Climbing the tree of perfection is a harrowing ordeal. When one does, through perseverance and sheer will, reach the peak, the view is stunning. Most of the dishes people eat out can be replicated or bettered at home by an adept home cook. I’ve been successful at both. I’ve managed to grill ribeyes to perfection, make Danish from scratch, make homemade pasta, and so on. One of my major shortfalls so far: a) I have no idea how to score a baguette properly and b) my pizza comes up somewhere between “OK” and “good,” but never “WOW!” or much less so even “great”… up until now. Backed by a more than basic understanding of baking, I have sought guidance from several notable sources.:
NO AVAIL. Well, readers, I have FOUND THE HOLY GRAIL OF PIZZA, and YOU can make it yourself.
There is no substitute for Vera Pizza Napoletana. These principles are:
Making use of historically accurate (and regulated) ingredients
adhere to strict weight, measurement, and process standards
Keep it Simple, Stupid (also known as don’t mess with what works).
It is technically not a “Verace Pizza Napoletana” since I did not bake it in a wood-fired oven built to their specifications (all of which can be found by clicking the link above). I cannot imagine that a large portion of the population could afford these ridiculous ovens. An accouterment such as this would only appeal to the very wealthy and truly elitist among foodies. However, I followed all of the other, sometimes hilariously specific, instructions/regulations.
All the necessary ingredients are listed above to create a trustworthy VPN. Based on their specifications, here is some information about the products to be used:
a. Type “00” wheat flour – this stuff is incredible. Please read this article to learn more about it. Not widely available in the US, and you may have to donate an organ to purchase it.
• pH = 6-7
• Recommended temperature for production: 20 – 22°C
• Moderately hard: 60 – 80 mg/L as calcium
We have water, and we’re all specific Steves. Checking with the DC Water and Sewer Authority, we don’t pass the hardness test. In this particular apartment, we are looking at approximately 80 mg/L calcium because of all of my experiments making beer (including a batch where I underestimated the CO2 pressure and ended up spilling beer on the floor, wall, ceiling, desk, counter, and the puppy calendar).
c. Sea salt is essential – How about “Fleur de Sel?” I have this one on lockdown.
Yeast: Compressed, soft, beige-colored, biologically produced yeast. I prefer it to fresh yeast. Whenever possible, I have it on hand.
e. A good tomato to use is the “pomodoro pelato S.Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino D.O.P.” – BALLZ. I’ll have to get these as well.
F. Mozzarella – Certified mozzarella di bufala campana D.O.P, mozzarella S.T.G – How can you resist, it is only $12 / lb?
g. How about some exotic wild Sicilian oregano… Oh, it’s expensive and hard to get, but no worries, the good people at my work are picking up the tab.
h. Fresh basil – I always have this on hand for roasting with my garlic and basil olive oil.
i. Extra-virgin olive oil (Vitamin E) is made from cold-pressed olive oil that has not been processed, which has a natural, biological antioxidant, tocopherol. Let’s go ahead and order some from Italy to be safe.
It is just oregano, I swear. I would sub-title this photo: “20 minutes and three Bob Dylan tracks before Taco Bell.”
The tomatoes are homogenized by hand as instructed. The mix is uncooked (until it hits the piping hot oven), unlike other pizza sauces I’ve made.
How to make the dough:
1000 ml of water.
50-55 grams of salt.
3 grams of yeast
Flour 1.7/1.8 kg (depending on the strength)
To add flour, mix for 10 minutes
This time, it was over capacity. The mixing bowl is filled with water, and then the salt is dissolved in it. Yeast is added and then about 10% of the flour. For 10 minutes, the remaining amount is slowly added while mixing, continuously mixing, until the dough reaches “optimal condition” – WTF? What’s with you being cryptic about the look/feel of the dough after being so specific about water PH and hardness and the tomatoes to buy? Thanks a lot. After all of the flour was incorporated, I realized that our mixer would not properly knead this dough. In place of kneading it by machine, Sara and I did it manually for 20 minutes. A damp cloth is placed over them, and they are allowed to ferment for 2 hours.
A log is formed from the dough after it has risen and is cut into 250g portions after being punched down and rolled. The material is then rolled “exclusively by hand” into equal-weight balls. I had more than enough of this project for one evening. This stage is called “intaglio a mano,” and the dough balls are called “Panetti.” The dough balls went in the fridge, I went to the bar, and all was well.
After removing the Panetti from the fridge the following morning, it took about 4 hours for them to rise at room temperature before I formed the crusts. You can see that the dough is fragile (parts of my granite are visible). This is not the work of a professional pizza roller. I wasn’t quite able to get the circle I wanted, as I did with my TWD Dacquoise FAIL. Nothing to worry about; we’re moving forward.
Mozzarella di Buffalo imported from Italy is outrageously expensive. As a result, it was SO much better than the fresh local stuff that I will pay that few extra bucks every time. I prefer to support local artisans, but when you’re crushed, you’re crushed.
Pizza #1 has been swirled with olive oil in the necessary circular motion and is ready to go into the oven.
In the picture, she is out of the oven preheated for an hour at its highest setting, with a pizza stone inserted (the lighting is terrible, but the pizza still tasted amazing). I ended up making several of these since I had hungry Jews from Long Island and the kiddo to feed.
Check out pizza #2. This one is A LOT rounder. Practicing makes perfect, I suppose.
This wasn’t the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. Nonetheless, it was by far my best work and is superior to 99% of what you’ll find out. Now that I have done this, I understand why they have so many rules and why the wood-fired oven is so important. A home oven is adequate for crisping the fragile crust but lacks that “je ne sais quoi” that eating this pizza in a Napoli cafe would have. It is something I will make again. Based on my previous failed attempts, the most crucial difference is the flour – tomatoes, cheese, and other toppings would be fine. Get yourself some “00” flour from Italy, and try making pizza at home again!