Baking Neapolitan Pizza
There are countless ways to making pizza dough and baking it in a wood-fired oven. Today we will be working with a 66% hydrated dough which is how it is made in Naples. These dough balls have rested for at least 24 to 40 hours in the refrigerator. Let's get started.
- Flour for dusting work surface
- San Marzano crushed Roma tomatoes
- Salt to taste
- Pinch of sugar
- Olive oil
- Fresh basil
- Toppings of your liking
- Fontana Forni wood-fired oven
- Infrared thermometer
- Perforated pizza peel
- Turning peel
- Take trays with pizza dough balls out of the refrigerator at least an hour before baking.
- Light the pizza oven at this point. If you have purchased the Saputo stones with your oven, preheat the oven to 850°- 900°F. The regular baking stones that normally come with the oven must be preheated no higher than 750°F.
- Check the temperature of the floor of the oven with the infrared thermometer.
- Keep the door closed when you are not cooking to retain the heat of the oven.
- Grab the spatula and carefully remove a dough ball from the dough tray.
- Place the dough ball on a well floured surface. Flip the dough around so both sides are dusted with flour.
- With one hand on top of the other, press down all around the edge of the dough ball leaving the cordone or rim untouched.
- You will then press the gas in the center of the dough ball by gently pushing it to the very edge of the cordone with the pads of your fingers, all the way to the perimeter of the dough.
- At this point, place the palm of your hands on the center of the stretched dough ball.
- As you gently press the center of the dough ball with the palm of your right hand, use your left hand by tucking your finger tips under the opposite side of the dough, right under the cornicione (crust) where the perimeter of the dough is. While there is gentle pressure from your right hand in the center of the dough, use the fingertips of your left hand to stretch the dough the opposite way. It will be clear when the stretching is enough because the dough will begin to resist and stop stretching.
- Give the dough a quarter turn as you lift it off the table with your right hand, with the down side of the dough looking up, and flop it back onto the work surface with the top side up. Do the same procedure over and over again until you reach the desired circumference.
- Becuase the Neapolitan pizza dough has 66% hydration and has been allowed to rest in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, it makes it very easy to stretch by hand.
- Another stretching method you can use is by simply grabbing the cordone with the fingers of both hands as you let the dough dangle off the work surface. Gravity will gently stretch the dough as you run your fingers all around the cordone.
- You can also slap the dough from hand to hand with quarter turns. This can be done once the center of the dough has been stretched out into the cordone. You can see this method on the video.
- True Neapolitan pizza is traditionally made with only tomato, Mozzarella di Bufala (you can also use fresh mozzarella balls), fresh basil leaves and a good drizzle of olive oil.
- The tomato sauce consists of canned crushed Roma tomatoes from San Marzano (uncooked), a little salt to taste, maybe a sprinkle of sugar to cut down the acidity if the tomatoes are acidic and NOTHING else.
- Once the dough is stretched make sure that there is enough flour under it to keep it from sticking to the work surface.
- Now you can place the sauce in the center of the stretched dough and with a circular motion spread the tomato sauce out until it reaches the cordone or crust.
- Spread pieces of mozzarella over the tomatoes. You don't have to fill every part of the tomato surface with mozzarella.
- Place some fresh basil leaves on top now, or wait until the pizza comes out of the oven.
- Drizzle with olive oil and you are ready to scoop it up with the perforated pizza peel.
- Measure the temperature of the oven surface once again before putting the pizza in.
- Place the peel right under the edge of your pizza, at a slight angle. With a quick motion, scoop the pizza onto the peel. The perforated surface of the peel will eliminate most of the flour below sitting on the work surface under the pizza.
- Place it on the stone inside the pizza oven and with a quick motion pull the peel back leaving the pizza on the oven surface.
- After the pizza is in the oven for 15-20 seconds, use your turning peel to begin rotating the pizza around by a quarter turn so that eventually all sides face the fire.
- Pizza Napoletana is known for a very specific cordone or crust. It is characterized by a thin center which is not crunchy and a very airy crust or cordone which is crunchy and also slightly charred.
- As you see in the video we have used the same dough balls to create pizzas with other toppings as well. Be creative and use ingredients of your liking.
Now enjoy making your pizza Napoletana. Buon Appetito!
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