Back in the year 2000 Her Majesty saw fit to send me to north Italy for 3 years, I was gifted an apartment in a small city called Ferrara, some 45 minutes north of Bologna in the heart of Emilia Romagna. My apartment was dubbed the British Embassy by my colleagues due to the marble floors, the chandeliers and the flock wallpaper; I also had access to an apartment in the centre of Rome, one in Venice and an additional one just off Via Mazzini in Verona. What a lifestyle.
It was during this time that I fell head over heels in love with jazz and red wine, among other things……however, I digress, up until this this tour of duty I believed that the best pizza was actually available in Germany (or, West Germany as it was when I first lived there). Whilst it is undoubtedly good nothing can beat the self appointed home of pizza with the Napolitano thin crust base.
Over the years I have tried to replicate the wood fire oven crispness with the slight sourness in a base that stays rigid as you lift each slice. I thought I had it solved with the following recipe:
- 450g Strong Flour
- 1 tsp Caster Sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp Dried Yeast
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 290 mls Lukewarm Water
- 2 tbspn Olive Oil
However, I couldn’t satisfy my inner perfection so whilst I still use the recipe above for making mini-loaves which are perfect for dinner parties or just as a side, I had to go back to the drawing board for the perfect pizza crust.
I suddenly hit on the idea of removing the sugar to regain the sourness that I was missing, in doing so I had a few hits and a few misses before finally settling on the perfect thin crust pizza dough, but before we get into the recipe it’s time to talk about cooking the dough.
Most people who make their own dough have a pizza stone, or a couple of them, some even have broken ones they still use. I purchased a pizza stone but upon first use it cracked, it promptly went back whilst I sought a better method. As a result of my research I hit upon a company called Pizza Steel (…the end of the stone age)…very clever. Essentially, instead of stone this is a food grade very heavy sheet of steel that raises the temperature of a normal oven, circa 275c to circa >400c (close to wood fire temperatures); I’ve never looked back. It is important to note that the cooking time is also dramatically reduced, you could have the perfect pizza in as little as 4 or 5 minutes from a pre-heated oven.
The combination of the Pizza Steel and my new recipe has now meant that I cannot justify choosing a pizza from a menu whilst out as the crust will always be a disappointment.
To make the perfect thin crust pizza dough you will need either some good muscles and time or cheat and use a breadmaker on the dough setting for 90 minutes:
- 500 g Strong or (VERY strong) Flour
- 1 tbspn Sea Salt (my preference is Maldon)
- 1 1/4 Cups Water (room temperature)
- 3/4 tspn Easy Bake Yeast
Once the breadmaker cycle has finished you can leave the dough to rise in the machine for approximately 3 hours before needing (kneading…no pun intended) to remove it and portion out, it can continue to rise if you wish.
This recipe shall produce 3 or 4 12″ x 14″ pizza bases depending on how thin and crispy you prefer it, the dough will happily sit for several days in the fridge but I find the optimum time for rising is circa 7 to 10 hrs.
Of course, the toppings are a choice for yourself, as is whether you put any chilli flakes in the passata or the dough at the outset but if you get it right…………I raise a glass to you, cheers.