In Pursuit of Neapolitan Style Margherita Pizza

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by eastshores, Apr 3, 2017.

  1. eastshores

    eastshores

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    Years ago I some how stumbled on what authentic Neopolitan style pizza was. The type cooked in clay ovens running close to 1000F and the kind most Italians would shun you for eating without a fork and knife. So off an on over the years I've tried various ways to come up with a method of coming close to this at home. I hadn't taken the plunge into buying a Big Green Egg ceramic cooker, but heard it could get up to 900F+ .. I've tried it on an offset smoker by loading the box with coal. I've made various attempts at home and just never got very close. Until tonight.

    Recently because I have taken back up an interest in baking bread, I bought a book called Flour Salt Water Yeast. I'll do a review on it when I've had more time to work through it. However, the author also wrote a followup specifically on pizza called "The Elements of Pizza". The tag line for the book is "Unlocking the Secrets to World-Class Pies at Home" and I have to say.. it is spot on.

    Using a simple recipe for dough.. just flour salt water and a tiny bit of yeast.. this dough can be made same day and comes out beautifully. It starts with a 2 hour fermentation at room temp. before dividing the dough into 3 balls and then leaving them for a second fermentation at room temp for 6 hours. After that you can hold it for four hours at room temp, or refrigerate for use the next day. I ended up making the one pizza and have the other two balls now in the refrigerator.

    I just wanted to share what I considered a success because it has taken so long to get to this point. The author uses clever techniques and knowledge of dough hydration etc. to accomplish what I can say is every bit as good as a clay fired pizza. For instance, the dough and sauce is pre-baked for 4 minutes, then removed and the fresh mozzarella added before baking another minute and then using the broiler you finish it to get that intense heat/char effect that cooking at over 900F typically yields.

    My first effort:


    And the crumb of the crust:

    I'm very excited! I need to get a wooden peel because the aluminum one I have has a nasty habit of attempting to completely sabotage my efforts at the last minute by sticking.. no matter how much flour or corn meal I use. Looking forward to so many topping possibilities now, and of course pizza nights with friends and family!
     
  2. chrislehrer

    chrislehrer

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    Looks lovely!

    For further research, you might take a look at Heston Blumenthal's analysis and culminating recipe in In Search of Perfection--don't remember if it's volume 1 or 2, as I have Complete Perfection, which combines them.

    There's also a video on YouTube.  But his text is better.
     
  3. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    Try using semolina.
     
  4. eastshores

    eastshores

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    You mean to have an easier release? If so, I have in the past and it does help. I tried to stick with this recipe as not to introduce some failure on my own part so I used flour. Fact of the matter in my opinion now is a floured wooden board is like a seasoned iron skillet. The wood is porous and can take in more flour which creates more of a non-stick surface. I'll keep the aluminum peel around because it's probably better for extracting once the bottom has firmed up just a bit.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2017
  5. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    I use a wooden peel to put into the oven and aluminum to remove. Your logic is what I learn from experience.
     
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  6. eastshores

    eastshores

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    Thanks for letting me know. I guess I'm on the right track.
     
  7. teamfat

    teamfat

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  8. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    I use a wooden peel for both insertion and removal and have not ever had a problem with sticking.
     
  9. eastshores

    eastshores

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    So it's taken me 8 months to get around to trying this again. I did order a wooden peel - a biggun off amazon and tonight I gave it another go. I am completely thrilled with how it released. I used both semolina and a little regular flour. I also wasn't as shy this time with dusting the dough as I was forming it. Since I already had the aluminum peel I used it to get the pizza out after it had firmed up and it worked great. Included a shot of the underside this time. I appreciate the input and feel like I've finally gotten to where I wanted to be.

    top.jpg

    crust.jpg
     
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  10. butzy

    butzy

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    You are where I want to be....

    I still can't get it right, but maybe one day
    (I do have the same book as you and I do like it)
     
  11. eastshores

    eastshores

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    It's a worthy pursuit in my opinion.. to be able to do this at home for about $2.00 on lazy Saturday where my local "wood fired" pizza place charges $10+ and their pies often seem under cooked to me.

    What kind of trouble have you run into? This time I went with the "single dough ball" recipe under the Saturday Doughs.
     
  12. butzy

    butzy

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    I have been trying sourdough pizza, as I wanted to find a way to use the excess sourdough (instead of throwing it away).

    I think that my little oven struggles to get up to temperature.
    I tried using quarry tiles but they took forever to heat up and have since gone back to the standard baking tray.
    I am also toying with using my charcoal kettle, in the hope that can get up to higher temperatures.

    I will just have to try again. I'll have a go at the dough you used as those pizza's look pretty tasty.
     
  13. eastshores

    eastshores

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    Heat is definitely the biggest factor. The intense heat causes that rapid expansion so you get nice pockets of air in the crust that I just don't think can happen under less heat. Does your oven have a broiler? I've tried so many methods of just cranking the heat in general but what you really need is the ability to deliver very high heat both from below (by pre-heating a baking stone/steel - you probably know but he calls for 45 minutes pre-heat and 10 minutes of broil before placing the pizza) and from the top by sort of artistically using the broiler. Good luck with it!
     
  14. Iceman

    Iceman

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    Here's just a thought for you guys ... particularly if you've got a heat situation ...

    Try using an upside-down cast iron skillet. When I pre-heat my oven it's got a beeper to tell me when it's ready. NO, it's not either new or fancy. I crank that baby to 550* and wait for the beep. When it beeps I quickly wipe the top with a little lard and drop the pizza on it. 5-8 minutes more and it's good-to-go ... finished pizza.
     
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  15. Iceman

    Iceman

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    These are shots of my latest pizza ... "Bloody Mary". Made with a vodka sauce and topped with standard garnishes. This pizza took 6-minutes @ 550* sitting on an upside-down half-sheet (about the size of the plastic cutting board).
    IMG_0299.jpg IMG_0300.jpg
     
  16. maryb

    maryb

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    Can't go wrong with one of these baking stones https://bakingstone.com/shop/home_oven/ mine lives in the oven and if I preheat an hour at 500 it will give the nice crust spring air pockets and that crispy slightly charred taste to the bottom...
     
  17. eastshores

    eastshores

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    I like that it is shaped to fit the oven.. that's nice. I have the same material in a round shape and yea the method calls for pre-heating the stone for 45 at 550 (my oven only hits 500) and then 10 minutes before placing the pizza you turn the broiler on - it really heats that stone up and you get that nice spring.
     
  18. teamfat

    teamfat

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    Since Karen decided to cut gluten out we rarely do pizza anymore. Our gas oven goes to 550 F, I put a pizza stone on a rack in the middle and my 12" cast iron skillet on a rack at the top so it is about 2 inches or so above the stone. Let them heat up for about half an hour, then slide the pie onto the stone. The cast iron, unlike just plain air, doesn't lose much heat when you open the door to put the pizza in.

    mjb.
     
  19. butzy

    butzy

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    I am thinking of experimenting with the stove top.
    My small oven is too small and too low in capacity to heat up the stones properly, and my big one is a gas stove, but some mice found it necessary to make a nest in it, so not to keen to use that one (and since it is gass, you only have bottom heat or intense heat from the top. Not both....

    Anyway, the idea is to heat up an upside down griddle pan and a skillet. Slide the dough on the griddle pan and cover with the skillet. Sofar it's just an idea....
     
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  20. eastshores

    eastshores

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    @teamfat have you considered trying a cauliflower crust? I saw a few examples out there where they par bake that in a cast iron, then top it and finish it. I'm sure it's not a replacement but as a gluten free alternative I think it would be tasty.. then again I like cauliflower.