If it's one thing you must do in Italy It's definitely an Italian cooking class, I highly recommend doing a class especially if you happen to be visiting Tuscany, Florence or nearby towns. This region is rich with food and wine culture that dates back centuries and their love of good fresh organic food and wine grown and eaten locally is what Tuscany is all about. We arrived at a beautiful Tuscan farmhouse and the experience was unforgettable. Today I will share with you my experience and also some recipe's and secrets learnt during my time in the region.
So just what are the secrets behind making that doughy yet crispy crust with gooey cheese and succulent sauce? Here are a few tips that I learnt that will help you make the perfect Neapolitan pizza. The key to the perfect pizza is in the dough and using only the freshest, organic ingredients.
The secrets to making the perfect pizza
Soft “00” flour produces a pliable, easy-to-work-with pizza dough and a tender yet sturdy crust with a crisp yet not too dry edge.
Mozzarella fior di latte has a firmer texture than Mozzarella di Bufala, which falls apart when cut, though both cheeses are creamy when melted. Vera Napoletana Pizza must be made using only fresh, all-natural, non-processed ingredients including Fior di Latte (Cow’s Milk) or Bufala Mozzarella, fresh basil and drizzled with real Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
You can find “00” flour, San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, mozzarella fior di latte at Italian markets, specialty stores, and online.
Less is More: Don’t drown a pizza in sauce and toppings. The most delicious pies use smaller portions of the highest quality of fresh ingredients.
Neapolitan Pizza (Vera Napoletana) Recipe
Prep Time: 6 hours
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours, 7 minutes
A great home kitchen version of authentic Neapolitan pizza
For the dough:
1 pinch of fresh active yeast or 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup of warm water 100-110 degrees
17 ounces (4 cups) unbleached “00” flour (see note) or unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
For the topping:
1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, passed with juices through a food mill
12 ounces Mozzarella di Bufala (see note) or mozzarella fior di latte cheese, broken up with your fingers into smaller pieces
4 large or 8 small basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil or chilli flavoured Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Measure by weight rather than volume to get the perfect water to flour ratio for your crust. Many elements can change the density of ingredients such as age, storage temperature, or environmental climate. Measuring by weight assures the perfect hydration ratio.
Use double zero (type 00) flour which is a highly refined flour that has been milled to a standard “00” and completely free of bran or germ.
Use natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer’s yeast, sea salt and water.
Keep yeast refrigerated and check the expiration date on the package to make sure it’s fresh.
The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer. Punch down dough with your fist (dough will be stiff), then fold sides over one another, turn dough, then slam dough on flour covered bench 4 times then work the dough into a ball turning all the corners in under your hand to create air in the dough then tightly cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
Allow the dough to rise for 24 hours at room temperature. The bare minimum standard is 6 hours (after mixing let the dough rise for 2 hours, then hand cut and roll into small balls, let rise for 4 more hours).
After the rising process, the dough must be formed by hand without the help of a rolling pin or other machine, and may be no more than 3 millimeters (0.12 in) thick. Begin to mould into a round shape using your hands to gently work the dough from the center outward.
Use San Marzano tomatoes, which grow on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius and they have a sweet taste which is key for good sauce (easy to find in grocery stores or Italian markets). Working fairly quickly, spread a 1/3 cup sauce over dough, leaving about a 1 -inch border. Tear 3 ounces cheese into pieces and arrange on top of sauce. Tear 1 or 2 basil leaves into small pieces and arrange on top. Drizzle very lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Slide pizza into oven turning twice to cook both sides evenly.
A thin crust is the signature trait of Neapolitan pizza. While having a wood fired oven at home is not common these days, making your crust as thin as possible will allow for fast cooking time, which intensifies and seals in the flavors of each ingredient. Note: The Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana requires the thickness of the crust to be 1-2 cm.
The pizza must be baked for 60-90 seconds in a 905°F stone oven with an oak-wood fire. When cooked, it should be crispy, tender and fragrant.
Vegan Neapolitan Pizza Recipe
Follow above recipe however omit using cheese and substitute for a vegan cheese alternative or simply use only tomato base and veggies the options are endless.
During our time in the Tuscan countryside we also learned how to make authentic homemade gelato. Today. Will share with you all that I had learnt, my top tips and recipes for vegan and dairy gelato varieties.
The secret to making the perfect gelato
They key to making the perfect and most authentic Italian gelato is to use only the finest and freshest organic ingredients you can find. You also need to make sure you have the exact measured quantities right (this is important for the perfect consistency). The perfect gelato is making sure that you have the right minimum and maximum amounts of sugar, fat, solids and water. See the picture below for an example.
Vegan Gelato Recipes
Cioccolato (Dark Chocolate)
110g dark chocolate
18g cocoa powder
0.6g guar gum
in a plastic tub put in the dark chocolate and sugar and blend with a blender until sugar has dissolved
then add water and guar gum and continue blending until smooth
If you have an ice cream maker then pour into that and let it do it's magic however if you do not you can put the mixture in a plastic tub and freeze for 1-2hours or more
Fragola (Strawberry) with white chocolate and basil
0.6g guar gum
1 handful of basil leaves
50g of white chocolate
Wash and halve the strawberries
stir in the sugar until it starts to dissolve a little and blend with blender
add water and guar gum and continue blending
Add in the basil leaves and white chocolate
If you have an ice cream maker then pour into that and let it do it's magic for about 30mins or until the mixture is frozen, however if you do not you can put the mixture in a plastic tub and freeze for 1-2hours or more
Crema All 'Uovo
40g egg yolk (2 egg yolks only)
1 vanilla pod
weigh milk and cream in plastic tub
weigh sugar in metallic bowl, add the yolk, mix with the wisk then add to the plastic tub and mix
scrape the vanilla pod seeds into the mixture using the whole pod and stir in evenly
If you have an ice cream maker then pour into that and let it do it's magic for about 30mins or until the mixture has frozen, however if you do not you can put the mixture in a plastic tub and freeze for 1-2hours or more