13 July, 2018

Neapolitan Pizza Recipe

This is just the basic recipe for the dough and sauce for Neapolitan-style pizza. I'll briefly outline the traditional toppings and baking technique, but for various reasons, you probably want to make your own way there. Note that this is an overnight recipe: You make the dough one day and use it the next.


Dough

 Ingredients:
  • 1kg strong bread-making flour
  • 1 x 7g sachet of yeast
  • 30g salt
  • 700ml cold water
  • A small amount of olive oil
Note that you can halve all the ingredients and still get the same quality result (I usually do).
You need clean hands (They're your only utensils), a large bowl and a large, flat, clean surface to work the dough on. I use my kitchen bench top, but this might not be practical for everyone
Start by placing the water into the bowl and then one or two handfuls of flour as well (This is to give the yeast a bit of food to get started on). Steadying the bowl with your weaker hand, stir the flour through the water with your stronger hand until is evenly distributed. From now on, your strong hand will be in contact with the wet dough, so all the holding/manipulation of dry things needs to be done with your weak hand. Pitch the yeast into the water and stir with your strong hand until dissolved. Now add the salt and again stir until dissolved. Finally add the remaining flour and mix through with your strong hand. Start by reaching under the flour and lifting it up the side of the bowl and towards the center. Pretty soon, the dough coalesces into a sticky blob. Once you have a single, mostly consistent ball of dough, flour your work surface and turn-out the dough onto it. Commence kneading the dough vigorously for 10 minutes. The dough will get smoother and more elastic as kneading progresses.
A Hand, kneading dough
When you've finished kneading the dough, form it into a smooth ball, sprinkle some oil over it and spread over the surface with your hands. Coat the base of your mixing bowl with oil and place the dough ball back in. Cover the bowl with a lid, cling film or a damp tea towel and place in your fridge for 12 - 24 hours.
An hour before you're going to bake the pizza, turn-out the dough onto your work surface, knock-out the large air bubbles and separate into 8 equal-sized balls for traditional small pizzas. Note: You want to be reasonably gentle with the dough from here on out. Dust the dough balls with flour and place then onto a flat surface or into a flat-bottomed container (again, floured). Fit the container's lid or cover with a tea towel and let the dough rest, warm-up and rise for an hour.

Traditionally there is a fairly technical process for hand-stretching the dough now, which should result in a thinner base and a pronounced crust. However I won't go into this partially because it's hard to describe, but mainly because I still can't do it properly myself. Rolling the dough out gives pretty acceptable results anyway.
When you're ready to bake the pizza, take a ball of dough (Using a paint-scraper or dough blade to lift it can help) and place on your floured work-surface. Flour a rolling-pin and roll the ball out to the size of a small pizza pan. Remember we need to be reasonably gentle now so don't do too much rolling or re-forming the dough if you can avoid it. Now lay the dough over your rolling pin and lay it out into an oiled pizza pan. You're now ready to apply the sauce.
A circular, flattened pizza base, viewed from directly above

Sauce

Ingredients:
  • 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
  • 2g salt
  • 4 or so leaves of basil
This is simplicity itself. Place all the ingredients into a blender or stick-mixer cup and process for a few seconds into a moderately smooth liquid.
When your pizza-base is ready in the pan, put 3-4 tablespoons of sauce into the center of the pizza and spread-out with an outward-spiraling motion using the back of your spoon. You want a reasonably thin coating of sauce with the dough being visible through the translucent sauce in a few places.

Topping

You probably have your own ideas about what you want on top of your pizza, but I'll present the traditional recipe here for reference (In fact, it's still my favourite). The traditional pizza is a Margarita with just a few chunks of soft mozzarella cheese and a light grating of parmesan over the top. You then scatter 4 - 6 basil leaves over the pizza and finish with a light drizzle of olive oil. The sauce is still readily visible under the toppings. Think "thin"; you don't want to overdo it, otherwise it won't cook properly.




Baking

Ideally you'd have a wood pizza oven with a 480°C floor and another 50°C hotter in the dome. You could then slap the pizzas directly on the floor and they'd be done in 90 seconds.
My oven doesn't get anywhere near that hot, so I set the oven as hot as it will go and use a pizza stone over the gas burner to get the bases done in about 3-5 minutes and then another 5 or so minutes in the top of the oven to get the top a bit brown. You just need to check how they're doing every couple of minutes.
I've heard of (but not tried yet) a "cheat" method using a heavy frying pan preheated over a gas burner. You lay the dough in the pan, top it and then stick it under the griller. Finally return to the gas burner if the base needs more colour.


Wrap-up

Regardless of what you top it with and how you cook it, this recipe gives a really crisp and chewy texture that I remember from visiting Positano a couple of years ago. You'll definitely not be disappointed.