From Florence, Italy: Delicious From-Scratch Thin Crust Pizza

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Here is a delicious homemade pizza recipe that I was taught by the owner of an Italian pizzeria when visiting Florence. This is the classic, thin crust pizza that Florence is famous for. The baker also gave me some topping ideas to create traditional Italian pizzas, before “meatlovers” was an option.

The dough does take 2-8 hours to sit and rise. This is one of those times where the longer, the better. You can make it the night before, let it sit in the fridge and it will be ready to go by dinner time.

Topping Ideas:

The most basic pizza you can make is with a ladle of pureed tomatoes followed by a handful of mozzarella cheese. You can add whatever you want to your pizza, but to make a traditional Italian pizza, add any of these toppings listed below:

La Pizza Quattro Formaggi: add a trio of fontina, gorgonzola and brie cheeses
La Pizza Margherita: top the tomato and mozzarella with fresh basil leaves
La Pizza Marinara: chopped fresh garlic, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of dried oregano
La Pizza di Napoli: fresh capers and dried anchovies
La Pizza Salame Piccante: as it’s name says, your spiciest Italian salami

Ingredients:

  • 7 cups (1kg) wheat flour
  • 3 cups (700mL) room temperature water
  • 1 oz (15g) pizza yeast
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

Add the yeast to the water and stir vigorously until dissolved. Pile the flour onto your counter and make a well in the centre. Add the salt, olive oil and water mixture to the well. With a fork mix the ingredients, slowly pushing the flour into the well. When all the flour has been added and a sticky consistency is formed, knead the dough with your hands for 10 minutes.

There is a “right” technique to this if you would like to try it out. Form a ball with the dough and squish it flat onto the counter with your hand. Place your hand so that the part where all of your fingers meet is over the edge of the dough closest to you. Keep your fingers together and your thumb sticking out like you have a mitten on. Push your hand (not your fingers) into the dough and push it forward, stopping when the heel of your hand reaches the far edge of the dough. The dough should have curled up a bit behind your hand. If it didn’t, try a more “rolling” motion with your hand. There should also be a knobby part of the dough from the gap between your thumb and your index finger. Grab this knobby bit, and flip the dough over so that the knobby bit is now under the dough and closest to you. This is much more difficult to explain than it is to do. So give it a try!

Form the dough into a ball and let it rest for 2-8 hours covered with a damp cloth. After 2-8 hours, the dough should have increased in size. On a floured counter, flatten the edges of the ball of dough with your fingers, leaving the centre thicker. Use a rolling pin to roll dough away from you, from the centre to the edge, turning the dough each time until it is as thick or as thin as you would like it.

Feeling adventurous again? There is another technique that the pizzerias use in Italy to prevent the dough from shrinking in size too much. The dough springs back when it is stretched out because of all the glorious fibres that yeast created for you over the past 2-8 hours. (And you though it was just sitting there!) Whatever you do, don’t fold or rip the dough, or else you will damage those fibres and your pizza will be a little less glorious for it. Instead, find a rounded edge on your counter and hang half of your dough off of it. Use the heels of your hands to keep the other half of dough on the counter and to turn it quickly to keep the dough circular in shape. The weight of the hanging dough will stretch itself out with a little help from gravity. But try this out slowly – you don’t want your pizza dough on the floor!

Now it is time to add the toppings! Add one large ladle of pureed tomato into the centre of the dough. Use the back side of the ladle to draw a spiral, pulling the sauce slowly out to the edges of the dough. Three to five circles in your spiral should do it. Then sprinkle one good handful of mozzarella cheese, plus any other desired toppings. Cook it in the oven for 4-5 minutes at 460F (220C). You will know when it is done!

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