One dough two ways: Pizza Napolitana and a loaf of bread
Naples left a lasting impression on me. There is something about this place that speaks to you, or shall I say sings to you, belting out arias from every street corner with drama, tragedy and romance all intermingled in a timeless opera of real life. We didn’t stay there long but just long enough to know that I have to go back.
Pizza in Naples (Napoli in Italian) is extraordinary: thick and chewy crust, sweet, thick tomato sauce, not too much topping, charred spots all over, served to you straight from the wood burning oven in pizza houses everywhere. In Napoli it’s one person, one pizza. No sharing pizza here. The experience was memorable and I wrote about it here and here, going back to read it now and then and lose myself for just a few moments in this wonderful place.
This morning I was in the mood to make pizza dough and for some reason the stars aligned and I got the softest, silkiest, beautifully elastic dough. It doesn’t always work as well, but it did today. I made it in the Kitchenaid mixer and let the machine do all the kneading. Maybe that was the magic touch.
One thing I know about making dough is that you want to use the least amount of water that the flour would absorb without being overly sticky. This time I did it the other way around: placed the water in the mixer and added just enough flour to make a dough that pulled away from the side of the bowl. Today for this recipe it was 2 cups water and about 5 cups of flour plus a few tablespoonfuls at the end. Tomorrow it may take a different amount of flour. You never know with dough and must develop a feel for it. There are so many variables, not the least are how dry is the flour, how humid is the kitchen etc.
The recipe yields a large amount of dough, enough for 4 pizzas which the two for us here definitely do not need. I meant to make one pizza and one round loaf of bread and freeze the rest of the dough, but when I made the first pizza I realized that I forgot to put the tomato sauce on the bottom (the pizza was already in the oven), so I made a second one and made a bread from the remaining dough. I am sure they will be gone by the end of the evening.
I learned to enjoy pizza topped with arugula dressed in olive oil and vinegar. I like the fresh acidity that this salad brings to the rich pizza. All I do is drizzle olive oil over the arugula and then sprinkle a few drops of good vinegar. No measuring, no making dressings. Good pinch of salt on top and that’s it.
For the bread, I have a Banneton bread proofing baskets in all shapes and sizes and used a round one for this bread. It works very well and leaves a lovely round pattern on top of the bread. Because you flour the basket before placing the dough in it to rise, the flour gets into the concentric lines and add both visual and flavour to the crust. So, one dough, two products. Not a bad day in the kitchen.
2 teaspoon yeast granules
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoon olive oil
5 cups flour, more as needed
1 1/2 tablespoon coarse salt
Tomato sauce (recipe here) or use your own
Tomatoes, sliced into rounds
a couple of handfuls baby arugula
Salt and pepper
Combine the yeast, water and sugar in a bowl and let sit until the yeast foams.
Transfer to the bowl of a Kitchenaid (or another stand mixer) fitted with the dough hook and add the remaining water and olive oil. Mix briefly to combine.
Begin adding the flour half cup at a time with the machine running, adding the salt after you have added 2 cups of the flour.
Continue to add the flour, adding as much as needed to have the dough pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Let the machine knead the dough for about 7-8 minutes.
Stop the machine and remove the dough to a lightly floured surface.
Knead a few times to bring it together, then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and it let rest and rise for about an hour. If you need to delay, let the dough rise in the fridge.
An hour before you are ready to proceed heat the oven to 500°F (If this makes you uncomfortable try 450°F but commercial ovens cook bread at really high temperature, that’s why crusts are so crisp). Use a pizza stone if you have it, it helps to make a better crust.
Have a spray bottle ready with water in it to spray the oven when you put the pizza in. Steam also help the crust rise and become crispy.
The dough makes 2 pizzas and 1 loaf of bread, or 4 pizzas, or several individual pizzas. Cut the dough into pieces according to what you are making. I made 2 pizzas and 1 round bread loaf so I cut it in half, used half for the bread and the other half for 2 pizzas.
To make the pizzas:
Stretch and roll the dough piece into a rough circle, keeping the edges thicker than the center. Push the dough towards the edges to create a rim.
Place the dough over a square of parchment to make it easy to transfer to the oven. Dust the parchment with flour.
Brush the dough with oil, especially the circumference, this will help it brown in the oven.
Spoon the tomato sauce onto the center and spread it around.
Sprinkle grated mozzarella to roughly cover the bottom.
Lay slices of tomatoes over the cheese and cover with more shredded mozzarella.
Using a pizza paddle, slide it under the parchment and transfer to the baking stone in the oven, being careful with the very hot oven.
Quickly spray the oven with a few squirts of water and close the door.
Bake until the pizza rises and turns golden brown.
To remove from the oven open the door and slide the pizza paddle under the pizza. Remove to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving. Carefully remove parchment paper from the oven.
Repeat with remaining pizzas.
To serve, mix the arugula with a little olive oil, drizzle a few drops vinegar and sprinkle generously with salt.
Pile the salad on top of the pizza and serve immediately.
To make the bread:
Gather the remaining dough into a ball and with your hand and gently rotate and pull the dough underneath the ball to tighten the surface on top. Keep doing it until you feel you have a nice and tight ball of dough.
Cover with plastic and let rise until almost doubles in size.
When ready to bake place a square piece of parchment on the counter and sprinkle with flour.
Turn the dough over onto the parchment. The top of the dough mound should have the concentric design from the basket. Don’t brush the flour off, it will add to the look and the flavour of the loaf.
Same as you did with the pizza, slide a paddle under the parchment and transfer to the baking stone, quickly spray with water and close the door.
Bake at 500°F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 425 and finish the cooking, about 30-40 minutes total. the bread is ready when you tap on the bottom and it sounds hollow.
Remove to a wire rack and let cool before slicing.