Traditional Pizza – Advice on Making a Successful Pizza
Pizza certainly originated in Naples, making Neapolitan pizza worthy of the title TSG (Traditional Specialty Guaranteed) since 2010. The recipe is protected and promoted throughout the world by the True Neapolitan Pizza Association (Associazione Verace Pizza Napolitana), founded in 1984. The pizzerias that comply with the specifications laid down for this recipe receive a numbered logo from the association to display on their storefront. There are more than 400 affiliations in the world. Approval is given to the pizzerias by the pizzaioli of Naples. It is mandated that the pizza should be baked in wood-fired ovens. The method outlined here, slightly revised for domestic use, is for the preparation of authentic Neapolitan pizza. Olive oil needs to be added to the dough to compensate for the longer cooking needed in an electric oven; this helps to prevent it from becoming dry. It is also necessary to adapt the method of stretching to the so-called “DJ” method (turning and stretching the dough on the counter—see the step-by-step photographs p. 33) whereas the traditional method is called the “slap” technique (schiaffo), where the dough is alternatively slapped between the hands and the counter.
Original recipe for traditional Neapolitan pizza dough, cooked in a wood-fired oven – Pasta per pizza per cottura a legna
- 4 ¼ cups (1 liter) water
- 3 ¼ tablespoons (2 oz./50-SS g) sea salt
- 2/3 teaspoon (3 g) fresh yeast
- 17-18 cups (3 ¾-4 lb./1.7-1.8 kg) bread flour or 00 flour
Preparation time for dough: 10 minutes
Mixing time: 20 minutes
First rising time: 2 hours
Second rising time in pizza pans: 4-6 hours
Rising temperature: room temperature (77°F/25°C)
Keep at room temperature: maximum 6 hours
- Mix the ingredients together. Shape balls of 1/3-½ lb. (180-250 g) each by hand.
Advice on making a successful pizza
One of the most important factors when preparing pizza is the cooking temperature. The quicker the pizza is cooked, at the highest possible temperature, the softer and crisper it will be. Therefore the optimal cooking method is in a wood-fired oven. Wood-fired ovens heat to an average temperature of 905°F (485°C), cooking the pizza in 60 to 90 seconds. Most pizzerias that do not possess a wood-fired oven are equipped with electric ovens with a floor covered with refractory stones. These ovens can reach temperatures close to 750°F (400°C) and the pizza will cook in about 3 minutes, but they will lack the aroma and color (small, char-coal-colored spots) typical of pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven. Even in the hottest of domestic ovens, the temperature does not exceed 540°F (280°C). To cook the pizza as rapidly as possible, it is best to buy a refractory baking stone (from hardware stores or available on the Internet) to install on the floor of the oven, which will act as an accumulator of heat. You can bake the pizza directly on the stone, placing it there with a pizza peel (or with the removable flat base from a metal tart mold). The pizza will then cook in 5 to 6 minutes. It is also possible to cook the pizza on a metal baking sheet, or in a pizza pan, but the cooking time will lengthen to 12 to 15 minutes. The result will be most noticeable in the way the dough cooks: it will become drier and more brittle.
It is always better to use mozzarella that is at room temperature, both to appreciate its flavor, and to avoid a dramatic change in temperature that risks spoiling it. When making pizza at home, use a mozzarella that does not contain too much water, this will prevent the pizza becoming soggy during cooking. With a wood- fired oven, the water in the fresh mozzarella cheese evaporates very quickly, but less so at 540°F (280°C). Therefore use a processed mozzarella or well-drained braid (treccia, see p. 159) of fresh mozzarella. It is also better to cut the mozzarella into small pieces so that it melts in 5 minutes without burning (sliced mozzarella scorches as it melts which is very unpleasant). If you want to use fresh buffalo (bufala) mozzarella or fresh cow’s milk (fior di latte) mozzarella, it is advisable to drain it as thoroughly as possible using paper towel before laying it on the pizza. The same thing can be done with slices of fresh tomato, which also tend to give out water during the cooking process.
The True Neapolitan Pizza Association specifies the use of good-quality peeled tomatoes for the preparation of pizza. Sieved tomato (passata) is too liquid and chopped tomato is not suitable; it is only by crushing peeled tomatoes with a fork or blender that the consistency of a sauce perfectly suited to Neapolitan pizza can be achieved. There is no need to precook the tomato sauce; it cooks with the other ingredients directly on the pizza. To correct the acidity of a tomato sauce of poor quality, one spoonful of sugar or a pinch of baking soda can be added. Oregano should not be used—with certain exceptions, e.g. on a marinara pizza; according to Neapolitans, oregano absolutely does not go with cheese.
Yeast and rising times
For making pizza dough, fresh baker’s yeast should be used, as it gives the best results for raising the dough. The amount of yeast used is in inverse proportion to the time planned for the rise. The proportions of the recipe are planned for a rising time of 8 hours. If you want dough to rise for 16 hours, divide the amount of yeast approximately in half; if it is going to rise for 4 hours, increase it by a little more than double. The longer it is left to rise, the better the dough will be. Salt is also very important: for the taste, to prevent the fermentation of the dough, and to give it elasticity. The high-gluten bread flours that are available commercially work perfectly but, should you find flour described as “special pizza strength,” the result will be slightly superior. Olive oil is only added to the dough when it is to be cooked in an electric oven to make the final result crisp. This use is outlawed in the TSG charter for cooking in a wood-fired oven.