As I mentioned briefly before, I transplanted some Thai Basil that I bought from Tesco. I put a number of stems in water and they rooted quite quickly with lots of healthy roots. So I planted them in the empty planter at the back of the house. In order to try and promote some basil growth, I picked some of the tops of the stems that were about to - or already - flowering and brought the basil inside. I didn't know what to make with it, and then I remembered I had one last frozen pizza dough bag in the freezer and decided to make pizza!
I should start by saying, I do love pizza. When I grew up in Minneapolis every Friday night my family would have pizza night where we would make pizza and then watch tv together (back in the 70s) we used a rectangular baking sheet because they didn't sell round pizza pans in Minneapolis at the time. I remember we had one specific baking sheet used only for pizza, it was black with higher sides. While we made flat crust pizza at home, we often went to My Pie pizza a well known thick crust pizza place in Minneapoils (the company is from Chicago but had a location in Mpls. Checking their website here it looks like it must still be well known for they ship pizzas throughout the US! http://www.mypiepizza.com/). While we preferred My Pie (sausage and mushroom deep dish) as our favorite, there's always something about making your own pizza once you get the ingredients right that can make you crave the homemade even more than eating out.
Living in New York City for eighteen years, I eventually shifted from deep dish to NY style and the thin crusts. If I had to pick, I suppose Two Boots pizza in NYC would be my favorite (specifically the Bayou Beast - bbq shrimp, crawfish, andouille, jalapenos and mozzarella).
The Middle East also had its styles of pizza... the shark pizza in Tehran was great, until the place closed. But the best pizza was R's mom's homemade individual size pizzas with mushrooms or white truffles (which were available in abundance in the spring in Fars Province if the weather conditions were right... yes I have consumed more truffles in my lifetime then possibly all the citizens of a small US town combined... truffle omelets, truffle pizzas, truffles and Kebabs, truffles with just about anything, I digress sorry).
So arriving in Malaysia we found that there aren't that many pizza places with good pizza. Dominos and Pizza Hut chains are all over the place. I can't complain about Dominos, because even though I don't love their pizza, they actually deliver to our house - the only food delivery co. we know of that does. While we lived here when the kitchen was being constructed, we were happy to get those pizzas. But, about specialty pizzas in Malaysia, I have to say I have not had a good pizza in Kuala Lumpur. Our friends who live there say places exist, but I haven't been to any. Actually, the best pizza we found in Malaysia (to date) is a pizza place in Seremban owned by an Italian who lives here called Pizza Italia (480, Jalan Haruan 4/4. Oakland Commercial Centre, near Columbia Asia Hospital ). There is another blog post about this place here (note that the blogger mentions Dominos and Pizza Hut and also note the price for the meal, by Seremban standards, it is high).
Soooo since I found the yeast (see my earlier post here), I have been experimenting with making pizza here in Seremban. OK, we haven't made too many pizzas yet, but we finally got one with the ingredients and the testy oven to work. In fact, the pizza was sublime. Absolutely fantastic. Tasted kind of like a Pizza Margarita only we didn't use fresh tomatoes. The Thai basil (opposed to regular basil) gave the pizza a really rich taste.
I made the pizza crust following this recipe. I doubled the recipe which made enough pizza for four pizzas. I froze three doughs as the instructions mentioned with olive oil in a plastic bag. The pizza dough was made with Saf Instant Yeast and the popular Malaysia Flour "Blue Key".
I took out the pizza dough from the freezer and let it thaw. Then rubbed some olive oil on the round pizza pan with holes in it (available at Carrefour or Jusco) and spread the pizza out on the pan. Turned the oven on to around 220 C and let the pizza crust bake until it was nearly light brown about 10 minutes.
Then I added the toppings.
Tesco Tomato Puree
Hot Pepper Flakes
Arla "Finello" Mozzarella Cheese
Grozerte Formaggio Cheese Powder
Fresh Thai Basil
I used Tesco Tomato Puree (produced in Italy) for the base. It is much richer than Malaysian tomato sauces or pastes. I also squirted some Heinz Ketchup on to top of that (not too much about 3/4 Tesco Tomato Puree to 1/4 Ketchup). I know, I know, this sounds gross... Ketchup on Pizza? But, we learned it from R's mom. One night she baked us the best pizzas ever and we asked what she did differently. She broke down and told us that she had run out of tomato sauce so she improvised and added ketchup to the base of the pizza instead. So we now follow her lead and add a bit to our pizzas. It has to be Heinz, because the Malaysian Ketchups are too vinegary.
Added the Hot Pepper Flakes, salt and pepper on top of the base. I haven't found Hot Pepper Flakes like they sell in the US here at all. Any hot pepper spices have a different consistency and more usable for Asian/Indian cooking. So I collect the hot pepper packets that Dominos delivers with their pizza and use those.
Then I added Arla "Finello" Mozzarella Cheese (imported from Poland?!?) bought at Jusco. We used about 3/4 of a 200g chunk and grated it because that is all we had in the kitchen. Maybe the whole 200g next time, then again maybe not. This Mozzarella seems to have better taste than the more popular green bag shredded cheese sold in the stores around here. I should mention cheese selections are grim in Malaysia, I will write a post on it sometime. But enough to say, Family Store doesn't even sell fresh cheese and no one seems to complain.
Next sprinkles of the Grozerte Formaggio Cheese Powder. This 'fake' Parmesan cheese imported from Hungary doesn't taste fantastic. But, it's available in Seremban and good enough for the pizza.
Then I added the Thai Basil on top and returned the pan to the oven for 5-10 minutes more. The only thing I might do differently is not add the Basil at first. Wait until a minute or two before the pizza is fully baked and then put the basil on. Because you can see from our pizza photo the basil is pretty baked (although not burnt). But, this is another step and requires taking the pizza out of the oven, and around here every time you open the hot oven the kitchen gets hotter! Plus I think that if the basil isn't added upfront, it might not get to mix in with the cheese and it might not taste as good.
So that's our current homemade pizza we are making in Malaysia!