I’m in a Vera Pizza Napoletana Kind of Mood
I don’t think I need to explain what the Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN) certification is in detail, but to anyone who’s just wandered by our site, who may not know, the VPN was established as a denomination of control (DOC) by the Italian government to designate and identify pizzerias who meet and follow strict requirements that respect the traditions and art of true Neapolitan Pizza making.
What the VPN does is work to try to maintain the origins and traditions of Napoletana pizza by establishing rules and guidelines about the use of ingredients and processes in creating pizzas in the age old Neapolitan traditions. I don’t know about you, but I crave this connection and dedication at times. The doughs are simple and yet sooo delicious! There’s nothing complex to the dough: “00” flour, salt, yeast, water. Yet, producing a brilliant dough in this style out of my own oven has been a difficult task. I’ve made some good pizzas and maybe even some “great” ones in this style, but by my definition none of them came close to the most brilliant doughs I’ve had by so many master pizzaiolos that we’ve met here on Pizza Quest.
Every time I make a pizza I learn something. I surpass my expectations with one aspect of the pizza and probably dash my dreams over another. A week after I made the best dough I think I’ve ever created the next batch falls terribly short. The topping ingredients are the easy part. There are true artisans, craftspeople, artists out there who have perfected their products. I can buy a truly inspiring salumi, fresh artisan mozzarella, local farmers market herbs and vegetables, the best tomatoes etc.People like Rob DiNapoli and Chris Bianco are out there focusing on producing amazing tomato products. But the one aspect we have to perfect at home, all by ourselves, is the dough!
Pizza isn’t easy for that reason. The dough is a living, breathing entity. If you haven’t seen it, watch this presentation Peter Reinhart gave on TED about the life of bread. *LINK It’s really fascinating. Pizza dough is the same. It’s an ever changing, evolving thing that starts as dry ingredients, is transformed into a wet dough ball that grows as the yeast and sugars in the flour interact, and then is cooked and dried again in the oven creating a pizza. That’s a difficult process to get right – especially with consistency.
Then try working in a Wood Fired Oven! That adds a whole lot of variables, but what I love about it is that you can’t just dial in an exact temperature or place your pizza, salmon, veggies, steak, or pork roast into the oven and walk away while a digital timer ticks down to “DONE”! You can’t even repeat what you did the last time you cooked. Each fire is different. Each day is different. Each time you go into your wood fired oven it’s a dance between you, your food and the wild elements at work. To me, that’s brilliant. I never follow a recipe to the letter. Instead, I like to use most recipes as a guide. Making pizza in a wood fired oven is the same. Success requires your past experiences and current senses to guide you and that is so much fun and the pay off is awesome.
Pizza is always a dance to be sure. Even when cooking in my home oven, where the temperature can be set to an exact temperature and I’ve rigged my oven with 2 pizza stones and a baking steel to help regulate the heat distribution, I still have to dance the jingo-jango to coax the best pizza out of the oven!
Following are some photos of my VPN dough using a 00 Flour and my roaring hot Primavera Oven. I’ll do some recipes for the pizzas in another post. I normally would just post a recipe about each pizza I made, but, for now, let me just say that I came close to pure pizza joy and perfection — and close is pretty pretty good!
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Pizza Quest Info
Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.
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Brad – Good to see you’re alive and well. Haven’t heard from you lately. I’m prepping for my 1st BreadWorks Outdoor Tomato Pie Buffet of the Season this coming Saturday. Already sold out with 40-50 people coming. I’ll probably bake 40+ pies in my wood-fired oven. It’s rain or shine. We can always move the folks into the Cabin and I’ve got enough shelter to keep baking. Have a great Bluegrass Band scheduled to play on the Cabin Front Porch. I’ll try to get someone to take some pictures and post a few. Planning to have one of my Tomato Pie Events each month now through the Fall. It’s certainly a physical challenge to produce 40+ “perfect” pies while keeping the fire going, but with help from April, and now Sara, we’re going to make it happen! Come see me some time soon! – Bob
I think so too
Thanks for the information. I’ll take a look. I have had pretty good results with my oven. I’m not all geeked out about it, I’ve just moved my stone and steel around and sort of settled on what works. I’ve always used 2 stones which helps when you are doing more than one pizza because you can do the second pizza on the 2nd stone and allow the first to heat back up.
I got the steel going and it does provide a faster bake time.
The purpose of my comment in the article is that no matter how controlled my oven is, there are always variables that seem to work their way into the equation making cooking of pizza a hands on process.
I’ll definitely read further into the link you provided.
Thanks for the info!
You’re welcome. It sounds like you’re happy with the pizza you’re producing in your home oven, and, if you’re happy, that’s all that matters, but, at the same time, steel offers certain enhancements that I don’t believe you’re capitalizing on, and, even if you don’t end up preferring those enhancements, I still strongly feel that it’s worth experiencing them at least once.
I’ve noticed a slight trend with WFO owners that they tend to ‘geek out’ with the Neapolitan in the WFO, as you seem to be doing, but, when it comes to baking pizza in the home oven, there’s a tendency to view it as being less artisanal and more common, and to devote a bit less overall thought to it. Steel is basically the anti-McPizza. It takes a home oven that normally puts out a slow baked, pretty generic product and wood fire ovenizes it by speeding up the bake and producing a puffier crust with far more character-
Thanks Scott! I think we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg regarding the implications of the baking steel. I’d love it if you’d be willing to write a guest column on how to use it fully. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested. Thanks!