Saturday, January 23, 2010

Authenthic Italian Pizza

Authentic Italian Pizza
makes 2 12-inch pies 

As a born and bred New Yorker I thought I knew what Pizza was supposed to be, that is until we took our first trip to Italy . . . it was then that I discovered that New York Pizza couldn’t hold a candle to “real” Italian Pizza. We ate pizza all over Italy, including Brandi di Vincenzo Pagnani in Naples (Brandi for short) where the Pizza Margherita (the first modern pizza) was created in 1889, and found none that resemble Italian-American pizza. While Italian-American Pizza is topped with a cooked sauce and cow mozzarella and is anywhere from ¼ to ½ inch thick, authentic Italian Pizza is topped with uncooked, crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano tomatoes from Naples), real buffalo mozzarella and has a crust that is between 1/8 to ¼ inch thick.

1 - 2 pie recipe of Thin and Crispy Pizza dough (see below)
2 cups canned, skinned and seeded tomatoes (preferably San Marzano tomatoes), finely hand crushed
1 - 1 pound ball of buffalo mozzarella, sliced crosswise into about ¼ inch slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Corn meal
Toppings of your choice (basil, salami, pepperoni, onion, bell pepper, olives, or anchovies are traditional)

1. Place an appropriately sized pizza stone in an oven and pre-heat the oven to the highest temperature (usually around 500 to 550° F [in Italy the ovens usually run about 700° F]).
2. On work surface, place one of the dough balls and, with fingertips, press it into a disk of dough approximately 12 - inches round about 1/8 inch thick (if necessary use a rolling pin to achieve the 1/8-inch thickness [don’t worry if the pizza isn’t perfectly round . . . that’s called “rustica” and it’s the way “real” Italian pizza looks in Italy]).
3. Distribute some corn meal over the surface of a pizza peel (this will act as “ball bearings” and allow the dough rounds to move easily over the surface of the peel) and transfer the formed pizza base onto the peel, lightly spread about ½ of the crushed tomatoes on top of the base (leaving about ½ inch of uncoated dough around the edge to form the crust)*. Evenly distribute 1/2 the slices of the mozzarella over the sauce and sprinkle with extra-virgin olive oil.**
4. Gently shake the peel to insure the pizza moves freely (if it doesn’t gently lift the edges of the pizza and distribute additional corn meal until it does), using the peel slide the pizza onto the stone and bake the pizza until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 7 minute in a 550°F oven. Remove from the oven, slice into 8 wedge shaped slices and serve.***
5. Repeat with the remaining dough, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
* At this point I occasionally sprinkle some Kosher salt, parmesan or Romano cheese, finely chopped garlic and/or chiffonade fresh basil over the tomatoes before adding the Mozzarella cheese.
** At this point you can add toppings of your choice although in some places in Italy it appeared that toppings were added after the pizza was cooked, in one case Jo ordered black olives and they appeared at the table as whole olives (pits in tack).
*** In Italy, each diner usually has his/her own pizza and, when not using a knife and fork to eat the pizza, usually just tear the pizza into slices.

Thin and Crispy Pizza Dough
makes 6 or 2 12-inch pies
This thin and crispy pizza crust makes an ideal base for both traditional (we found that pizzas in Italy have this type of base) and non-traditional pizzas but is especially suited for non-traditional varieties.  Remember this is baking not cooking and where in cooking is an art, recipes are guidelines and you can deviate for personal preferences, baking is a science and the recipe and procedures are a formula . . . deviation will drastically change the outcome.
1 cup lukewarm water (110°F to 115°F)
1 envelope active dry yeast, divided
1 cup all purpose flour, divided

Dough for 6 12-inch pies:
1 1/2 cups lukewarm (110°F to 115°F) water
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 envelope active dry yeast
6 cups (or more) all purpose flour

Dough for 2 12-inch pies:
½ cup lukewarm (110°F to 115°F) water
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups (or more) all purpose flour

to prepare the “sponge”:
1.  Place 1 cup lukewarm water in large bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon yeast (reserve remaining yeast for dough) and 1/4 teaspoon flour over water. Let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture looks spongy, about 4 minutes.
2.  Add remaining flour and whisk until smooth; scrape down sides of bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow this “sponge” to rest, at room temperature in draft-free area, overnight (at least 12 hours).
to prepare the dough:
1.  Add the lukewarm water, salt, yeast to the matured sponge in the bowl.  To this add 2 or 6 cups flour (1 cup at a time) beating with dough hook to blend after each addition. Continue to beat until dough is smooth and comes cleanly away from sides of bowl, and is only slightly sticky to touch, scraping down bowl occasionally; about 5 minutes. If dough is very sticky, beat in more flour (¼ cup at a time).
2.  Transfer the dough onto lightly floured surface and knead into smooth ball; about 5 minutes do not skimp on this step as it develops the elasticity of the dough.
3.  Lightly coat the inside of a large bowl with extra-virgin olive oil. Add dough ball and turn to coat it with oil (be sure to coat the ball or it will stick to the plastic wrap as it grows). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to further develop for up to 6 hours, “punching” dough down when it doubles (after about 3 hours of rising).
4.  About 1 ½ hours before baking, dust 2 baking sheets with flour. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead gently; shape into 12-inch log. Cut into 2 or 6 equal pieces. Knead each piece into smooth ball. Arrange balls of dough on each sheet. Cover loosely with clean, damp (not wet) kitchen towels and let rise until almost doubled, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
5.  Proceed to form the pizzas.

Next week's post:  Sicilian Style Pot Roast

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