Last weekend I joined my pizza-master friend Domenico at Harlem's Serafina, the goal to watch him make true Neopolitan pizza. The restaurant has a great oven, but for whatever reason it's designed less for Neapolitan pizza for their pizzaiolo's, its presence is more for customer display. Regardless, Domenico made some great pies out of it despite the oven issues, mixing dough with a Pivetti Flour especially designed for his specs. What surprised me was that he used a few canned products; namely porcini mushrooms and semi-dried tomatoes from a company called Menu. I'm normally suspicious of canned food, but theirs was really good! All to say, Domenico created pizza magic.
Retarded pizza dough usually will last a week, at most. After five days it frequently degrades into a wet and dying mass. In my latest workplace test on ghetto pizza dough, I had some success with a three-week old batch, getting the most delicious, best looking pies I've ever baked!
The secret? First, I made one batch with horrible results. Not wanting toss all the dough, I upped the hydration, added a pinch of yeast, and let the dough cold proof again! Next day, I balled a few pieces of dough, and let them sit about an hour. Boom!
Whenever I'm in Stamford, Connecticut, I hear my brother's voice urging me, "go to Bo-Bo's," otherwise known as the Colony Grill and a favorite pizza place of mine. Suffering blocked sinuses, I headed over and ordered their "stinger," a chile laden pizza pie. Delicious and sinuses cleared.
I failed on a recent pizza attempt at work, so I went back to the oven. Here's my newest take; heat the tiles but lower the direct flames. The idea is to mimic a wood burning oven by heating the tiles on one side while broiling and charring the pies. Here is what I got; quasi ghetto Neapolitan pizze!
Ian Lowe, posting here (Instagram @apieceofbread,) offers more than great photos. He delivers an array of amazing baking information! Before he started sharing so generously on Instagram, he had a wonderful - albeit short lived - blog, Ars Pastoria.
Ian's pizza formula - which called for sourdough and a long fermentation - was exceptional. I just recreated it with results photographed below. My dough was in the fridge for four days before I made a pie! It was spectacular. Thanks, Ian.
Below are photos from a long-ferment sourdough pizza. I started with a 12 hour bulk, then shaped and fermented it for over 36 hours. Leaving the dough in ambient room temperature (fairly cold this particularly frigid February), it turned out spectacularly. Even with out-of-season tomatoes, from my mouth to God's ear I can honestly claim it was not a single bite sour! Though I should admit using mutti-passata for the sauce, as well as as Gustiamo imported Piennolo tomatoes. Those summer flavors amid a rather chilly winter made for delicious pizza, bringing thoughts of sunny skies and no more snow.
At work, we lack a wood fired pizza oven. What we do have is an oven that manages beautifully at 900 degree. Here's some overnight Verace Napoletano pizza I made at work for New Years eve lunch for the kitchen crew.
Though many pizzaioli tend to make yeasted pizza, my aim is to go all natural with wild yeast. Below are shots of my last batch, made with a mix of low protein, white winter wheat grain milled along with standard A.P. flour and a sprouted wheat levain.
Using a long bulk proof of 4-5 hours, as well as a final two hour rise, I then incorporated my method of cast iron baking in which you cook over the stove, then pop into your broiler. It's perfect when you have a less-than-perfect oven and don't want to overheat your space, the heat from a cast iron is magic.
In my eternal quest at the perfect sourdough Verace Napoletano pizza, I have tried various approaches. In my latest, I tried a autolyse of sorts; adding in salt at the last moment, a minimal mix, and with a bit of folding, then popping the whole lot into the fridge for bulk ferment. The next day I divided and tested one ball of dough, letting it sit on the counter till I felt it was ready to bake. The results were fantastic, though I only had bufala mozzarella, which melted like a lake of milk. Still, the pizza was good with exceptional cornicione.