Neapolitan Pizza: tradition and modernity
1. Classic Neapolitan Pizza
The Neapolitan tradition also establishes the quality and amount of the ingredients.
A litre of water and 1.6 kg of type 00 flour are kneaded with the yeast and 50 g of salt (the salt should be added after the four and yeast so that it does not come into direct contact with the yeast).
The amount of yeast varies according to the type used: 3 grams of fresh brewer’s yeast or 1 gram of dried yeast.
The classic Neapolitan pizza has a very specific aspect, consistency and taste. It is soft and thin, and is often folded over on itself but it has a billowy crust, known as the cornicione, which is airy and puffy, and about 2 cm high. It is round and often is so large that the sides hang off the plate it is served on.
The three commandments
The traditional recipe for a Neapolitan pizza follows three simple rules, that are like holy commandments for the pizzaioli. They are:
– The dough is made up of only 4 ingredients: water, salt, yeast and flour.
– The proofing time must not be less than 12 / 14 hours (and can be more to make it more digestible). This must be at a controlled temperature of between 15-20°C and a humidity between 70% and 80%.
– It must be cooked in a wood-fired oven.
The fermentation process is rather delicate and must be carried out with particular care. The dough is left to rest in a warm and damp place so that the surface cannot become hard, and form a crust that would block its maturation. Often, it is covered with a damp cloth.
After this first fermentation of 4 hours, the dough is divided into 10 portions. Each portion, of about 250 g each, will make a pizza of 30 cm in diameter. This is followed by a second fermentation of at least 8 hours, which allows the complex sugars of the flour to break down into simple sugars and to be more easily digested.
After the proofing, the pizza base must be formed from the dough balls. With a motion from the centre outwards, and with the pressure of the fingers of both hands on the dough ball, the base is turned over and around many times so that it stretches uniformly. The centre of the pizza should not be more than a couple of millimetres thick unlike the crust that must remain thicker and soft so it can contain the pizza condiments.
COOKING: THE WOOD FIRED OVEN
As mentioned, the authentic Neapolitan pizza needs to be cooked very quickly (just a minute or a minute and a half at most) in a wood-fired oven, at a temperature of about 450°C. Obviously, a domestic oven cannot replicate this cooking method, but there are some solutions available for sale that can allow home cooks to get similar results to pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven.
2. Contemporary Neapolitan Pizza
The contemporary Neapolitan pizza differs from the classic pizza in the type of dough, proofing time and stretching method.
450 ml of water and 1 kg of type 00 flour are kneaded for about 5 minutes with about 3 grams of dry yeast. Then the dough is left to rest for 24 hours at a controlled temperature between 15 and 20°C and humidity between 70% and 80%.
After this first rising, the dough is refreshed with 280 ml of water and 30 g of salt, kneaded again for 10 minutes, portioned into 6 loaves and left to rest for another 8 hours. After the second rising, the pizza base is formed from each loaf. With a motion from the centre outwards, and with the pressure of the fingers of both hands on the dough ball, the base is turned over and around many times so that it stretches uniformly.
The centre of the pizza should not be more than a couple of millimetres thick. The crust in the contemporary pizza is more emphasised than in the classic one, airier, higher and thicker. The oven temperature also needs to be higher (about 500°C).
Different condiments are proposed as toppings for the Neapolitan classic and contemporary pizzas although the same could be used for the gluten free or wholemeal ones. Only cooking time and oven temperature differ.