Well it didn’t take long for me to lapse into D.O.C. pizza apostasy. After scouring the web in search of a link-able Neapolitan-style pizza dough recipe, I finally settled on this one by Mario Batali. Now, a close follower of what I was saying yesterday will note several discrepancies between this preparation and the ideals of Verace Pizza Napoletana. There’s white wine in it for one thing, and then honey, either one of which would easily land me in some Italian coastal hoosegow should I try to sneak them into a Neapolitan pizza dough. But this recipe is simply genius.
How so? If you look around at most from-scratch Neapolitan crust recipes, you’ll notice that almost all employ the straight dough method: mix-rise-punch-proof-bake. It’s all very fast and functional, though not very conducive to a great tasting crust. The reason, because there’s no time for the dough to “ferment” in a way the produces any depth of flavor. The dough simply rises too fast. This Batali dough is different. It too is a fast-rising dough, in fact even faster-rising than a dough made via the straight dough method.
But Joe, won’t alcohol kill off the yeast that I’m trying to grow? You’d think that wouldn’t you? And in fact that was my question the first time I tried this dough. But yeast is nothing if not alcohol-tolerant. Yeasts make beer and wine after all. They excrete alcohol as a function of their metabolism, so it stands to reason that they could tolerate a little in a pizza crust mix. But then why bother adding wine at all? If you recall previous posts on bread, you’ll remember that the main benefits of a long dough fermentation are alcohols, acids and sugars made by yeasts, lactic acid bacteria and enzymes respectively. Those yeasts, lactic acid bacteria and enzymes are at work in a bread dough, but they’re also at work in a wine barrel. A finished wine already has all the stuff in it that you ordinarily wait for in a long-rising bread dough. Thus by adding a little wine (and some honey) to the crust mix, you leapfrog straight to the end of the fermentation process without having to wait for the dough to actually ferment. Of course it’s not really the same flavor, but it’s a marvelous cheat. Everything you’d expect from a chef as talented as insidiously intelligent as Mario Batali. Remember what I said about restauranteurs? Bravissimo.
So let the purists scream. My feeling is that pizza lovers want flavor, but shouldn’t necessarily have to master natural starters and/or long fermentations in order to take a crack at a Neapolitan-style pizza. I suppose that attitude makes me typically American. Guilty as charged.