The Basement Cooks is a bi-weekly series which focuses on members within The Basement group and the food they are cooking. This recipe is brought to you by HarteBlanche.
This guide is intended for those who have access to a Pizza Oven. If not I recommend the “Frying Pan Method” which can be found on Youtube. Biga can be cooked in a home oven also hence me using this method for those who are not as fanatic as me. But for best results, dedicated pizza oven is key.
You will need;
1kg 00 Flour (Caputo Blue or Nuvola)
650g/ml Tap Water
3g Instant Yeast
Toppings of Choice
Mixing Bowl/Prooving Tray
There are many ways to make dough for Pizza, but to make true Neapolitan dough, although basic in terms of ingredients, there are so many factors that go into making the dough and requirements to make the sacred Neapolitan pizza. It’s truly a science, an art, a dance.
Having made pizzas for around a year now, I can confirm it is very difficult to replicate those of the maestros of Naples. It is almost impossible to make a Neapolitan pizza in a classic kitchen oven as it simply is not hot enough. Although, you can get good results using a frying pan/grill combo.
If you just fancied trying this on a weekend then Pizza Pilgrims sell a postal pizza kit, this isn’t sponsored but I just admire the brothers behind it.
In my opinion, “Biga” is a really easy start to making Pizza and gives excellent results. You essentially pre ferment a % of dough overnight and then incorporate the rest of the flour and water/salt 18-24 hours later. I have had far more consistent results using Biga recently and you get the “biga” puffy crusts.
Part 1 – 800g Flour, 400g Cold Tap Water, 3g of Instant Yeast
- Add the yeast to the water and leave for around 5-10 minutes.
- Add the flour into the bowl and slowly add in the yeast water mixture and mix with the tips of your fingers for around a minute and shake side to side to form an almost shaggy dough mess.
- Seal up with cling film so it is moisture tight and let it sit for a minimum 18 hours in an environment that maintains around 19/20 degrees (normal house temperature).
- Overnight, the dough will have risen and lots of air bubbles will have formed within the dough.
Part 2 – 200g Flour, 250g Water, 28g Salt
- Add the salt to the water
- Add half the flour into the Biga mixture, half the water and begin to mix in with hands.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and then for around 5-10 minutes incorporate the mixture together. Push back and forwards and fold and eventually you will get a large dough ball.
- Leave the dough ball to sit and rest for 15 minutes in the clingfilm bowl.
Once your dough has rested, it’s time to knead the dough. We have to build up the gluten strength by adding in air. I slap the dough onto the counter gently and fold. Slap fold. Slap fold. You want to be gentle in this process as tearing the dough ruins the gluten structure. The ball will begin to smoothen out and feel much better the more you knead. Once your dough ball is smooth all round you are good to go.
Using scales, you can cut portions of the dough and weigh up the ball for around 280grams (alternatively roll into a long sausage and portion into 4 or 6 chunks) Once you are happy with the weight, you want to tuck the ball into itself and roll the bottom to seal the ball. This will prevent the ball ballooning outwards.
Gently flour a tray and add the balls and let them sit for at least 3 hours with a wet tea-towel over to prevent the balls drying out.
After 3 hours, take out a ball gently and place into a bowl of flour and give it a “bath”.
Then onto a flat surface, starting from the middle gently push the air outwards with just below the tips of your fingers, like you are diving off a cliff hands. You want to have a flat base and big puffy crusts so don’t ever touch the crusts. The classic old American guy flicking dough in the air to stretch does not apply here, thats American pizza that is usually rolled out and cooked in a charcoal oven. Unlike in the photo, you do not want to really pick up the dough, here I am showing the elasticity and strength formed from the kneading.
Ingredient Quality > Quantity. Less is more. Not only will it be difficult to launch the pizza in the oven, you will end up with a wet mess. Never use packet ball Mozzarella, it’s far too wet, if you must, dry it with kitchen towel and leave out for an hour or two first.
Fior Di Latte, Ndjua, Pepperoni, Honey, Red Onion is my go to.
I use a pre-made pizza sauce from Mutti as I’m lazy but there is nothing wrong with some canned chopped tomato’s with a little salt and pepper.
My go to for the ingredients is AdiMaria, a fantastic deli in Coventry that deliver but check for your local Italian deli!
Once you have your oven set up and hot enough, launch the pizza with a wooden peel and retrieve with metal. Cook time depends on flame/ gas / wood around 90 seconds. Check that the base has started to bake and then retrieve and spin the pizza every 6-7 seconds to get an even cook. For Ooni gas ovens a little trick is to turn the flame dial a quarter down when launching.
If you are using a home oven, you can pick up a pizza stone on amazon for around £20. Hottest setting for 45 minutes to ensure the stone is hot enough or follow the frying pan method.
You will fuck up a lot of pizzas like me, but it’s fine, it’s all part of the fun!
For a visual overall guide this is the video that introduced me to biga.
For any questions or submissions of your pizzas – @harteblanche on insta.