The humble pizza is a regular part of many millions of people’s diets, and in the 24 hour high-stress modern world it’s far too convenient to get them delivered to your door from a takeaway, choose one at a restaurant, or pick up a readymade frozen pizza from the local shop. Unfortunately these varieties tend to be laden with excess salt, saturated fat, sugar, and have very little nutritional value. Indeed, just two slices of a full fat cheese laden pizza can deliver 640 calories, 24g of fat (of which up to 12g can saturate), and 1600mg of sodium (this is 4g, with Guideline Daily Amounts for salt being 6g)!
This is should be a real alarm bell for anyone health conscious, but the good news is you can (and should) make homemade pizza which is nutritionally suprerior to anything you can buy off the shelves/in a restaurant. Here is the LifeHack guide to perfecting a healthy pizza, one which shuns unhealthy traditions for a very tasty, and nutritionally rich, food experience.
1. Ingredients and Tools
The main part of the pizza is the base, which is made from flour. As this is a healthy pizza you should be going for 100% wholemeal flour, and purchase organic versions if you can. You’ll also need to pick up a pizza tray (most supermarkets will stock them for around $2), a rolling pin, mixing bowl, and a sieve will prove handy. Here are the basics for what you will need to make the dough, and a suggested assortment of famously healthy toppings (yes, the dreaded vegetables, although they always work very well on a pizza).
- Organic wholemeal flour
- Active dried yeast
- Olive Oil
- ½ Tablespoon of salt
- Half a pint of lukewarm water
- Black pepper
- Low-fat shredded cheese
- Tomato puree
- An assortment of vegetables (onions/spring onions, asparagus, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms)
- Anchovies/prawns/chicken/turkey (these are well known low fat, healthy meats)
2. Making the Dough
Preparing dough can be messy, but it’s great fun. Teaching your kids would also be a very positive, creative life lesson.
You’ll need to get your mixing bowl and sieve ready to sift the wholemeal flour. You don’t really need to weigh the flour, but around 500g will be required to create several pizzas. This is about 3 full cups, and you should sift this through the sieve (and make sure you wash your hands before you start!) into your mixing bowl. Make a hollow into the centre of the flour mound and add in three tablespoons of active dried yeast, and you can also add lots of black pepper and a small amount of wheatgerm (a very healthy cereal germ with all manner of health boosting attributes). Next up, add two or three tablespoons of olive oil and you’re almost ready to mix.
Now the messy bit; pour around half of the lukewarm water into the mix and get stuck in with your hands. The idea is to knead all the ingredients together. Work away at this until they begin to set together and a ball of dough takes shape (after a few minutes it should start to look like the dough in the above picture). You may need to add more water if everything becomes too dry, but add more flour if things become too sticky. Eventually you will have what looks like a small football in front of you. You’ll need to get pockets of air out of it, so feel free to give the blob a few punches as you knead away! Refer to the pictures for assistance, and if you mess up don’t worry – start again and learn from any errors!
3. Rising and Rolling
With the dough complete you’ll need to let it rise. For this you should clean out your mixing bowl, dry it off, and place the dough ball into the middle. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and leave it to one side for around an hour and a half. Expect a surprise next time you see it. The blob will have risen quite considerably!
Now is the time to pre-heat your oven to 190C, and make room inside so your pizza tray can sit comfortably in the middle of the oven. Whilst this is heating up it’s time to start rolling out the dough. Fling down some flour onto your kitchen work surface and pull off a chunk from the dough ball. Roll in into a ball shape and cover it with flower. You’ll need to experiment here with your rolling pin. Gradually press on and work the dough into a traditional pizza shape. With a bit of practice you’ll get the hang of it, and don’t be afraid to use your hands to work the dough into the correct shape.
When you’re happy with your pizza base you should fit it into your pizza tray (throw some dough onto it first to avoid any sticking) and lightly press the edges of the dough into the sides of the pizza tray.
There’s no stopping your creativity here, but to be on the healthy side of things it’s best to choose fresh vegetables. Most pizza recipes begin with adding a small amount of tomato puree to the pizza base, and then stacking your selection of vegetables and meat around the pizza. Top it all off with a handful of grated cheese (as pizzas tend to be cheese heavy go for a low fat variety to ease up on superfluous fat) and you’re ready to cook!
Some successful recipes I’ve tried include Pepper, Asparagus, and Anchovy (with added cheese, of course!), and Mushroom, Garlic, and Thyme (with cheese topping, you don’t need a tomato puree base for this). Experiment with foods you enjoy, but do keep it as healthy as possible! And if you’re adding meats such as turkey or chicken, make sure you cook them traditionally on the hob before you add them to the pizza top.
For any further ideas you could try online resources, such as the BBC‘s website.
5. The Oven!
Everything should be looking somewhat professional by now, with your pizza set for 10-15 minutes of cooking in the centre of your pre-heated oven. Using oven gloves place the pizza inside and leave it to cook. After 10 minutes have a peek to see how the pizza is going (you don’t want to burn it to a crisp, after all this effort), but, generally, I’ve found around 15 minutes does the trick.
After the time has elapsed you can pull the pizza from your oven (don’t forget those gloves) and allow the pizza to cool for a few minutes. Once it’s not going to burn you prise the pizza from the base and cut it into traditional triangular shapes. Voilà le pizza! You are now a dough making extraordinaire capable of making healthy pizzas for friends and family! Experiment with recipes as much as you wish in order to develop your skillls, but this is how you should now be enjoying all of your pizza based antics in the future. Fun, simplistic, and nutritionally rich.