Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Authentic Italian pizza, the way it should be

The misconceptions of authentic cuisines are rife in the uk, like the recipe magpies that we are, we borrow a great dish from a country in which their cuisine has made an impression on us, then we adapt it to our British palate, now in theory this may seem like a good idea at the time, but years after we have borrowed such dishes and now made them our own it means that the UK's top ten favourite foods now consist of tikka masala, stir fries, spaghetti bolognese and pizza sigh....
This is why I have decided to go back WAYYYY back, to the land where pizza originated, Italy, the one place where pizza remains the harmoniously humble meal it always has been, where the key is not too load hideous toppings of beef burgers, donner meat or an inch of melted plastic cheese, but it is all about the base and toppings are kept to a minimum, tomato, mozzarella and basil, the colours of the Italian flag. I know that we don't all have wood burning ovens in our back gardens, but there are ways to get around such obstacles, we can recreate culinary heaven. A lot of recipes that I have researched are very quick to do but by allowing your dough a little time to ferment the flavours of the dough develop significantly, some call for 72 hours of slow rising in the fridge but I have tried this and truly feel that you can get the same results by leaving the dough for eight hours at room temperature.Humour me if you will, I came, I tried and I think I conquered what is true and splendiferous about the great Italian pizza.

1kg 00 flour
2 tbsp Maldon salt, if it's table salt use half the quantity
6 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
600ml lukewarm water
2 tsp dried fast action instant yeast
3 tsp sugar

Place the flour in a large bowl, electric mixer with a dough hook or pour it directly onto the work bench, add in the salt and mix the salt through the flour. In a jug measure out 600ml of blood temperature water, you should be able to dip your fingers into the water and not notice a temperature change. 

Add in the sugar and yeast and allow the yeast to dissolve, mix the water into the flour and salt, when you have a rough dough add the olive oil to the dough and then knead the dough for 10-15 minutes until the dough becomes elastic and stretchy, place the dough into a large container or into a bowl covered with cling film, let it rise for 8 hours at room temperature. 
 Meanwhile make the passata.

You will need:
6 large plum tomatoes
A tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
A tsp of Maldon salt

Place everything into a pan and cook the tomatoes until they break down entirely! Allow to cool.

Get your toppings ready.
For pizza neapolitana I have buffalo mozzarella that has been well and truly dried, fresh basil, grated pecorino (it's a personal preference I prefer it to Parmesan) and the passata.

N'duja pizza, this is my favourite, a few blobs of Calabrian chilli spiked n'duja sausage, fresh mozzarella, black olives, pecorino cheese and fresh basil.
The last pizza was a prawn and garlic pizza, king prawns, freshly chopped garlic, oregano, mozzarella and pecorino.

I know what you are thinking, how can you replicate the cooking of a wood burning pizza oven, you cannot replicate it but you can get very very close. Either use a cast iron flat grill, or turn a cast iron pan upside down, heat the oven as hot as it will go with the cast iron pan inside for at least half an hour.
This dough made six wonderful pizzas.
 When the dough has risen divide the dough into six, on a very floured surface with a handful of semolina in the flour to soak up the moisture, start by using your finger tips flatten the dough into a disc, you can then pick up the dough and rotate it letting gravity do it's work, it will stretch the dough but will still leave a lip around the edge.
 These pizzas must be thin, never thick, each dough ball should stretch to roughly 10-12 inches.
 Remove the cast iron pan from the oven and working quickly place the disc onto the pan, spread a thin layer of tomatoes, and then top with your choose toppings, no beef burgers or donner meat allowed! Cook the pizza in the Oven for 6-9 minutes until the base is crisp and the cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

Happy Little boy

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