We spent last weekend at the stunning Castello di Casole, a Timbers Resort in Tuscany which is a beautiful, luxurious hotel set in the hills near Siena and describes itself as ‘Tuscany – past, present and perfect’. The hotel itself mixes contemporary Italian design and style with it’s historic castello foundations seamlessly and when you’re there you’re transported to a world where your comfort and happiness is their focus.
We were very spoiled with lovely local truffles and Ferrari fizz…
And the surrounding countryside was breathtaking…
I have to say we had a most dreamy weekend… even though we were actually there to work as we ran a cookery course and a Venetian feast for guests of the hotel.
During our time at the hotel Giancarlo ran a demo on how to make the perfect pizza with some of his new found chef friends. We promised to publish the recipe for his special beer infused dough which you’ll find below.
Pizza alla birra
Pizza with beer
Makes 4 pizzas
For the pizza dough
10g fresh yeast or 5g dried yeast
220ml Birra Moretti at room temperature
125ml tepid water
500g strong bread flour or ‘0’ flour
2 teaspoons salt
For the topping
400g Italian tinned plum tomatoes
1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
a little semolina for dusting under the pizza
2 x 125g balls of Mozzarella, drained and sliced
a handful of fresh basil leaves
Add the yeast to the beer and water, then mix with the flour and salt. Knead for 8–10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, put in an oiled bowl and cover with cling film or a tea-towel. Leave in a warm, draught-free spot to rise until doubled in size. After the dough has risen, split it into four even-sized balls and leave to rise until doubled in size again. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce: put the tomatoes in a bowl and squash them into pieces with your hands or blend with a stick blender. Add the oregano, the salt and the oil, and stir well.
Bake the pizzas two at a time. Put two baking trays, spaced apart, upside-down in the oven. This gives a flat surface to cook each pizza on. Have a thin wooden chopping board or pala (a thin piece of wood or metal used for transferring the pizza to the oven) and the semolina nearby.
Preheat the oven to its hottest setting – 250–280˚C is perfect. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Scatter some semolina onto the board or pala, pull the first pizza onto it and spread over a tablespoon of tomato sauce. Top with a quarter of the mozzarella and/or other toppings. Slide the pizza into the oven and quickly pull the board or pala away so that it glides onto the hot, upturned oven tray. Repeat with the second pizza. Bake for 7–10 minutes. The bases should be golden underneath and the cheese bubbling. Garnish with the basil leaves and serve. Bake the second batch of pizzas in the same way.
Pizza toppings tend to be the same from one restaurant to another but each establishment puts its own twist on a classic. Our favourites are:
- Marinara (tomato, fresh basil, garlic and oregano)
- Salsicce (sausage) and turnip tops or broccoli
- Smoked scamorza and tomato
- Potato, garlic and rosemary
- Bitter escarole mixed with capers, olives and provola cheese
- Roasted peppers, olives, capers, escarole or lettuce and garlic
- Capricciosa (mozzarella, proscuitto crudo, mushrooms, artichokes)
- Calzone (mozzarella, prosciutto crudo, ricotta cheese, egg, Parmesan or Grana Padano)