Chef advices: pizza basics

Chef advices: pizza basics

Pizza is one of the most consummated food in the world and it’s one among the uncountable italian excellences… It’s my favorite food by far to eat and also to prepare because you can create, from scratch, something that grows, physically, untill it’s ready.

There is a world behind it even if it’s just 4 ingredients… but first let me tell you something: when italians says “pizza” they mean the crust, the dough even if there are a lot of different things called pizza; this is important to understand because some people think that: pepperoni (spicy salame) + cheese + tomato = pizza… BIG NO; pizza can be with or without mozzarella, cheese or any other topping… pizza is the crust, not the flavour.

In my pizza class I always mix theory and practice because there is a lot to know, it’s not a matter of recipe but it’s mportant to understand how it works, how the ingredients interact each other.

So what about some pizza basics? Let’s get into it!

4 ingredients:

  • Flour
  • Water
  • Yeast
  • Salt

Olive oil is optional but not required for napolitan pizza at all.

Focus on flour

We have a lot of different kind of flours in Italy, maybe too much, that are called after how fine they are milled:
00 type is the most refined, 0, 1, 2, up to wholemeal type… theese flours come from “soft wheat”.

Flour from durum wheat is called semolina, it is used for dry pasta or certain kind of bread from central-south Italy.

The flour we use is 00 or 0 types, but the most important thing to know about flour is the “strength” and it is expressed by an index called “W”; the higher it is the stronger it is:

  • weak flours W 150-180
  • medium flours W 270- 320
  • strong flours W 350+

Unfortunately it’s unlikely to find a commercial flour which declares it, W is written on the professionals flours.
It’s possible to check proteins inside flour, more proteins and more gluten mean a stronger flour.
It’s important to understand that weak or strong don’t mean bad and good, they are just different and you have to use them for different recipes.

  • Weak flour is what we use for fresh pasta, shortbread, cookies, cakes… basically things that don’t require long leavening or not at all.
  • Medium-strong flour is perfect for medium-long fermentation, like 24-36 hours pizza
  • Strong flour is used for long time fermentation like 48-60 hours pizza or for heavy dough such as Panettone and Pandoro (italian traditionals Christmas cakes) which take up to 3 days leavening.

By the way, the stronger the more gluten inside flour.

Another big difference, among theese flours, is the amount of water that they can absorb and when we talk about the recipe of pizza or bread, we mention the weight of flour first and rest of ingredients related to that weight (ex. 500 grams flour + 50% water means 250 grams water).

Weak flour can absorm maximum 60% and up to 100% for strong ones, there are also advanced techniques for high idratation.

I use medium-strong flour for my pizza, 24 H fermentation, 75 % water, yeast and salt… that’s it.

To know the different kinds of flours is the very first thing you should be able to do when it comes down to pizza and bread as well; once you know which one you need for what you’re doing everything will be easier and you can blend different flours in order to get yours.

Chef Matteo Ferroni


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