Pizza Napoletana

In English, this means Neapolitan Pizza, which may sound more familiar to you, maybe. If not, you have probably enjoyed this thin-crust pizza before but didn’t put a fancy title to it. I know there are some haters out there on thin crust pizza and would prefer the hearty Chicago style deep dish varieties, but there is something to enjoy about this one that’s worth trying. The crust becomes very crisp in the oven and easy to eat, you don’t have to worry about biting into a myriad of steaming hot sauce, cheese, and toppings just to endure a 2nd degree burn to the mouth. The thin crust cools fast and is crisp so you could hold it like a Ninja turtle.

So, I wanted to learn how to make a simple Neapolitan pizza from scratch, which is not so easy, but still fun. I started from the bare bones, yeast and dough rising, and kneading and all. (Well I suppose, the bare bones, would be extracting the yeast from a natural source, which will soon be learned). It was definitely a learning experience and bread is an area in my culinary studies that has plenty of room for improvement. But, it is still gratifying to take homemade bread out of the oven, if not for the aroma alone.

Here is another one of my journeys in the dough chronicles. I hope you enjoy them and are inspired to try it out on your own one day when you have patience and gusto for kneading. But, my belief is that homemade pizza can never go wrong, so your efforts will not go unrewarded; Homemade dough reigns supreme in the kitchen.
Ingredients (for 2 small pizzas):
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (~110 F) for yeast + 3/4 cup warm water for dough
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour + extra flour for kneading
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • About 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil for garnish (optional)

1. Use a small container or bowl to place the yeast in the warm water. Stir, then wait 10-15 minutes for the yeast to become active.

2. Add 1/2 cup flour, salt, olive oil, and cold water in a large bowl. Mix to combine and then make a well in the center of the flour. Pour in the yeast mixture when it is ready and stir incorporate it into the dough. Slowly incorporate the last cup of flour and water, trying to retain all dough from the sides of the bowl.

3. When you can form a ball with the dough, place it on a flat, clean surface (or stable cutting board) and knead for about 8 minutes, or until smooth throughout. Use flour for kneading, but generally, what I have found is that the more flour you use, the more heavy the pizza will be and possibly floury tasting so challenge yourself to use as little dough as possible and you’ll have made a killer crust.

4. Then, clean the bowl you were working with, thoroughly. Grease with a small amount of olive oil. Place the ball of dough in the bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let rest for 15 minutes.

5. Remove dough from the bowl and divide into two halves. Knead each for about 10 minutes and then place them in greased small pans. Let them rise for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 500 F

6. After they have risen, they are ready for stretching into pizzas. Try not to use a rolling pin if you can and just stretch with your hand, gently holding the dough by the edges and rotating your hands around the edges of the pizza, let gravity do the work. Flour often so the pizza does not stick to the surface when you are dressing it. I have lost many a pizza in my transfer to the baking stone, so make sure you can transport your pizza from cutting board to baking stone or pizza pan, or you might have to just resort to making a calzone.

7. When the pizza has been stretched to the size of a small pizza (less than 12 inches) it is ready for toppings. I would just advise putting cheese and maybe one topping. Because it is a thin crust it doesn’t have the strength to carry more than its own weight and cheese. Then, just for a more golden shine, I brushed the crust with olive oil.

Then, place in the oven at 500 F, for about 8 minutes, but check often.

Garnish with fresh basil, if you would like. And there you have it, Pizza Napoletana.

A final thanks to my little guide book, Pizzas, Fog City Press, 2000.

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