Something for you ...until we meet again.
BLISSFUL PIZZA MARGHERITA AT HOME (one day)
If you ask me what my favourite dish is, the one I can have day after day, twice a day, every day of my life, my answer will always be pizza! And you may think: ‘Of course, pizza is never boring, you can have a different topping every time’ but the one I always order (after looking at the pizza menu for 10 minutes every single time) is a Margherita. The one I make every Sunday at home is Margherita. Simple, delicious, filling and recently, I discovered, very photogenic. At the end of the day, I am from Naples!
And if you ask me what I like teaching the most: pizza of course.
So here I am during lockdown writing and tasting the perfect pizza recipe for you all, a simple recipe that will guarantee a delicious, light pizza which can be cooked in a domestic oven.
A few helpful facts before we start:
- A Margherita in a wood fired oven bakes at 500* for 1 minute
- A Margherita in our domestic oven bakes at a maximum of 275* (if we are lucky) for more than 12 minutes.The consequence is that, unfortunately, we simply cannot use the same pizza base recipe for both cooking methods.
- A pizza dough ready to go in a wood fired oven for 60 seconds has a low hydration (60% of water of the total amount of flour), a pizza dough that will bake for 10/12 minutes in our domestic oven will then need a higher hydration (approx 68% of water of the total amount of flour) to avoid drying out by the end of the cooking time. The result will be a stickier dough but still easy to handle.
Tips for the topping:
- Less is more . I know this sounds a common place but it applies to a good pizza 100%. Keep the topping light and simple and add the cheese only at the end (2 minutes before cooking time ends) . The cheese shouldn’t develop brown spots.
- Choose good quality ingredients like a fresh mozzarella balls rather than the cubed or shredded variety.
- And last but never least: a Margherita does not have chilli, origano, black pepper or garlic on the top. Just once, only once try it the authentic way, the way you love when in Naples!
Far from being patronising, my students know well that I don’t mind if you add any or all of the above, it’s your pizza…and at the end of the day I love Marmite on sliced oranges!
Ingredients for one round pizza (30cm diam) – For a thinner crispier pizza use a 30×40 tray
- 300g ’00′ flour or strong white flour (12.5g protein)
- 225g water
- 6g salt
- 1g fresh yeast or 1/4 teaspoon of instant dried yeast
- 1/2 tbsp Olive oil
- Semolina or polenta to dust the tray
Ingredients for the tomato sauce:
- Approx half tin of good quality tinned plum Tomatoes.
- Fresh basil
- 2tbs extra virgin olive oil
- salt and a pinch of sugar
With a fork or with your hands squash plum tomatoes (straight from a tin, you don’t need to cook it ) and reduce it to a pulp; add salt, a generous amount of olive oil and a pinch of sugar
Cow mozzarella ball: drain the mozzarella from its original liquid, cut into long strips, place it between 2 layers of kitchen paper and squeeze out the excess of moisture. You will also need basil, light extra virgin olive oil
-A thin baking tray 30×40 for a thin pizza or a round 30cm one for a little softer pizza with ‘higher crust’
– A flat container (tray?) filled with semolina flour or just extra flour (or even a mixture of the two)
Method. Start making your dough at 10am:
10.00am Autolyse: Mix all the flour and water until the flour is just incorporated (no dry spots) and let it rest for approx 30/40 minutes.
10.45 Mix the dough: Add the yeast on one side of the dough, the salt on the other side and mix again, slowly add the oil and keep mixing or just folding the dough repeatidly on itself for a minute or so.
Transfer the dough onto the counter (previously wetted with little water). You will find the dough slightly sticky (due to the higher hydration), don’t be tempted to add extra flour, just wet your hands and keep folding on itself rather than kneading it. Use your fingers rather than the palm of your hands. Please don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect (yet!), remember : ‘time will work instead of your hands’!
Let it rest (covered) for 1 hour.
12.00 Fold the dough: Now, this is the magic trick for me and it helps strenghtening the gluten and allow forming a lovely open structure. Place the dough on the wet counter (sausage/rectangle shape), with two hands gently pick one side and stretch it over the middle of it. Grab the opposite side and stretch and fold it in the same way. Repeat with the other two sides. Repeat this step 3 times every 20/30 minutes.
*1.30pm Place it in a large bowl (add little olive oil to the bottom) covered with cling film or a shower cap and let it rest for 3 to 4 hours or until at least doubled in size.
5.30/6.00pm Turn the oven on at the max temperature (preferibly electric, op and bottom element, 250*C – 275*C)
Lightly oil the baking tray you are using and lighlty dust with semolina or polenta (skip the seemolina dusting if you are ‘bathing the dough in it at the next step)
Shape: Once the dough is risen back, gently tip it onto the smolina tray: I always say ‘you will need to bath your dough in smolina both sides’ . Then, gently shake the excess of flour off and tip the dough on your oiled pizza tray (first video on the left) and start flattening it with your finger tips. Keep shaping your pizza by gently pushing the sides toward the edges of the tray. Remember not to flatten the ‘crust’ around the pizza also known as ‘cornicione (the big frame)
For a light pizza , don’t use a rolling pin, you may end up tearing the dough and flattening the air pockets, (just to say: in Naples is forbidden)
Important tip: very often my students get back to me complaining that their dough keeps ‘coming back toward the centre’ . The most common reason for this problem is that dough is not ready and relaxed (underproofed) . Cover with a damp cloth and try angain in 10/15 minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes mixture (video on the right) making sure you leave the ‘frame’ (crust) with no tomato and without pressing it. Rest for 10 minutes
6.50/7pm Bake it for the first 6-8 minutes on the bottom shelf of the oven.
After this time, lower the temperature to 220 electric /200 fan and transfer the pizza to the top rack for another 6-8 minutes, or until cooked through. Add the mozzarella towards the end and bake until melted but not browned! Add the basil and enjoy!
For a longer rest and a more flavoursome pizza, I recommend placing your dough in the fridge or in a cooler room for up to 24 hours just after the third set of foldings. (Take it out the fridge 5 or 6 hours before baking time. Gently gently fold it once again and let come to room temperature. Carry on from ‘shaping stage’)
* picture of folds from the web