Doppio zero: chasing pizza napoletana

“Tipo 00” flour is an important (but misunderstood) ingredient in Italian cooking.  Talk to an Italian pastry chef, pizza maker, pasta impresario, or baker,  and they’ll all tell you the same thing:  the quality of their products can’t be reproduced in the U.S. for lack of “doppio zero” flour.  I was confused by this for the longest time:  knowing that the kinds of flour preferred by pastry chefs and pasta makers are complete opposites, I couldn’t understand how the double zero flour made them all happy.

Finally, I learned more about double zero flour.  The “OO” status refers to the flour’s extraction–in other words, how finely it is milled.  It has nothing to do with protein content, ash content, or other usual measures of flour…thus, all those chefs were indeed using their beloved “doppio zero” to make delicate sfogliatelle and thick-crusted pane co’santi. As it turns out, 00 flour comes in a range of protein levels.  Finally–it all made sense.

Then I learned that pizza napoletana is made from mostly low protein 00 with a touch of higher-protein bread flour mixed in (low protein 00 makes the dough stretchy & extensible; high protein makes it a bit stronger & easier to handle).  But where to get my 00 flour for yet another attempt at Naples-style pizza at home?  Nor-Joe Imports (on Frisco Avenue in old Metairie, right by the train tracks) to the rescue:  the Italian specialty store stocks DelVerde brand low-protein 00 flour; no mail-order necessary.

Using a slightly modified pizza napoletana dough recipe (from Peter Reinhart’s American Pie), I blended 9 oz Delverde low-protein 00 flour with 2.25 ounces of King Arthur bread flour, 1.5 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp instant yeast, and 7/8 cup of water.  In a stand mixer, I kneaded the dough until it formed a windowpane, and next let it rest for 1.5 hours at room temperature, then refrigerated it until about an hour before I needed it.

Okay, that’s the first step toward a better approximation of pizza napoletana.  Now for the tomatoes–only San Marzano will do.  Fortunately, I found Cento brand crushed San Marzanos in a bottle at Whole Foods:  perfect for making a pizza or two at a time.  Which left me with the single most important part of pizza-making:  the oven.

I filled my Big Green Egg with a loaf of fresh lump charcoal, right up to the rim of the firebox, and let it rip.  I used the platesetter, legs down, and topped it with a pizza stone.  The whole rig preheated for an hour or so while I prepped the pizza, topped simply with crushed tomatoes, a touch of oregano, a handful of sliced fresh spinach leaves, and a sprinkling of grated pecorino.

The pizza went onto the stone while the Egg’s dome temperature exceeded 700 degrees; it cooked in a flash, and I devoured it nearly as fast as it cooked.  Sadly, despite the flour, the crust was pretty ordinary.  It didn’t have the tender, puffed edges or crisp-but-soft snap of vera pizza napoletana.  Back to the drawing board…I’m gonna try a lower-yeast, longer cold ferment dough next time….and maybe sneak in a touch of white whole wheat flour.

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5 thoughts on “Doppio zero: chasing pizza napoletana

  1. It sounded so promising, I was sure you were going to be happy with the result. Maybe next time. I admire your dedication.

    It really sounded delicious though.

    • Yes, the eating part is the most fun. Sigh…if I could just turn out a reliable tender Neapolitan crust. I’ve nailed the NY style crust, and I can do a reasonable approximation of ultra-thin Roman crust, but (good-tasting) Neapolitan continues to evade my grasp.

  2. In Argentina where I come from we use 00000 Cinque Zero, and we also add some olive oil to the dough; otherwise it is like carboard or matzos

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