Pizza - Always a winner!

Pizza sales in times of financial unrest seem to rocket. The Financial Times during the first lockdown, revealed that pizza, in the United States, has been one of the pandemic's few business winners.



People are starting to get tired of cooking and there has been a steep rise in people ordering pizza. It is a cheap comfort food, people seem to gravitate towards when pockets are feeling empty. Here in the UK we are seeing a massive rise in sales of booze and bakery items. Flour is like gold dust. Shelves in all supermarkets seem to have been laid bare. Yeast is another commodity that we seem to be grabbing off the aisles like it is going out of fashion. 

My journey with pizza has been enlightening. There are hundreds of pizza recipes out there. It is literally a mine field. I have always made basic pizza dough recipes at home. These seem to take ages to prove, taste very yeasty and, are hard to roll into a base.

Then my husband's family bought a pub. I somehow managed to persuade him to install in a huge pizza oven. "Pizza pays the wages," I told him.

While his dad gutted and rebuilt this pub, I trained as a bakery apprentice. I realised that dough is far more complex. A true Neapolitan pizza needs a long time to prove. 

I trained to work on a wood fire an oven. I learned the basis of all types of British, Italian and French dough.  I tried hundreds of pizza recipes.

When our doors opened, the pizzas we were making at the outset, were nothing like the ones that we serve today. Being a country pub, we had a steady stream of very unique and quirky Italian pizza chefs who came down from London or across the sea from Naples, stayed for a while and then disappeared. Yet the legacy they left has been second to none.

The dough we use takes up to three days to prove and is the only dough made in-house for miles around. It uses a minuscule amount of yeast and seriously amazing pizza flour sourced from a local Italian Wholesale company. The key to an amazingly soft dough to work with, is in the long-haul prove like with any other dough challenge I will set you. This dough is 24-48 hour prove time at room temperature throughout. I double the amount as you can keep dough in the fridge and/or freeze them for another day.

Follow this recipe to a ‘T’ and make sure you read it properly and your pizza will be the dreamiest pizza dough you have ever made. You will never look back… I haven’t!

Neapolitan Pizza Dough DAY 1

Neapolitan pizza is one of the world’s truly great pizzas. It only uses Flour, Water, a miniscule amount of yeast and salt. It tastes far better than any other dough recipe I have ever made. It is all in the timings. 2 days, don’t rush the dough.

Prep Time 10 minutes

Cook Time 1 day 23 hours 50 minutes

Total Time 2 days

Servings 2 large pizzas feeds a family of 4

Calories 671kcal


Ingredients

I usually double this recipe to make pizza for a family.

369 grams Italian 0 or 00 flour (I like Molina Ferrari – It is way better than Molina Caputo – but you can use very good String White Bread Flour such as Shipton Mill, Doves Farm or Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Canadian String Bread Flour.)

236 grams water

6-8 grams salt

1g dry yeast  (If your dough is kept at a steady temperature of 21 degrees throughout the prove. The room you leave the dough it needs to remain a constant temperature of 21 degrees.)


Instructions

  1. Measure out your flour, water, salt and yeast. You need a scale to do this. Cups and tablespoons are way too imprecise.

  2. Using a sourdough starter

  3. Add the water and salt to the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. Add roughly 2/3 of the flour and mix manually.

  4. Add the starter to the wet mixture. 

  5. Using instant dry yeast

  6. Add the water to the bowl. Add 2/3 of the flour and the dry yeast and mix manually. 

  7. Add the salt.

  8. Make the dough

  9. Turn your stand mixer (need a dough hook) on to its lowest setting. Mix for about a minute and a half. Add the remaining flour.

  10. Continue mixing until the timer goes off (six minutes). Look at your dough. If it’s one cohesive ball, it’s good to go. If not, run your mixer for another minute or so.

  11. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl. Knead manually 25-30 times.

  12. Cover and let rest for 12 minutes. Use a timer.

  13. After 12 minutes, do 2-3 slap and folds. See my videos.

  14. Cover and let rest another 12 minutes or so. Set a timer so you don’t forget.

  15. After 12 minutes, repeat the slap and fold. Put the entire dough ball into a Tupperware. Store the dough in the room you used to measure the temperature and decide how much yeast you need. Let the dough sit for around 24 hours.


Flour, water, salt and yeast

There are only 4 ingredients in Neapolitan Pizza Dough. That’s all. No secret ingredients. No sugar. Or oil. None of that. Those are the rules. Not my rules. The rules set out by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. Seriously. Four ingredients. It’s mind blowing what you can do with those 4 ingredients.


The water and salt don’t matter too much. But the flour has to be 0 or 00. All purpose won’t work. At 800F all purpose flour burns. Badly. Don’t try it. Any decent Italian grocer will have pizza flour. I like Molina Ferrari 00. Just make sure it says 0 or 00.


Instant dry yeast works as well. But it takes so little instant dry yeast to do this that you need a scale that goes down to 1/100 of a gram.  You are going to be measuring a few granules of yeast. Literally. First time I did it I didn’t believe it was even possible. But it is.


Mix the dough

About 48 hours before you plan to eat pizza get ready to make Neapolitan pizza dough. Measure out your ingredients. Pull out your stand mixer. By stand mixer I mean a Kitchen-Aid or equivalent. I do not mean a food processor.


Put the water in the mixer bowl. Add the salt. Stir to dissolve the salt in the water. Add around 2/3 of the flour and mix it with the water. Add your starter.


It’s a little different if you are using instant yeast. Salt kills yeast. So add 2/3 of your flour and the dry yeast to the water. Mix it up. Sprinkle your salt on top.


From here on in it’s the same for sourdough starter and dry yeast. Set a timer for 6 minutes. Start your mixer on it’s lowest speed. Let it go about a minute.


Add the rest of the flour over the next minute or so. Let the mixer do it’s magic for the next 4 minutes. At the end of the six minutes it should look like a ball of dough. A bit ragged maybe, but a cohesive ball.


If it doesn’t, turn the mixer up one setting and let it go until it does. Shouldn’t take more than another minute. You don’t want to overwork the dough.


Knead the dough

Transfer the dough to the counter. Knead it 27 times. Not 26 and not 28 and certainly not 29. That will ruin it.


No. Not really. This isn’t chemistry class. Knead it 25-30 times. Rotate the dough every 5 kneads or so. Cover it with a bowl and set your timer for 12 minutes.


The slap and fold

After 12 minutes pick up the dough and give it 3 slap and folds.


Are you wondering what I’m talking about? Slap and fold? This one took me quite a while to figure out. A slap and fold is just what it sounds like. Take the dough by one side.


Now try to hit the back of the counter with the other side of the dough without letting it go. Beat the dough down on the counter but don’t let go. Womp. You are trying to get the dough to extend as long as it will go. That’s the slap.


Now take this now long piece of dough and fold it onto itself to halve the length. That’s the fold.


Do this two more times. You will feel the dough tighten. Your third slap will hardly extend the dough at all.


Cover the dough again and set your timer for 12 minutes. The dough is resting.

When the timer goes off repeat the slap and folds a second time. If the dough doesn’t look pretty smooth after the second slap and fold let it rest another 12 minutes. Then repeat the slap and folds a third time. Now you have Neapolitan pizza dough that’s ready to start to ferment. This is how you protect your gut and do not get bloated. Do not use any quick and easy pizza dough recipes. They taste yeasty and never roll out properly.

Neapolitan Pizza Dough DAY 2

After 24 hours your tub will be filled with a puffy, bubbly beast. Tip it out onto a floured surface and chop into balls. Do not tear the dough.


I chop into 200/250g balls as this makes a 13inch pizza.


Then ball the dough

Place it into round Tupperware containers. Let it sit for another prove. You can leave this for another 12-24 hours in balls but the temp must be constant. If you want to speed it up place the balls somewhere warm.


When you are ready to cook, spread a mix of flour and semolina on your surface. Open the dough. See my films for the technique. Dress the pizza to your taste. Cook the pizza at 7200-240 degrees in your Oven. You can use the floor of the oven. Cook for 3-5 minutes. In a wood fired pizza oven you would cook for 90 seconds at 350 – 400 degrees C


Notes

This recipe makes dough with a 64% hydration. You don’t need to know what that means but you do need to know it will be a bit sticky so put a fair amount of flour on your paddle to make sure it slides.


This is a Neapolitan pizza dough. It works at Neapolitan temperatures (750-850F). It is not the right dough for your kitchen oven…