Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pizza Napoletana

Let me start by saying that hands down, the best cookbook investment I have ever made is when I purchased The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.  I have never had a failed recipe from this book.  As a matter of fact, every recipe I have tried and re-tried has been the best of whatever it is that I have attempted to make.  This book is now stained, and wrinkled, and is showing signs of the numerous uses I have gotten out of it but I would trade all of the fancy cookbooks that I have collected over the years for this one book.  It's that good.  That being said, this next recipe is no exception.  I have made a lot of pizza, but this crust tops the charts.  It is not only the most delicious, it is so incredibly easy.  The texture is crispy and crunchy; it is meant to be thin, but still has a nice tenderness that is amazing.  I will also tell you that my kids don't care for pizza.  Strange but true.  This is the exception.  It's the's all about this crust. 

It is a two day process (if one can really call mixing the dough and refrigerating it a process).  And the dough is very delicate, so it should really be tossed or stretched, not rolled.  Also for best results, a baking stone is recommended.

Pizza Napoletana Crust
from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart

4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) unbleached hi-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled
1 teaspoon (.11 ounces) instant yeast
1 3/4 teaspoon (.44 ounces) salt
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice cold (40 F)
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting

  • Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4 quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbbed (or mix on low speed wtih the paddle attatchment) *If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand.  Do this for 5 to 7 minutes or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed.  *If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes or as long as it takes to create a smooth sticky dough.  The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl.
  • Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter.  Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment and misting the parchment with spray oil.  Using a metal scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal parts or larger if you are comfortable with shaping large pizzas.  Sprinkle flour over the dough.  Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball.  If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour.  Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pan.  Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag
  • Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days.  You can store the dough balls, zippered in freezer bags.  Dip each doughball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it rolling the dough in the oil, then put each ball into a separate bag and freeze for up to 3 months.  Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza

On the day you plan to make the pizza:
  • Remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza.  Dust the counter with flour, and then mist the counter with spray oil.  Place the dough balls on top of the floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hand with the flour.  Gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter.  Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with oil, and cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap.  Let it rest for 2 hours.
  • At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven, or on a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven as hot as possible.  If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.
  • Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal.  Make the pizzas one at a time.  Dip your hands including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift 1 piece of dough by gettting under it with a pastry scraper.  Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce.  Once the dough has expanded outward, you can advance to a full toss.  If you have trouble tossing the dough or if the dough keeps on springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes and try again.  You can resort to using a rolling pin, though this isn't as effective as the toss method.
  • When the dough is stretched to your satisfaction, lay it on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough semolina to allow it to slide.  Lightly top it with sauce and other toppings, keeping in mind that less is more.
  • Slide the pizza onto the stone or bake directly on the sheet pan.  Wait 2 minutes and take a peek.  If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so.
Dough made and separated
I put them directly into separate ziploc bags with olive oil drizzed in the bags beforehand
Roll the dough balls around in the oil a little and refrigerate
The next day, pull out the dough and set it on your work surface, dust it with flour
Here are some toppings I had ready (fresh pineapple, fresh mozzerella, olives, mushrooms, ham)
The finished pizza
I probably used more toppings then recommended, but I have no regrets:)


  1. That pizza crust really does look great. I've had The Bread Baker's Apprentice on my library list for a while but now I think I'll have to just buy it instead.

  2. Kate, you will love it! All of the recipes that I have tried have turned out great.

  3. Yum, I am still stuffed from dinner but now wishing I had made this pizza instead!

    I am with you KP, I have had the book for a couple of years and everything has been delish.

  4. Now that is what I call a perfect pizza crust.

  5. A.D.,
    Sounds like you have great taste!

    It was! And all of those toppings? Yum!


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