Mastering the Hand Stretched Dough - Experiment 1

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This week we did a bit of experimenting, trying to take the pizza dough to the next level. I have always rolled my dough with a rolling pin but have wanted to master the hand stretched dough; the true Neapolitan way. So what better way to do some experimenting than to make the classic Margherita Pizza. With some Buffalo mozzarella, Italian tomatoes and fresh Basil leaves I got to work. First I need to confess that instead of using the traditional Neapolitan dough recipe, I stuck with my dough recipe (see here) as I am trying to improve this particular dough, rather than just go all old school. The Neapolitan dough does not have any sugar or olive oil in it. It is simply flour, water, yeast and salt.

One change which I did make to this dough (which I need to test again) is I left my ingredients to sit and rest together for about an hour and a half before kneading as opposed to the normal 20-40mins. I still need to prove this but I do think that the longer you leave the ingredients together in their 'wet' state before any kneading is done, the better the dough will turn out. The downside is that it is starting to take longer and longer to make my dough :(

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So I made my dough as per normal except for the above. Now one thing I have always had a problem with is once I have proofed my dough is that it sticks to whatever tray or bowl I proof them in (I put flour in before). I generally remove the dough from the proofing tray and then re-shape and then roll out. What I have since realised is that I was over-proofing my dough. The trick is to remove the dough from the proofing tray keeping it intact, i.e. not reshaping and not letting the air bubbles escape. I had an inkling that this was the case so this time I kept a watchful eye on my dough and rather than waiting say an hour for them to rise, I judged it purely based on the size of the dough; waiting for it to roughly double in size.

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The result was the dough was easily removed from the proofing tray as well as easily stretched. It was by far the fluffiest, lightest dough I have made. The other thing I did is I proofed my doughs in the fridge first, not for long but this helped me control how and when I properly proofed them i.e. what I would do is take one dough out of the fridge at a time say every 15-20mins (based on how often I was making a pizza) then let it double, this way I didn't get some good doughs and some over proofed doughs. They all came out great!

So in a nutshell here are the changes or things that we tried/tested:

  • Let the ingredients sit for 90mins rather than 20-40mins after they had been mixed together but before any kneading was done.
  • Proofed my doughs in the fridge first to better control the proofing of each individual dough, removing only one at a time from the fridge.
  • Kept a watchful eye on the dough being sure to not let it overproof (rise too much) so I can still easily remove the dough from the proofing tray to keep its shape and bubbles intact.
  • Then I hand stretched rather than using a rolling pin. This was super easy because the dough had not been reworked.
  • Also as I was making a Margherita pizza I cranked the pizza oven up to about 400-450deg C (That's really as hot as I can get my oven).
  • We also made other pizza's (pepperoni etc) and cooked these at a bit lower temp about 350deg C.

The end result was some really good pizza's, really fluffy and light dough as you would expect from a Margherita or Neapolitan style pizza.

Feel free to leave comments or questions. Let us know if you found this useful :)

Cheers,
Rich

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