Well, who doesn’t know Italian Pizza? I think it’s the most famous food all around the world, isn’t it! Pizza Pizza Pizza. It’s everywhere, and It’s my favorite! However, how many of you have actually ever tried to make Pizza at home? Not yet?
We offer Pizza making classes along with many other Food and Wine Experiences during our Umbria Active Gourmet holidays, and they are such a great way to immerse in the local culture, learning and having lots of fun! However, as we are waiting to get back to our normal lives and business, why not trying to make it at home? Andiamo! It’s simple! Let's stay connected...
WHERE PIZZA COME FROM…
To find the roots of this masterpiece of simplicity we need to go back to the end of the 18th century, in Naples, Italy. Chef Raffaele Esposito made a variation of focaccia bread in honor of the Queen of Italy, named Margherita. That’s where it takes the name from and, of course, he wanted to celebrate Italy as well so he seasoned the Focaccia with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil to represent the Italian flag colors, red, white and green. There you go, the first Pizza ever was just made. It was 1889. This bakery was located in the area of Porta d’Alba, Naples, the south of Italy, and it’s still existing. Now is a popular Pizzeria with an ancient oven (around 90-year-old) made with volcanic rocks from Vesuvius. You should go to visit it!
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS
Now, let’s go back to our recipe. Of course, there are many ways to eat Pizza, but only one to make it. Let’s start making the dough. It goes without saying that the quality of the ingredients is the key to a great Pizza. Sure, but how do we choose the right ingredients?
The choice of flour is the most important of all the ingredients. To achieve the best result in terms of crumbliness and crunchiness you need to go for a flour that is neither too weak nor too hard, with the right amount of protein. Therefore we need to learn how to read the labels. There are many types of flours out there. To simplify the choice, you need to know that a weak flour is, the classic “plain white flour”, also type “00”. The consistency of the proteins in the flour is defined with the letter W. A weak flour (W 180-210) is more suitable for baking desserts such as biscuits. This type of flour is more elastic and it rises faster. A hard flour, like the Canadian Manitoba (W>350), contains more insoluble proteins and it’s more suitable for baking a certain kind of bread. Of course, it requires a much longer rising.
I know it’s a lot of talking but it’s very important to understand the ingredients before cooking, isn’t it? So, for our best homemade Pizza, we need to go for a medium-hard flour (W 250-300), which you can get by mixing the weak flour with the hard one (65% weak 35% hard) or you can choose those flours already mixed, made on purpose for baking Pizza. Have a look at your local grocery store and read the label! Our choice falls on flour type “1” from the local mill Granarium. This is one of the excellence of Umbria, “where grains become bread”. On our Umbria Slow Food Tour, we take travelers to visit this family-owned farm to show all the steps of producing bread from the grain, all in one place, following the old traditions and respecting nature.
Salt is a natural disinfectant for the dough and has antiseptic and preservation properties for the finished product. It also slows down the production of the enzymes lending the dough a whiter color that gets more compact and less sticky.
The right amount of salt is around 2% of the quantity of the flour. Remember, never mix the salt with the yeast because it kills it. So add the salt slowly while working the dough with your hands.
Here we can write a whole book talking about olive oil and how this is relevant in cooking. Let’s simplify saying that a good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil improves the characteristics of the dough itself, and acts as a product preservative through the edible fat of the oil. It also helps to raise the dough thanks to the combination of the fats with the gluten. The rising process will be better because it keeps the dough hydrated and warmer. Extra virgin olive oil would be the best choice, and the quantity should be between 2% to 3% of the flour.
Umbria produces some of the best quality EVO of the country, for example, on Gold of Spello Bike Tour, you can take part in fun and interactive olive oil tastings experiences...by bike? Sure, why not!
It might sound very common to say that water hardness affects a lot the result of your Pizza. Let’s take it for granted that your tap water is controlled so the mineral salts, the chlorine, and the calcium carbonate are well balanced (5 to 20 grams). If so, your tap water is good. The ideal ratio between water and flour is around 60%. This way the dough gets hydrated enough to rise properly.
It is a free microorganism, very common in nature. The industrial production of yeast is to benefit the baking process, to make it more simple. There are several kinds of yeast out there and the composition of it is complex and we leave it to physical chemists. For your homemade Pizza buy fresh yeast, rather than dry yeast and let it work at a temperature between 20 ºC and 30 ºC. The ratio between yeast and flour is 1%.
THE RECIPE (FOR 2 PEOPLE)
INGREDIENTS FOR THE DOUGH
Manitoba Flour: 200gr (7oz)
Plain Flour (or type “00”): 300gr (10,5oz)
Flour already mixed for Pizza (W 250-300): 500gr (17,5oz)
Water: 300ml (10,50 fl.oz.) room temperature
Salt: 10gr (0,35oz)
Extra virgin Olive oil: 35gr (1,25oz)
Fresh Yeast: 5gr (1,17oz)
INGREDIENTS FOR THE PIZZA SEASONING
Tomato pulp: 500 gr (17oz)
Mozzarella fiordilatte: 300 gr (10,5oz)
Salt: 1 little spoon
Oil: Just enough
PREPARATION - Hands-on!
1. MIX FLOUR AND YEAST
Put the flour in a bowl, then mix the yeast with the water until it becomes liquid and it gets greyish. At this point add about half the water flush, kneading gradually with your hands. Add the salt and the rest of the water. Keep mixing with your hands until it gets uniformed. At this point also add the oil, always little by little, continuing to knead in order to facilitate absorption.
2. STRETCH THE DOUGH
Then transfer the dough to a surface and work it vigorously for a few minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Once you have a nice smooth dough, let it rest on the work surface for about ten minutes, covering it with a bowl.
3. FOLD THE DOUGH
Once rested, give it a small fold: imagine that the sphere is divided into 4 parts, take the end of each one, pull it gently and fold it towards the center, finally give it the shape of a sphere.
4. LET THE DOUGH RISES
Transfer the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise. For convenience, you can put the bowl in the oven with the light turned off, so that the inside will reach a temperature of 26 °- 28 °, ideal for rising. Alternatively, you can also keep the bowl in a warm place. The times are approximate since each dough, the temperature and the weather conditions influence the rising: on average the dough should take 2 hours to double in volume.
5. MAKE IT SMOOTH When the dough has risen well, turn it over to a surface. If necessary, you can sprinkle the top with a little bit of flour. Go back to folding the dough, as you did before rising, then turn it over and proceed with the folding. That means making it turn with your hands on the work surface, bringing it towards you and then moving it away repeatedly until you get a smooth and regular sphere.
6. GET THE INGREDIENTS READY
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250 ° in static mode and take care of preparing the ingredients for the filling. First, put a colander on a bowl and with your hands fray the mozzarella. In this way, it will lose all the excess serum. Pour the tomato pulp into another bowl and season with salt, oil, and oregano.
7. FINISH THE PIZZA
Dust the work surface with flour and place the dough. With your hands, squeeze it slightly, then stretch it making a rotating movement. Lightly grease with oil a pan and place the dough inside with your hands to give it a regular shape. Sprinkle with half of the tomato and bake in a preheated static oven at 250 ° for 6-7 minutes, on the central shelf. After this time, take the pizza out of the oven, add the mozzarella you have already prepared and bake again for 6-7 minutes at the same temperature. Then take your Margherita pizza out of the oven and garnish with the fresh basil leaves.
There you go, you just made your Pizza and it's ready to be shared with your friends and family.
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