, right Achi?) You could mix it up with cheese you prefer but just make sure it is the sort that has high moisture content so it melts easily. You do not want to crank up the heat to forcefully melt the cheese because you certainly do not want a crust that is tough, bitter and burnt.
Apart from fresh green salads or having them absolutely raw, my husband won’t have any sort of vegetables. No stir-fries and certainly no gravies either. He’s open to the odd Cauliflower Manchurian and didn’t mind Ful Medames at an Arabic breakfast we tried a few years ago but apart from that, at the dining table he turns a blind eye to anything that isn’t meat. He takes his poultry very seriously and that makes cooking for him a breeze. For this pizza, I wanted to finish a bit of Pepperoni salami lying in the refrigerator and a few slices Beef Bacon we hadn’t used from brunch he made a couple of weekends ago. There was leftover chicken mince from meatballs I had baked for Ali’s lunch a day ago too. I hadn’t seasoned it heavily and spruced it up a bit with pantry spices. After chopping the bacon into bits and pan frying it in its own fat, I cooked the remaining chicken mince in the same pan. And only because nothing should go to waste in my frugal kitchen.
As of now, these are a few vegetables Ali loves. The aubergines were coated with turmeric, chilli powder and salt, rested for a while and then pan-fried in olive oil. The spinach was wilted in a bit of heat and wasn’t seasoned. Then there was half a cob of boiled sweet corn. The okra was stir-fried the naadan way, mustard seeds and shallots tempered in coconut oil and then okra sautéed in it, for his lunch. If he wasn’t taking a nap while I was preparing this pizza, I know there wouldn’t be any Okra leftover for topping.
I have more ketchup variants in my pantry stock. Heinz can add anything to their ketchup and my husband will buy it. They occupy a good third of my refrigerator door shelving. I combined the above 8 bottle contents in proportions I don’t bother noting down. Taste as you go is the key here. No prizes for guessing it is rather spicy. You don’t have to be this adventurous though. Just a bit of inspiration.
I firmly believe the crust maketh the pizza. I prefer thin crusts but my pan will never replicate the results of a wood fired oven. I’ve tested the recipe a total of four time for this pizza dough. The only ingredient that varied was the proportion of yeast. The fermentation process of this fungus is what traps air pockets causing the dough to double and make it pliable to work with. While testing I added a bit of sugar to produce more gas and it also helped toning down the flavour of the yeast.
Another testing finding was a generous tablespoon of Extra Vigil Olive Oil made a softer dough. This helps especially in the case of a whole-wheat pizza base. As it has less gluten it toughens up and chewing on a base that tires your jaws is not favourable. The dough is much darker and it deepens on the portion where the crust comes in contact with the hot pan. That being said with a little practice I started getting crusts that cook through and are on the softer side.
One thing I noticed about the dozens of videos I watched of stove top pizza is the final result looks misshapen. This is something I had the most trouble with. I would attribute it to the fact that the pizza base has to be flipped once before you start adding the topping and cheese to allow the base to cook through. You start by carefully placing your stretched dough into the pan. The dough is floppy and flipping it when it being half-cooked makes it stretch even when you don’t intend to.
This is where shaping the diameter of your pizza base makes it perfect. You are creating a tiny fort that holds in all the toppings. It even holds the cheese and prevents it from melting and setting on the crust. You could either use just the index fingers of both hands or using your index finger, gently push the dough into the palm of your other hand. You don't have to make it too tall. The tricky part is the fort side is what needs to go down first into the heated pan. However, this makes it relatively easier to flip the pizza once it is cooked. The biggest difference I found is that it is this faux fort that prevents the pizza from spreading while flipping and retains it shape.
The size of your pizza depends (obviously) on the pan. Use a deep pan that has a lid (here’s what I use) because you would need to cover it for the cheese to melt evenly. I would suggest not going above 9” in diameter to avoid the nightmare of flipping the pizza. Ideally your toppings and cheeses should be prepped and ready close to your stove. Once the pizza is flipped, the sauce-topping-cheese layering has to be completed fairly quickly. The longer you take to finish, you risk cooking the base too long and that could result in a tough crust.
Each pizza takes no longer than 15 minutes to cook. It shouldn’t be alarming that you can finish eating it in lesser time. Given how easily it comes together, it’s going to be a family favourite in no time.
Stove Top Pizza
- Toppings of your choice
- Pizza Sauce - recipe below
- Pizza Dough - recipe below
- 4 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
- 250 g fresh Mozzarella cheese - roughly cut (optional)
- 6 tbsp Tomato Ketchup
- 2 tbsp Tabasco or Hot Sauce (optional)
- Oregano - 1 tsp
Pizza Dough - All-Purpose
- 1½ cup All-Purpose Flour
- ½ tsp Yeast
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
Pizza Dough - Whole Wheat
- 1½ cup Whole-Wheat Flour
- ½ tsp Yeast
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- Mix the sauces together in a bowl.
- Add oregano and mix well.
- In a large bowl, pour in warm water.
- Sprinkle yeast and sugar over water and let it rest for 5 minutes.
- Add flour, salt, and olive oil.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir all the ingredients until it starts coming together.
- Lightly flour a surface and put the dough on to it.
- With a heavy hand, start kneading the dough, for a minimum of 5 minutes, till it becomes smooth.
- Grease a bowl with olive oil and place the dough into it.
- Cover it with plastic wrap.
- Set it aside in a warm place.
- Allow it to rest and rise for a minimum of 2 hours and a maximum of 4 hours.
- Lightly flour a surface and place pizza dough.
- Roll out the dough to ½" thickness.
- Make sure the pizza base is smaller than the pan you will be using.
- Using your index finger, gently press the diameter of the base into the palm of your other hand (pictured above), forming a slight wall.
- Using a fork, prick all over the pizza base.
- On medium-high heat, pour a tablespoon of olive and swirl the pan to spread it.
- Slowly transfer the pizza base, wall side down, into the pan.
- When the pizza base starts bubbling, slowly flip the pizza.
- Spread the tomato sauce on the pizza base within the wall.
- Sprinkle half of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Add your toppings.
- Sprinkle remaining shredded mozzarella on top.
- If using fresh mozzarella, dot the pizza with the chunks away from each other.
- Pour olive oil on the pan close to the pizza base.
- Drizzle the top of the pizza with no more than ½ a teaspoon of olive oil.
- Cover the pan with the lid and allow the cheese to melt.
- Lift the lid once in a while to prevent the moisture from the lid falling on top of the pizza.
- Allow the pizza to cook for 8-10 minutes on low-medium heat.
- If you are cooking a whole-wheat pizza base, take the pizza out of the pan as soon as the cheese has completely melted.
- Serve immediately.
Have a good food day.