I’ve been always fascinated by leavened products, I mean the good ones where it’s used just the enough amount of yeast/sourdough and then you have to take care of the dough for long hours, waiting/hoping that it will develop well 🙂 it’s always a magic moment to see it growing with so little yeast.
Pizza is definitely one of the most famous members of this family. There are various kind of pizza, with different techniques, and the most famous and original one (at least the one that gave this name to all the modern pizzas, although the word pizza first appeared in the year 997 in a Latin text from the southern Italy town of Gaeta) is the Naples style pizza, I love it, but to make that in a normal home oven it’s not easy (although not completely impossible, I saw some good results from some very skilled people) because you need to bake it at over 400 °C and for a time that usually ranges between 60 and 90 seconds.
I hear many people talking about making pizza as “well, it’s not difficult”, but it’s not really the case for a really good quality product, and a good product must be easy to digest, light, not chewy at all and it doesn’t cause you to drink countless liters of water later 😀 so also all the people saying “ah, pizza it’s a very heavy meal” in my opinion they are absolutely wrong, or better said they are wrong if they refer to a good quality pizza well executed. They are right if they refer to all those terrible pizzas we all can see around, but there is never a good reason to eat those pizzas.
Sincerely I think that most of the places are making bad pizzas for my standard, often indigestible, real bricks on the stomach. If it happens to go blind in a new pizza place then I usually have a bad night drinking a lot and with a sense of heaviness, and I hate that. So I started to study this world, to practice, to look for the best flours (that’s very important), to study the techniques, and it’s really a huuuge world to study. But it’s a necessary step to be able to make an acceptable pizza worthy of that name.
And for a beginner aiming to good quality results the “easiest” pizza to make at home it’s probably that kind of thick but soft pizza, in Italy we call it “pizza in teglia” or “pizza al trancio”, and the best examples of it are from the area of Rome, where they mastered this style.
To make a dough light and digestible you need 2 things: very little yeast and patience 🙂 plus some hand-working skills and an appropriate flour as I already said, one of those stronger flours that can absorb big amounts of water and that can stand long leavening time, with a high gluten content that can develop a good structure. Also with a weak flour you can make a pizza, but a weak flour requires more yeast to obtain the same maturation (see below) that you can obtain with a strong flour with less yeast, and it will not develop the same good structure.
A high hydration (the percentage of water compared to the flour weight) is also making the dough lighter and a better final texture, but it’s not easy to manage without proper flours.
Another important thing to consider are the temperatures: while the dough is leavening it requires stable temperatures, and without proper chambers at home it’s not easy, winter and summer give different results, so the fridge it’s a help also for this.
Salt: the best suggestion is 18 g salt per each Kg of flour in winter, 20 g in spring/autumn, 22 g in summer. Why more in summer? Because the salt helps to slow down the yeast activity, and the yeast works faster with warmer temperatures. And this could make the dough grow too much before the fermentation happened properly.
Yeast: you can use fresh yeast or dry yeast. Remember that 25 g of fresh yeast are about the equivalent of 7 g of dry yeast (the exact rate is 23:7). And a good suggestion is to use about 5-7 grams of dry yeast (or 16-23 grams of fresh yeast) for 1 kg of flour. From this you can then make the proportions you need. If you use fresh yeast remember to take it out from the fridge at least 30 minutes before using it.
Fridge: why to put it in the fridge? Because as I said in this way we have a stable temperature and you can plan the day before when your pizza will be ready. With strong flours at room temperature the leavening will be faster than the maturation (the necessary process to obtain a good pizza during the which the enzymes called amylase break down the complex starch of the flour into simple sugars, the glucose, making the yeast work better. Also proteins and lipids of the flour modify during the maturation: all these processes together are making the final product more digestible). Moreover the room temperature could be 17-18 °C in winter or also 30 °C, with big differences.
Flour: now you know, you need strong flours. I don’t know in every country, but for example in Italy the strength of a flour is indicated by a “W” plus a number. Over W300 they are strong, choose at least a W270. If it’s not written on the package then the protein content could help you: usually strong flours have a protein content of at least 12-13 grams on 100 grams flour (so at least 12-13%), and that’s always written on the packages.
All these numbers and tips are suggested by Gabriele Bonci, the most esteemed maker of “pizza al taglio” in Rome and famous through all Italy.
I know that someone might think that this is a lot of work and it’s a very long process, but that’s the way to obtain a light pizza and easy to digest. Obviously I’m not doing it everyday, but 2-3 times a month in my opinion it is totally worth it. Just to say, also the best Naples style pizza that you can find in the best “Pizzerie” are usually leavening from 10 to 20 hours long and they use very little yeast, even less. The best professionals of the “Pizza al taglio” let the dough leaven from 24 up to 72 hours long (as they do in my favorite pizza place in Budapest). Instead the heavy bricks on the stomach that I mentioned before no, they are usually ready fast, they use a lot of yeast, the cheapest flours available on the market, maybe some “leavening helpers”, and in few time the brick is ready to be flattened with a rolling pin and topped with some plastic-texture cheese, and the pizza it’s usually chewy at first and then it gets the texture of cardboard when it’s cooling down. But I’m not looking for that 🙂 otherwise it would be easier, faster and in some cases even cheaper going to a random pizzeria in the surroundings 😀
INGREDIENTS (for a standard baking tray 42×32 cm):
- 400 g flour (read above)
- 320 g water (this is 80% hydration, for some flours could be too high so you should maybe reduce to 70% in some cases, but with proper flours the most skilled professionals can also handle a 90% hydration)
- 5-6 g fresh yeast (or about 2 g of dry yeast)
- 9 g salt (in summer, 7 g in winter)
- 10 g extra virgin olive oil
- 500-600 g Tomato sauce (I used “pomodori pelati”, squeezed and spread with my hands)
- 350-400 g Buffalo Mozzarella DOP (but also a good quality cow milk mozzarella is fine)
- cherry tomatoes
- fresh basil leaves
- a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- Let’s make the dough: in a bowl sift the flour and add the activated fresh yeast that you have previously put in a glass with a little bit of warm water (water that you have taken from the 320 ml). I suggest to use water from a bottle, unless you are 100% sure that your tap water it’s not hard (a hard water it’s not helping the leavening).
- Start mixing the flour, and then add the remaining water. If you use a machine stay at the minimum speed. When the dough starts to get a shape add the salt in the center, mix and then add the extra virgin olive oil (it’s not mandatory, but it’s helping to get a better dough if you are not a very expert good pizza maker). Keep working the dough until you see the structure of the gluten is well developed and elastic. 10 minutes at the minimum speed, about, but you have to watch. It must be very soft, if now it’s not too easy to handle don’t worry.
- Now put it in a bowl, with flour on the bottom (I use “semola rimacinata di grano duro“, durum wheat semolina, because it’s not getting absorbed by the dough), and let it covered with a towel for about 30 minutes.
- After that time we have to do the “pieghe“, to help the dough to incorporate air and to develop better, and to get dry better. To write it it’s not easy, the best thing is to watch THIS VIDEO for example. We have to do this until the dough is no more sticky, usually 3-4 times, with 20 minutes rest between each time, and every time you have to put the dough in the bowl, covered.
- After this operation put the dough in a bowl that you have greased with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil (or flour if you prefer), cover it with a plastic wrap and place it in the bottom of the fridge for about 18-20 hours. The dough has to increase between 2 and 3 times its volume.
- The day after take out the dough from the fridge and wait before touching it, we have to bring it to the room temperature to be able to work it properly: wait about 2 hours in summer and 3 hours in winter.
- Put abundant flour (again I used “semola rimacinata di grano duro“, durum wheat semolina) on your working table. The best is if now you work it just a little bit, bend the dough in three with each bend on the other (like the pieghe before), a couple of times, cover and wait another hour. Then finally flatten the dough with your hands, start from the external sides, push gently with your fingers paying attention not to break the air bubbles. Then push also in the center. Turn also the dough on the opposite side, and control to have always enough flour on the table. A correctly leavened dough shouldn’t be too elastic and it shouldn’t go back after you pull it. Like in THIS VIDEO.
- When you flattened the dough to the size of your baking tray put it gently on the back of your hands (not on your fingers or you risk to make holes) and place it in the tray. But before spread a little bit of extra virgin olive oil on the tray, just a drop enough to make oily the surface, help yourself with a brush.
- Now cover the whole tray with a plastic wrap and let the dough grow for other 3-4 hours, at room temperature (the cooler room of your house is fine).
- After this time your dough is finally ready, you should have bubbles on the surface.
- Switch on your oven at the maximum temperature, static mode, at least 30 minutes before baking the pizza.
- First I baked the pizza just with the tomato and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, spread the tomato with your hands gently, take care not too squeeze the dough and the air bubbles, then place the tray on the bottom of your oven (I mean really attached to the bottom) and bake for about 14-15 minutes. With a spatula control that the bottom is cooked. It shouldn’t attach on the tray, especially if the dough was not sticky at all.
- After that time I took out the pizza, I added the buffalo mozzarella (which I cut and let to dry out its liquids for at least 5-6 hours in the fridge, better all night long, otherwise it will lose too much liquid over the pizza) and some cherry tomatoes, and then I put back in the middle of the oven for other few minutes, just the time to melt a little bit the buffalo mozzarella. But you can skip this step if you prefer and eat it with fresh mozzarella, that’s also great and actually more refreshing.
- Add some fresh basil leaves and serve it.
- Enjoy with a good beer 🙂 I maybe could easily eat a whole tray alone 😀
The goal is to have a pizza with a nice and well spread “alveolatura“, nice air bubbles everywhere. That’s not easy, it’s really about perfection and being maniac on temperatures, times and any other detail, but I’m working on it 🙂 I’m trying to improve it further, that’s always the next step 🙂 but already this result in the photos is satisfying for me, it was really light and easy to digest, with a nice but very thin crunchy bottom, any taste/smell of yeast, I was not thirsty at all, and in the moment you bite it you could feel the pizza almost “disappear”. And it was absolutely not chewy at all.
PS: if you would like to use some herbs (thyme, oregano, etc.) put it over the dough before spreading the tomato, in this way they will not burn. And of course you can use the toppings you prefer 🙂
IMPORTANT: the times reported in this post are not a fixed rule, they can vary from flour to flour. There is not an absolutely fixed recipe but there is to know what you are doing and to observe, every flour is different and reacts with different times.
(PHOTOS TAKEN IN 2 DIFFERENT TIMES)
Products used in this recipe:
Flour: Farina Buratto Biologica Tipo 2, W290, from “Mulino Marino” (and in the last photos with larger air bubbles I used 75% of this flour plus 25% of a strong flour with strength W330 from “Molino Rossetto” and a 82-83% hydration )