Classic Italian Pizza

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by Chef Gabe Bertaccini

azfamily.com

Posted on July 19, 2012 at 9:00 AM

TIPS FOR THE PERFECT PIZZA

Choose the right flour: My pizza doughs are made with all-purpose or “00” flours. All-purpose, the higher protein option, produces more loft during rising and baking, and a chewier crust. “00,” a low-protein flour, makes a more supple dough that's easier to stretch and works well for thinner crusts. The flours can be blended. Look for “00” flour at Italian specialty markets and online.

Add extra water for a superior crust: For a crust with a puffy cornicione, or edge, slightly increase the water in your dough by the teaspoonful to produce a sticky, rather than tacky, dough. Wetter dough is more difficult to handle, so develop a feel for dough-making before experimentin with moisture ratios.

Choose the right rise: With little yeast and a two- to three-day fermentation, our make-ahead, slow-rise dough develops deliciously deep flavor with surprisingly little fuss. Our same-day dough uses more yeast and a faster fermentation, letting you make a more impromptupie. The doughs are interchangeable for all of our pizza recipes.

Give the dough a good stretch: Pizza dough can be stretched by hand or with the help of a rolling pin. We’re partial to hand-shaping, which imparts classic blisters and bumps on the crust. On a lightly floured work surface, use your fingers to press and “dimple” the dough to a circular shape (for 5- to 7-inch pies, this step just about gets you there), then drape the circle over your closed fists (thumbs tucked in). Move your hands up and down, gently turning and tugging the dough in an outward manner, then hold the dough between your fingers and let gravity stretch it further. If you prefer to use a pin, roll dimpled dough outward from the center, close to but not over the edge, rotating the dough a quarter turn and repeating the rolling and rotating as you go.

Employ a peel and a stone: These two classic pizzaiolo tools help make our pies golden and delicious. A peel—essentially a large wooden or metal paddle—aids in slipping the pie onto, and off of, the hot stone. A rimless baking sheet can stand in for a peel. Various non-stone baking techniques exist, but they don’t produce the nice char you get with a stone. 
 
Same-Day Pizza Dough
Makes enough dough for 4 (7-inch) pizzas
 
You can make the dough with all-purpose or “00” flours or a mix of both. All-purpose, the higher protein option, produces more loft during rising and baking, and a chewier crust. “00,” a low-protein flour, makes a more supple dough that's easier to stretch and works well for thinner crusts. Look for “00” flour at Italian specialty markets and online.

Ingredients
• 1 3/4  teaspoons active dry yeast
• 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
• 3 1/2 cups “00” flour or unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
• 1 3/4  teaspoons fine sea salt
• Extra-virgin olive oil for bowl
 
Instructions
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, sprinkle yeast and sugar over 1 1/4 cups warm water (100º to 105º); let stand until yeast is creamy, 5 to 10 minutes. (If yeast does not become creamy, discard and start over with new yeast.)
 
In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Add to yeast mixture. Mix on low speed for 4 minutes or until dough forms a coarse ball. Let dough rest, with bowl covered with a damp kitchen towel, 5 minutes, then remove towel and knead on medium-low speed, 2 minutes more, or until dough clears sides of bowl. If dough is too soft and sticky to hold its shape, mix in more flour by the tablespoonful. If it is too stiff or dry, mix in more water by the tablespoonful. (If not using a mixer, dough can be combined in a large bowl and, on a lightly floured work surface, vigorously kneaded by hand, following kneading and resting times above.)
Lightly oil a large bowl. Form dough into a ball, transfer to bowl and turn to lightly coat with oil. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature  for 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk; time may vary depending on room temperature and yeast.
 
Divide dough into 4 pieces; shape pieces into balls and place on a lightly floured work surface, leaving a few inches between balls. Loosely cover with a damp dishtowel (not terry cloth) and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours; time may vary depending on room temperature and freshness of yeast. If skin forms on dough while rising, lightly spray surface with water.
 
Shape and bake the dough as directed in your pizza recipe.

Slow-Rise Pizza Dough
Makes 4 (10-inch) rounds

Ingredients
• 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
• 4 cups “00” flour or unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
• 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
• Extra-virgin olive oil for bowl
 
Instructions
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, sprinkle yeast over 1½ cups warm water (100º to 105º); let stand until yeast is creamy, 5 to 10 minutes. (If yeast does not become creamy, discard and start over with new yeast.)
In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Add to yeast mixture. Mix on low speed for 4 minutes or until dough forms a coarse ball. Let dough rest, with bowl covered with a damp kitchen towel, 5 minutes, then remove towel and knead on medium-low speed, 2 minutes more, or until dough clears sides of bowl. If dough is too soft and sticky to hold its shape, mix in more flour by the tablespoonful. If it is too stiff or dry, mix in more water by the tablespoonful. (If not using a mixer, dough can be combined in a large bowl and, on a lightly floured work surface, vigorously kneaded by hand, following kneading and resting times above).
Lightly oil a large bowl. Form dough into a ball, transfer to bowl and turn to lightly coat with oil. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes, then refrigerate overnight.
Punch down dough with your fist (dough will be stiff), then fold sides over one another, turn dough and return to bowl. Tightly cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Divide dough into 4 pieces; shape pieces into balls and place on a lightly floured work surface, leaving a few inches between balls. Loosely cover with a damp dishtowel (not terry cloth) and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours; time may vary depending on room temperature and freshness of yeast. If skin forms on dough while rising, lightly spray surface with water.


Pizza With Mozzarella di Bufala and Spicy Capocollo
Pizza con Bufala e Capocollo Piccante
Makes 4 (10-inch) pizzas

Ingredients
DOUGH
1 recipe Same Day Pizza Dough
 
TOPPING
Fine sea salt
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes
1 small leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3/4 pound Mozzarella di Bufala or fresh mozzarella cheese
1/3 pound thinly sliced spicy capocollo
 
Instructions
 
FOR DOUGH: Prepare pizza dough as recipe directs. Heat pizza stone in oven for at least 45 minutes before assembling pies: Place pizza stone on rack in lower third of oven. Heat oven to maximum temperature (500º to 550º).
While stone is heating prepare topping.


 
FOR TOPPING: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, place onion slices in a bowl and cover with cold water. Swish the water around; let onions soak 10 minutes, then drain. Repeat 2 or 3 times while you prepare the rest of the topping (soaking raw onion in cold water mellows the harsh bite).
 
Add tomatoes to the boiling water; boil for 20 seconds. Drain tomatoes, then peel, quarter, seed and coarsely chop.
 
Rinse and pat dry leek. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add leek and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and sugar; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce is blended and thickened, about 4 minutes more. Transfer sauce to a bowl.
 
ASSEMBLE PIZZA: On a lightly floured work surface, press 1 dough ball with your fingers to begin to shape into a round. Use your fist and hands to gently stretch dough to a 10-inch round. (A floured rolling pin can be used to help roll out dough.) Transfer dough to a lightly floured peel; gently shake peel to make sure dough does not stick.

 
Working quickly, spread 1/2 cup sauce over dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border. Tear 1/4 of the cheese into pieces and arrange on top of sauce. Drizzle lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Slide pizza onto stone. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling in spots and edge of crust is crisp and golden, about 7 minutes.
 
Using the peel and a large spatula or pair of tongs, transfer pizza to a cutting board; top with capocollo and red onion. Serve hot. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Pizza Margherita
4 servings
A great home-kitchen version of authentic Neapolitan pizza,  this recipe  includes a slow-rising dough that uses significantly less yeast than many other doughs. This allows both the texture and flavor of the dough to develop deeply. For best results, keep yeast refrigerated and check the expiration date on the package to make sure it is fresh. Though there is little hands-on work required, you will need to start the dough at least 2 days ahead of serving to allow for the slow rise. 

Ingredients
For the dough:
• See dough recipe above
For the topping:
• 1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, passed with juices through a food mill
• 12 ounces Mozzarella di Bufala (see note) or mozzarella fior di latte cheese, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
• 4 large or 8 small basil leaves
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Medium coarse sea salt
Special equipemnt: a pizza stone and peel
 
Instructions
Make the dough: Slow rise or same day rise
Heat Stone While Dough Rises: Position rack in lower third of oven. Place pizza stone on rack. At least 45 minutes before baking pizza, heat oven to maximum temperature (500˚ to 550˚).

Assemble Pizza: On a lightly floured work surface, press 1 dough ball with your fingers to begin to shape into a round. Use your fist and hands to gently stretch dough to a 10-inch round. (A floured rolling pin can be used to help roll out dough.) Transfer dough to a lightly floured peel; gently shake peel to make sure dough does not stick.

Working fairly quickly, spread a 1/3 cup sauce over dough, leaving about a 1/2 -inch border. Tear 3 ounces cheese into pieces and arrange on top of sauce. Tear 1 or 2 basil leaves into small pieces and arrange on top. Drizzle very lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Slide pizza onto stone. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling in spots and edge of dough is crisp and golden, about 7 minutes. Using the peel and a large spatula or pair of tongs, transfer pizza to a plate and serve. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Note: Soft “00” flour produces a pliable, easy-to-work-with pizza dough and a tender yet sturdy crust with a crisp yet not too dry edge. Mozzarella fior di latte has a firmer texture than Mozzarella di Bufala, which falls apart when cut, though both cheeses are creamy when melted. You can find “00” flour, San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, mozzarella fior di latte at Italian markets, specialty stores, and online. 


 

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