1- The dough
Let’s start by saying one thing: the perfect recipe doesn’t exist.
The perfect recipe for pizza dough is the one that best matches the other elements necessary for the creation of the pizza itself: temperature, time and hand:
Temperature: the working temperature, the rising temperature of the dough and the temperature of the oven;
Time: for the creation of the money, for the leavening, for the laying out and for the baking.
Hand: fundamental in the preparation of the dough, in its subdivision and in the laying out to put it in a baking tin (round or square).
At the basis of any recipe for the dough of the pizza that we decide to follow, or of the one that suggests experience or imagination, you can not ignore the choice of quality raw materials.
Pizza is a dish born as a mediocre dish, and the main ingredients are the same as bread: water and flour. Using weak flour or impure water will frustrate our efforts to get a good pizza. For example, tap water is not recommended if you live in a town that provides very hard water or that makes massive use of chlorine, which does not go well with the yeast (but if you are among the lucky people who live in mountain areas you will probably have excellent water from the tap at home, but if you live in a large city, better opt for bottled mineral water).
Behind the choice of flour, there is a world to discover. There are many mills that have specialized in grains suitable for baking, or even in specific meals for pizza. Until a few years ago, these products were the exclusive prerogative of professionals and challenging to find by end consumers, who had to be satisfied with the flours available in their supermarket. Now many producers of particular meals have started to communicate and sell their meals through the web, to meet the demands of the market that sees a sharp increase in the interest of the general public for the world of pizza and homemade baking, for the same reason also many supermarkets have begun to expand the assortment of flours on the shelf, with the result that we can all comfortably buy many varieties of flour.
For the realization of the pizza at home, it is advisable to use a type 0 soft wheat flour, with a strength (W) between 250 and 310 and with a high amount of protein (at least 10 – 12%). This is because the dough in the baking tin is more hydrated than the pizza on the plate, with a difference of up to 20 %. For the same weight, a strong flour is able to absorb more water than a weak one, but it needs longer maturation times, and we will, therefore, have to slow down the rising process by putting the mass to rise in the fridge, to align the increasing times to those of maturation of the dough.
As far as the order of the ingredients is concerned, pizza is not mathematical, and the result changes! The important thing is that the yeast is placed away from the salt, one first and the other last. Another advice to help the leavening is to add some sugars, which the yeast feeds on. Regular cooking sugar, cane sugar, or even a tablespoon of honey are all right. A small amount will not affect the flavor of the pizza and will help you to get a well-leavened dough. Cooked to the right point it will give you a soft pizza in the center and on the edges but fragrant under and over and with golden edges.
2 – The draft.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator at least a couple of hours before laying it out. Flour the worktop and place the dough on top of it, gently.
If you have opted for round baking pans, we will usually have balls between 250 and 300 grams. Roll out using enough flour both under and over the pizza. Start by pressing with your fingertips to move the mass towards the edges. With a circular movement of the hands rolls out the dough gradually widening the diameter of the pizza, try not to crush the outer part of the edge (otherwise it does not swell) and the more central (it expands by itself). Once you have obtained a round pizza about the size of the pan, lift the pizza with rotary movements from left to right and vice versa to remove excess flour and place it on the previously greased pan.
If, on the other hand, you use rectangular baking pans, we will work with a quantity of dough that is more suitable given that the shape may also be useful to use a rolling pin (but do not tell an expert pizza maker!). Roll out the dough always flouring it on both sides until it is as big as the baking sheet, then move it over it by lifting it with your arm and taking care to shake off the excess flour.
Whether you use the round baking sheet or the rectangular one, you can let the dough rise a third time directly in the baking sheet before seasoning the pizza. Leavening times, as mentioned, depend on many factors: the most challenging task is to understand how to balance the timing of the various phases of leavening, but with a little practice you will be able to manage this process in the best possible way.
3 – The seasoning.
Now our pizza is ready to be seasoned. For baked pizza, it is usual to put the dressing in two or more stages. First, you prepare the bases, white or red, and cook like this for about half the time. To obtain the best results, the cooking times of the plates must be coordinated with those of the various seasonings.
In the case of white pizzas, we can make a pre-cooking with only a light brush of EVO oil and a pinch of salt. In the red ones, instead, we will put the tomato sauce that we made by cooking in a separate pot for a few minutes the tomato pulp with a little ‘oil EVO, salt as needed and a pinch of oregano.
After about five minutes our dough will be halfway through cooking, and we can add all our ingredients, except the mozzarella, which must be in the oven only the last two or three minutes, so that it does not burn. As for the mozzarella, it is essential to cut it into small pieces and keep it to drain for at least an hour (two for the buffalo), to avoid flooding on the pizzas and encrustations to be cleaned on the baking trays.
4 – Cooking.
With some tricks, you can get very close to the result of a professional pizzeria even with the oven at home. Here is a list of some tips to get a perfect pizza baking in your home oven:
Preheat the oven to a maximum of at least one hour and use the static function;
Place the baking tray directly on the bottom of the oven without other baking pans in between;
Use a refractory stone (or an excellent refractory oven) that accumulates heat and transmits it to the pizza pan better than the metal of the stove);
Check that the pizza is also cooked underneath, lifting it up with a fork when you take it out of the oven to season it. Make sure that it is at the same point as the upper part: if it is still very white below when it seems almost ready, remove the pizza from the pan and put it directly on the refractory stone (which is hotter than the pan), if vice versa it is ready below but still raw above, move the container on the highest shelf of the oven putting it on the grill and turn on the grill until it is ready.
The last secret for a professional pizza
As we have seen, making pizza at home is a process that involves many factors for the success of the final product. With a little practice and a few tricks, however, it is possible to get very close to the results obtained by professionals with the tools and spaces of the rooms equipped.
To sum up, here are the four guiding principles that will help you to churn out delicious pizzas:
Choose high-quality raw materials.
Make various tests in the division of leavening and maturation times in the multiple phases, also depending on the amount of yeast put into the dough and the ambient temperature.
In the manual parts of the cutting and laying, try to treat the dough in a delicate way, spreading it more than crushing it, working at the same time to be quick.
As for baking, try to balance the top and bottom of the pizza and understand the timing of your oven.
If you liked to try your hand at pizza at home, a pizza has come out that has satisfied you, and you want to continue to improve with enthusiasm, you can also think of upgrading. The market for high-performance home ovens has evolved rapidly in recent years, and you can find specialized companies that make semi-professional home ovens of excellent quality without spending a fortune.
If you have a place outdoors and want to try your hand at real Neapolitan pizza, you can think of a nice wood-burning oven, very impressive and beautiful to see as well as being a whole different level for cooking anything.