How to Create an Authentic Neapolitan Pizza with a Perfectly Charred Crust at Home?

The lure of a Neapolitan pizza is irresistible. Its intoxicating aroma, the soft, doughy crust, the molten cheese, and the perfect char on the crust – all these come together to create a symphony of flavors that’s hard to replicate. But what if you could make this delight at home, in the comfort of your own kitchen? Well, it’s not as hard as you might think. By understanding the fundamental elements of this iconic dish and following a few key steps, you can create an authentic Neapolitan pizza with a perfectly charred crust right in your home oven. Let’s get started.

Choosing the Right Ingredients

The first step in creating an authentic Neapolitan pizza is choosing the right ingredients. The base of the pizza, or the dough, plays a pivotal role in the final outcome of the pizza.

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When it comes to making the dough, the type of flour you use matters. ’00’ flour, a super-fine Italian type of flour, is the gold standard for pizza dough. It has a lower gluten content than most flours, which will yield a pizza crust that’s light and airy yet still chewy.

Yeast is another critical ingredient. It’s responsible for fermenting the sugars in the dough, which will cause it to rise and create those beautiful, airy pockets in the crust.

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Salt is more than just a flavor enhancer. It also strengthens the gluten network in the dough, which contributes to the crust’s texture and chewiness.

Lastly, water plays a crucial role in bringing all these elements together. The water should be lukewarm, to help the yeast activate and the dough come together more easily.

The Art of Making Pizza Dough

Once you’ve procured the right ingredients, it’s time to move on to the next step in your pizza-making journey: preparing the dough.

To make the dough, start by dissolving the yeast in warm water. In another bowl, mix the flour and salt. Then, gradually add the yeast and water mixture to the flour and knead until all the ingredients are well combined and the dough is elastic and smooth.

Next, place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with a clean cloth, and let it rise at room temperature for about 1 to 2 hours, or until it doubles in size.

After the dough has risen, divide it into individual pizza-sized portions, and let them rise for another 3 to 4 hours. This secondary rise will give the dough more flavor and a better texture.

Preparing Your Oven and Pizza Stone

While your dough is resting, it’s time to prepare your oven and pizza stone.

A pizza stone is a flat cooking surface used in baking. It absorbs the heat from the oven and then evenly distributes it to the pizza, allowing it to cook evenly and creating that perfect, crispy crust.

To prepare your oven and pizza stone, preheat your oven to its highest possible temperature. Place the pizza stone in the oven during the preheating process to allow it to heat up gradually. This step is important because placing a cold pizza stone in a hot oven can cause it to crack.

Crafting Your Pizza

When your dough has fully risen and your oven and pizza stone are preheated, it’s time to assemble your pizza.

Start by stretching out the dough into your desired pizza shape, being careful not to tear it. Then, add your sauce and toppings of choice.

Next, carefully transfer your assembled pizza onto the hot pizza stone in the oven. The high temperature of the stone will start to cook the pizza from the bottom up, creating a crust that’s crispy on the outside but still soft and chewy on the inside.

Achieving the Perfect Char

The final step in making an authentic Neapolitan pizza at home is achieving the perfect char on the crust. This is done by cooking the pizza at a high temperature for a short amount of time.

Generally, your pizza will need to cook for about 10 to 12 minutes at the highest temperature your oven can go. This will result in a crust that’s beautifully charred and blistered, while still being soft and chewy on the inside.

Creating an authentic Neapolitan pizza at home may seem like a daunting task, but with the right ingredients, a little patience, and a lot of love, you can create a pizza that rivals the best pizzerias in Naples. So, roll up your sleeves and get ready to embark on a delicious culinary adventure. After all, who needs a trip to Italy when you can bring the flavors of Naples right into your own kitchen?

Using Authentic Toppings

After you’ve perfected your pizza dough, it’s time to think about topping your Neapolitan pizza. Remember, the ingredients used in a traditional Neapolitan pizza are as important as the dough and cooking method.

Start with San Marzano tomatoes for your sauce. Grown in the volcanic soil around Mount Vesuvius, these tomatoes are known for their sweet flavor and low acidity. Simply crush them by hand and add a bit of salt – no cooking is required.

Mozzarella di bufala, a mozzarella made from the milk of water buffalo, is the cheese of choice for an authentic Neapolitan pizza. It’s creamier, tangier, and more flavorful than cow’s milk mozzarella. If you can’t find mozzarella di bufala, opt for a high-quality, fresh cow’s milk mozzarella instead. Avoid pre-shredded cheese, as it often contains non-clumping agents that can affect the texture and melting of the cheese.

Lastly, don’t forget a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil right before you put your pizza in the oven. This will help to create a beautiful golden color on the crust and add a rich flavor. After the pizza is done, add a few fresh basil leaves for a burst of freshness.

Handling The Dough and Using the Pizza Peel

Working with high-hydration dough can be a challenge. It’s sticky, elastic, and can tear if not handled properly. But don’t worry, there’s a trick to it. When you’re ready to shape your dough balls into pizzas, dust your work surface and hands with flour. Gently press and stretch the dough, being careful not to deflate the airy edge or ‘cornicione’. Remember, it’s not a race – take your time to avoid tearing the dough.

Now comes a crucial part of the process – transferring the pizza onto the hot pizza stone in the oven using a pizza peel. The peel is a shovel-like tool used for sliding the pizza in and out of the high-temperature oven. It may take some practice to master this step, but it’s integral to achieving the perfect pizza crust.

Before you place your shaped dough onto the peel, dust it with a little flour to prevent sticking. Load your pizza onto the peel and give it a little shuffle to ensure it can slide off easily. If it sticks, lift the edge of the pizza and toss in a little more flour.

Once your pizza is prepared and ready to go, aim for the back of the preheated pizza stone and swiftly slide the pizza onto it. The high heat from the stone will cause the dough to puff up instantly and start to char, creating the signature Neapolitan style crust.

Conclusion

Creating an authentic Neapolitan pizza at home is not only possible but also an immensely satisfying culinary experience. By strictly adhering to the traditional method and ingredients, you can create a pizza that is incredibly similar to one straight from a wood-fired oven in Naples.

Remember, the key to a perfect pizza is patience and practice. The more pizzas you make, the better you’ll get at handling the dough, shaping it, and baking it. Given time, you’ll acquire the skills needed to make a pizza that’s light, chewy, blistered, and charred – in other words, absolutely perfect.

So, the next time you crave a slice of Neapolitan pizza, don’t reach for your phone to order a delivery. Instead, reach for high-quality bread flour, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and your trusty pizza stone, and create a Neapolitan masterpiece at home.