|The Wild Mushroom pizza at Pizza Barbone in Hyannis|
To find out what makes exceptional pizza dough, and hence a good crust, we turned to two aficionados: Todd English, who made famous his gourmet pies at Figs, and offers a nice selection of flatbreads at the newly re-opened Olives in Charlestown, and Jason O’Toole, who pumps out sumptuous pizzas at the just-debuted Pizza Barbone in Hyannis.
It all comes down to several ingredients, oven temperature and water content.
“It’s such a simple thing, crust,” says English, who uses flour, water, yeast, salt and fat - the latter being olive oil - for his flatbread crust. For the flour, he uses King Arthur. “You want to be able to have enough protein glutens transferred so there’s more chew to it,” says English. The Olives pizza oven runs about 850- to 900-degrees. The result? A thin crisp crust “with good little crunch.”
O’Toole says the type of flour sets the tone. For his 12-in. Neapolitan discs he uses finely ground Caputo imported flour from Italy. He keeps it simple with four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt and water. He doesn’t use fat (butter or Crisco) or sugar, because those ingredients can cause browning. And cold water is key to keep the dough cool while working with it. Too pliable and it makes it hard to handle. The salt quotient adds a nice flavor to the Barbone crust.
The keys for making great pizza at home, says O’Toole, are having the oven on broil - up to 800 degrees - before putting in the pie and pre-heating the pizza stone. When you pop in the pie, turn off the broiler and let the pie bake for about two minutes. Then crank the oven to 450 degrees and finish baking the pie four to five minutes. The Pizza Barbone wood-fired pizza oven gets as hot as 900 degrees F.
At Pizza Barbone they talk about “leoparding” spots on the pizza. “It’s that soft chewy crust with pockets of air,” says O’Toole. The charred parts on the crust are normal and add flavor and texture.
As for Pizza Barbone, the crust tends to be softer than a crispy flatbread. “It’s not traditional American pizza,” says O’Toole. “Neapolitan pizza is meant to be eaten with a fork and knife - the way they do in Naples.”
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