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#1 Sat 10 Jul 10 1:12am

john_lee

Member
Occupation Teacher and Writer
From Wales and Italy
Member since Mon 10 Oct 05

I've (almost) cracked Naples-style pizza...

Last week, I kind of embarassed myself in my local kitchen and bathroom showroom. I asked for two unglazed terracotta tiles to put in my oven so I could improve my pizza and bread baking. I got the tiles for free at least. "Call them a sample," the guy said...

I lived in Italy for three years, and probably ate pizza at least twice a week. For those who haven't been to Italy, or more specifically Naples, it's difficult to describe the fresh, morish, chewy, smoky, beautiful simplicity of a wood-baked margherita. Since returning to Wales [edit - more specifically Pembrokeshire], and unable to find anything other than doughy, over-loaded, plastic cheese-covered shadows of the real thing, I've been trying to replicate the Italian experience at home.

I had pretty average results until (A.) I tried starting the dough the day before, and (B.) I used the terracotta tiles to replicate the effect of a real pizza oven (thanks Jamie). The only thing I'm missing now is the burning wood to give my pizzas that lovely smokey flavour!

Here's my method...

*Please note that because I can't find pizza flour in my home town, my favourite substitute is a mixture of 40% bread flour, 40% plain flour and 20% semolina. This gives a nice, pliable dough.

JOHN'S NAPLES-STYLE PIZZA

(makes four 12 inch pizzas)

Equipment: Pizza stone, or 12 inch, unglazed terracotta tile, plus either a pizza peel, a large bread board, or the back of a large tea tray.

The day before:

Mix 150g of bread flour with 150 ml of warm water and half a 7g sachet of dried yeast until combined. This is known as a sponge, or a 'biga' in Italian, and will constitute about a third of the finished dough. Making it in advance allows the flavour to develop. Place it in a bowl big enough to allow a 300% expansion, cover with cling film or a damp tea towel, and set aside for 24 hours at room temperature.

A few hours before:

Mix the sponge/biga with another 50g of bread flour, 200g of plain flour, 100g of semolina, 5g of sea salt, a glug of olive oil, and enough warm water (approx. 200ml) to make a slightly sticky dough. Knead the dough for about ten minutes, pushing and pulling it quite vigorously, until it becomes smooth and silky. Don't worry if you have sticky hands - just rub them with flour, and use the dough ball to mop up the bits, kneading again until smooth. Shape it into a ball, place in a bowl, cover and set aside for at least two hours.

After two hours, the dough should have doubled in size. Punch the air out of it, and divide and shape it into four balls of about 200g each. Cover them (leaving room for expansion) and set aside for another hour.

At this point you should preheat your oven - with the pizza stones/terracotta tiles on the shelves - to the highest setting (around 250C).

Meanwhile, you can make the tomato sauce. I use half a quantity of Jamie's brilliant recipe from 'Jamie at Home' - http://www.channel4.com/food/recipes/ch … 4_p_1.html - or you could use passata with a little sea salt stirred in - a standard bottle should do for four pizzas [edit - more like half a bottle!].

Dust your counter and peel/board/tray liberally with semolina or flour. Take a dough ball and flatten it with your fingertips. Turn it over and repeat. At this point, you can either pull or roll out the dough to about 12 inches in diameter. I recommend you watch a video for the technique. You are aiming for a thin base with a slightly thicker rim.

Pull the finished base onto your peel/board/tray and give it a shake to make sure it's moving freely. This is vital! Spread enough sauce over the base to give a thin covering while leaving a rim. Rip over a ball of mozzarella - Buffallo is best, but it's quite wet, so you should squeeze out some of the liquid before adding it to the pizza. Sprinkle with dried oregano, drizzle with olive oil, then open the oven door and carefully slide your pizza onto the hot tile.

Bake for around 7 minutes, but keep an eye on it in case it burns. You want some colour on the dough, and well-melted cheese. When done, ease the pizza off the tile and onto a plate and rip over fresh basil.

This is the closest I have got to Neapolitan pizza Margeherita. Buona!

Last edited by john_lee (Sat 10 Jul 10 5:30pm)

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#2 Sat 10 Jul 10 2:58am

JoyYamDaisy

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From Melbourne Australia
Member since Sun 12 Apr 09

Re: I've (almost) cracked Naples-style pizza...

Mmmm yummmm! yummy  yummy  yummy

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#3 Sat 10 Jul 10 4:36am

SonomaEddie

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Occupation Chief cook and bottle washer
From Northern California
Member since Sat 10 Feb 07

Re: I've (almost) cracked Naples-style pizza...

John, what I do during the summer is put my pizza stone on the Weber grill and put the lid on and wait until it gets good and hot and do it that way. If you use natural hard wood charcoal, you get some of that smokey taste that comes from a wood fired oven.  I'm going to try your method of dough this next Fri when I'll be doing pizzas for guests.

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#4 Sat 10 Jul 10 4:37am

nanstertoo

Forum champ
Occupation Retired nurse-midwife
From High Point, North Carolina
Member since Tue 17 Jun 08

Re: I've (almost) cracked Naples-style pizza...

Wow, that sounds great!  One thing I have learned about trying to simulate bread/pizza baked in a very hot oven is that if you toss in a couple of ice cubes on the bottom of the oven when you put your bread in it gives the dough a "lift" that you can't get otherwise.  The tiles were a good idea.

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#5 Sat 10 Jul 10 9:04am

mummza

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Occupation avoiding housework
From The land of song.
Member since Tue 04 Oct 05

Re: I've (almost) cracked Naples-style pizza...

Sorry John , I am going to disagree with you on a few points ....

John... ( sorry for not using the quote ) you said...
"Since returning to Wales, and unable to find anything other than doughy, over-loaded, plastic cheese-covered shadows of the real thing, I've been trying to replicate the Italian experience at home".....

How can you say you have not had great pizza here in Wales, and whats more describe , what amounts to a supermarket pizza.
The pizzas that I eat here in Wales are nothing like you have described and as we have a great Italian community here so I am sure you can find a decent pizza if you look.

I also have to disagree with you about the flour , I am told that one of the better flours to use for pizza is from Manitoba in Canada . ( a chef who makes great pizza told me that ).
Also I was told that that the dough should rest for a minimum of 4 hours , try that , the dough should start to become soft and elastic , then it is time to shape it into a ball and rest it again.

Passata ...as what you are using it for is to top 4 pizza's , out of a bottle you should have a large amount left to put in the fridge and use it for other cooking.

With mozzerella , I was told that the better mozzerella for making pizza is the hard type that you cut with a knife.
Using a good ball mozzerella will  make the pizza too wet.

Also , a good idea is to drizzle just a little olive oil over the pizza base before putting on the tomato sauce (and  don't be tempted to over sauce the pizza).

Your oven should be set at its hottest temperature and preheated for a good while before putting in the pizza .
In an outdoor pizza oven I was told that the pizza should cook in 3 minutes .

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#6 Sat 10 Jul 10 10:26am

Ashen

Forum champ
Occupation Why is the Rum always gone???!
From out to lunch
Member since Sat 07 Jan 06

Re: I've (almost) cracked Naples-style pizza...

the word Manitoba when it comes to flour is more a measure of gluten than the actual origin Mummza. In other words Strong flour.  They do grow some of the best wheat in the world on the Canadian praries , so I am sure that if you could score some strong high gluten flour from Manitoba it would be awesome for pizza.  cool


Completely agree with passata but I like to drizzle X virg olive oil over the pizza after it comes out and cools for a few mins.  The raw oil just adds a deeper layer of flavour.

Very hard to cook a pizza in 3 mins unless you have a woodfired oven or gas pizza oven. I have seen some unadvisable experiments utilizing the self cleaning function on a home oven that were able to accomplish it though.  whistle

John.. for the dough do a little research on dough conditioners.. Ascorbic acid ( vitamin C ) can really enhance gluten production and also is good for the yeast.  There are others I  havn't tried but lots of info on the internet


Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule or a cook.  { cowboy saying}
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#7 Sat 10 Jul 10 11:57am

john_lee

Member
Occupation Teacher and Writer
From Wales and Italy
Member since Mon 10 Oct 05

Re: I've (almost) cracked Naples-style pizza...

Hi Mummza, thanks for your post. I'll address a couple of your points. I should have qualified that I'm in west Wales at the moment, and it really is how I described it. Pizzas here come from kebab houses, pubs, and chip shops, and they are horrible. I don't doubt that you can get great pizzas in the bigger towns, and I'd love to get a recommendation!

My location also means it's hard for me to get pizza flour, or any other flour than Britsh strong or plain. To my taste, using 100% strong made the dough too elastic and hard, and liable to tear while pulling. By using the mix I described, I got a dough that was easy to pull with a chewy crust, and to my mind, more like the pizzas I ate in Naples. Perhaps, as you say, I need to rest my dough longer.

Re. the passatta, I might have over-stated the quantity, but I haven't tried it. I just know that some pizzerias in Italy use it seasoned with sea salt. I like Jamie's sauce, and about a can and a half of tomatoes sieved (and reduced a bit, as per Jamie's recipe) is right for four pizzas.

Re. the mozzarella, I disagree. Most pizzerias I went to in Italy used 'fior di latte' or 'buffalla' on their pizzas. Yes, they are a bit milky, but I don't mind the extra moisture on the pizza if I'm eating it as a sit down meal, and I don't find that it makes the dough too soggy. As I mentioned, I squeeze out the excess liquid anyway. If I was making pizza to cut into slices for eating by hand, I would use a drier cow mozzarella.

I can't get my pizzas to cook in a domestic oven in less than 7 minutes, no matter how screming hot it is. Outdoor ovens get up to 500C+, which is double what I can achieve at home. One day I will have my wood-fired oven in a garden!

Thanks for everyone for the other tips. Unfortunately, I don't have a BBQ at the moment, but it's on the list. I will try the ice cube method, but I am concerned that it would reduce the temperature of the oven, plus baker and food writer Andrew Whitley said that in domestic ovens, any steam introduced just goes straight out of the vents, or from around the door.

Ashen, it's funny you should mention vitamin C, as I was recently discussing how I use it in my wholemeal bread to help it rise, after reading an article about it in the Guardian. I didn't think to add it to my pizza dough, but I could try!

Last edited by john_lee (Sat 10 Jul 10 1:14pm)

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#8 Sat 10 Jul 10 1:29pm

mummza

Forum super champ
Occupation avoiding housework
From The land of song.
Member since Tue 04 Oct 05

Re: I've (almost) cracked Naples-style pizza...

You are right Ashen the flour from Manitoba has a high gluten content , but that is why its best to look for flour from that region in Canada .

John , one of the reasons that your dough is breaking might be that you are not leaving it long enough rest.
I was told by the Italian chef that showed me about the pizzas that you want the dough to be soft and  very stretchy and to this there was a demonstration of him getting a handful and allowing gravity simply to stretch the dough.

I saw Antonio Carluccio on Saturday Kitchen today and he also was saying that the pizza in Napoli was made with the firmer mozzarella rather than the buffalo mozzarella  and until I was shown by the Italian chef, I also, used to use the buffalo mozzarella when making pizza .
But, like all things it is I suppose a matter of preference.

One thing that I forgot to mention from my earlier post was that you also sprinkle fresh grated Parmasan over the pizza at the time you put the mozerella onto the base.

John , if I were you I would seek out where the nearest Italian community is near where you love in Wild West Wales , and get them to point you in the direction of where the best pizza is made ,( but ,these secrets are often hard to obtain !).
Also do as was suggested to me , keep a portion of the dough as a starter ('biga' ) in the fridge and so that it is ready to start the next time.
These starters are prized possessions !

Last edited by mummza (Sat 10 Jul 10 1:31pm)

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#9 Sat 10 Jul 10 2:00pm

Anna

Forum champ
From Switzerland
Member since Fri 15 Apr 05

Re: I've (almost) cracked Naples-style pizza...

Mummza, regarding Canadian flour: I think it's a variety of wheat rather than being a description of the provenance.  You can buy English-grown Canadian wheat.  I think Shipton Mills do it.  It's like Egyptian cotton, most of which is now grown in Indonesia. 

And anyway, if we're talking about "authentic" old-fashioned pizzas (which were invented in their modern recognizable form in the 18th century) I'm pretty sure the poor working-class folk of Naples weren't importing Canadian wheat...

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#10 Sat 10 Jul 10 2:13pm

mummza

Forum super champ
Occupation avoiding housework
From The land of song.
Member since Tue 04 Oct 05

Re: I've (almost) cracked Naples-style pizza...

You are right Anna , years ago the flour would not have been imported to Italy.
I had not meant to start 'thing' about the flour,I have only been trying to pass on the info that I was given a month or so ago from the chef that showed me and he definatly said the better flour to use came from Manitoba.

Last edited by mummza (Sat 10 Jul 10 3:25pm)

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