Saturday, October 6, 2012

Home-Made Pizza Al Taglio!

Preparation time: 20 minutes for the dough, 24 hours of rising, 10 minutes for the toppings and 20 minutes for the baking.
Details: approx. €13 to serve 7+ people

We decided that no, we could not name a blog "Mad Italian Foodies" without starting with the most adored and popular Italian recipe: Pizza al taglio! Pizza al taglio is a very popular type of pizza baked in large rectangular trays, and generally sold in rectangular slices by weigh. The post is quite long, but the recipe is super-easy and quick (apart from the 24 hours needed for the rising).

This is a foodies' pizza, of course. So, please forget about:
  • Precooked pizza bases
  • Plain white flour, or self-raising flour
  • Frozen/Low quality ingredients
  • Baking powder
And get ready to use:
  • 1 kg strong white flour (better if stoneground) - €2.90
  • 25 gr. fresh brewers' yeast OR 7 gr. dried yeast - €0.80
  • 700 gr water 
  • 20 gr extra-virgin olive oil, 15 gr. salt
  • 300 gr of mozzarella - €3.00
  • 500 gr of canned pomodori pelati (not "Passata") - €3.00

Ok, the first big problem was finding out a proper fresh brewers' yeast in Dublin, without which any wanna-be pizzaiolo would be lost (actually dried yeast is also great). Dublin is a beautiful town but when it comes to food supplies it can be quite disappointing. It's been super hard to find fresh brewers' yeast and after weeks of searches, we finally realized that one of the few places you can find it in Dublin is "PoloLith", a tiny little Polish shop in Rathmines Road, just next to the more famous "Joe Burger". PoloLith has it, Fallon&Byrne and Best of Italy don't. Thank you PoloLith!

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Few days after the pizzata, we came across this little gourmet food shop in Donnybrook road, called Roy Fox.  Unexpectedly, we found an excellent dried brewer's yeast (it's not fresh, but it's great as well for our pizza - see the ingredients above for the correct quantity).


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As you might understand, also flour is extremely important and it is crucial to buy the right type: the pizza dough requires a quite strong flour (the Italian "farina" 0 or 1). A great product is Odilum White Strong Flour, easily found at Tesco or Superquinn. Why strong flour? Because it's high in gluten, and this will transform into a lovely, elastic dough, which is what you want.

Anyway, Let's Start!

Put the flour in a glass/plastic bowl (don't use a metal one, as it might screw up the yeast) together with the yeast fragmented in pieces. Gradually add the water and swirl it, mixing it with the flour and yeast with a spoon. 


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After a while, add 15 grams of grinded salt and 20 grams of extra-virgin olive oil and mix. it is important to add salt only after the yeast has melted with the flour, otherwise the dough will be lost forever. After mixing salt and oil with the spoon, the dough should look exactly as in the picture below (right side). It' should be quite wet and "muddy". Never add extra flour!


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Let it rest for 10 minutes when it's still uneven as shown in the last pic. When 10 minutes are over, start work the rest of your mix with the hands until you have a springy, smooth dough. The dough is sticking to your hands? It's normal, you're on the right way. Take the dough out of the bowl on a previously floured counter (we used semolina - much better!). Knead the dough to dry it a bit (as shown here, minutes 5:20) and put it in a glass bowl. 


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Cover the bowl with a cling film and store it at the bottom of your fridge (where veggies are usually stored). Let it rest there for 24 hours. The fridge bottom floors are the ones where humidity's higher and temperature steadier, the perfect environment for our yeast! When the required 24 hours have passed, leave the bowl outside the fridge for about 1 hour to allow rising at room temperature. In the meantime, you can start preparing the topping! Which one? Well let's start with the most classical one, Pizza Margherita! For the topping you'll need to:  
  1. Chop 2-3 fresh Italian mozzarella and leave them apart in a bowl to dry for a while   
  2. Prepare a tomatoe sauce. Please use only Italian canned "Pomodori Pelati" (Best of Italy in Ranelagh has many brands). Never use a Passata, as it is already quite dry: we need the sauce to be liquid enough to resist the heat in the oven. Make a soffritto of 2 garlic slices. When garlic gets brown, add the pomodori pelati (previously chopped a bit) and leave them simmer for about 10-15 minutes at low gas, adding some salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. At the very end, add fresh basil leaves. Italian recipes are simple: please, please, don't add onions, bacon, mexican-chilli or other useless extra-ingredient. You will lose all the taste!
After that, it's time to roll out our pizza! Do it carefully. Watch out. Flour your hands and the counter, then take the dough out and start stretching the pizza, strictly using your fingers ONLY (as shown here, from minute 6:15). The dough should be quite thin, there's no need to make it too thick as it will rise in the oven!

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Put the pizza in a previously oiled tray, oil the top of the stretched dough and start adding the topping. Spread the topping on the dough uniformly using your hands. To make a Margherita, cover the dough with the tomatoe sauce and put it in a pre-heated oven at 250°/270° for 20-25 minutes maximum.


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Watch out: oven is crucial. Start putting the pizza at the very base of the oven and - after about 10 minutes- move the tray to the upper part of the oven to speed up the baking. This is a mandatory procedure to have a delicious pizza.

Add the mozzarella 3 minutes before the end of the baking, put the tray back in the oven and wait for the mozzarella to melt. Serve with fresh basil leaves and sprinkle with E-V olive oil

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And yes, always use scissors to slice the pizza, so that the yeast is not damaged.

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Ok the recipe proportions allow for at least 2 other pizzas (depending also on the baking tray dimensions of course). We were 5 people having dinner, so we decided to use part of the remaining dough for a second pizza: pizza bianca with rocket salad, prosciutto and parmesan shaves! Amazing.

Basically you just need to oil the dough, previously stretched on the baking tray and put in the oven (10 minutes at the bottom, 10 minutes at the top). When the dough gets a beautiful, brownish, yummy colour, just remove the tray from the oven and add the fresh ingredients without baking them. This is simply delicious.

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This recipe by Bonci (see this post) is simply incredible and it's the best possible way to reproduce the authentic Italian Pizza al Taglio at home, no matter where you live! It's only a matter of good ingredients, process and hints. Remember: if you "respect" the yeast (which is a live ingredient), if you prepare the dough following our tips, stretch it properly only with your fingers and pay attention to the baking part, you cannot fail.

Look at the picture below, these pizzas are simply amazing!

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Ok, if you don't wanna wait 24 hours for a pizza tonight, just go to Manifesto or Manifestino :-)



ps. Special thanks to Seb who contributed to the pizzata taking pictures and bringing prosciutto and wine, french wine (nobody is perfect!). A big thank to Kim and Conor, our official testers and raters!

French Wine & Soppressata!

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