Pizza Base Recipe

We probably have pizza of one sort of another every couple of weeks. I’d like to say it’s always home-made. I’d like to say that.

However, I can say that we do make our own pizza regularly. So, I’ve been meaning to put up this recipe before, but for some reason it gets eaten before I think to take a picture. But last weekend, I happened to take a couple of snaps, so here’s the recipe.

It’s based on a recipe in Donna Hay magazine (issue 25), but you’ll need to come up with the pizza topping yourself. This time, we had a “leftover pizza” with roast chicken and vegetables, and a salami pizza with salami and sliced olives. I’m always willing to try new pizzas!


1 teaspoon dry yeast (or 1 packet, approx. 7g)
1/4 teaspoon (~1mL) caster sugar
3/4 cup (~190mL) of lukewarm water
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon (~2mL) salt
1 1/2 tablespoons (30mL) olive oil
50mL tomato paste
dried oregano to taste (approx 2 teaspoons or ~10mL)


If it’s been cool (like it is in Melbourne at the moment), fill the sink with warm water to a couple of inches, and place a large mixing bowl in it for a few minutes to warm it up. The dough will rise better in a warm bowl.

Meanwhile, put the dry yeast and sugar in a measuring cup and fill it with lukewarm water from the tap. Stir well to ensure all the yeast is broken up. Set it aside for 5 minutes.

Place the flour and salt in the warm mixing bowl, and make a well in the centre. Pour the olive oil and the yeast mixture into the flour, and stir it together with a butter knife to make a dry dough.

Take off any rings or a watch (this stuff sets like concrete). Knead the dough (you can leave it in the bowl) for a few minutes until it is smooth and elastic. This step can be shared with a young child (!).

Cover the mixing bowl with a cloth and leave somewhere warm for 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. I’ve found good places to be: the shed, the car, or even back in the sink with some more warm water.

You can leave it for longer than 45 minutes, but if you leave it more than a couple of hours, the yeast will have eaten all the sugar and the dough will be rather sour.

When you’re ready to make the dough into bases (this recipe is enough for two medium-sized pizzas), preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celcius. Put the pizza trays that you’re going to use in at the same time, to help ensure a crispy crust.

Pound the dough down into a ball and split into two. Spread each ball out on a piece of baking paper (saves having to flour a bench top), making a flat disc.

If you don’t have a rolling pin handy, or don’t like the hassle of rolling, just pop another piece of baking paper on top of the dough, and using a smooth object (e.g. glass, rolling pin), press the dough out until it is the shape you want.

When you’ve got the two plain bases ready, spread each with half of the tomato paste and sprinkle with the dried oregano. Then, go crazy with whatever topics you like.

Serves 2 adults.

If your TV was like a Book

Last month, Apple released their latest device – the iPad. It is capable of many wonderous things, and has many fabulous properties, but of all of them, for now I am interested in just three: its screen, its weight, and its ability to show video.

As various other manufacturers rush to market with devices to compete in the segment that Apple has just legitimised, they will most likely produce things that share those same three properties. However, as it is still early days, we don’t yet know for sure what people will end up doing with these devices. That’s why it’s so much fun to speculate!

The iPad has a 24cm (diagonal) screen, weighs about 700g (WiFi version) and can deliver TV quality video from the Internet to practically wherever in the house you decide to sit yourself down with it. If you hold it up in front of your face (about 60cm away), it’s as big as if you were watching a 120cm (diagonal) TV from 3m away. And, while lighter than a 120cm TV, it’s going to feel heavy pretty quick.

However, 700g is not very heavy if you’re willing to rest it on your lap, and there’s another category of content consumption “device” that is comparable in this regard: the book. I am willing to spend hours intently focused on a book while reading it, and a quick weigh of some of my books (using the handy kitchen scales) suggests the iPad is not unusual…

Which provides some legitimisation of a “TV-watching” scenario of a family in their lounge room, with everyone watching a show on their tablet device. (Assuming that you have overcome issues like individuals’ TV audio interfering with others and ensuring adequate bandwidth for everyone.) However, this scenario feels strange, even anti-social.

I am perhaps conditioned by the ritual of people coming together to share a TV watching experience. And before we had TVs, people came together to share a radio listening experience. But before broadcasting technologies, what did we do? In reality, this sort of broadcasting experience is a relatively recent phenomenon. Before that, presumably we all sat around in the lounge room and read books.

I’ve previously written on the idea that people prefer the personal, and that a personal TV experience will be preferred to a shared TV experience. The iPad and similar devices have the potential to enable this, through becoming as light and portable as books.

“Netbooks” also have similar attributes to the iPad. However, they tend to weigh at least 1 kg and have screens that are smaller. So, while future Netbooks might have the right form factor, it certainly isn’t common yet. The iPad is the first mass-market device that properly fills this niche.

The issue of the scenario feeling anti-social is still a little troubling. While our ancestors might have looked up over their books and engaged in a casual chat, momentarily pausing their reading, this is harder to accomplish with a video experience. Not only are the eyes and ears otherwise engaged, making casual interruption more difficult, but the act of pausing and resuming is not as easy either.

I suspect that while we’re now reaching the point where hardware can fill the personal TV niche, the software is not yet ready. We may need eye-tracking software that pauses the video when the viewer looks away, integration of text-based messaging alongside video-watching, and other adaptations to the traditional video player software.

I’m keen to see what competition in this new segment produces.

Social Media and the Laugh

When I was back in high school, one of my English Lit teachers used to say “A wise man laughs with trepidation”. He said it a lot. He also joked a lot. Perhaps he was warning us that Sex And Violence Fridays weren’t likely to be as funny to parents.

But anyway, he was right that with most humour, someone is the butt of the joke. Someone is being ridiculed, if only the joke-teller. But very often someone is being offended.

And this week, some people were so offended by Catherine Deveny‘s postings on Twitter, that her employer at The Age newspaper decided to give her the sack. Now, I’m not so interested in whether her comments were offensive or not (since, almost by the very definition of humour, someone would find them offensive), but in what this example can tell us about communications in the age of social media.

Last year, Julian Morrow of The Chaser fame gave the Andrew Olle Media Lecture on a related matter. It was (and still is) a very interesting speech, and outlined the concepts of a primary audience, who are the people that a comedian is targeting their humourous content at, and a secondary audience, who are the people that discover the content after the fact. For example, the primary audience may watch your TV show, but the secondary audience may watch the highlights/lowlights of your TV show when they are rebroadcast on the nightly current affairs program.

Since in a world where anything can be discovered later on the Internet, e.g. via clips on YouTube, a specific Google search or even through the Internet Archive, the secondary audience potentially consists of everyone living and who may live in the future. It’s a given that for anything humourous you’ve publicly released, there will eventually be someone who will find it and be offended by it.

I’ve previously tried to characterise communications technologies into those that are public and those that are private. Twitter was classified as a publishing business where primarily it attempts to allow communications to be publicly disseminated.

I don’t know if Deveny’s Twitter followers at the time (her primary audience) were particularly offended, or whether it was in the wider group of social media users who discovered her tweets (the secondary audience) that the most offended people came from. Given that her humour is at the more offensive end of the spectrum, I’d expect her primary audience to be pretty thick-skinned. So, if it was the secondary audience’s reaction that resulted in her sacking, then this is likely to be a template for future problems for comedians.

Is is reasonable for a comedian to take into account the reactions of their secondary audience?

In an ideal world, perhaps not. But pragmatically, if it’s going to affect important things like their ability to pay a mortgage, then probably they will. However, the secondary audience in the world of social media and the Internet can be anyone who will ever live.

Is it even possible for them to foresee the reactions of this group?

Even in an ideal world, probably not.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see comedians move away from publishing platforms like Twitter and towards messaging platforms like Facebook (to use the classification scheme from my previous post). This would seem to be an approach for limiting the risk from the secondary audience.

I’m aware that there is plenty of publicly available, offensive material on Facebook, but here I’m talking about the ability to set up a private channel of communication to a select group of people, i.e. Facebook Groups. Of course, it’s up to Facebook as a business to determine if they want to host groups that non-group-members find offensive, but from the perspective of my argument here, this “messaging” functionality will exist somewhere (e.g. email lists) even if not within Facebook. I’m just using them as a contrasting example to Twitter.

Unfortunately, the clear downside of humour moving away from the public domain into private groups is that we can’t easily or accidentally discover a new comedian. In this brand new, Internet-connected world, we may find ourselves in the old, historical situation of comedians telling their jokes to audiences in (virtual) rooms. And people laughing, even if with trepidation.

Almond Praline Recipe

This is the last part of my “Icecream with Nuts and Ice Magic (but fancy)” recipe from Recipe Club. It’s not particularly novel, but it did complete the dish. Together with the crunch of the white chocolate in the icecream and the crunch of the chocolate shell from the ice magic, the praline added extra crunch that went really well with the smooth icecream, creating a bit of a play of textures and sounds.

I took this recipe from the MasterChef Australia cook book which I got for Christmas. Really, it’s been a book that is more about the reliving of great moments from the TV series, but there are some cracking recipes in there as well. The praline is part of the sticky date pudding recipe (which I can also vouch for).


1/4 cup (~35g) of slivered almonds
1/2 cup (125mL or ~110g) of caster sugar
2 tablespoons (40mL) of water


Start by roasting the almonds. The way I do this is to put them on a piece of foil under the grill, and mixing them around every 30 seconds or so. Within a few minutes they should be smelling good and lightly browned.

Put a piece of baking paper onto a baking tray or sheet, and scatter the almonds onto it, over an area of roughly 20cm x 20cm. Let them cool while continuing with the recipe.

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan, and cook over a medium heat. Instead of stirring (the candy will stick to a spoon), swirl the syrup regularly. The sugar will disolve, and begin to bubble a lot. Keep going until the syrup becomes a deep golden colour, like honey. This will take a few minutes.

Remove the saucepan and immediately pour over the almonds, and then tip the tray from side to side to cause the candy to cover all of the almonds.

Wait until it sets, and break into shards. They can be stored for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Serves 6-8.