I realize that while I have diligently worked to develop succulent foods like authentic ribs in the past, my Neapolitan efforts have not reached the same level of satisfaction. And even though their reasons have been echoed here and there in this thread, they need to be enlightened here. First, let me mention what I don't believe. I do not believe that it has anything to do with missing secrets. In fact, just the opposite is true. If you were to read a top-notch book on BBQ, such as SMOKESTACK LIGHTENING, you would not walk away with a knowledge of essential ingredients, such as Caputo Flour; nor would you have specific procedures at your disposal, like a hydration process. Instead, you might GET the very people who once made-up the heart of the south... people who are no longer around for us to speak to, and who's souls now haunt the very highways that once lifted the smoke from their wood ambers.
SO then, why the difference? The answer is really quite apparent. BBQ is like many foods. Once you understood its underlying theme, you can follow the essential guidelines to your heart's content using home equipment. And if you do decide to buy something, it's generally mobile and well within a couple hundred bucks. That's just NOT the case with Neapolitan. You follow the code of DOC, place it in your home oven, and you'll be eating something that strays so far from Neapolitan-style pizza, it's not funny-- and I mean, it's not funny. Does that mean it will taste bad? No. It's just not Neapolitan.
HENCE, when we take on the charter to stay as close to guidelines as possible when making Neapolitan pizza, in essence we develop something that isn't even close to the real thing. So let's talk about the real thing for a minute.
I have reviewed my fill of trip reports from American visitors who walked into Da Michele with a mis-informed illusion that their crust is akin to a crispy thin wafer that stands like a bill board in the shade. And when they see the charred exterior, their suspicions remain poorly directed... until they finally touch the crown jewel. Suddenly, they are blown away as they venture into a soft interior and almost bread-like structure that not only can be bent side-to-side; but it can even be rolled up over time, just as Reinhart describes in his experience in American Pie, and as I experienced here with A16:
It's always interesting to read people's translation of Neapolitan style pizza, once they actually have it. I read an opinion that compared Pizzeria Bianco's crust to "charred Pita bread." I have to admit, this definitely caught my attention; because it has always looked like a cousin to Pita bread at times. A person from NY talked about the bread-like structure of Da Michele and compared it to Piadine, which is basically a grilled and often unleavened bread. The reality is, it's often not what people think. And when we try to re-create it, we find the outside structure doesn't fit with the inside structure, and we start to create something that it isn't-- a crispy fritter.
This thread shows an interesting comparison of Da Michele vs. Trianon:
Note the healthy side view of Trianon pizza:
SO now the next question-- why stick with Caputo? Because it represents the one thing that we've all been able to attain-- an excellent taste. And when we start to stray from same-day fermentation, we're able to create an even better taste. In one case, the taste was preferred over Da Michele. In the case of A16, I've been able to mirror its taste with 2 - 3 days of fermentation.
Now we move to the final segment of this discussion. Will we mess up the taste if we deviate from the standards? Well, it depends on the actual ingredients, and quite likely the manufacturer. One concern was raised elsewhere concerning the use of olive oil in a Neapolitan pizza. Hmmm, I've been using 1 tsp per pizza. Italian Olive Oils can have a nutty flavor though, and the more you spend, the darker you go and the stronger the taste. You have to match what you're trying to achieve. Personally, I use Spanish EVO. It's stronger than a weak re-creation of Olive Oil; but it stays within the realm of not ruining my cooking and 1 TBL isn't going to modify the taste of a pizza-- I've had plenty of practice in the past. Although, if it does, I'll switch it out for a basic Trader Joe's Olive Oil version. Regarding whey, I have used a buttermilk variation to tame a high gluten flour. In NO WAY could it result in a sugar-like taste. After all, 1 TBL was comparable to 3/4 tsp of sugar, which is comparable to 1 gram per quarter of a 15" pizza. In return, you get a softer texture and much better color.
I've concluded that my choices are clear. I can spin my wheels in an effort to remain within the constraints of traditional Neapolitan doughs, and end up with a pizza that is both difficult to gauge and unable to properly represent a respectable Neapolitan style texture. Or I can focus on the end result, using the Caputo flour, other ingredients, fermentation and stretching techniques, complemented by well known procedures to obtain color and a softer texture. I'm not one to confuse effort with results, so time to modify. Fats that I've seen work very effectively professionally and personally, in their separate forms and in combination, to soften texture and provide some color in crust:
- Non-hydrogenated palm oil (organic vegetable shortening), Canola oil, EVO or just Olive Oil Other means to bring out color in crust:
- Limited amounts of lactose from dry whey, dry buttermilk, and natural sugars coupled with fermentation techniques Ways to create a lighter airy crust:
- Staging procedures, including the desire to separate the dough's top skin from its bottom skin by first placing dough into oven for 1 minute or until bubbles just start to formulate, then put on toppings, and place back in oven (note: the time it takes to put on the toppings back into oven, the heat lost will build up again).
- Follow stretching techniques revealed earlier in this thread
- Limit kneading; over kneading has its downsides. I still knead by hand after it comes together as suggested by A16. I like the looks of improved mix: http://www.progressivebaker.com/class/section5.htm