Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Crust

When John gets sick he starts to crave comfort food, but his idea of comfort food is a little different than my view of comfort food.  One of the things he starts asking for first is Indian.  Yes, chicken tikka masala is what my husband craves when he has the flu.  That's probably the last thing on my list when I'm not feeling well, especially since I usually eat so much it makes me feel sick.  So this past weekend when he wasn't feeling well, I couldn't jump on board with his Indian request, but I happily obliged with his next "comfort food" idea - homemade pizza.  I've been making homemade pizza for a couple of months now, and this current recipe is definitely the best.  I'm constantly looking for ways to improve upon my pizzas, so I checked out a book by (The Great) Peter Reinhart called American Pie (which is obviously all about pizza).  I read all kinds of tips and tricks, but only got to try one crust and one sauce recipe before I had to return the book.  Luckily, I chose wisely and they both turned out to be winners (more on the sauce later here).  The crust was a must-try for me because it was advertised as being of Grimaldi's consistency, which is my favorite pizza from New York.  My crust didn't bubble up like it does at Grimaldi's, but it achieved a great crunch (and complete lack of sogginess) and had better flavor than any other crust I've used before.  The great thing is that the recipe makes 4 small crusts, which means I can tuck the extra three away in the freezer for a non-disgusting Digiorno experience whenever I please.

You start with 5 cups of high-gluten (Sorry, Anika, this recipe isn't for you) or bread flour.  I, of course, used my scale to make life simpler.

You can either add 1 teaspoon of instant yeast directly to the flour or add 1 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast to 1/4 cup of the water you'll be using (room temperature) and stir it to dissolve.

Add the yeast (or water/yeast) to the flour along with 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey, 2 teaspoons salt (or 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt), 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 3/4 cups room-temperature water (remember to subtract out whatever amount you use to mix with the yeast, so if you use 1/4 cup with the yeast only use 1 1/2 cups otherwise).

Using your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (ignore the dough hook above, we'll get to that), mix until the ingredients are combined.  Then let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Now, fitted with a dough hook, mix on low speed for 4 minutes, until the dough gathers into a ball.  Let the dough rest for 2 minutes and then mix on medium-low speed for another 2 minutes.  At this point (shown above), I had no dough on the sides, but it was sticking to the bottom a bit.  You may need to add a tablespoon of flour or water to compensate.  The dough will be very sticky.  Apparently if you use a scale your flour measurement will be more precise and you will not need to make adjustments.  (I am starting to sound like I sell these scales or something.)

Divide your dough into four even balls (10 oz each).  Round the balls and brush with olive oil.  Either store in the fridge for the next day, or put them in freezer bags to store.

This is my ready-to-use ball, which I stuck in the fridge.  You want to let it sit in the fridge overnight so it can slowly ferment and rise.  Take the dough out two hours before you want to use it.

Flatten the dough slightly when you take it out on a floured cutting board or surface.  I actually recommend using parchment paper since you'll be likely using that to transfer the pizza anyway.  Let the dough sit like this for two hours.  One hour before you want to make the pizza (if you are using a pizza stone), start heating your oven to its highest temperature.  Mine is 500 degrees.  To get the stone as hot as possible, alternate between broil and bake at 500 degrees.  Once the stone has been heated, you can assemble your pizza (on the parchment paper - Do not try to transfer an assembled pizza to parchment paper.  This resulted in us having Chipotle the first time I tried to do this.) and then bake for 8-12 minutes, until the crust and cheese are browned.  To make Neo-Neapolitan pizza use crushed tomato sauce (recipe coming soon to a blog near you here for your viewing pleasure) and top it with freshly grated pecorino Romano (just a sprinkling) and fresh mozzarella torn into pieces.

And when you have a pizza like this coming out of your oven you will realize that following all the bizarre steps (turning on your oven an hour before, letting the dough rest so much it seems like it has mono) is worth it.  Peter Reinhart is a bread-baking God around these parts, and he takes his pizza seriously enough to write a whole book about it.  The beauty about Peter's books (we're on a first-name basis) is that he realizes the limitations of a home oven and finds ways to compensate with highly specific recipes and instructions, because he wants to provide a way for your home-baked items to taste as good as you can get in a professional bakery.

Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Crust
By Peter Reinhart, American Pie

Makes four 10 to 12 inch pizzas

5 cups (22 1/2 oz.) high-gluten or bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon instant yeast (or 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast - be sure to mix with some of your water)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt or 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 3/4 cups room temperature water

Using your paddle attachment, mix all ingredients in the bowl of your electric mixer.  Once it is just combined, turn the mixer off and let the dough rest for 5 minutes.  Using the dough hook, mix the dough for 4 minutes on low speed until the dough comes together in a ball.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes and then mix it on medium-low speed for 2 minutes.  The dough should stick to the bottom a little but not stick to the sides.  The dough should be very sticky - add an extra tablespoon of flour or water to make sure it is sticky but still holds it shape.  Divide the dough in four pieces and round into balls.  Brush each ball with olive oil and either put in a plastic bag for freezing or a covered bowl for placing in the fridge.  Let the dough rest in the fridge overnight.  Remove two hours before using dough and place on a floured surface (probably parchment paper) slightly flattened.  Preheat oven (if using a pizza stone) one hour before cooking the pizza.  Heat your oven to the highest setting.  Prepare pizza on parchment paper for easier transferring.  Use a small amount of tomato sauce and a mixture of fresh mozzarella and pecorino Romano for an authentic Neo-Neapolitan flavor.  Cook the pizza for 8-12 minutes until browned and bubbling.


  1. I sometimes crave Indian food when I'm sick as a comfort food. But that's mostly because that's what my mom would make growing up, you know being brown and all. I'm not sure it's what I'd want if that wasn't the case. Glad you went with the pizza! :)

  2. Home made pizza is soooo good. Thanks for sharing!


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