Sunday, 15 February 2015

Neapolitan-style Pizza Recipe

Pizza is the ultimate comfort food. It's got cheese, it's got unhealthy amounts of carbs, it's got juicy tomato sauce. You can eat it with your hands. Sometimes it has pineapple on it. What more could you want? 

There's Dominos, and then there's the proper stuff. The hand-stretched base, crispy yet chewy crust, the kind you're supposed to eat with cutlery. Don't get me wrong, there's certainly a time and place for takeaway pizza, but sometimes you want to do things properly.

Italian pizza base recipe

Having tried making my own pizza in the past, I'd always thought you needed a proper pizza stone or some kind of wood-fired oven to get the authentic crispy yet airy Italian pizza experience. My attempts always rose too much, producing more of a deep-pan "toppings on bread" type thing. So, after deciding to make my boyfriend's favourite food for a Valentine's Day feast, I went in search of the ultimate Neapolitan-style pizza base recipe, and unearthed this one from Serious Eats.

The 00 flour really makes a difference - it's a lot finer than bread flour or plain flour, and gives you larger, more varied bubbles in the base, which really sets it apart from normal bread. You can get it from larger supermarkets - my local Morrisons sells it in 500g bags.

Apologies for the picture quality - my attempt to snap a picture of the pizza in low light with a mobile phone! Do food bloggers just always cook during the day when there's plenty of natural light?

Neapolitan-Style Pizza

Italian pizza base recipe

Makes 2 8-10in pizzas 
NB. it's best to make the base the night before (or in the morning), as it needs to be refrigerated for a while.
Adapted from a recipe by Serious Eats

Ingredients

For the base:
280g 00 flour
1 sachet dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp ground sea salt
1 tsp sugar
180ml water

For the sauce:
150ml passata
Handful fresh basil
Salt + pepper to season

For toppings:
Grated mozzarella (or fresh if you prefer)
Basil leaves

Method

  1. Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer with dough hooks (or a stand mixer if you're fancy), mix everything together. Slowly add the water until it all comes together in a ball, and there's no dry flour left in the bowl. Leave for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix for 10 further minutes using the mixer. If your mixer isn't very powerful, it's probably best to knead it by hand on a floured tabletop - I'm pretty sure something in my hand mixer melted while I was doing this. Melted plastic is not a smell you want in your kitchen.
  3. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge for several hours - ideally more than 8 hours. It will rise a bit. 
  4. Halve the dough and shape each half into a ball. Lightly oil two medium size mixing bowls and place the dough balls in each bowl. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 hours to rise, until each ball is twice the size.
  5. Prepare the sauce: chop the basil and mix with the passata, and season to taste. That's it. If you're feeling adventurous put a splash of balsamic vinegar in there.
  6. Flour a worktop. Take a ball of dough and flatten it. Making fists, pass the dough between your hands. It should get bigger as you do. Then, place the dough on the worktop and stretch it out. You want it to be really thin in the middle with about 2cm of thicker crust round the edge. It should be stretchy and elastic so you might need to pick it up and coax it a bit. Place your hand in the middle of the dough and stretch with the other to stop it tearing.
  7. Heat your grill to high. Get a large frying pan big enough to hold the pizza - a large hob-safe baking tray will do as well. Coat with a small amount of 00 flour and tap to remove the excess.
  8. Heat the pan on high until smoking. Place the dough in the pan and immediately top with a couple of tablespoons of the tomato sauce, spreading fairly evenly leaving about 2cm for the crust. Sprinkle over the mozzarella and add your toppings.
  9. Turn off the heat and place the pan under the grill, as close as you can to the element (but not touching it!). Keep an eye on it, and take it out when the pizza crust has risen and gets charred spots.
  10. Place back on the hob over a high heat and cook until the base also has the charred look - this happens quite quickly so keep lifting the pizza with a spatula to check.
  11. Repeat with the other pizza, then serve. 
Mine were topped with Italian (style?) prosciutto and coppa ham, with garlic spinach. I took a large handful of fresh spinach and fried it with 3 cloves of garlic, minced, and about 1 1/2 tbsp butter. 
As you can see from my photos, I didn't get them very circular, but they were DELICIOUS.

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