It’s been a challenge to absorb all I learned last week in my Pizza class with Gabriele Bonci. You know that the previous week I took his bread class, and wrote about it here. (These classes were held at the incredibly cool new space Tricolore, which opened in November. It’s a bakery, cooking school and they make the the most deliciously decadent sandwiches in town.)
Even though I loved every minute of my bread class, it was actually the pizza class I was really excited about. I guess this is for personal reasons. I’ve never been a big bread maker. I go through phases, which have included both my bread machine and my two wood-burning ovens out in Todi. But they are phases. I am not one of those people who have a sour dough starter in the fridge, and make different kinds of bread each week. So, while I thoroughly enjoyed last week’s bread class, and learned much, it just isn’t my passion.
Pizza, on the other hand, is something I can and do get very excited about. I make it all the time at our house in Todi, and eat it more often than I should here in Rome (including, naturally, Bonci’s own at Pizzarium) . So the chance to get tips from Mr. Pizza himself was thrilling.
I plan on writing up a few posts to share all this pizza wisdom. Today’s is all about the dough.
To explain a bit. The pizza that we learned how to make is not the round, single serving pizzas made in a wood burning oven. We learned how to make Pizza al Taglio, a pan pizza usually baked in an electric oven. In Rome you can stop by places that specialize in this type of pizza (Pizzarium being the best in Rome) and buy slices by weight. Bonci taught us how to translate the huge trays of pizza that the shops make, with professional equipment, into our own home kitchens.
A few Bonci points to keep in mind:
The Flour: The quality of the pizza depends on the quality of the flour. (duh!) Always try to use flour that is organic, untreated and preferably stone-ground. Since these flours are living things, store them in the fridge. The flour that Bonci recommends (and the one that I’ve been using for years) is from Mulino Marino. (It is imported to the States and you can get it at Formaggio Kitchen). In Rome, it’s becoming more readily available and you can find it at Pizzarium, Domus Birrae and La Tradizione. (And the cute guy helping Bonci in the video is Mr. Fulvio Marino himself, down from Piedmonte for the class)
Yeast: For home baking pizza Bonci says use dried Lievito di Birra. (you can certainly use a starter, but for better results at home, he recommends dried).
Rising: It is important to let the flour ripen over a long period of time. Rather than a few hours at a warm temp, better 24 hours in the cold. This gives the flour time to ripen and so final pizza will be lighter, airier and easier to digest.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Bonci kept repeating, over and over and over, that the recipe was really only about 10% of the success (or failure) of a pizza. It was all in the handling of the dough, in the manipulazione. And in fact, the pizzas we made the first evening, before we knew what we were doing (with dough that has been made in advance by the master himself) came out flat and sad and burnt. But once we all learned the trick of handling the dough - or rather not handling it too much - our pizzas were light and fluffy and something we could be proud of. So, watch the video. Then watch it a few more times.
The recipe: Pizza
1 kilo of flour (tipo 0 or tipo 1 - Burrato from Mulino Marino)
700 gr. water
40 gr extra virgin olive oil
20 gr sea salt
7 gr dried yeast
Mix the flour, yeast and water in a large bowl, using a spoon. When it is almost mixed, and the lumps are mostly gone, add the salt, and then the oil. It will seem very wet. Don’t be scared. The wetter the dough, the better.
Flip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently by folding the dough in half, over itself, towards you. Grab the dough by the two corners facing you, and pick it up like an envelope, and turn it 90 degrees, and place it back on the floured board. Repeat this motion a few times, without really kneading the bread. Fold and turn, fold and turn. It will seem very sticky at first, but when you get the hang of it, it gets easier.
Place the dough back in a lightly oiled bowl, and let rest another 15 minutes. Do this 2 or 3 more times. This is the step that Bonci calls ‘regenerating the dough’. Don’t over knead. In fact, don’t knead at all. By the 3rd time the dough will be springy and not sticky.
When this is done, place back in bowl, cover very tightly and let rise in fridge for 24 hours.
Take out of fridge and let come to room temperature.
Preheat oven to the hottest setting it has. 250c/480F
Lightly flour a board and follow the steps in the video below to get your dough into your oiled pan. The important thing is not to be violent with the dough! (My friend Judy got yelled at in class for being too violent). In fact, the first day we all over-worked our dough and ended up with flat pizzas that cooked unevenly and even burnt (yes, that includes you Judy). What you want to do is be very gentle, massage the dough, and seek to retain the pockets of air that have formed over night. The video below has my voice-over, so you can follow in English. But I’ll post the original Italian at the end of the post, because following Bonci directly is so much better, if you can follow the Italian. I can't stress how important this part is to the success of the pizza.
Don’t worry about fancy toppings at this point. The next post will discuss toppings. For now either top with tomatoes (pelati, with a bit of oil and salt added) or else just with olive oil and salt.
Place the pan on the bottom floor of your oven. Each oven will bake differently, so you have to experiment. If you have an oven stone, all the better. It is important to get your oven as hot as possible.
After the pizza has baked about 15 minutes, check to see if the bottom is baking. (take it out, and lift up the crust to take a peak underneath. If it seems like it’s almost done, move it to the center rack and bake until finished, about another 10 minutes.
Take out of oven and remove from pan immediately to let cool on rack.
At this point your pizza is ready to either eat or top with other ingredients (next post).
LEFT: Sad Pizzas from Day One. RIGHT: Better Pizzas, ready to go in oven, Day Two
M pizza dough, Day Two. Notice how I'm now able to retain all those precious air bubbles?
Day Two Pizza: much fluffier and lighter.