making pizza dough with gabriele bonci

Gabriele Bonci Rome Pizza
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).
Gabriele Bonci Rome Pizza
LEFT: Sad Pizzas from Day One. RIGHT: Better Pizzas, ready to go in oven, Day Two

Gabriele Bonci Rome Pizza
M pizza dough, Day Two. Notice how I’m now able to retain all those precious air bubbles?

Gabriele Bonci Rome Pizza
Day Two Pizza: much fluffier and lighter.

Gabriele Bonci Rome Pizza


Pizza al taglio

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Comments

  1. says

    What a revelation to discover you on Fb in the fabulous photos of the Bonci a rama pizza extravaganza. Even better to discover what a delightful blog you have as well. I look forward to discovering you and your adventures here again. Love the photos, to repeat the above sentiments. Brava!

  2. John says

    A wonderful post. Thank you. Can you describe the crumb of the finished pies? Was it filled with larger, irregular bubbles, or was it more tightly uniform – like a sponge?

  3. says

    Elizabeth,

    I really enjoyed your post. I also was wondering like John how spongy your finished crust was. I am also trying to make this kind of pizza and have been a little successful, but I found the video very informative.

    Did you learn that the dough in the pan needs to be proofed or do you proof the dough at all after it is balled?

    Sorry to be asking all these questions.
    Thanks again!

  4. says

    Learning Pizza Maker: thanks for the comments!
    When we made Focaccia (which I haven’t written about here) the dough was left to rise in the pan. Instead, the pizza just proofed after it was balled, then put in pan and baked.

  5. says

    Elizabeth,

    Thanks for telling me when the focaccia was made then the dough was left to rise in the pan. Would you mind sharing what the difference is between focaccia and pizza in teglia? Does the pizza in teglia have a more open crumb structure? If you have any time could you look at my blog and see if you think I came anywhere close to a pizza in teglia? The picture of the crumb should be at the right, first picture. http://learningknowledgetomakepizza.blogspot.com

  6. Linda says

    Sorry, I must have missed it, but at what point do you add the yeast?
    Thanks for generously sharing all these marvels!

  7. says

    Hi Elizabeth, Just a couple of questions, first when is the yeast added? I didn’t see it in the recipe; also the recipe calls for 700 gr. of water. I don’t recall seeing water measured by weight before (I live in the US).
    Thanks for clarifying.
    Marco

  8. Stuart says

    I have followed this to the letter and watched the videos but it hasn’t turned out right. After it has proved overnight in the fridge do I just empty it from the bowl then stretch out and bake?
    Or does it need to be split into balls and proved further?

    Thanks

  9. says

    Hi Stuart, and to the various other people who have written to me directly. A lot of you report having trouble with this recipe. As you know, I too tried it at home, and it was a failure – but I thought it was due to my expired yeast.
    I am going to try again, but I’ve also written to Gabriele’s assistant Elisia, to see if she can shed some light.
    Thanks for your patience…all a learning experience!

  10. Anonymous says

    Thanks for this information and the video link. I love Roman pizza al taglio better than any other kind (Pizza Florida in Largo Argentina is a favorite). I have always wanted to figure out how to make the crust. Your recipe worked fine with all-purpose King Arthur flour and Fleischmann’s dry active yeast (couldn’t easily find the Italian stuff at reasonable prices in suburban Texas). I found the crust cooked in about 10 minutes at 500F on the bottom rack with olive oil only on the top. Developed a dark brown crunchy bottom. Then I added ingredients at finished another 10 minutes in the middle rack at 350F. I did find the texture to be airy, but slightly biscuit-like rather than chewy like the standard Roman al taglio. Not sure how to adjust for more chew but will keep experimenting.

  11. says

    Sounds wonderful.

    Ma una domanda – Elizabeth, does one need a decent level of Italian to attend his classes, or can one still learn a lot from observing him?

    I met Bonci briefly at Open Baladin the other day, by chance, when I started discussing bread with one of the bar staff – they gave me some of his bread, my first taste of it. Delicious. He was around as he supplies their bread – and presumably appreciates their beers!

    Would love to learn some of his techniques, but I worry my Italian’s too rudimentary.

  12. says

    Well, Italian certainly helps! But there is such a huge request for him to do the class in English, I’m wondering if you could organize some other friends to do the class as well, then hire someone to translate.

  13. Gilles says

    Thanks for all the great posts about Bonci.
    When you say: “Place the pan on the bottom floor of your oven”
    Do you mean on the lowest tray ? or really on the bottom floor without tray ?
    Thanks again
    Gilles

  14. Gilles (from paris) says

    Thanks a lot for your answer.

    I have read also that some people use 80% of water in their “Bonci” recipe, whereas you only use 70%. What would be your recommandation ?

    Last question: do you need to let the dough rise in the pan for some time before you cook it?

    Thanks again

    BTW you really have the best blog in terms of informaton about Bonci pizzas :)

  15. Anonymous says

    Hi Elizabeth, I see the one question above concerning the use of grams as the unit of measure. I see that you say the 700 grams of water was about 800 ml almost 3 1/2 cups of water. And the yeast? NT Times cookbook conversion table says 7 grams of dry ingredient(the yeast) would be .25 oz and 20 grams would be .70 grams (but olive oil is not a dry ingredient). Sorry to be fussy and Yes, I did see that it isn’t about the recipe…but the technique. Just wondering why give both dry and wet ingredients in grams and have you done a conversion yourself into cups and teaspoons since trying at home. THANKS! Lucia

    • Anonymous says

      Greg, I halved the proportions for a first time experiment, and in a 30cm diameter pan it ended up about an inch thick when done. Very nice dough, and it cooked beautifully. Hope this helps.

      PS – I assume we both ended up here via the recent article in the SMH…?

    • Greg says

      Ha.. yes indeed! What flour did you use? I found some “00” flour from harris farm which will hopefully work well.

      So if i used the full measurements, do you think i could get 3 or 4 balls to make thinner bases?

    • Anonymous says

      Greg – Yeah, I think full measurements = 3 to 4 x 30cm round trays.

      Now I’m just quartering the amount for one base.

      Initially, it was just some surplus plain flour sitting around. Next time, strong (high protein) flour, stoneground but 100% wholemeal. Bit heavy & didn’t rise too much. This time, 80% Lighthouse brand pizza/bread with 20% of the stoneground wholemeal. Check out what the Lighthouse website says about “00”…it’s not necessarily always the high protein flour you want…

  16. Anonymous says

    Hi there, I saw your video a year earlier and I went on to check on others videos like the ones from Massimo Bosco to try to get some answers to my questions. However, I did not get to much luck. These are my questions, if you don’t mind, Bonci uses Rome type of dough (l’impasto alla romana). Did he use the paddle or the hook to make the douhg? How many type of flour did he mix in the dough? What was the water temperature in the dough? how long did he keep kneeding the dough and how long did he let the dough to rest, and finaly, what was the temperature of the oven or ovens? I took a course at la scuola di pizzaiolo back in 2008 but they show us only the dough for pizza napolitana. However, this dough ( alla Romana)is much better. Thanks. blakhoua@yahoo.com

    • says

      Lots of questions! This dough was made by hand, and is meant to be a way for home cooks to recreate the dough he uses in his shop, Pizzarium. For all the precise details I’d recommend you buy his book, which is about to be published in English, by Rizzoli USA.

  17. Anonymous says

    Hi there,

    Thanks so much for this video. I’ve been looking for a good recipe to recreate this kind of dough for ages. One quick question: Formaggio Kitchen seems to only carry Mulino Marino’s Tipo 00 and Tipo 2. Which would you recommend if we can’t get type 0 or 1?

    Thanks again!

  18. says

    Thanks for the video with kneading instructions. I checked Formaggio Kitchen, but the flours are not organic. Is there an online source for organic typo 0?
    Thanks!

  19. sue says

    Being a pizza lover, I am always looking for insight into perfect pizza. I am a big fan of pugia-style focaccia, and was originally introduced to it on “Cooking with Nonna” website. It is some what the same as this recipe, and is very good as well. The difference is that the dough rises in a deep dish pan with lots of oil, and it is very simple, using only fresh tomatoes, and only made when the tomatoes are in season.
    Thanks for your site it is a treat to read and look at.

    • ElizabethElizabeth says

      Mmm……I think it was about 500 gr., but I’d have to check. It’s definitely written in his book, but as I recall it was about that (1 pound)

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