Pizza Recipe: How to Make Pizza at Home
*Note to preparation and cooking times: add to preparation time 4/6 hours for yeasting; and remember that in the electric oven the cooking time varies according to the maximum temperature available.
Italian Pizza, and more specifically Neapolitan Pizza, is eaten and enjoyed all over the world and its consumption keeps on growing every year. The expression “Pizza Napoletana” is often used to mean a type of pizza with a thick edge.
Its invention dates back to the mid-eighteenth century when people started to season pizza and macaroni with tomato. The first pizzerias appeared in Naples in the nineteenth century and only after the second half of the twentieth century they spred throughout the world. And now, le'ts see how to make a pizza base and a good homemade pizza.
How to choose the ingredients for pizza
A good pizza recipe implies to use of fresh first quality ingredient and to respect some simple rules.
- Water - There are no particular restrictions and you can also use tap water to make pizza dough. The only restriction concerns the temperature of water that must be between of 20-22 degrees Celsius and its pH, that should be between a value of 6 or 7. Of course it must be still water: sparkling water is forbidden.
- Flour - The flour for pizza must be soft wheat 00 with medium strength. The choice of this ingredient is essential to have a good pizza, and the best Italian mills even prepare specific flour for the Neapolitan pizza. The strength of the flour is determined by a series of properties such as the degree of water absorption and the amount of protein contained (a strong flour has a higher amount of protein and absorbs more water). For pizza it is typically used a medium-strength flour with approximately 11-12% of protein.
- Yeast - Use fresh yeast if you can, yet dry yeast is allowed too.
- Salt - Fine cooking salt.
Making pizza dough
For kneading the dough you can use your hands or a kneader: the first allows for a better aeration, but also a greater warming of the dough, with the consequent risk of a breakup of gluten.
Pour all the water, the salt, a small amount of flour (about 10%) and finally the yeast in a bowl or in or in your kneader (if you have one). Start to mix the ingredient using a ladle (with the kneader use the lowest speed) until the yeast has dissolved, then gradually pour the flour and keep on keanding until the flour is completely absorbed. This process should take no more than 10 minutes.
For those who have a kneader, set it at the minimum speed for 20 minutes. If you don't have one, it is time to use your hands. With your left hand keep the bowl (you should always keep a clean hand, if you need to add the other ingredients) and with the right one start to knead. The movement must be circular. Take the dough from below, lift it, take it over and crush it vigorously with the palm down, continue with this movement until you can detach the dough from the walls of the bowl.
Prepare a floured surface and continue to knead with both hands for at least fifteen minutes. You should never tear the dough because it would ruin the gluten already formed.
Knead until the dough takes on a smooth, soft and elastic texture. It should be moist but should not stick to your hands. Make a test: dip your finger in the dough: if the holes slowly disapper the dough is ready.
Cover it with a damp cloth and put it where there are no air streams (the wind is the worst enemy ofdough as it can cause a crust on its surface) and possibly at a temperature between 24 and 27 Celsius degrees.
Given the small amount of yeast used, it will take about 2 hours before the dough is ready and and doubled in volume. During this time, the enzymes contained in the flour trigger the chemical processes that transform the starch (carbohydrates) into simple sugars, and gluten (protein) into simple amino acids, processes and transformations that give the final product a great digestibility, having accomplished a good part of the work that otherwise our stomach would carry out.
Once the pizza dough has doubled, we can move to the next stage which is the shaping of the dough. The specification of the Neapolitan pizza says that the weight of one of them can vary from 180 to 250 grams and the diameter of a pizza is on average 30-35 centimeters.
Form various dough balls rolling them between your hands, and put them on a tray.
Let the balls rest for further 4 hours(or 6 hours in winter). Now you can use them to make pizza, and remember to consume them during the following 6 hours. If you are at home, you can also freeze your pizza dough and use it within a couple of months.
Stretching pizza dough
Now it's time to roll out the pizza dough.
This step is very important because it gives a shape to the pizza, but most of all the air contained in the dough is pushed towards the edge, which become sthicker and avoids the formation of bubbles in the central part.
This procedure should always be made on a pastry board (covered with a thin layer of flour) using the fingers of both hands, with a movement from the center to the edge, trying to achieve a uniform layer of dough. Keep in mind that the center should be no more than half a centimeter thick, while the edge can be 1 or 2 cm high.
The original pizza recipe does not allow the use of tools such as rolling pins or machine to roll out the dough.
Finally, the oven. A good Neapolitan pizza must be cooked in a wood oven, for 60-90 seconds at a temperature of 485 degrees centigrade. Obviouslynot few people can afford a wood oven, but don't worry! You can make an excellent pizza in traditional gas or electric ovens, provided they can reach the temperatures indicated above.
The pizza is ready when the edge and the bottom get a typical patchy pigmentation. In fact, the real Italian pizza never has a uniform color as that would indicate a low temperature in the oven. It is important to rotate the pizza while cooking, in order to avoid burned areas.
It is extremely important to use fresh tomatoes. If you like pizza Margherita (800 calories for 250 gr of dough) the ideal ingredient is Mozzarella di Bufala DOP. The oil must resist oxidation and remain stable at high temperatures, it is therefore recommended to use extra virgin oil. Finaly add some leaves of fresh basil.