No time for small talk today, folks. We’ve got pizzas to make!
Cutting to the chase, then: craving the thin, sturdy Neapolitan-style pizzas I swooned over in Italy this summer, I pulled out baking genius Peter Reinhardt’s madly popular recipe from my files and did a little tweaking. I adapted the recipe to use active dry yeast (I find most home bakers use that type rather than instant or fresh) and a portion (2 1/2 C) of semolina flour for the dough (not exactly traditional, but its high gluten content yielded a robust texture and good chew), using all-purpose flour for the remainder. After a spin through the stand mixer, I had a beautiful, springy dough scented with olive oil.
If baking with yeast freaks you out a little, the wildness and aliveness of it, this is a terrific recipe to try, since it’s a flatbread or thin crust pizzas we’re after; you don’t need much of a rise to get a well-flavored, almost-in-Naples result. The dough uses a delayed fermentation (another trick for that otherwise elusive golden crust), which is just a fancy way of saying it sits in your fridge overnight. You can leave it for a few days, even, or freeze it for later.
Use whatever pizza toppings you like (go light on them, Italian-style, or you won’t be able to slide your weighed-down pizza into the oven) once you’re ready to bake. I prefer semolina to cornmeal for dusting my pizza “peel” (otherwise known as the back of a baking sheet), since cornmeal tends to burn. And if you’re a sweet-and-savory person, as I am, I highly recommend trying the heavenly combination of caramelized onions, fresh figs, nutty aged cheese and creamy-salty prosciutto. Buon Appetito!
Fig & Proscuitto Flatbread
inspired by Small Shed Flatbreads
- pizza dough, recipe follows
- 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
- Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
- caramelized onions
- fresh rosemary, minced
- fresh mozzerella, torn into shreds
- fresh figs, thinly sliced
Layer the ingredients, starting with the pizza dough. Bake per the instructions below, adding the prosciutto after you’ve taken the pizza out of the oven. (The heat of the oven will turn it grey.)
Perfect Napoletana Pizza Dough
adapted from Peter Reinhardt’s The Bread Baking Apprentice
makes six 9-10″ pizza crusts (about 6 oz each)
- 4 1/2 C unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled
- 1 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 rounded teaspoon active dry yeast
- pinch of sugar
- 1/4 C warm water
- 1/4 C olive oil
- 1 1/2 C ice cold water (about 40 degrees)
- semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
- olive oil spray
- baking stone (check your local hardware store)
Chill ingredients in the fridge except the yeast and warm water. In a ramekin or small bowl, add a generous teaspoon of the yeast to 1/4 C warm water. Add a pinch of sugar. Let “proof” for 10 minutes to rehydrate the yeast until foamy bubbles appear on the surface. (If you don’t get any foamy scum on top, the yeast may be dead. Try again with another measure of water and yeast.)
In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the chilled flour, salt, olive oil, yeasted water, and cold water. With the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until the flour is absorbed. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Mix on medium speed about 5-7 minutes. Look for the dough to become smooth and sticky-tacky; it will detach from the sides of the bowl but still cling to the bottom. (If the dough sticks to to sides, sprinkle in a little flour; if it comes off the bottom, sprinkle in a little cold water.) The finished dough will be springy and elastic and should feel cool, about 50-55 degrees. Another test: take a golf ball sized piece, and holding it up to the light, stretch it out. If you can see through the dough without it tearing, you’ve reached the “windowpane” stage, which indicates you’ve developed the gluten. Ta-daa! (For a photo of what windowpane looks like, click here.)
Sprinkle flour on your work surface and transfer the dough. Take a baking sheet pan and line with parchment. Mist sheet with with olive oil spray (or brush lightly with oil). With a metal bench scraper, cut the dough into six pieces. Flour your hands and the dough and shape into rounds. Transfer dough to the prepared sheet pan; spritz with olive oil spray and cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate dough overnight or up to three days.
On baking day, take the dough out of the fridge two hours ahead. Spritz your work surface with olive oil spray and sprinkle with flour. Dust your hands and the dough with flour and gently smush into 5″ disks. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist with olive oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rest two hours.
Meanwhile, preheat your baking stone in the oven for 45 minutes at 45o degrees. (Place in the lower third of the oven, or on the floor of the oven if it’s a gas appliance.) If your oven can go hotter, go for it.
Time to bake! Dust the back of a sheet pan with semolina or cornmeal. Flour the backs of your hands and place a dough disk on your floured fists, stretching and bouncing the dough in a circular pattern. Re-flour your hands as needed. (If the dough feels too delicate, lay it on the counter and continue stretching. If it springs back, let the gluten rest for about 10-15 minutes.)
Lay the pizza dough (I aimed for 9-10″ in diameter) on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly sauce and add toppings (go easy!). Give the pan a shimmy to make sure the dough isn’t sticking. Slide the unbaked pizza onto the preheated baking stone. Bake 5-10 minutes until crisp and golden. (Adjust the location of your pizza stone after the first pie, if needed.)
Let cool slightly, slice and serve.
(Note: To freeze the dough, coat the dough once it’s in the rounded ball stage in olive oil and place in separate zip-top bags for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge and proceed with the recipe.)