Very few things speak of Italy to me than a perfectly baked Pizza.
The thought of a wonderfully crispy and thin crust, so masterfully stretched and folded to create the perfect base for our favorite mediterranean combination of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and a few other usual suspect, topped by a drizzle of top-notch quality extra-virgin olive oil, is enough to send me delirious and wish for a scalding slice of Margherita straight away. My most luxurious culinary vision is a happy face stuffed with Neapolitan-style pizza, melted mozzarella dribbling down my chin and all!
Neapolitan-style pizza could not be farther from those doughy, rubbery, gummy disks of dough fried in lesser fats and topped with a cornucopia of ingredients that we Italians have never even heard of…Can someone please enlighten me on what Pepperoni is??
No, pizza, Italian pizza, is light, delicate and accommodates only a few ingredients on top. It is gentle on your digestive system because of the slow-fermentation of the dough and it, by all intents and purposes, good for you.
So, get your flour and start kneading!
Ingredients for the dough
3 1/2 cups 00 type flour (or plain)
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon of dry yeast
1-1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt flakes
Extra-virgin olive oil, to grease the bowl and to drizzle on top.
Dissolve yeast and sugar in water. Stand for 5 minutes or until frothy.
Place flour in a large mixing bowl, add the yeasted water and mix for 1-2 minutes, then tip the dough onto a floured surface, add the salt and knead vigorously for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape it into a ball.
As all flours tend to differ slightly, you may have to add a little more water of a little more flour in order to have the perfect dough. You want a soft, pliable dough, but not too sticky.
Rest the dough in an oiled bowl, covered with a tea-towel for 30 minutes, then lift it out, place it back onto a floured surface, stretch it with your hands and fold it into three and then back into a ball. Put the dough back in the bowl to rest for another 30 minutes, then stretch and fold again.
As tedious as this process sounds, this is paramount for obtaining a light, crispy and easy to digest base.
After the second stretch-and-fold, place the dough in a large oiled container fitted with lid (like a Tupperware one). Place in the fridge (with the lid on) and slow-prove for a minimum of 6 hours, up to 36 hours.
When you are ready to make you pizza, take the dough out of the fridge and place it in an oiled bowl and cover it with a tea-towel. Rest at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.
Your dough is now ready to be stretched, topped and baked.
How easy is this?
Pre-heat your oven to 220 C, 425 F.
Roll it out to your desired thickness, keeping in mind that it will rise a little while baking.
If you plan to use a pizza stone, place it in the oven now to heat up. Dust it with coarse semolina to prevent the dough from sticking.
I normally roll the dough and place it onto a sheet of baking paper. It easier to carry to the oven and you can slip the paper off the stone 15 minutes into baking, to allow the base to crisp up nicely.
Top with tomatoes, salt, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and whatever you love more, keeping in mind that, less is more… I have a personal love-affair with anchovies, capers and olives.
If you plan to add cheese, do so only for the last 5 minutes of baking, or it will dry out.
You pizza should take 20 minutes to bake, but since all ovens vary, check it after 10 minutes and judge for yourself.
Take the pizza out of the oven, top with basil or rocket leaves, if liked, a drizzle of extra-virgin, and , Ecco, (there it is!) your authentic Pizza Napoletana is ready.