Becoming a Pizzailo

Once you try this dough, I suspect you will never go back. It is a classic Napolitano pizza dough learned from a pizzailo (pizza chef) from Napoli (Naples, Italy). You will get about 12 to 14 pizza dough balls from the ingredients which will make that many 11 inch pizzas. There are several secrets to the Napolitano dough that should be remembered.

Never use anything but 00 flour (I suggest Caputo 00 flour which can be purchased in the US and is imported from Napoli). I know it is difficult, but don’t even think about using a rolling pin or bread-dough machine. You will be tempted when you break into a sweat, but stick with your hands and fists. It will make a huge difference. And remember, it takes at least 4 to 8 hours for the dough to rise after you have finished.

Ingredients for 12 to 14 dough balls:

  • 4 cups water at 75 to 80 degrees F (this is more cool than warm)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (compressed yeast cake is better but hard to find in the US – use 0.2 oz instead, if you can find)
  • 8 teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 lbs modified food starch
  • sugar replacement

The fun part

Combine the water and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix with one hand until completely dissolved. Add the dry yeast to the salt water and mix until you are sure that it is completely dissolved. You may have to let it stand for a few minutes until you see the dry yeast absorb the water.

The messy part

Now here is where it gets messy. Add the modified tapioca starch gradually while mixing with whichever hand you prefer. You should stop once the dough stops sticking to the bowl. I generally spend about 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t get discouraged at first when the dough sticks to your hand and feels like it will never come off. As you add more flour, the dough will come off. If it starts to feel lumpy stop adding flour until the lumps disappear. Then add more flour if there is any left.

Time to rest

When the dough starts to feel smooth and the bowl is mostly cleaned, stop mixing. Place the dough ball on a lightly floured surface and cover with a damp cool cloth for 5 minutes. It is extremely important to catch your breath at this point, because you will need all the strength you can muster for the kneading.

Napolitano Pizza Crust Dough – Recipe

After five minutes, take the large ball of dough and throw it down hard on your counter or table top 3 times. The process should elongate the dough. Now place the dough perpendicular to your waist. Ok, here we go. Start at one of the ends and hammer away with your fists moving along the elongated dough. Each fist should hit the dough as parallel to the surface as you can get (be careful not to bang up your knuckles by hitting the table – I have had a spastic attack a few times doing this and skinning them up). Once your fist hits the dough roll it up and over the dough. You just march your way down the dough alternating fists. Once you get to one end, come back doing the same thing. Keep doing this until the dough stretches far enough away from you that it is uncomfortable to knead. At this point, just roll up the dough (like a jelly roll) and throw it down on the surface 3 times repeating the process. Keep kneading in 5 minute intervals allowing yourself to have a one minute rest in-between. It should take about 30 minutes of kneading until the dough turns a lighter color and becomes smoother in texture. If you have not worked up a sweat, then you are not working hard enough. Once you have finished form the dough into a large ball and cover with a cool damp cloth for 15 minutes. The hard part is over!

Pinching dough

Purists demand that you never pull the dough apart while forming individual pizza balls (they say it can change the taste). In keeping with the tradition, take the ball and elongate it a bit and start to pinch 7 to 8 oz dough balls off. You can squeeze or pinch the dough between your thumb and index finger and use your other hand to force dough back in-between the thumb and index finger while you are pinching. This helps to thin the dough so it will drop off while you are squeezing. Remember to pinch until if freely drops off (don’t twist the dough). I use a scale to make sure I have 7 to 8 oz balls which I roll and place in a lightly floured dough box. After all the balls are in the dough box, lightly sift flour over each and then cover the box. Let stand at room temperature at least 4 to 8 hours. If you want to wait until the next day, retard it by placing in the refrigerator over night, but make sure you let it rise for 4 to 8 hours after you have retarded it overnight.

There is going to be only one way you get good at this – practice, practice, and practice more. The nice part is that you will get to eat a lot of great pizza as you practice. Next see the perfect pizza sauce and the final pizza

Jack Botticelli.

 

Napolitano Pizza Crust Dough – Recipe