Pizza Napoletana / Neapolitan Pizza – FAQ
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Introduction to Neapolitan Pizza
Neapolitan pizza is a style of pizza originated from Naples (Italy).
The main characteristics of Neapolitan pizza are the raised edge, also known as “cornicione” and the soft and elastic texture of the dough. It is baked on a stone floor at high temperatures. The cooking surface should have a temperature ranging from 380-430°C and the oven dome temperature should be around 485°C. The pizza must be cooked within 60-90 seconds to guarantee the soft and elastic texture.
This, the use of few but high-quality topping ingredients and the long leavening time (at least 8-12 hours), make this type of pizza a very digestible dish.
Neapolitan pizza can be topped with anything (though it should display the Italian cuisine) whereas verace Pizza Napoletana/true Neapolitan pizza is only Margherita and Marinara. Also, for true Neapolitan pizza certified products from that area needs to be used such as San Marzano tomatoes.
What do I need for making Neapolitan Pizza?
The very basic would be a pizza oven suitable for Neapolitan pizza, a pizza peel (mostly comes with the oven), a digital scale and cheap gold scale (for measuring the yeast) and an IR-thermometer (also pretty cheap).
The rest is secondary. This includes a proofing box for the panetti (30×40 cm for 6 panetti; 40×60 cm for 12 panetti) and a spatula (can be a cheap one, 10-12 cm wide).
Some luxury equipment would be an Oliera (oil can made from copper), a chamber where you can control the temperature.
What is Caputo blue/blu pizza flour?
In fact, there is no flour sold known as “blue” or “blu” by Mulino Caputo. However, there are two flours that come in blue bags:
|Caputo Pizzeria||Caputo Classica|
As you can see, the physical properties of these flours differ from each other.
Even if most people refer to the Caputo Pizzeria when saying “Caputo Blue”, there are several shops that sell the Caputo Classica under the name “Caputo Blu/Blue”.
What is Fior di Latte/Mozzarella?
Mozzarella (English: /ˌmɒtsəˈrɛlə/, Italian: [mottsaˈrɛlla]; Neapolitan: muzzarella [muttsaˈrɛllə]) is a traditionally southern Italian cheese made from Italian buffalo’s milk by the pasta filata method.
When only the term ‘Mozzarella’ is used, it usually refers to the one made from buffalo milk.
- Mozzarella (di Bufala): made with milk from buffalos
- (Mozzarella) Fior di Latte: made with milk from cows
- Burrata: Mozzarella Fior di Latte filled with heavy cream and strips of Fior di Latte
Fresh Fior di Latte or Mozzarella only should be used on Neapolitan pizza. A small amount of Italian hard cheese such as parmesan or pecorino can be added as well.
How to prepare Fior di Latte/Mozzarella for Neapolitan pizza?
Fior di latte is usually cut into strips whereas the mozzarella is cut into cubes. That is probably done because the mozzarella is moisture and cutting it into cubes will increase the drainage.
What means to stretch and fold the pizza dough?
According to Geißler (2012), stretching and folding the dough is a process in which wheat-dominated dough is given more structure through multiple stretches and folds. The gluten framework is developed gently. The gas holding capacity increases. It is also used for degassing and supplying the dough with oxygen, for homogenizing the dough temperature and thus for supporting yeast activity.
The dough can be folded in several ways, which usually depends on the dough’s consistency.
What is the slap technique?
The slap technique, called schiaffo in Italian (schiaffo = to slap), is a technique used, to stretch the dough to its final diameter. After the panetti (pizza dough ball) has been carefully flattened out to a disk (leaving a rim, called cornicione), one hand is placed a bit out of the center on the dough. The other hand gently grabs the edge of the pizza disk and gently pulls it away. Within the same motion, that part is lifted up and slapped over the hand which is holding down the pizza disk. It is then slapped back and slightly turned, like 15-20°. This step is then repeated until the final diameter is reached.
The thickness of the center of the pizza should be around 4 mm.
My pizza turns out too wet. How can I avoid this?
There are two things that will release water during the cooking process: The cheese and the sauce. Therefore the water content must be reduced before cooking.
Fresh Fior di Latte (cow milk mozzarella) and especially the Mozzarella (buffalo milk mozzarella) are pretty moist. The cheese is cut a couple of hours before it is placed on the pizza. That way the moisture can drain and your pizza will be less watery.
Depending on the quality of the tomatoes, they need to be drained as well. Cheap tomatoes are canned with more juice. After the tomatoes have been drained and squeezed, the consistency of the sauce is then adjusted with the drained liquid. If the sauce is too dry, the cheese and the sauce can’t blend into each other very nicely, leaving a weird-looking cheese pattern.
Fresh Yeast or Instant/Active Dry Yeast for Neapolitan pizza?
It is said that fresh yeast has a better taste than instant dry yeast but that pretty much reduces to a minimum since in Neapolitan pizza only a very small amount of yeast is used. A yeasty taste is not desired in Neapolitan pizza. So, it doesn’t matter much if you use fresh yeast or instant dry yeast for your pizza dough. The conversion factor (dry yeast to fresh yeast) is 3. 1 gram of dry yeast is (roughly) equal to 3 g fresh yeast. The conversion factor (IDY:ADY) is 1:1,1 – 1:1,2.
However, there might be some other reasons to use one over the other. If you buy fresh yeast which even has a long BBD (Best Before Date), then you can be sure, that your yeast has high active (if it was stored correctly). Dry yeast, on the other hand, has a long shelf-life. Good quality dry yeast, such as fermipan red or saf-instant, show only a very slight decrease in activity over a period of one year after production IF stored correctly.
Fresh yeast and dry yeast should be both stored in an airtight container inside the fridge. If you take out your dry yeast, keep the time outside as short as possible. Otherwise condense water will form and the dry yeast will go bad.
What is the difference between instant and active dry yeast?
The term “active” in active dry yeast is a bit misleading. It implies that the yeast is active, which is not the case. It is inactive and needs to be activated in water first. The grain size is greater compared to the grain size of instant dry yeast.
Instant dry yeast can be added directly to the flour without any further treatment (activation).
Can I freeze yeast?
It depends. You have to understand how yeast works. It’s not exactly the yeast cell itself which converts sugar into ethanol and carbon dioxide, it’s the enzymes of the yeast that do this job. Even if the yeast cell is dead, the enzymes are still there to convert the sugar. BUT a dead yeast cell is not able to replicate itself anymore. This is important to know when it comes to fermenting pizza dough or dough in general.
The fermentation process relies on the replication of the yeast, which allows us to use very little because, well, it gets more due to replication. However, this is not that important if you use high quantities and if the leavening time is just 1-2 hours where the yeast barely wouldn’t have the time anyway for replication.
Fresh yeast is 70% water. When water freezes it forms crystals. Those crystals might puncture the cell membrane and cell wall of the yeast and kill it. Dry yeast contains almost no water, therefore the effect would be less dramatic.
The edge of my pizza isn’t rising. What am I doing wrong?
The rise of the edge depends mainly on four factors:
- Preparation of the pizza dough.
- Leavening/fermentation of the dough.
- The shaping of the pizza dough/cornicione.
Preparation of the pizza dough.
You have to make sure that the gluten network has been formed sufficiently and that enough air (oxygen) has been worked in. This is also called: mechanical leavening. An oxygenated pizza dough supports the yeast with its job.
Leavening/fermentation of the dough.
First of all, always use yeast which is fresh/active, no matter if it’s fresh yeast or dry yeast.
There are usually two stages. After the ingredients have been well combined, the pizza dough is put to rest at 25-26°C (dough temperature) for at least 1 hour up to 2 hours (first stage). This guarantees perfect conditions at the beginning for the yeast to grow and do its job.
After that, the panetti (pizza dough balls) are formed and placed in a suitable container, where they ferment until they are ready to become pizza (second stage).
The volume of the panetti should increase by 50-100%. A straight/cylindrical vessel can be used to observe the rising process. For that, take a sample from your pizza dough, place it in the vessel and mark the height of the dough. Always keep the sample close to your panetti. If the height was 2 cm and is now 3 cm, that means an increase of 50%. 4 cm would be 100% and so on.
The shaping of the pizza dough/cornicione.
This is another important factor. You have to push all the gases which are trapped inside the pizza dough, from the centre outwards to the edge. Take your time, do it carefully and you will be rewarded (if point A and B are fulfilled). Leave the edge untouched. NEVER roll out your dough. You think it is obvious but people have indeed done exactly this. The base, however, should be quite thin, around 4 mm.
From my own experience, I can say, that this is the least important factor. If A, B, and C are fulfilled, there will be not a huge difference. However, the oven spring in a pizza oven suitable for Neapolitan pizza will be a bit better than the one in a domestic oven.
Which flour is the best for Neapolitan pizza?
There is no such thing as “the best” flour. It all comes down to your personal preference. Some swear by the Caputo Pizzeria or the new Nuvola, some by the Napoletana by Le 5 Stagioni, and some by the la Napoletana form Dallagiovanna (like me).
Nonetheless, we can make a statement about the requirements of the flour used in Neapolitan pizza dough. According to the AVPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana), the flour used in Neapolitan pizza dough should fulfill the following technical requirements:
- Strength: 250-320
- Elasticity (P/L): ›0,6
- Percentage of proteins: 11,0% – 13,5% (
- Percentage of dry gluten: 9,5% – 11.5%
- Milling technique indication: Si
- Falling Number: “FN” 250‹FN‹380
- Absorption: 55 – 60
- Stability: 6′ – 12′
- Value index – Caduta E10 max 60
Consider this just as a guide, to get a sense of the flour’s characteristics.
Note, that just the amount of gluten that is available in the flour, is not the only thing that determines the strength of the flour. The quality of the gluten, which is affected by the quality of the grain and the milling process, has an impact too. Flour with a lower protein content but higher gluten quality can be stronger than flour with a higher content of low-quality gluten. A lower protein/gluten content yields in a softer dough texture.
Where can I purchase flour for Neapolitan Pizza?
The easiest way would be through the internet. Especially flour brands other than Caputo is often hard to find in stores. For Europeans, youdreamitaly.com is a very good address. They have a big variety of different flours and other goods. This store is located in Italy, so you have to expect some high delivery costs but sometimes it is still cheaper.
How to knead the pizza dough? By hand or mechanically?
Most dough kneading machines such as Kenwood or Kitchen Aid stand mixers (lower price segment) are too insufficient in kneading pizza dough. They mostly come with a C-hook which is really bad at kneading pizza dough. At some point, the dough gets hooked and is then taken around and around. After a while, it also can climb up.
In the higher price segment you will see that they aren’t using C-hooks anymore but S-hooks. They look like a spiral and the tip points downwards. Due to that shape, the dough gets pressed down and won’t climb up that easily as with C-hooks. Those machines are more sufficiently in kneading dough. The better ones even have a vessel that turns around in the opposite direction. Therefore it is hard to give specific times. The dough is ready when the dough is ready. It could be 11 minutes or 15 minutes.
If you don’t own a good dough kneading machine, it is better to use your hands. Especially for beginners, it is recommended that they knead their dough by hand so that they can get a feel for it. You can either do it one run until the dough is smooth or you use the stretch and fold technique, which has some advantages. This technique was described above.
Wood or gas pizza oven? what should I use? and is there a difference in terms of flavour?
First of all, gas is definitely way more convenient than wood and the power output is easier control and thus the temperature. Second, especially these small pizza ovens have been proved to perform quite badly when used with wood. This also depends on the weather conditions and type of wood that is used. The Pizza Party oven seems to be the only oven that performs quite good but it is also bigger and of course.. more expensive.
What about the flavor?
This is a bit of a controversial topic. There are people who say, that they can taste a difference. Then there are people who say the opposite.
What we can say is, that the pizza usually doesn’t stay longer than 90-120 seconds inside the oven. We also can say, that the flame and smoke barely touches the pizza (especially not in a huge professional Neapolitan refractory pizza oven) since the flames/smoke/fumes rise to the top and then escape. Ideally, there wouldn’t be any smoke. Smoke is a sign of an inefficient burn of the wood which then results in a lower temperature. That’s why there is no flame when smoking food.
Considering these points, it is very unlikely that the pizza will absorb enough smoke molecules to give the pizza a noticeable smokey flavor. Moreover, the aroma which is formed during the Maillard reaction is stronger, especially the parts of the pizza that are charred.
But in the end, the decision is left to you. If you believe, that you can sense it and if that flavor is very important to you, then go for the wood.
I personally believe that this smokey wood oven flavor is often mistaken with the flavor of the charring of the pizza which occurs in high-temperature ovens.
How to make the sauce for Neapolitan pizza?
Italian food in general is all about simplicity. Using few but good ingredients. The same applies to the sauce. Using good tomatoes and some salt is all you need. One or two leaves of basil and a tiny amount a black pepper can be added. Sauce for Neapolitan pizza is not cooked and added raw to the pizza.
I personally found the sauce to be more aromatic when the oil was added to the sauce previously.
Do I have to use San Marzano tomatoes on my Neapolitan pizza?
Not necessarily. If you want to call your pizza “Verace Pizza Napoletana” then yes, if not, then no. As with everything, there is good quality and bad quality. San Marzano tomatoes are just tomatoes from the San Marzano region. There are also good ones and bad ones. You can find non-San Marzano tomatoes that taste better than real San Marzano tomatoes. Also, rather use locally grown products than imported tomatoes.
Is it safe to add EVOO on the pizza before baking?
That is a good question since it might affect our health in a negative way or maybe not.
Masi et al. (2015) state, that “during the pizza baking process, despite being short (90 seconds), there is a reduction of around 30% of the phenolic fraction, in extra virgin olive oil, both simple (OHTY, Ty) and complex (OHTY-EDA, OHTY-EA, Ty-EA), and of lignans (PR+Ac-PR). This suggests that, from a nutritional point of view, it is more appropriate to garnish pizza with extra virgin olive oil after baking; in this way, the intake of its natural, bioactive, healthy components is maximized. Still from a nutritional point of view, the short baking time (60-90 seconds) is insufficient to carbonize the contact surface and reach the smoking point of extra virgin olive oil (210-220 °C); therefore the possibility that during baking harmful compounds such as acrylamide can form in the pizza can be excluded.“
However, “it is recommended to add extra virgin olive oil after cooking, which avoids the decrease of EVOO phenolic compounds and probably provides a better sensory experience due to the bitter and pungent notes” (Caporaso et al., 2014).
So, if you care about the positive health benefits from Extra Virgin Olive Oil, then add the oil after baking. But it is not harmful to add it before baking.
How can I avoid my pizza sticking to the peel?
Dust your peel. Usually, a mix of flour and semolina di grano duro is used. Keep the contact time as short as possible. That means, assemble your pizza (as quickly as possible) and then drag the pizza onto the board with one quick movement. Before launching, shake your peel by moving it forth and back a few times to loosen the pizza. Don’t make your rim too heavy and the center too thin.What material for a pizza peel is better?
Personal preference. Some people find, that the pizza slides off better from a wooden peel.
What is ball and bulk fermentation?
Fermenting in bulk means, that the dough as one unit is left to ferment for a specific time and temperature.
Ball-Proofing means, that the dough was cut into equal pieces and then given a round, ball-like shape. This is the final stage and the dough is not touched until it is used for making pizza.
What does fermenting, maturation and proofing of pizza dough mean?
As I already explained in the paragraph about yeast, healthy and active yeast is able to replicate itself. That means little yeast is necessary to increase the volume of the pizza dough but it will take more time. During this time, other bacteria which naturally occur in flour, have the time to metabolize the starch, sugars, and minerals which are present in the flour and the water. Not only will the pizza dough made with less yeast taste less yeasty, but it also will be more aromatic due to the metabolic products formed during the metabolization of the bacteria.
Maturation is a general term for pizza dough or bread dough that has been left to rise for a longer time.
Proofing is the final stage in the dough making process. There are usually two stages: 1. Bulk-Fermentation; 2. Ball-Proofing/(Fermentation).
Why Do Some People Ferment/Proof Their Pizza Dough in the Fridge?
Birch et al. (2013) examined how the aroma profile of wheat bread crumb is influenced by yeast concentration and fermentation temperature. It was found that “increasing the fermentation temperature from 5°C to 15 or 35°C was found to increase the concentration of the lipid oxidation products 1-heptanol, hexanal, heptanal, octanal, decanal and 2-pentylfuran. Hexanal and heptanal were the most aroma active of these compounds, and they are often characterized as off-flavors. Decreasing the fermentation temperature to 5°C was found to increase formation of the three esters ethyl acetate, ethyl hexanoate and ethyl octanoate in bread, which are often characterized as having a fruity and pleasant aroma.“
Therefore a low fermentation temperature is suggested since it decreases off-flavours and increases those flavours that are often characterizes as having a fruity and pleasant aroma.
Apart from the formation of pleasant aromas, fermenting the pizza dough at lower temperatures also extends the range in which the dough has to be cooked. The longer the pizza dough is left to ferment, the more the gluten network breaks down. The pizza dough won’t be able anymore to hold the gases and eventually will collapse.
What Are These Percentages I Often See in Recipes?
“This is called Baker’s percentage. Baker’s percentage is a notation method indicating the proportion of an ingredient relative to the flour used in a recipe when making breads and other baked goods. It is also referred to as baker’s math and may be indicated by a phrase such as based on flour weight. It is sometimes called formula percentage, a phrase that refers to the sum of a set of bakers’ percentages. Baker’s percentage expresses a ratio in percentages of each ingredient’s weight to the total flour weight” (Bakerpedia.com).
For more detailed information, see the entry Baker’s-% which can be found under the ‘Ressources’ tab in the top menu of this sub.
|INGREDIENT||WEIGHT (in g)||Baker’s-%||True-%|
Baker’s-% = (Total weight of the ingredient X / Total amount of flour) x 100%
Bakerpedia. (2018, December 10). Baker’s Percent: Baking Processes. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://bakerpedia.com/processes/bakers-percent/
Birch, A. N., Petersen, M. A., & Hansen, Å S. (2013). The aroma profile of wheat bread crumb influenced by yeast concentration and fermentation temperature. LWT – Food Science and Technology, 50(2), 480-488. doi:10.1016/j.lwt.2012.08.019
Caporaso, N., Panariello, V. and Sacchi, R., 2015. “True” Neapolitan Pizza: Assessing The Influence Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil On Pizza Volatile Compounds And Lipid Oxidation. [online] AGRIS: International Information System for the Agricultural Science and Technology. Available at: https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US201500157531 [Accessed 10 June 2020].
COMMISSION REGULATION (EU No 97/2010 of 4 February 2010 entering a name in the register of traditional specialities guaranteed “Pizza Napoletana (TSG) [online] Available at:) https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32010R0097&from=DE [Accessed 13 June 2020].
Geißler, L. (2012). Dehnen und Falten. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://www.baeckerlatein.de/dehnen-und-falten/
Masi, P., Romano, A. and Coccia, E., 2015. The Neapolitan Pizza – A Scientific Guide About The Artisanal Process. 3rd ed. dv.