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Cooking Authentic Pizza

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 23 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Dough Sauce Pizza Stone Mozzarella

First things first. You can forget about salad bars and stuff crusts. What we are talking about here is simple, well constructed pizzas that don't rely on gimmicks to satisfy hungry diners.

You can also forget about trying to replicating the crisp, delightful one that you had on holiday in Naples. Even if you have the money to invest in a wood-fired oven, pizzas are a little like fish and chips. They just don't taste the same at home.

Given the very high temperatures in which pizzas cook in an authentic wood-fired oven, the first thing to do is turn up the heat as high as you can on your modest gas or electric model and leave it for half an hour. Pizza dough appreciates nothing less than a low temperature because before it has had time to begin firming up, the sauce is seeping into it, creating a soggy consistency that will leave it feeling almost as sorry for itself as you.

Kitchen Armoury

A soggy basis will also be the result if you overload the base with too much sauce or toppings because the heat will not be able to permeate down.Nevertheless, there are some simple additions to the kitchen armoury that are going to make the whole process a whole lot easier to complete.

If possible, source some large round metal pizza trays which have holes cut into the bottom to expose the base to heat from below. And preheat them before laying down the dough so that it begins to cook and seal as quickly as possible. Pizza stones are also popular but they must be handled with care.

Wood-Fired Oven

Manufactured from terra cotta in order to exploit the materials excellent heat retention, the stone is preheated in the oven to mimic the effect on the base when it is slid onto the bottom of a wood-fired oven. So you are going to need a sturdy pair of gloves when transferring in and out of the oven. To prevent the base sticking to the stone, sprinkle on some corn meal.

Ready to Hand

When constructing the pizza, ensure that everything for the topping is ready to hand so that the dough doesn't have to support cold and wet ingredients while you try and locate the cheese grater or the olives, otherwise moisture will be absorbed into the dough leading to the aforementioned calamities.

When the dough is ready on the preheated tray, place some thin slices of mozzarella on it, followed by a blanket of fresh grating cheese. If you are using fresh herbs, sprinkle them on prior to adding the sauce in order to protect them from the intense heat. Then spoon on the cooked tomatoes. Don't be too generous with the sauce; remember overloading the pizza base is a recipe for disaster.

Finally, when your lovingly crafted pizza emerges from the oven, ensure you have a pizza wheel, which will make the job of slicing a great deal easier. That is always assuming that you don't decide to keep it all for yourself.

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