There's such gratification to sit down to a meal you make from just ingredient and not from a box. The taste, quality and nutrition best any restaurant (unless they're cooking from scratch too) so you save a bunch of money and you may even lose a few pounds. That said...my sister wanted me to make my home made pizza for her and to watch a movie.  She loves it because it rivals the best you'd get in New Haven! Being a lover of Sally's and Pepe's pizza since my teens I HAD to learn to make pizza napoletana. This was to be one of the last oven cooked pizza's we will do until Fall. If we do pizza in summer we cook in on the grill which is a different approach.


No...I don't own a pizza oven. The pizza pictured was made on a pizza steel followed by a brief stint under the broiler to create the caramelization that occurs in the 600+ degree coal and wood fired ovens used commercially. 

So let's being with making the dough. It's simple but you must think ahead for the best tasting crust. I proof my dough in a refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours to as many as 3-4 days ahead. If you wait 3 days the flavor is off the hook! Here's the recipe. Hey...if you've never baked in your life or never once made dough...don't be intimidated. I can't believe how easy it is and not sure why I didn't convert to a "scratch cooking" house way sooner. For this pizza dough you need just the 4 basic ingredients for any rustic good bread: Water, Flour, Yeast and Salt. 

Before I lay it out...it's great to buy a cheap $30-40 food scale with baker's percentage feature. It will allow you to scale up or down any recipe you're making quite easily. It's one way to garner predictable results each time you step to the bake as well as a time saver. 

Napoletana Pizza Dough
(The following portions will make 4 pies)
.5 liter water (500grams...isn't metric wonderful?)
1.9g Instant Dry Yeast (Pay Attention here...this is the Rapid Rise variety)
27.5g salt
850g flour
10g olio

Bakers Percentages for Scale Users

60% hydration 
3.2% Salt
1% Oil 
.5 % IDY 

Process

Weigh our your 500g of flour and add the yeast. Distribute yeast by mixing dry with whisk. 

In a large bowl add .5 liters luke warm water then add the salt and dissolve by agitating with your fingers. Once dissolved at the 10g of olio and agitate that into the water. 

Now add half of the flour mixture and mix with your fingers until fairly smooth. Once there add the balance and mix into the bowl until it's pretty much a ball of sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface with will floured hands. Knead this dough for 10-15 minutes until its a soft, pliable dough. Wet a cotton tea towel and cover it and let it rise for at hour or so. 

Remove the towel and slide your dough scraper under the edges to free the dough from the work surface  and cut the dough ball in half. (By the way if you want a video on how to do these steps go to https://www.youtube.com/user/maestrovitoiacopelli; While I have been an accomplished home chef for years I just started baking and doing all from scratch for about a year and I learned how to bake by watching masters on youtube. The recipe above is a derivation of Vito's recipe which I've made. Fresh yeast is not so easy to come by and has a short shelf life so I created the equivalent for Instant Dry Yeast you can by by the jar and save a bundle.)

Using this recipe you can simply divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. (a 14" pizza the dough ball should be about 300g) If you scale it up or do Vito's full recipe then you'd approach it by eyeballing a just under the size of a baseball. Use the scale and you'll develop judgement. 

Put the balls in a proofing box if you own one or on a floured full size cookie spaced apart so they can rise as separate units.  Once on the cookie sheet flour the balls with a little flour and cover airtight with plastic wrap (not doing so will result in a ball with a dry outer crust...not good!) 

Put the tray in the refrigerator. Go have fun doing something else until tomorrow or a couple days later when it's time to stretch them and bake them up. 

Once proofed remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temp. Once at room temp sprinkle flour on and around the ball your going to take. Get the dough scraper (you can use a paint scaper if you don't have a dough scraper) under the ball pushing the flour with it. Get it up and out on to your work surface. 

Stretch the pie NOT by trying to toss over your head in the air. Not that kind of dough. Instead simply press from the middle out gently on a well floured surface in a circular motion (Vito's video is tops showing you how!).

Once you formed your 12 to 14 inch pie move it to your  pizza peel that you sprinkle some semolina or flour so it will slide off when ready.  

Ladle on some milled or crushed San Marzano (Quality important!!) tomatoes, sprinkle some olio, and your other toppings. The photo shows a pie made with Parmigiano-Reggiano, Luizzi's of New Haven Mozzarella, and Vermont Smoked and Cured pepperoni I hand-cut thick. 


How to Cook to Your Pie at Home Without a Pizza Oven

Move your oven rack to the top near your broiler and giving enough room for the pie to slide in and under it. 

Put your pizza steel (best) or stone (2nd best) and turn oven to highest setting. 500° or higher if it lets you. Allow the pizza steel to heat in the oven for at least 20 minutes. I sometimes turn on the broiler to kick that plate temp up as high as I can get it before sliding the pie from my pizza peel. 

When the time is right, make sure your pizza hasn't begun to stick to the peel, open the oven door and put the pizza peel all the way in over the steel and gently shake it to move towards the end and onto the steel. When a little bit of the dough hits the steel pull the peel back quickly...like pulling a table cloth out from under place settings. 

Bake for about 5 minutes on the steel. The springy outer crust will have puffed and risen and it will start to brown up. Next turn on the broiler and keep it there until it looks like it came out of Sally's coal fired oven in New Haven. 

Once you master this...you'll never have to go out to New Haven or a Pepe's location to get a napoletano pizza...because you will have become a maestro!

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My next blog will be on how to make THE BEST hamburger and hot dog rolls. In fact, this dough is so versatile it will be your go to recipe for lots more. Until then...