Pizza is said to have originated on the streets of Naples, to feed and fill ordinary working people cheaply. Its roots are distinctly southern Italian, and pizza is considered a food of the city. Pizza allaNapoletana is always a ‘open Pizza’ (never filled, folded and baked).
However to eat Pizza in the street is to fold it in quarters, hold it in a napkin and munch it like a sandwitch. The Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana lays down strict rules for the making and cooking of Pizza in order to be able to sell it as Pizza Napoletana. Little stuffed and deep-fried Pizzelle and panzerotti are other example of street food from Naples and Campania. In Rome, Pizza is sold by the Metre(or its parts). Throughout Italy, other types of Flathearth breads, Such as focaccia and schiacciata, were traditionally made at home on the hot hearth where the embers had been.
The best advice to any novice Pizza- maker is to keep the choice of topping as simple a possible to truly appreciate the flavours. The crust is all-important and turns soggy if it is weighed down too much. Slice meat and vegetables thinly and don’t smother the base with too much sauce and cheese. Most important of all, eat it hot, hot, hot, straight out of the oven. So go on, get your hands in some dough right now and bake a fragrant Pizza or focaccia. You don’t need to buy any special ingredients – just start off with an olive oil, salt and garlic topping and savour your first homemade Pizza.
Put the testo, terracotta bake stone or a large, heavy baking sheet on the lower shelf of the oven. Preheat the oven to 2200C (4250F) gas 7 for at least 30 minutes.
Uncover the dough, punch out the air & roll or pull into a 25-cm circle directly onto non-stick baking parchment. Slide this onto the pizza peel or rimless baking sheet. Spread the pizzaiola sauce over the pizza base, leaving a 1-cm rim around the edge. Scatter with the tomatoes & garlic, sprinkle with the dried oregano, drizzle with olive oil, then season.
Working quickly, opens the oven door & slide paper & pizza onto the hot bake stone or baking sheet. If you are brave, try to shoot the pizza into the oven so that it leaves the paper behind – this takes practice! Bake for 5 minutes, then carefully slide out the baking parchment. Bake the pizza for a further 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven, scatter with the fresh oregano& drizzle with olive oil. Eat immediately.
This is the pizzaiola’s signature, his pride, and a closely guarded secret that is, of course, always ‘the best in italyl’ People try and overcomplicate the matter with bacterial cultures, leavening agents and oils in search of the perfect crust, but it really comes down to four things: the flour, the yeast, the temperature and time.
For the Neapolitan pizzaiola, the flour has to be ‘OO’. This means that the wheat has been milled on the finest rollers, resulting in a talcum powder’ soft flour that is completely pure with no husks. You are also looking for high gluten content, for an elastic dough that catches air bubbles and gives a good rise to crust. Our favorite flour is Caputo ‘OO’ Pizzeria flour; milled at the Molino Caputo, the largest flour mill in the heart of Naples. However, a good alternative with high gluten content is strong Canadian bread flour; which can be found in the bigger supermarkets.
Fresh baker’s yeast will add a greater depth of flour and give a better rise than dry(the stuff you get in the sachets), as the process of drying yeast kills off a lot of cels, leaving you with an unreactive and bland dough. You can find fresh yeast in baking section of your local supermarket – just ask. Using cold water helps the dough to rise slowly, developing the flavour. The most important thing is to let the dough rise slowly at room temperature (19 – 220 C) for a long time – 24 hours if possible. This will give you that deep ‘berry’ flavour that makes Neapolitan pizza so moreish.