It’s been a while since I have made a Neapolitan-style pizza, but when foodblogger became interested in this thread and started making Neapolitan-style pies, I decided to make a few Neapolitan-style pies myself. For this purpose, I decided to use the pieguy formulation that I had posted at Reply 62.
My initial intent was to make just a single pie based on the pieguy formulation, using the Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour. But after preparing the dough in accordance with pieguy’s instructions, I saw that the dough did not rise noticeably after several hours at room temperature. I had recalled that member friz78 commented in one of his posts that his dough had doubled in a matter of a few hours, and I further recalled that pieguy himself remarked that in Naples it is common to increase the amount of yeast significantly when it is cold. Since I wasn’t quite sure whether my dough wasn’t rising because of too little yeast, too low a room temperature, or the instructions I was following, I decided to make two more dough balls with different ingredient sequencing to be able to later compare the results from using the three dough balls.
All three doughs were essentially identical but for the sequencing of ingredients. All three doughs were also kneaded entirely by hand and in all respects were handled essentially the same while under fermentation in the refrigerator. The three doughs had the following sequencing and staging of ingredients:
Pizza #1: Water (at 100 degrees F), yeast (IDY) and oil all together during proofing of the yeast, followed by the flour and salt (the salt was mixed in with the flour).
Pizza #2: Water (at 100 degrees F) and yeast (IDY) together during proofing of the yeast, followed by the flour and salt (the salt was mixed in with the flour), and, finally, the oil.
Pizza #3: Salt dissolved in water (at 100 degrees F), followed by flour and yeast (the IDY was mixed in with the flour) and, finally, the oil.
As it turned out, the dough ball for Pizza #1 was the hardest to make, followed by the dough ball for Pizza #2. Both were stiff and on the dry side and rather difficult to knead--which I attributed to their relatively low hydration levels. The dough ball for Pizza #3 was by far the easiest dough ball to make, even though it was the same from an ingredient and hydration standpoint. It was as I like it--soft and a bit tacky.
It took each dough ball about 14 hours at room temperature to better than double. Each dough ball was then put into the refrigerator for about 48 hours, and periodically subjected to punchdowns and folding along the lines described by pieguy. In all cases, the dough ball for Pizza #3 continued to handle better than the two other dough balls. All three dough balls were allowed to rise at room temperature (about 65 degrees F) for about 6 hours in preparation for forming into skins, also in accordance with pieguy’s instructions.
To bake the pizzas, I decided to use two stones, one on the lowest oven rack position and the other on the second oven rack from the top. I also placed several tiles over the second stone to cover the spaces at the sides and back of the second stone so that I would, in effect, make an oven within an oven (see first photo below). I also wanted to achieve the highest oven temperature possible so that the pies would bake as quickly as possible in my oven. In furtherance of this objective, I turned on the broiler for about ten minutes before baking the pies to get the top stone and tiles as hot as possible. From what I can tell, the temperature of the top stone/tiles reached over 550 degrees F.
All three pies were dressed, albeit somewhat differently, with the same basic ingredients--a combination of a pureed Cento San Marzano DOP tomato sauce, fresh sliced mozzarella cheese, Sicilian sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes, Sicilian dried oregano, and pepperoni slices.
Each of the dough balls for Pizza #1 and Pizza #2 was shaped into a 13-inch skin, and, after dressing, was baked on the lower stone for about 5 minutes. At about 3 or 4 minutes into the bake cycle, I turned on the broiler and moved the pie onto the top stone/tiles where it received direct heat from the broiler (plus heat from the top stone/tiles) for about another minute or two. The photos below show the finished Pizza #1 and Pizza #2. Both pizzas had good flavor and taste, but I found them to be too stiff, light (weight) and a bit cardboard-like. What I was hoping to achieve was a soft and tender crust with a rim and crumb with a nice hole structure.
The above results with Pizza #1 and Pizza #2 forced me to completely rethink what I was doing. So, for Pizza #3, I decided on the following strategy. First, instead of making a 13-inch skin, I elected to make it around 9 or 10 inches. Second, I used cheese, sauce and pepperoni slices that were cold right out of the refrigerator. Third, when the skin was formed, I rubbed a small amount of oil on the rim. Last, I decided that I would bake the pizza on the lower stone for about 3 or 4 minutes and, as I placed Pizza #3 on the lower stone, I would turn on the upper broiler element and later move the pizza from the lower stone onto the upper stone/tiles to finish baking under the broiler element (plus the heat from the top stone/tiles). This strategy was calculated to bake the pie faster, keep the crust soft and tender (by virtue of the increased dough thickness), keep the cheese and pepperoni slices from overcooking (by putting them on cold), and provide good top crust browning (because of oiling the rim and the broiler heat) and bottom crust browning (because of the superheated top stone/tiles).
This strategy worked just about perfectly. Pizza # 3 was baked on the lower stone for about 3-4 minutes and then moved on top of the second stone/tiles under the broiler that had been turned on when I placed the pizza onto the bottom stone. Pizza #3 was on the top stone/tiles for about a minute. The crust and crumb were soft and tender, there was very good oven spring (noticeably better than Pizza # 1 and Pizza #2), a nice and open and airy rim and crumb, and good top and bottom browning of the crust. This was without a doubt the best of the three pizzas. It was delicious and a pleasure to eat.
I concluded from the exercise that the sequencing of ingredients for Pizza #3 is the one I will use in the future for the pieguy formulation--although I will allow that it is possible that using the strategy I followed for Pizza #3 may well work if applied the same way to Pizza #1 and Pizza #2. In addition, I will use the 9-10” skin size and the baking protocol I used for Pizza #3. To make a larger size pizza, say, 13 inches as originally intended, I can simply use the thickness factor for Pizza #3 to do the scaling. I calculated a thickness factor of 0.117 (for 10-inch size).