Here is a guest post written by Roni Hefetz who searched and found the perfect pizza pie recipe in Naples.
A comprehensive guide to making the perfect pizza
There is no better feeling than sharing a great pizza with family and friends.
Except for the feeling of actually preparing it!
So here is a fun recipe, simple as all Italian recipes are. This recipe was given to me by Regina, the owner of a pizza joint in downtown Naples, a restaurant that has been there well before Mount Vesuvius erupted.
So first the dough ingredients and preparation, then a few tricks of the trade I learnt in her kitchen.
- 700 grams flour 00
- 300 grams flour 0
- 30 grams fresh yeast (or 15 grams dry)
- 20 grams sugar
- 20 grams salt
- 80 grams olive oil
- 590 grams water
In a stand mixer equipped with a hook attachment, add all the dry ingredients and combine. Add the oil and mix until incorporated. While continually mixing on low, gradually add the water. Start on slow speed and once all water is absorbed, turn to high speed for at least seven minutes. Take out of the bowl and continue to knead with your hands to create a smooth ball. Let the dough rise and then punch it down to eliminate the air bubbles. Let the dough rise a second time.
Here are some valuable lessons I have learnt over the years:
Sift the flour: Always sift the flour first. Remember, flour is packed dense in a package that may have a long shelf life. You want to air the flour prior to working with it.
Flour type: There are various types of flour. Simple white flour or Stybel flour #1 should do the job, but for those with discerning tastes you may want to try the original. Italian flour can be purchased in a variety of food stores and in Israel. One can find great deals in places like “Spices” in Tel Aviv. The importer, Ristretto, can provide you with a list of retail outlets.
Semolina/durum flour: Use this grainy flour to spread on the working surface. If you use regular white flour to prevent the dough from sticking, it will simply integrate within the dough and make it dryer. Semolina should also be used to spread on the pizza peel to allow for easy sliding onto the pizza stone.
Pizza stone: This is probably the most important item for producing a great crispy pizza. The pizza stone absorbs the heat and maintains it. When cold dough hits the hot stone it creates the crispiness that we all love. You may want to place a cooking sheet on the stone. The oven must be heated with the stone inside at the maximum temperature possible (normally it is 250°C compared to 350°C or 400°C in pizza ovens… but we have to stay within the limitations). Once you are done pizza making, let the stone cool down before taking it out.
Cold rising of dough: The Neapolitans prepare the dough a day in advance and let it rise slowly in the refrigerator. The following morning when the dough has risen, knead the dough to eliminate the air bubbles and return to the refrigerator. Approximately two hours prior to making the pizza take it out and knead it again. Cut it into smaller balls and leave them at room temperature.
Covering the dough: When in the refrigerator, the dough should be tightly covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying. When outside, you may cover the bowl with a warm wet towel.
Rolling the dough: I did not see a rolling pin at the Naples restaurant. Simply work with your hands to flatten the dough. The fact that it is not a perfect circle is not an issue
Mozzarella: Neapolitans always use fresh Mozzarella and actually tear up the fresh cheese ball to 5-6 pieces which they “stick” onto the dough. Also they tend not to cover the entire dough with toppings.
Pizza toppings: The variations are endless. Try Gorgonzola cheese (sharp – like a Danish Blue cheese), slices of ripe pear and once out of the oven a handful of fresh crispy arugula leaves.
Pizza tray: When the pizza comes out of the oven it needs a ventilated place to cool. The best solution for these 2-3 critical minutes is a round tray with holes allowing the steam to escape and keeping the pizza crisp. If the pizza is placed on a wood cutting board the crust will become wet and unappetizing.
And finally – here is a great appetizer while everyone is waiting for the first pizza to come out:
Pecorino cheese, honey, red pepper flakes and fresh sage. Cut the Pecorino to pieces about 3-4 cm long , half a cm thick and 2-3 cm wide. Spread a few pieces on a baking sheet. Pour some honey over the cheese, then dry red chili pepper flakes and finally a large fresh sage leaf on every piece of cheese. Put the tray in the oven for 2-3 minutes until the cheese begins to melt and the sage leaf dries up and becomes crisp. The very interesting taste combination of sharp cheese, sweet honey, hot pepper and crisp sage is a taste you will never forget. Serve right off the hot baking sheet.
Last – if you want to explore “the full monty” of pizza making why not consider building your own pizza oven???!!! Here is what I did….
Books on Pizza: