After a long winter hiatus, we were anxious to fire up the wood burning oven that we built last summer and pick up where we left off in our quest to make authentic Neapolitan pizza. If your interested in seeing how the oven was built, check out: How to Build a Wood Burning Oven, Part 1 & Part 2
We've had our share of disasters. A perfectly simple task of making pizza dough, turned out to be far more complicated than we anticipated. Our first attempt appeared to be going well, but at the very last moment, the dough stuck to the peel and refused to slide into the oven. We managed to scrape it off, but oh what a mess! I wish I'd taken a photo, but at the time I wasn't amused. And I was hungry. It wasn't pretty.
After a few more mishaps came a moment of clarity. The problem was the flour. The much touted 00 flour produced a pizza dough that was just too soft and delicate. It lacked the body to stand up to the sauce and kept sticking to the peel. So we cut it with an equal amount of all purpose flour and that seemed to solve the sticking problem. Next, the crust. It was pretty good, but a tad doughy. Enter Jim Lahey with his latest cookbook, My Pizza, to the rescue. Jim keeps it simple: all purpose flour, a tiny pinch of yeast, water, salt, and a long slow rise. It was perfection. Happy now. Thank you Jim Lahey
The dough is mixed together with a wooden spoon, covered, and allowed to rise overnight at room temperature.
Next day, it's divided into 4 equal parts. A scale comes in handy here. On a floured surface, the dough is shaped into balls by pulling each of the four sides toward the center. Seam down and dusted with flour if sticky, the balls are wrapped individually in plastic and refrigerated until ready to use. Allow about one hour for dough to reach room temperature before baking.
In a wood burning oven, pizza bakes at 1,000F. It's best to allow at least 2 hours for the oven to reach this temperature. To start the fire, we arrange the wood using the "top down" method: kindling on top, smaller logs in the middle, and larger logs on the bottom. Using a couple of fire starting cubes to ignite the kindling, the fire will work its way down to the larger logs.
After the bottom logs begin to burn, additional logs are added to produce a fire that's spread out across the width of the oven.
After 1-1/2 to 2 hours, the inside of the dome will begin to clear. This is when the black soot that coated the dome from the initial fire has been vaporized by the high heat. This indicates that the oven is hot enough to bake pizzas the Neapolitan way, which is at about 900 to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use an infared thermometer to check the temperature.
The dome in now clear and ready to bake the pizza.
Once the oven has reached its proper temperature, it's time to shape the dough. On a floured surface, gently stretch it out to 6-8 inches.
Continue until you have a roundish disc that measures around 10". It should look blistered.
Canned, uncooked San Marzano tomatoes are used for the sauce. Break them up with your hands and strain to thicken them a little as the sauce shouldn't be watery.
Adding a little basil
A sprinkle of sea salt
Finishing it off with extra virgin olive oil
Adapted from Jim Lahey
- Pizza Dough:
- 3-3/4 cups (500 grams) All purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-1/2 cups (350 grams) water
- Pizza Topping:
- 1 cup San Marzano canned tomatoes
- 28 oz. buffalo mozzarella
- sea salt
- 24 fresh basil leaves
- extra virgin olive oil
- Pizza Dough:
- Mix ingredients together in a bowl by hand or a wooden spoon.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature (72F) for about 18 hours or until doubled.
- Scrape out dough onto a floured surface and divide into 4 equal pieces.
- Shape into balls by pulling left, right, top, and bottom of dough towards the center. Dust with flour if sticky.
- Use immediately or wrap each one in saran wrap and refrigerate up to 3 days.
- Allow about an hour to return to room temperature before using.
- On a floured surface, working one ball at a time, gently stretch dough to about 6-8 inches. Continue stretching very carefully while forming it into a 10 inch disc. It should look blistered.
- Flour your peel and place disc onto its center.
- Spoon 1/4 cup of tomato sauce evenly onto the pizza dough, leaving a 1 inch rim.
- Pat 7oz. mozzarella dry.
- Pull apart into 10 pieces and distribute them evenly over the sauce
- With a quick jerking motion, slide the pie into the wood burning oven
- Bake about 90 seconds
- Using the peel, remove from the oven
- Garnish with basil leaves, sprinkling of sea salt, and a touch of extra virgin olive oil
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