Napoletana Pizza: Chef Frank’s Story
Intro: The Big Day
Since my arrival in Naples a few days ago I have spent almost all of my time watching and working with the world’s best pizzaiolos. These pizzaiolos are all individually capable of producing Napoletana pizzas that will leave you speechless and wanting more.
Teaching the rest of the world how to create Naples-style pizza from scratch, however, takes a patient, unique and seriously committed person. Today, thanks to my host Caputo Flour, I will work with Enzo Coccia. Many believe that he is the premier teacher of the proud art of being a pizzaiolo. Enzo has taught his trade to people from all over the world. He is passionate about pizza and he takes his responsibility to instill the proper Napoletanaculinary tradition in all of his students (including me!) very seriously.
By the end of the day I am humbled by the simple precision of this sophisticated artisan. His professional makeup falls somewhere between scientist and magician. I harbor a sneaking suspicion he just might know the real formula for turning base metals into gold or water into wine. One thing is for sure–we have produced two beautiful batches of dough that are ready for the oven.
A Byte of Pizza History A modern pizza, that is, with mozzarella di bufala and tomato was made in 1871 in Naples for Princess Margherita of Savoia by Raffaele Esposito. This patriotic pizza, of basil, tomato and mozzarella, in honor of the new tricolor Italian flag’s red, green and white, became the pizza alla Margherita. 1
Sometime during the day, a day in which Enzo has demonstrated patience many times, he mentions ‘the Pizzaiolo’s life mixes a pinch of life, love and work’. I can’t help but feel fortunate to work for Wood Stone and to be here in Naples experiencing this moment. I feel fortunate for meeting Enzo and his fellow Pizzaiolos, the artisans that live this special life.
Please enjoy the recipes and procedures I learned in Naples –Chef Frank and the Team at Wood Stone
1Per the Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) Discipline and Specifications Manual. http://www.verapizzanapoletana.org/
When the day started, little did I know it would require more ‘Forte’ (Strength), ‘Via’ (Go) and listening to ‘No’ (a word which with the slap of a wrist needs no translation into any language) then I can remember needing in a long time. We began the morning making dough by hand. I think to myself “no problem.” I’ve made dough thousands of times before and many of those times by hand. But it was never like this!
Enzo first demonstrates this process. The pizzaiolo kitchen does not contain a rolling pin, dough sheeter, or dough press. All of these devises are far too aggressive and change the airy texture required of Napoletana pizza. If you are sincerely in search of the real thing get ready to use your hands, fingers and patience. His astute demonstration takes about 40 minutes, most of it kneading the dough. Then it’s my turn.
|A||Water||Semi-warm 75-80°F||1 liter||34 oz||53%|
|A||Yeast||Compressed Cake||5g||0.2 oz||0.3%|
|A||Sea Salt||50g||1.8 oz||2.8%|
|B||Caputo Flour||High quality protein||1.8 kg||4 lbs||100%|
|Yields: 14 Dough Balls / 200g / 7 oz|
Throughout my training day with maestro Enzo Coccia I wanted to ask “Why? Why? Why? Enzo, why do you shape your dough this way?” The answer, as I learned for myself, is Napoletana pizza is light and airy, this method allows a knowledgeable Pizzaiolo to make and use his dough the same day; it helps the dough temper and mature more evenly.Enzo believes shaping by hand on a tabletop stretches the dough into a tight ball that requires over night aging to be successful. Of course while I struggled with this process Enzo knocked off 3 whole boxes of dough in minutes. Practice Makes Perfect.
What is the difference between a good and a great pizza? All things being equal – the bake!
What is the difference between a good and a great cook? For Pizzaiolos and cooks everywhere it’s about responding to our environment. To this point I have lead you to believe that if you follow this recipe and process you will get a great result. The only thing I can really promise you is a great learning experience, and then only if you’re willing to pay attention! Enzo, my teacher, will adjust the amount of yeast he uses according to room temperature; the warmer (it was 100°F the day we made dough) the smaller the amount of yeast used. On days of high humidity he uses more flour to reach the same percentage of hydration and/or consistency. Enzo responds to his environment so that he can deliver the same great pizza on a summer or winter day. The recipe and process offered here is a great starting place. Get a feel for your dough, the desired baking result, and then respond as your environment requires.
|A||1 Dough Ball||Napoletana Style||190-220g||7-8 oz|
|B||Sauce||Crushed Tomatoes||75g||3 oz|
|C||Extra Virgin Olive Oil||10g||0.5 oz|
|C||Fresh Basil||1 Medium-sized leaf|
Hot, Hot, Hot! I’m told there are over one thousand wood-fired ovens in Naples. I believe it, there seems to be a wood-fired pizzeria on every corner. Even more amazing is that almost all are baking essentially the same pizza and all of them are busy. During my trip, I ate in 33 pizzerias all over Naples. All were very, very good; a couple were especially good.
What do people love about Napoletana pizza? It’s fast, it’s flavorful, it’s fresh, it’s fragrant, and it’s fantastic! The quality of the dough, tomatoes, cheese and intensity of the ovens create a slightly charred rustic experience that is hard to get over. It is awesome!
Is wood-fired a critical element? Citizens of Naples think so. Cook times average 60-90 seconds, with most closer to 60 seconds. This speed equates to around a 750°F floor temperature. Probably the most important Pizzaiolo‘s oven technique is that every pizza is spun 180 degrees and then lifted 4-6 inches off the oven floor within the last 10-15 seconds. This elevates the pizza into the smoky part of the oven dome, creating the potential to influence flavor profile. This spin and move off the floor is critical to a balanced bake. Left only on the intense floor these pizzas would surely burn before the tops are colored nicely.
Wood Species (A)
Wood Species – well-cured Oak appears to be the Pizzaiolo’s species of choice.
- 75 % Oak for coaling and open flame
- 25 % Sawdust or light species for fire starting and intense open flame.