Frying Pan Pizza with Smoky Tomato & Date Jam (aka barbecue sauce)
A 24 hour pizza dough from my days as a pizzaiola. Yes! You read that correctly!
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I have never liked barbecue pizza! So when Bella suggested making a pizza with my smoky tomato and date jam, my eyes widened as I felt the deepest depth of dismay. However, my heart soon melted because I do love my Smoky Tomato & Date Jam. It is one of the most versatile recipes in Africana. Wonderful dolloped into curries, dipped in with fritters, smeared onto sandwiches and wraps. A sweet, smoky and spicy gift that keeps on giving. More importantly I adore Bella. She has been my No1 in the kitchen for over 6-7 years now, we have hosted numerous supper clubs, taught thousands of people at cookery classes and more. She is part of our little village here keeping the wheels turning while looking after her beautiful princess. So how could I not love this idea?
The first time I ate a barbecue pizza, it was a mistake on my part. Having omitted reading the ingredients list while ordering this pizza, I almost spat it out on my first bite. Was it really that horrible? Or could it be the shock from expecting something else? I’ll never know. Perhaps it was just a terrible pizza?
Do you like barbecue sauce in a pizza? So many questions.
Did I ever tell you I once owned a pizzeria? I like to remember myself as a pizzaiola. It could come in handy if I was ever job hunting. After studying Economics at university in London, I spent a few years in Nigeria, trying my hand at different career paths and building a food business. Just before diving into a life with 5 mornings a week of ‘Good Morning Nigeria’, a breakfast TV show, and ‘The Bite’ (my second cookery show and first time as a producer), I opened a pizzeria called, Love Pizza. I was thrilled to find our logo which was plastered across the pizza boxes and beaming high on your outdoor signage and even on some billboards across town. The facebook page has since become my official facebook page.
We made Neapolitan style pizza with creamy, delicate and the eye watering expensive mozzarella di bufala, with pepperoni that had to be imported into Nigeria. We enjoyed great quality locally produced flour and a wonderful selection of local fresh vegetables. No, we never tried to make pizza with plantains as a topping. Another experiment for another day.
Making a 24 hour slow-rise pizza
At Love Pizza, we made a fresh batch of dough every evening and let it proof in the fridge for 24 hours. The next morning, we would roll the dough into balls and pop them back in the fridge until we opened in the evening. It was very hot and dry in the city and so, this was another important factor to consider. The heat would affect the rise of the dough, and so leaving it out all day was not an option for us. We’d bring the balls of dough out to come up to room temperature, and to further proof for an hour or two, ready for pizza orders to be baked in a flash! I loved it. Why proof the dough for 24 hours? It tastes much better, less like raw dough and with a structure that was light with crispy puffed up edges. Of-course, you can let it rise at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, however, it is not easy to maintain the same temperature in a recipe that will be cooked in different homes, climates and in different parts of the world. You can also continue to ferment the dough for a further 24 hours in the fridge. A 48-hour slow rise is my maximum, any longer and you risk over-fermenting the dough.
Don’t be intimidated by the ‘24 hour slow rise pizza dough’. Time is one of my favourite ingredients that I hope you will love and appreciate. After the first rise in under 1–2 hours, left covered in a warm part of the kitchen or home, you can choose to stretch and ball the pizza and bake it right away, but trust me. While simply sitting in your fridge, the yeast ferments and develops a more flavourful, smooth and crispy edged pizza with those wonderful airy pockets. Once you have your dough, all you have to do is choose your favourite topping. You can even have a pizza party where everyone chooses their own favourite topping. I loved hosting these in my 20s. Build your own pizza and burger parties. Such fun!
At Love Pizza, we made a number of barbecue pizzas. With a smoky and spicy barbecue sauce and torn pieces of chicken breast poached in spices and herbs. Another with caramelised onion and mushrooms, and one with minced meat and jalapeños. These were very popular, and great variations for you to try with the recipe below.
When Bella mentioned using the smoky tomato and date jam on a pizza, those memories of our barbecue pizza came flooding in, and I realised I was much more of a pizza geek than I had realised. This is not to say that the my smoky tomato and date jam is the same thing as barbecue sauce. While writing this letter, I took one look at the ingredients of the beloved jam; tomatoes, dates, spices, vinegar, …sweet, spicy, smokey, tangy. My goodness, this is barbecue sauce! Sort of!
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Choosing your flour
I would love you to remember that when swapping flours, water content may have to be adjusted for adequate hydration. I enjoy 60-65% hydration (meaning water to flour ratio) when using finer 00 flour, which has about 11-13% protein. Sometimes labelled as Italian 00 flour. When using strong bread flour with a higher protein content that could be up to 15% of protein, I prefer to use about 5% more water, which can be about 70% water to flour ratio for pizza dough that isn’t too heavy or tough to stretch. Strong bread flour is a thirsty flour that absorbs more water and creates heavier pizzas.
I prefer the lighter pizza I get from the finer 00 flour. As a greedy gob who wants to devour more than just a few slices. By all means, try your hand at Italian 00 flour and also try strong bread flour to experience the difference and choose what works best for you.
Don’t forget to make the jam, which will go a long way as a condiment and as barbecue sauce, as we have discovered together. Then make this pizza!