Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pizza Margherita

So I was watching reruns of Bourdain's No Reservations a few days ago when I saw something interesting. Tony sits down for a Neopolitan pizza and starts to recant all of these rules that one must follow while making pizza in Naples. These aren't just any old tips, tricks, rules or otherwise. These are actual rules. There are restrictions on ingredients, technique, oven temperature, and even the exact dimensions of the pizza. Furthermore, your business has to be inspected by an organization known as the "Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana" just to earn the right to say you're making pizza! Here is a list of their rules that I found on Wikipedia:
  • Neapolitan pizza dough consists of wheat flour (type 0 or 00, or a mixture of both), natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer's yeast, salt and water.
  • Only San Marzano tomatoes are used for sauce.
  • The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer.
  • After the rising process, the dough must be formed by hand without the help of a rolling pin or other machine, and may be no more than 3 millimetres (0.12 in) thick.
  • The pizza must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire.
  • There are three official variants: 
    • Pizza Marinara:  made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil, 
    • Pizza Margherita: made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra-virgin olive oil, 
    • Pizza Margherita Extra made with tomato, buffalo mozzarella from Campania in fillets, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
After looking at those rules you know that most of them aren't achievable unless you have access to a special oven and special ingredients. All the same though, I try my best to follow the rules stipulated by the AVPN.

I've been working on this recipe for about a month now, but I think I am finally happy with my results. Substituting ingredients and oven temperature was the easy part of the process. What was harder for me was the hand stretching and dough making.

In the end I decided that store bought dough is still the best to buy, seeing as how it is dirt cheap and homemade dough takes too much time and effort to make a quick pizza. (I really like the Portland Pie Company pizza dough that Hannaford is currently carrying.)

My last hurdle was hand stretching the dough. I've always known how to do it but it always took too much time; a rolling pin is just much more efficient for me. I went ahead and hand stretched my dough though, only to realize that it took just as much time once you have the dough tempered the dough. (If you don't know how to hand stretch here is the best video I could find on it.)

Pizza Margherita:
1 lb prepared pizza dough, tempered at room temperature for a few hours
1 cup ground tomatoes
3/4 lb fresh whole milk mozzerella, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt (I use Maldon sea salt here.)
Fresh pepper
Fresh Basil leaves
Parchment paper

1. Place a pizza stone of sheet pan in the lowermost register of the oven and then preheat an oven to 500F.
2. Hand stretch the dough into a thin circle less than 1/4 inch thick. (Or roll it out with a pin to the same thickness if you aren't going for authenticity.)
3. Flip the dough onto a sufficiently large piece of parchment paper, then reshape into a circle as best you can. Wet the outside inch of dough and then roll up the wet edges to form a crust. Press down to seal.
4. Add  the ground tomatoes and spread evenly, then distribute the slices of mozzarella onto the pizza. Finish with salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste. (I make it a point to oil the crust as well as this enhances the crust.) Add basil to taste and then transfer to the oven to cook for 13 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.
5. Let the pizza cool for 5 to 7 minutes, then cut and serve.

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