The Right Stuff (For Pizza)
Today in National Pepperoni Pizza Day but no one will be celebrating or eating it in Italy unless of course the topping is peppers because that is what peperoni means in Italian. Pepperoni pizza is an Italian American invention. Neapolitans take making pizza seriously, because Naples is the home of la vera pizza napoletana (true Neapolitan pizza) and if you see the VPN sign on a pizzeria, you know that it will be made according to strict rules. There are pizza makers in the states who have studied in Naples and have achieved the VPN status as well and post it on their pizzeria. A few years ago I took a group for pizza in Naples at Il Presidente, a VPN pizzeria where they enjoyed, the classic margherita, marinara and many other types but no pepperoni pizza.
Naples is the home of la vera pizza Napoletana, authentic pizza, made according to rigid rules including the right temperature of the wood burning oven, the type of yeast and flour used and the purity of the water for making the dough. Try as we may, unless a visit to Naples is in your future, you will never eat pizza the Neapolitan way. What’s a pizza lover to do? Approximate. You can come close by making your own dough and either baking the pizza on a stone, or you could get out that old cast iron skillet that your grandmother left you and use it to create a respectable pizza with the right crust. And if you just don’t want to make dough, use an already prepared one from your local supermarket.
1 cup warm (110F) water, preferably filtered)
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2- 1/2 to 3 cups Caputo or unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Sliced plum or cherry tomatoes
Cubes of mozzarella cheese
Thin slices of prosciutto or boiled ham or salame
Marinated artichoke hearts
Pour the water into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade Add the yeast and whirl to blend. Let stand 5 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt; whirl to combine and form a ball of dough that moves away from the sides of the bowl and is not tacky to the touch. Add additional flour if the dough is very wet but adding too much flour will result in a dry, hard texture. The dough should be soft but not gooey.
Grease a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and coat the dough in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size. (The dough can be made a day ahead and after the rising step, placed in the refrigerator until needed. If you do this, bring the dough out and allow it to stand several hours at room temperature before forming the pizza.
Preheat the oven to 500F.
When ready to form the pizza, punch down the dough and divide it into 6 to 8 round balls and stretch each out with your hands to an 8 inch diameter. Place each piece on a 9 inch round piece of parchment paper.
Add toppings of your choice. Carefully lift the parchment paper and place in the hot skillet. Bake 5 minutes, then carefully pull the parchment paper away from the pizza and allow it to bake until the crust is nicely browned and the toppings look good and melty. Lift the pizza out of the skillet with a wide face metal spatula.
Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and cut into wedges or serve whole as an individual pizzas.