Rome – Day #?

I have a problem with reading instructions which partly dates from the time I realised bread baking is basically pretty simple and, if you have a method that works for you, you can apply it to virtually any bread formula that comes your way. No point in adopting a new method for each and every loaf. If you’re baking for sale you want all your breads to fit smoothly into your work regime.

Consequently I have shelves of bread books that I’ve never really read. I just steal an idea and make it my usual way.

So, my approach to pizza has been pretty casual; after all it’s just a flat dough with stuff on top. And that stuff is usually what’s in the fridge not a planned recipe. Nothing wrong with that – you can turn out pretty good results that way.

Never been interested in turning out a pizza in 90 seconds which just sounds like something Real Men aim for. Never wanted to be a dough juggler – the ceilings are too low. In my ovens pizzas have tended to take 20 minutes to half an hour. Doesn’t bother me.

And being a perverse sort of person who hates doing what everyone else is doing I am attracted to the idea of Roman style pizzas because they are different from the ubiquitous Neapolitan version. On top of which I only recently came across Pinsa dough which uses a variety of flours.

Getting that dough right ain’t straightforward especially if you try and combine two or three sources and methods like I did – three books open at different pages. (I spent years telling new bakers to adopt one method and stick to it until it worked for them before branching out. Pity I can’t follow my own advice.)

But yesterday, Ladies and Gents, I think I got it all right: the dough, the method, the bake, the topping …

Everyone knows you can’t make a decent pizza without “OO” Caputo flour. Well, when in Rome use a blend of Wholemeal Spelt, Strong Bread Flour, plus Rice and Soya Flours so you can expect the base to be fundamentally different to your stereotypical Neapolitan pizza.

I use 250g for a round pizza so those are the units used in the table below from my spreadsheet calculator set for four pizzas. (Note: I’ve adjusted the quantities a little from those shown in Rome Day Two)

I mixed by hand (10 kneads, rest, repeated three times in total) followed by three folds at 15 minute intervals. Fermented in the fridge for 24 hours.

Took 500g dough, divided in half and shaped two balls. Placed in a plastic box for 2 hours. Shaped the remaining 500g into a single ball and dropped into its own box.

Roman Pizza is usually baked on a rectangular baking sheet (teglia) and can be prebaked, cut into smaller rectangles and stored in the fridge for later use. So I pressed out the 500g dough ball on a 350mm x 250mm tray using fingertips, coated the surface with a little olive oil and baked it in the Pico, 250C top and bottom for about 14 minutes.

Cooled, trimmed the edges (used them as soft breadsticks with roast asparagus – what a treat) and cut the main piece into four for another day.

The other two dough balls I pressed out using fingertips to dinner plate size. Spread the dough with uncooked herbed tomato sauce and a layer of grated hard ewes’ cheese. Baked 250C top and bottom for about 30 minutes.

Topped the bases with lettuce, tomatoes, slices of mini cucumbers, slices of an ageing sausage from the fridge (she wouldn’t let me use the ageing chicken breast), rolled pieces of ham, blobs of burrata, final few squirts of tomato sauce.

Have to say this was seriously good. The base manages to be crisp on the outside and soft (don’t mean doughy) on the inside. Rigid enough to support the generous topping when cut into segments. No crusts left on the plate. Flavour of the base deep and meaningful …

You can see this ain’t Instagram material – clunky looking base. But in this case a picture does tell a 1000 lies. I might have some practice to do on dough stretching but this was pretty good.

P.S. Today split some of the remaining base which Sue grilled:

Turned the grilled triangles into simple but delicious canapes; butter, creme fraiche, smoked salmon, lemon juice, black pepper:

Perfect with a glass of Ricard …

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