Making Pizza (Bianca) with Shaheen Peerbhai

For me pizza is more about the bread, less about the toppings. My go-to choice is one with tomato sauce, intermittent dollops of torn buffalo mozzarella and basil scattered right after the pizza is out of the oven. I usually make smaller 8-9 inch pizzas because they cook faster and I think they are better suited for the home ovens that don’t get hotter than 230C.  This also means I can eat two pizzas. My second choice is a pizza bianca. Pizza dough, stretched thin, sprinkled Greek oregano, salt and olive oil – no sauce.

I keep playing with water-to-flour ratios but the way you handle the dough is more important than the recipe itself.

Two points worth noting about the role of gluten in bread making:

Sugar hinders gluten development, salt helps. (On the other hand sugar is good for the yeast, salt isn’t!) We can’t take an extreme stand because both are needed in recipes sometimes. It’s just good to know.

Fats weaken gluten. This includes yolks, solid fats and oils. I seldom use oil in wet doughs. When I do, I’m going to make a conscientious effort to stir in the oil an hour into folding and stretching the dough.



Pizza Bianca

Makes lots! You can make the whole recipe and use it over the course of 3-4 days.


800g flour (strong bread flour if you have an option)

600ml water

15g salt

5g instant yeast

30 ml olive oil




More olive oil


STAGE 1: MAKING THE DOUGH (24 hours in advance)

Mix together the first five ingredients in a bowl. 

Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes (this stage is called autolyse) in the bowl.

Knead it gently so it comes together – it’s going to be a shaggy mass, far from smooth and hardly manageable.

Next, stretch the dough with wet hands from the bottom of the bowl, fold it over itself and do this about five times, turning the bowl as you go so you cover the entire circumference of the dough. Do this every 10-15 minutes for 60-90 minutes. The dough will be smooth and elastic.

Drizzle in the olive oil before the last fold.

Refrigerate for 24 hours.

The next day, pull it out of the fridge and fold it over itself once again without punching it down.

Divide the dough into portions for individual pizzas, about 150-200g each, with the help of a bench scraper.

Using a mixture of flour and semolina, dust each portion and place it on a tray to use later.

Let it rest again for at least 30 minutes in the fridge – this will make stretching the dough a lot easier.



Preheat the oven to its highest setting for at least 15 minutes.

Stretch the dough with your hands, or with the help of a rolling pin to an approximate diameter of nine inches. Do this delicately – because you don’t want to squish out the air incorporated. I usually start by holding the dough up in my hands and stretching it out, then laying it on floured surface and evening it out gently with my finger tips.

Transfer to an oiled tray and sprinkle with salt, oregano and olive oil.

Bake at the highest setting at the floor of the oven for 10-12 minutes. Turn on the broiler for the last minute or so for a bit of a char.

Pull out of the oven and brush with more extra virgin olive oil if you wish. Eat up!


Classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris and Alain Ducasse Education, and co-authoring her first cookbook Paris Picnic Club (launching Spring 2017), food blogger and chef Shaheen Peerbhai, the Purple Foodie returns to India to teach classes in tea time treats, plated desserts, breads and savouries, pastry and more. See the class menu here and sign up for her baking classes in Bombay, Bangalore or Delhi this August and September.