Neapolitan-style - Pizza Screen?


Hi Fellow Pizzamakers,

I've been using Tony's Napoletana method for several months.
When I push out the balls (approx 250g in weight) to a diameter of 30cm approx, some of the base is extremely thin - so much so that it's see-through, as thin as one-fifth of a millimeter, or even less. It's thicker towards the outer rim; the really thin spots tend to be in the middle.

The pizza delivers off the shovel into the oven OK, but can sometimes disintegrate on inserting the peel to turn it, or when extracting it. What happens is that a small part in the centre sticks to the oven floor, tearing the pizza, splashing sauce and toppings on the floor, creating a smoky mess.

I usually operate at 400C/100C (750F/210F) top/bottom, and cook for 80-90 seconds. Caputo Red, hydration 60-62%

A pizza screen (35cm or so) is a possible solution, but I'd prefer not to have to go this route. If any of you use a screen, what's your opinion of them? Do they increase cook time? Is the base not cooked as well as when you place the pizza directly on the oven floor?

I've seen videos of Neapolitan pizzamakers on YT who slap/stretch out the doughball most of the way, top it, then stretch out the thicker parts near the cornicione on the shovel before putting the pizza in the oven. This the preferable solution but the 'excessively thin' areas could still develop.

Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Greetings from Ireland.

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Carlo Showalter
posted over 1 year ago

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Based on what I've read, a lot of this sounds like technique and practice. When I work with delicate doughs (lower protein flours, higher hydration) such as Neapolitan-style, I'm very careful with how I open a ball of dough. I try to let gravity do most of the work. When I'm more aggressive with this type of dough, it's very easy to get thin spots and even tears.

When you watch pros like Tony, it's deceptive because they make it look so easy. Since they're moving so quickly, it's not apparent that they're using a very light touch. Most people will try to emulate this but won't have the proper calibration/technique. Also, high gluten doughs are far more forgiving.

I'd suggest getting your dough ball stretched to a point where it's just short of thin spots of tears. After it's topped and placed on the peel, you can tug on the sides and get it a little more stretched out.

As for screens, you'll hear mixed views. I'm pragmatic and think you should do what works. The subject of pizza, especially Neapolitan style, is very divisive. You'll hear a lot of dogma and people approaching the topic with very rigid views. There's no reason not to using a screen once just to see how it goes.

I use screens, but in a different way. It's hard to control the temperature of my outdoor oven, so often times I find myself with a surface temp that's too hot. I could sacrifice a dough ball to get the stone to the right temperature, but I think it's a waste. Instead, I'll put my pizza in the oven. After it firms up a bit and the bottom gets the right amount of char, I'll slip the the screen underneath. This allows the top to finish without having a bottom that's burned to a crisp.

Good luck and keep us updated on your progress Carlo.

-Raj

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Raj Irukulla admin
posted over 1 year ago


Carlo,

What's your mixing time?

Also, when you say you're using Caputo Red, is it labeled "Chef's Flour" or "Rinforzata"? Both flours have different protein levels, although they are not too far apart. The Chef's has 13% the Rinforzata has 13.5%.

Like Raj mentioned, it also has a lot to do with your stretching technique. Try not to push the dough out from the center on outwards. Another thing is how you ball the dough. Make sure it's a tight ball without any air pockets and with a solid seam on the bottom.

Keep us posted.

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Mike K.
posted over 1 year ago


Thanks both for the quick replies.

@raji Agreed, extending the dough is the trickiest thing of all IMHO. And yes, the pros make it look like the easiest thing in the world, but it takes years of
practice and tens of thousands of pizza to get that good at it!

From what I've seen at the following 2 links...

http://laconfraternitadellapizza.forumfree.it/?t=63195189
http://www.pizza.it/content/girare-la-refrattaria-del-fornettoattacca

....the problem described in the original post is likely related to:
- Overhydration (my kitchen's a little damp, after getting a new batch of flour, it's necessary to adjust the hydration downwards over weeks/months),
- Condensation (warm doughball on marble which is too cold)
- Over-risen dough.

I suspect tomato sauce seeping through the thin bits, or condensation from the metal peel when turning are also factors.

@mikek It's the 'cuoco'/'chef' Caputo. 13% protein. Have to say I've been really pleased with it.

I normally follow Tony's Neapolitan procedure, as per THE PIZZA BIBLE, with some small adjustments:
(i) 3 X 1 minute machine mixes (instead of 2, preferment sloshing on the walls of KA bowl makes this necessary),
(ii) 3.5% salt (instead of 2%).
On this occasion however, I used another method, but I fully intend switching back to Tony's next time.

I always autolyse, for 60 mins approx. I don't bulk ferment, but ball immediately. Balls are completely free of gas, closed inward, belly-button style, sealed with flattening twist motion, put in containers, then refrigerated after a 10 minute rest.

When taken out of the fridge, there will be some small bubbles at the bottom of the balls, and more form as they warm up, but I believe this to be normal, and the sign of a healthy, rising dough. I allow minimum 6 hours at room temperature before extending. Autumn, Winter, Spring require the use of a proofing box as room temperature isn't enough to rise them sufficiently.

Good call, I should've known to press out the ball more at/towards the edges than in/around the centre....duh. That's precisely what's done here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jsv9ac_pTS8

Vito Iacopelli - he's put loads of helpful vids on YT. His channel is surely one of the most useful internet resources for Neapolitan-style home pizzamakers.

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Carlo Showalter
posted over 1 year ago


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