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Nov 17, 2003 03:46 PM

Neapolitan Pizza Dough Recipe -- With Warnings!

  • m

Hi All. A few weeks ago I had a request to post the Neapolitan Pizza Dough recipe that I had previously posted several months before. This is the long-long rising, real thing recipe I got from the "Cuisine At Home" Magazine. It comes to this magazine from Pamela Sheldon Johns, who lives and writes cook books in Tuscany. I've never seen any of her books, but the magazines says that the titles are "Pizza Napoltana" "Gelato" and "Pasta!". She included this dough along with a more standard, and much easier Basic Pizza Dough.

WARNING. If you have never made homemade pizza dough before, I beg you, do NOT start with this recipe. Even if you have done pizza dough before, and you are not particularly experienced with yeast doughs, I still wouldn't start with this. If you are overly interested in "perfect"-looking pizza crusts, that are of a uniform circular shape, do not ever use this recipe. If you are a particularly short-tempered or easily-frustrated cook, don't do this either :) Don't attempt without a heavy-duty stand mixer and some serious time and patience. This is by far one of the fussiest pain-in-the-neck recipes I've ever used. And I wouldn't waste my time on it if the results weren't so SPECTACULARLY better than any other pizza dough I've tasted anywhere, anytime (except Italy, but that's another story). It is definitely the best I've ever made at home.

The first few times I made it I failed so spectacularly that it must only have been stubbornness that kept me trying. This tears. It rips. It doesn't rise. It overrises. It's too wet. It's too dry. It never shapes regularly. You can't really roll it, but stretching it doesn't really work either. It has to be coaxed into a roughly pizza-like shape (it is NEVER EVER regular, and often comes out kind of like a mishapen square). It's often too thick on one side and nearly transparent on the other (don't worry, it somehow works itself out in the oven). There are no end to the tricks this dough can play on you.

I don't know what it is -- but the fact that the flour and the salt aren't messed with and have time to meet and marry during the long long rising time, make this a mature and rich and satisfyingly full-flavored crust. It's very thin (I love thick crusted Chicago style pizza, but that's an entirely different kettle of fish) and gets crisp -- and if you cook it on an extra-hot pizza stone it will get nearly cracker-like.

In short (I know I'm being long-winded) -- it's Divine, but you need to go through hell to get to it :)

Neapolitan Pizza Dough

Makes 4 8-inch pizzas

1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees -- use a thermometer!!!!!)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (half a 1/4 ounce envelope. Do not attempt with fresh or rapid-rise yeast)

3 cups all purpose flour (I use King Arthur or Gold Medal unbleached with identical results, even though there are differences in protein content)
1 cup cake flour (don't attempt with whole-wheat pastry flour -- I did, and came to grief)
*I'm assuming yu could substitute about 4 cups of the "OO" soft Italian flour (which the allpurpose+cake flour mixture is trying mimic, but I myself have never tried it!)
1 Tablespoon sea salt (don't try to attempt to use Morton's -- it gives an unpleasant chemical flavor to the finished dough)

Combine the water and the yeast -- making absolutely certain that the water is neither too hot nor too cold. Proof for 5-8 minutes. It should be somewhat foamy.

Mix the flours and salt in the bowl of the mixer with the dough hook. Add the yeast mixture and knead on low for a FULL 30 MINUTES. Shape the dough into a round. (It's in all likelihood going to be too wet, or possibly too dry, depending on the humidity of your kitchen and the freshness of your flour. You will need to work in a bit more flour by hand, kneading it in, to get it so it's not very very sticky. It will still be slightly wet, though, so be prepared for it to be a pain to get into the rising bowl). Put in an oiled bowl, flip the dough to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a non-drafty warm place (oven with pilot light on) for a full 4 HOURS. Punch down, divide into 4 pieces, and shape into little balls. You may need to add a tiny bit more flour at this point also. Brush lightly with olive oil (or use your Misto), cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at least 2 more, preferably 4 more hours.

Shape by pressing fingertips into the dough, leaving the edge puffy to create a rim (if you can do this successfully, my hat's off to you.). Grasp the rim with both hands, and work it around in a circle. Careful, or the weight of the dough may cause a tear. Do this quickly. Once it gets to a basically uniform thickness and ABOUT 8 inches acros -- whatever shape it is -- stop. Working it more will only cause more tears and holes.

This dough sticks to peels like glue, so use lots and lots of corn meal.

My favorite is to use Muir Glen Pizza sauce, a large-format pepperoni sliced extra-thin from the deli, and a sprinkling of whole-milk mozzarella. You'll think you've died and gone to pizza heaven.

If you havent' thrown the dough out the back door in disgust first!

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  1. Wow, that does sound hard to make. I'll bet you're going to be really happy when the new Neopolitan pizza place opens in your neighborhood. (g)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Oh I know! We'll have to plan a Chowhound Event!

    2. Mrs. Smith - All your warnings have done nothing to deter me. I'm going to try this. I will clear the house, though, and unplug the phone. I have been known to fling a ball of cookie dough across the room when it hasn't rolled properly, but I'm gearing myself up for this challenge.


      1. Have you tried longer rises -- like 24 hours in the fridge? If so, on the first or second rise? (I'm trying to cut down the pizza day prep time). Have to second the Muir Glen Pizza Sauce.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sbp

          I've never personally messed with the rising time, or refrigerated this dough. Whenever I've wavered from the formula I've had disastrous results, so I'm reluctant to try...

        2. Dear Mrs. Smith,
          I gave my brother-in-law Dave this recipe, and he mixes it by hand! He loves this recipe. Humm. . .come to think of it, he has never had me over when he makes it!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Amy
            Professor Salt

            Hooboy. I've tried making this by hand. I've got the Pizza Napoletana book. It got really pasty, like kneadable Elmer's Glue - probably because of the soft flour. Some day when I get a stand mixer, I'll try again.

            Mrs Smith, I'm curious - how does the crumb turn out? Does it have lots of voids of uneven sizes, or does it turn out with uniform, small holes? I ask because I like a thin pizza with lots of voids. I like it when there's lots of bubbling. So I use a dough formula that promotes that (wet dough, minimal kneading, hand stretched).

            1. re: Professor Salt

              Not much bubbling, and pretty small uniform voids. It's so thin (except for the recalictrant thick parts that you can't avoid sometimes) that it is more like a cracker than like bread. But oh, the flavor....

              1. re: Professor Salt

                From my understanding, you'll get the crust you like by cooking with a high hydration dough, and at very high heat. We cook our pizzas at about 900 degrees, and they take about 90 seconds to make. That gets some big, gorgeous bubbles and leopard spotting.

            2. Oh Mrs. Smith, you write a loverly post. I'll never try this recipe, but I always read what you write. Thanks. :^)