Thursday, March 1, 2012

Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough

You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six..Yogi Berra

While I do enjoy eating pizza from a pizzeria, I must admit, I have relished the pizza more for the taste of the cheese and the toppings. The crust is not really the thing I have remembered a pizza eating experience by. I have probably 'made' pizza at home ages ago with the thick pizza base we get at our local super-markets. Needless to say, it was never remembered for its taste or made again. Since I am now friends with yeast, a pizza from scratch is an idea which appeals immensely.

When it comes to baking a pizza crust at home, Peter Reinhart's Napoletana pizza crust is undoubtedly one of the most raved about ones. If you haven't read about him yet, he is an acclaimed master bread baker and author. While you could find a number of recipes for pizza dough, Peter Reinhart's Napoletana dough is special as it is made with ice-cold water and allowed to ferment in the fridge. This of course is not a quick recipe which can give you pizza in a couple of hours as the recipe calls for overnight fermentation of the dough in the fridge. The slow fermentation helps get more flavor in the crust. This particular recipe calls for chilled flour and water and if you are like me you are unlikely to have either on hand at all times.(Then there is also his Neo-Napoletana dough which uses flour and water, both at room temperature, both ways give great pizza says Peter Reinhart, I shall be trying this soon)

The crust is simple - chilled flour, salt, instant yeast, oil and cold water, mixed in a stand mixer or by hand. Easier and simpler when you have a stand mixer. If making by hand, a bit of elbow grease help from your (forced-to-be) chivalrous better-half. On mixing, the divided dough portions can be refrigerated (if you plan to use it within 3 days) or frozen up to 3 months. You could make your own sauce or use ready pizza sauce (Pompous as it may sound, I think a home made crust pizza with bottled sauce is fine, but not home-made sauce and store-bought crust!).

The dough was quite easy sounding, but I was unsure about the baking temperature and time.( I had of course not noticed the maximum temperature till I tried baking breads which needed this). Pizzas are supposed to be baked at a very high temperature of about 287 degrees C / 550 F for a short period of time. But since the maximum temperature in our microwaves and ovens (no idea about gas ovens though) is 250 degree C / 500 degrees F, I had to settle for a longer baking time and a very special, slightly browned cheese topping. But don't let that deter you, it was still very tasty.

With inputs from Champa, she has adapted it from Heidi's 101 Cookbooks . Here is how you go about. You could halve the recipe as I did, but I plan to make the entire recipe next time and freeze half of it for future use.

Please do watch this video on using yeast if working with yeast for the first time.


4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) / 567 grams/ unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled ( I used APF)
1 3/4 (.44 ounce) teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast (Can't interchange with Active Dried yeast)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice cold (40°F)

Semolina flour OR cornmeal for dusting

Method: Line a baking tray or a flat box with a lid with baking parchment, grease lightly. You will be keeping portions of dough on this later.

1.Whisk together the flour, salt, yeast, mix well with a metal spoon to distribute all the ingredients evenly . Stir in the oil and the cold water, mix until all the flour is absorbed. With a strong wooden spoon, beat the dough for about 5-7 minutes ( I did for 6) or until the dough is smooth and sticky. I would not recommend using a hand mixer with dough hooks as my experience has not pleasant with this. (The recipe says you need to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand, reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. This would be difficult, so I did not do it)

The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour (little by little) just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. (The above quantities worked fine for me and I did not have to add flour or water). The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50 to 55F.(If you are like me, just so that you don't lose  sleep over this - mine was 65F and this was not disastrous) Champa says, the temperature is to make sure the stirring has induced heat enough for the yeast to grow.

2. Grease or dust your kitchen counter with flour, transfer the dough onto it. Using a dough scraper or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (for the recipe proportions above). The size of the pieces would depend on how thin and large you would need your pizza to be. Cutting the dough into 6 equal portions will give you 9'' pizzas with a medium thick crust.

If the dough sticks to the scraper, dip it in cold water in between. Make sure your hands are dry, sprinkle flour over the dough. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour again. Transfer the dough balls to the prepared pan, mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag. The dough did not seem to rise or expand much at all in the fridge, so you don't need to space them so much apart.

(Note: At this point, right after dividing the dough, if you want to save some of the dough for future baking, you can store the dough balls in a ziplock freezer bag. Dip each dough ball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put each ball into a separate bag. You can place the bags into the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.) Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days.

3. On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza.

Grease 3-4 aluminum sheets (12 inches in diameter) very generously with oil. If you do not want to flip the pizza, press the dough into flat disks (mine was about 1/2 inch thick and 5'' inches in diameter).  brush the top of the dough with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Now let rest for 2 hours. At the end of 2 hours, the dough will have some bubbles, and would have expanded to some extent.  

4. Towards the end of 2 hours, pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees C (or higher if possible in your oven)

Just before baking, gently push the dough around with your fingertips to cover the pan. Stick some thickly cut onions, capsicum on the crust. I usually prick the crust with a fork first. Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges are a nice deep golden brown. Remove the pizza from the oven (keep the oven on), slide a long thin metal spoon under the crust so that it is no longer sticking to the pan. Top with thick pizza sauce, grated mozzarella and fresh basil. Do not use too much sauce as the crust will become soggy. Bake for 2 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Transfer to a cutting board. Wait for just 1 minute (no longer), cut with a pizza peel or a pair of large scissors. And serve immediately!

Not quite the Domino's ad pizza, but may I try to distract your attention with a picture of the crust..  

The pizza was very tasty and quite crisp (though not very much so, which is fine by me), the pizza fresh-fresh tasting with the home-made sauce! Am happy with my pizza, shall be making it again. Guess making good pizza is also a matter of practice, but will try not to complain too much! More updates as I repeat my attempts.

The pizza is Yeast-spotted.

Note : If you do not have a flat aluminum sheet for baking pizza, you can use the back of a 9'' or 8'' round tin, but it will be a bit tricky to get a grip on it.

Use multiple sheets or pans and place the dough directly on it, try not to toss it unless you are a pro. The dough is quite sticky, so hard to play with it.

Please use homemade pizza sauce, something from a bottle will ruin the experience. You can freeze the sauce as well for another time. Use cooled sauce(not hot)

I have found that adding cheese in the beginning itself will make it rubbery and brownish, so I add it for the last 2-3 minutes. 

Try not to use too much topping, as the specialty of the pizza is the flavor and texture of the crust. Do not miss out on this.

Lastly, have fun making this. Unless you burn the pizza or eat uncooked dough, you can't really go wrong with it. 


FewMinute Wonders said...

Delicious. Thanks for posting the recipe, I will try it some time soon.

chef and her kitchen said...

This method of fermentation is new 2 me for a pizza crust...I think I shud try this when i make pizza next time

Archana said...

Love this ! Will try this weekend, am bad at planning so much in advance, but this sounds really good...Love the pics too...

Unknown said...

Tempted to the core..looks yum

Rachana said...

Thats a mouthwatering pizza :-)

Deepti said...

pizza looks awesome! Will give it a try soon!

Deeps @ Naughty Curry said...

wow, pizza looks absolutely delecious, very detailed recipe thanks for all the tips. i have till now used only the readymade store bought pizza bases (dont mind them) but this looks like the real deal... will definitely be making this one :)

Archana said...

Thanks for the details in your recipe. Wait it should be all your recipes. Love the pizza.

Deeba PAB said...

Ooooh yum yum. I'm hungry for pizza. I remember doing this recipe for Daring Bakers ages ago, and it;s a great one. Looks SO GOOD!

subha said...

We just moved to Bangalore from US and live in a rented apartment with no built in oven. We have a LG microwave with convection and grill! -but the one time I tried making muffins with a tested recipe, they turned out very bad. I am not sure if iit was due to user error. Do you have any insights on how to make it work better or is the microwave cum convecTion oven a waste of time? Can you/your readers here suggest some good countertop oven to buy in that case? I plan on making muffins, pizzas etc.. Thanks,Subha