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Make an authentic Italian pizza here

Overview

Pizza is a type of pie that originated in Italy and is now a world-famous delicacy.
In the earliest days, fermented pasta was baked on a stone slab and olive oil, tomatoes and cheese were added to make the resulting pastry delicious. There is also an ancient Italian bread called focaccia, which is extremely similar to pizza in both appearance and taste, and would be considered a precursor to pizza.

Later, the Italians brought pizza to America and made it a household name. Since then two major schools of thought have been formed in the pizza world, Italian and American pizza. Like the Chinese cuisine, pizzas with a strong local flavour are popular in Naples and Sicily in Italy, and in New York and Chicago in the USA.

A pizza is a sheet of pastry baked with a variety of toppings.
The pastry is like a blank sheet of paper, and you can use the toppings as paint to create your own. Of course, to create a pizza with all the colours and flavours, you need to master some combination techniques.

Many people will tell you that the crust is the soul of a pizza, and the flour and fermentation are the key to the crust.
So, to make a good pizza, you first need the right flour.
Traditional Italian pizzas are made with pizza flour, which is also known as 00 flour, but this number does not stand for protein or ash. In fact 00 flour is a high gluten flour, produced in Italy.
Although e-commerce is now very advanced, there is no need to buy this special flour if you only occasionally make pizzas at home. You can use high-gluten flour or medium gluten flour alone instead, preferably unbleached, to retain the original wheat flavour.

As for the exact choice of gluten level of flour, it also varies from person to person.
Some people like it chewy, so just use high gluten flour alone. Those who want it crispy and fluffy can substitute some of the low gluten flour for the high gluten flour, or just use medium gluten flour. Because pizzas don’t need the same level of expansion as sweet breads, the gluten requirements are not as demanding. However, you should understand that the protein content of the flour affects the water absorption of the dough and the higher the water content of the pizza dough, the softer and more tender the baked product will be.

Apart from flour, the other ingredients for pizza dough are water, salt, dry yeast and olive oil, the baking percentages for them in this blog are 62%, 2%, 0.6% and 10% respectively. The amount of water added to these can be between 60% and 70% of the weight of the flour, you have to take it according to the water absorption of the flour, rather than going for a large amount of water, otherwise the dough will be too soft and sticky and will affect the shaping later. The amount of dry yeast used for pizza should be much less than for sweet bread, as it needs a long low temperature fermentation and the amount of yeast should not be too high. The purpose of adding olive oil is to increase the dough’s ductility and flavour and to make the baked product a little crisper. It is recommended that you use virgin olive oil as it is more flavourful than refined olive oil.

Many pizzas appear stringy on the inside, mainly because of the mozzarella used. Mozzarella has a high moisture content and baking it quickly retains its moisture, producing a stringy effect.
In fact, there are many different types of cheese that can be used in pizza toppings, such as cheddar, parmesan, blue cheese and many more. These different types of cheese give pizzas more flavour, but they have little visible pulling effect. Therefore, whether they are shredded or not is not a criterion for judging the quality of a pizza; there are many pizzas that are not shredded that are just as delicious.

In addition to cheese, the inside of the pizza needs other ingredients to go with it.
For example, ham, bacon, beef, chicken and seafood in meat, and peppers, onions, mushrooms, peas and corn in vegetables. When matching the filling, we can combine meat and vegetables to suit your preferred taste.
However, two principles should be borne in mind: firstly, it is not advisable to have too many fillings, regardless of the type or quantity; secondly, try to use fillings that contain as little water as possible, or remove excess water before adding them.

Both of these will affect the baking level of the crust and determine the final taste.

An essential sauce for pizza is tomato sauce, which you can make yourself from fresh tomatoes or buy branded tomato sauce.
To make homemade tomato sauce, beat the tomatoes in a processor, then add olive oil, minced garlic and salt. Of course, you can also heat the tomato sauce to make it more flavourful.

The process of kneading the pizza dough is similar to that of simple bread, following the principle of low temperature and low speed. It is best to refrigerate the flour and water in advance so as to minimise the temperature of the dough when it is finished.
If making small portions, add the olive oil at the beginning, as this will have little effect on the efficiency of the kneading. Knead the dough until the surface is slightly smooth and about 80% gluten, as the subsequent resting fermentation will also strengthen the gluten.

Place the dough in a rising bowl and rub the top of the dough with some extra olive oil to prevent the dough from drying out, then wrap in cling film and leave to rise in the fridge for 24 hours. The fermentation time does not need to be exact, but a difference of 3 and 5 hours is not a problem.

Usually pizza dough can be fermented for more than 48 hours and a fully fermented crust has a more intense fermented flavour. More of the starch is broken down into small molecular sugars and these reducing sugars will make the crust sweeter and easier to colour. However, given that 3 days is a bit extravagant for a home made pizza, finding a balance between flavour and efficiency and fermenting for 24 hours is acceptable!

When you have taken the dough out of the fridge, at which point it is very cold, press it down and leave it to come back to temperature at room temperature. This will allow some of the gas to drain off and allow it to continue to ferment, but will also increase the surface area of the dough and allow it to warm back up faster.

During this process, it is just as important to cover it with cling film to prevent it from drying out. As the dough gradually warms up over time, the yeast slowly regains its activity, speeding up the fermentation and producing more carbon dioxide, a process that amounts to a final fermentation. It usually takes about 2 hours to return from chilled temperature (4 ℃) to room temperature (25 ℃).

Traditional Italian pizzas are baked in kilns, which reach temperatures of over 400℃ and take 2 to 3 minutes to bake, allowing the crust to become crispy and the toppings to retain their moisture, resulting in an excellent crispy exterior and tender interior.
The kiln is out of reach when it comes to home baking, so how can you bake a crispy pizza in a home oven with a 250 ℃ temperature limit?
The answer is to use a baking stone.

A fully preheated slab stores a lot of heat and provides superb heating efficiency as soon as the pizza is in the oven. Not quite as good as those professional pizza ovens, but enough to produce a satisfying pizza. Bake a pizza at a low temperature for a long time and you’ll get a pie with burnt toppings and a dry texture, and that’s enough to ruin its flavour.

During this time when the dough is warming up, you can start preheating the baking slabs. Common slabs range in thickness from 0.5 to 0.8 inches and need to be preheated for about 40 and 60 minutes at 250℃.
Slabs that have not been sufficiently preheated will be much less effective.

Once the dough has returned to room temperature, it will have expanded more than twice its size, at which point you can start shaping it. Although it is easy to shape with a rolling pin, I would recommend that you do it with your bare hands, as the rolling pin will press the crust too firmly.
Shaping with your bare hands is not difficult, the basic actions are flattening, stretching and tossing. It is important to make sure that the outer edge of the pizza is 0.8 inches slightly higher than the middle, this edge is called the ‘pizza edge’ and this will stop the filling from running everywhere.

It’s easiest to use coarse-grained cornmeal during the shaping process, which is the equivalent of placing a roller ball on the bottom of the pastry to make it slide more freely.
If you don’t have cornflour you can also use wholemeal flour or high gluten flour instead, it will just be less effective. You can poke the larger air bubbles in the pastry with the help of a fork or toothpick, as these can cause the pizza to expand too high in places and thus cause the topping to burn.

This time we are making 2 10″ thin bottom pizzas, the dough weighs about 0.9lb, which means that each 10″ pizza weighs 0.4lb of dough (actually it could be less) and the flour weighs 0.3lb.
So how do you calculate to make a 12″ or 14″ thin-bottomed pizza?
For example, if the diameter of a 12-inch pizza is 12 inches, the ratio of its area to that of a 10-inch pizza is (12*12)/(10*10) = 1.44, and then take 0.3lb of flour and multiply it by 1.44 to find the amount of flour used for a 12-inch pizza is 0.38lb.

You can also calculate the amount of flour used for other sizes.

Once the pastry has been made, it is time to arrange it in the order of tomato sauce, cheese and other fillings. Brush the tomato sauce evenly, chop the cheese a little if it has lumps, and place the other fillings in the same way as the meat before the fruit and vegetables.

There are three areas of pizza making where you want to make sure the temperature is right.

During the pizza making process, you want to make sure that the temperature is right in three areas.

1. The baking stone should be preheated to a sufficient temperature
2. The dough is returned to room temperature when shaping
3. Return the temperature of all the toppings to room temperature, especially the mozzarella which is kept frozen.

Because of the use of a slate, you will need a spatula to get the pizza into the oven.
The easiest way to do this is to use a pizza spatula, or if you don’t have one you can use a metal sheet instead, which makes it easier when putting in and taking out of the oven. If the baking stone is well preheated and the oven is set at 250℃ up and down, the pizza will only take about 7 minutes to cook the crust and produce a browned baking colour.

Remove from the oven as soon as possible and enjoy this deliciousness while it’s still hot!


  • Recipes

Environment / Room temperature 20℃, humidity 60%

Serving Size / 2 thin-bottomed 10-inch, 4 and 8 people serving

Baking / Place the slabs in the middle of the oven, preheat at 250℃ for 1 hour, bake at 250℃ for 7 minutes, adjust according to the temperature difference of your oven.

Storage / Store sealed at room temperature for 1 day, sealed and frozen for 1 month

  • Raw materials

Dough / 0.5lb high-gluten flour (chilled)
Water 0.3lb (chilled)
Dried yeast 0.8 dr
Salt 2.8 dr
Olive oil 13.5 dr

Filling ingredients

Mozzarella 0.4 lb
Tomato sauce 0.3lb
Sausage 0.3 lb
Green pepper 18.1 dr

  • Steps

1. In a mixing bowl, add the flour, yeast and salt and mix well with a hand whisk, avoiding direct contact between the yeast and salt.

2. Add the water and olive oil and turn on the chef’s machine and blend on low speed for about 1 minute.

3. Once the ingredients have formed a dough, turn down to medium speed and knead for about 12 minutes.

4. Knead the dough until the surface is slightly smooth and a thin film can be pulled out, with a jagged rupture. At this point the dough is about 80% al dente.

5. The temperature of the dough is 25 degrees.

6. Roll out the dough and place it in a greased rising bowl.

7. Lightly grease the surface of the dough, cover with cling film and leave to rise in the fridge for about 24 hours.

8. Remove the dough, which has expanded more than twice in size. Sprinkle some hand flour on the table and divide the dough into two portions of about 0.4 lb each.

Expansion

Cutting

9. Knead the dough and then press it down, place it on a baking tray covered with cling film and leave it to warm up, it will take about 2 hours.

10. Place the slab in the middle of the oven and start preheating at 250℃, which will take at least 1 hour.

11. Now start preparing the filling.
If the cheese is lumpy, chop it up directly with a knife.

12. Slice the sausages to a thickness of about 8 mm.

13. Slice the green pepper and then cut it in half.

14. Dust the table with a good amount of hand flour and press the warmed dough into a round shape with the palm of your hand and deflate it properly. Use more hand flour if the dough is sticky during the shaping process.

15. Press the pastry with the fingertips of both hands to create a 0.4 inch edge, then rotate 30 degrees and repeat until a full pizza edge is created. Make sure there is enough hand flour on the bottom of the pastry so that it is easier to turn the pastry.

16. Then press down on the dough with both hands and pull it out horizontally for a short distance, then rotate it 30 degrees and repeat the process so that the pastry gradually becomes larger.

17. Lift the pastry up in one hand and toss it back and forth between your hands, rotating it at a small angle with each toss, so that the pastry becomes larger and larger due to gravity.

18. Repeat the two movements of stretching and throwing until the pastry reaches a diameter of about 9.8 inch and then place it on the greaseproof paper. If you accidentally break it, you can pinch the broken areas together.

19. Using your hands, trim the pastry to make it a little rounder and pierce some of the obvious large air bubbles, which will prevent the topping from burning.

20. Pour the tomato sauce over the pastry and spread it well with a tablespoon, leaving the edges of the pastry unspread by 0.4 inch.

21. Add the grated cheese and use your hands to spread it out.

22. Arrange the sausage slices evenly and add the green pepper slices to complete the garnish.

23. Together with the greaseproof paper, transfer the pastry to a spatula.

24. Transfer to the middle of the oven, shake slightly so that the edges of the pastry rest against the stone, then quickly draw away the spatula so that the pizza and greaseproof paper fall onto the stone.

25. Adjust the top and bottom heat to 250℃ for 7 minutes, being flexible according to your oven temperature difference.

26. When the pizza base is coloured and the filling shows a few burnt spots, it is baked properly. Grasp the edge of the greaseproof paper and pull it onto a spatula to remove it easily from the oven.

27. Transfer to a cooling grid, then use a wheel cutter to divide the pizza into 8 equal portions while still hot.

28. The base is lightly browned, with air holes of varying sizes visible on the cut side, with a light fermented flavour and a very crispy and fluffy texture.

  • FAQs

Q. The dough is wet and sticky and does not form a ball
R. Flour absorption rate is too low
A. Adjust the amount of water added according to the water absorption rate of the flour or replace the flour

Q. The dough shrinks badly when pressed
R. 1. Dough temperature too low 2. Insufficient time to loosen the dough
A. 1. wait for the dough to fully warm up before operating 2. extend the dough relaxation time

Q. The dough will break easily
R. 1. Insufficient dough tenderness 2. Not enough even force
A. 1. Increase the tenderness of the flour or increase the kneading time 2. Pay attention to the even force when stretching

Q. The top of the filling is burnt
R 1. Too many large air bubbles in the pastry 2. Oven temperature difference is too large
A. 1. Eliminate the large air bubbles in the pastry 2. Adjust the baking temperature and time according to the temperature difference of the oven

Q. The bottom of the cake is not crispy enough
R. 1. Insufficient preheating of the baking stone. 2. insufficient baking time. 3. Too much moisture in the filling
A. 1. Ensure the stone plate is preheated for more than 1 hour. 2. extend the baking time appropriately. 3. Reduce the moisture of the filling

Q. The cheese does not have a pulling effect
R. 1. Quality of mozzarella cheese 2. Baking time is too long resulting in moisture loss of cheese
A. 1. Replace the cheese with a better pulling effect 2. Increase the baking temperature and shorten the time.

  • Summary

A pizza is a piece of pastry with toppings. To make a good pizza, you first need to choose the right flour and extend the fermentation time, which brings out the flavour of the crust.
Secondly, the baking temperature is also key. Using a baking stone makes the baking time very short, so that the filling retains its moisture while the crust bakes thoroughly and becomes very crispy. For the filling, just make sure you use a good quality cheese and don’t overload it with too much filling.


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