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Dec. 28, 2021

Neapolitan Pizza Dough

Neapolitan Pizza Dough

A huge thanks to Adrian, from Ages Fire Kitchen who generously supplied this recipe for pizza dough. Check out my interview with Adrian on the Podcast. On the Podcast – Adrian goes into a lot of fine detail on the preparation of his Pizza dough. Adrian is a home cook pizza making guru!



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Check him out on Instagram here: @agesfirekitchen

So you’ve been making home made pizza for a while, and have recently decided to try and up your game and take the next step with your pizza making. Well let me introduce you to the world of pre-fermented dough. “What is pre-fermented dough” you may be asking. To put it simply, it is splitting the process of making dough in a two stage process (the pre-ferment stage & the completion stage)

There are two different ways to preferment dough, and that is by using the Poolish or Biga methods. For this particular recipe we are going use the Biga method. This biga preferment will be 70% of the total amount of dough we are going to make.

Like always, nothing beats good quality flour. For best results you should use two types of flour. Why two flours? Because pre-ferments perform better with higher protein & W (gluten strength), where the flour used for completing the dough should be a lower protein and W.

Do you really need two types of flour? No, but from personal experience, I noticed a massive improvement when I did. The table below outlines the flours I use.

  Flour Type Protein W (Gluten Strength)
Stage 1 (Biga) Caputo Manitoba Typo ‘0’ 14.5% 370-390
Stage 2 (Completion) Caputo Classica Typo ’00’ 11.5% 220-240

As a rule of thumb, each dough ball contains approximately 166 grams of flour, so you can use your bakers percentages to scale up the recipe (depending on how many balls you need to make). The table below shows the recipe for the completed dough. 

Complete recipe

  Bakers Percentage 1 Ball @ 280 grams 6 Balls @ 280 grams
Flour 100% 166 grams 1000 grams
Water  70% 118 grams 70 grams
Salt 2.3% 4 grams 23 grams
Fresh Yeast (Active Dry) 0.3% (0.13%) 0.5 grams (0.2 grams) 3 grams (1.3 grams)

But as mentioned we are splitting the process of making dough into two stages. So we will need to split the completed dough recipe into a Biga recipe, and a completion recipe.

Stage 1: Biga

  Bakers Percentage 1 Ball @ 280 grams 6 Balls @ 280 grams
Caputo Manitoba 70% Total Flour 116 grams 1000 grams
Water  50% of Total Flour 58 grams 350 grams
Fresh Yeast (Active Dry) 0.3% (0.13%) 0.5 grams (0.2 grams) 3 grams (1.3 grams)

Stage 2: Completion

  Bakers Percentage 1 Ball @ 280 grams 6 Balls @ 280 grams
Caputo Classica 30% of Total Flour 50 grams 300 grams
Water  50% of Total Flour 58 grams 350 grams
Salt 2.3% 4 grams 23 grams

Let’s assume you are going to cook at 7pm on Saturday night and you are making 6 balls.

Stage 1: Make Preferment – Day 1

  1. Place 700 grams of Caputo Manitoba flour into a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, add 350 grams of filtered tap water. 
  3. Dissolve the fresh or active dry yeast into the water.
  4. Slowly pour the water into the flour, but don’t add it all at once. Mix it slowly with a spoon.
  5. Once that little bit of water has been absorbed, continue to add more water to the mix and continue to stir, until all of the water is absorbed. Continue to do this over 5 or 6 different pours
  6. We are not actually kneading the Biga, we’re just simply trying to hydrate the flour. You don’t want to be developing gluten at this stage. 
  7. Once all the water has been added, put a lid on the container and then shake it around for a few minutes. 
  8. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the container with a spatula, and then just continue to shake it. We are simply trying to incorporate any loose flour that there might be. 
  9. Once all of the flour has been absorbed, the Biga is complete. It should look like a stringy shaggy mess. 
  10. Cover the container in cling wrap and poke a few small holes in it. 
  11. Place the Biga in a cool dry area for about 16 to 18 hours (ideally at 18°C). The bottom of a wine fridge is a great option.

Stage 2: Complete Dough – Day 2

  1. After lunch on Saturday, the Biga should be ready to use. When it’s fermented correctly, the Biga should smell sweet and a little like yogurt. 
  2. As the Biga fermented over night, it would have grown into one large mass. To try to hydrate the biga all together in one hit, is actually quite difficult. That’s why it’s a good idea to cut it into smaller pieces. Smaller pieces are going to hydrate faster than one larger mass.
  3. Scrape the Biga out of the container and using some scissors, cut it into small pieces. 
  4. Place the small pieces of Biga into the mixer.
  5. Prepare 350 grams of cold water, but only add 300 grams to get the hydration up to 70%. 
  6. Don’t add all of the water at once, as the dough won’t hydrate correctly if too much water is added in once shot.
  7. Save about 50 grams of the 350 grams of water and add that slowly a little bit later as the dough comes together.
  8. Turn the mixer onto its lowest setting and begin the mixing. The dry pieces of Biga will now slowly start to break up and hydrate, and the water will look milky. 
  9. After a few minutes, add the remaining 300 grams of Caputo Classica to the 700 grams that we’ve already used in our biga. Now we have used our 1000 grams for flour.
  10. Continue to mix until the flour has been absorbed. 
  11. Add the 23 grams of sea salt and continue mixing for three or four minutes.
  12. By this point, you should start to see the dough come together into a larger, solid mass. 
  13. Turn up the speed of the mixer.
  14. Take the remaining 50 grams of water that we put aside, and slowly start to add it little bit of a time. You’ll notice that every time you add a little bit of water, the dough will break up and then reform.
  15. Continue to do this, and every time you drizzle a little bit of water, wait for the dough to fall apart, and come back together again, before you add anymore.
  16. Keep doing that until all of the water has been absorbed. 
  17. How do you know when the dough is ready? I go by the 2 points below (which ever comes first):  
    1. the temperature of the dough being room temperature, 22 to 24 degrees (use a thermometer or an infrared gun to temperature check).
    2. by the mixing bowl being clean. A correctly kneaded dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl cleanly. 
  18. Take the dough out of the mixing bowl and shape it into a large ball. 
  19. Place a large container or a wet towel over the top of it to stop air from drying out the dough.
  20. Let the dough rest for an hour. 
  21. Portion the dough into 280 grams dough balls and shape them for the final proof.
  22. Put them into an airtight container and let them proof for two to four hours (depending on the room temperature).
  23. After about two to four hours, the dough balls should be ready to cook. 
  24. If your guests still haven’t arrived, or the dough has risen too quickly, you can put the dough balls into the fridge to slow down the fermentation and stop the dough from overgrowing.
  25. Make sure you give the dough a chance to come back to room temperature before using.
  26. You might be thinking, that sounds pretty involved… and it is. But here is a little Time Management table that will help simplify when to do each step.

Time Management – Estimated Cook Time: Saturday 7:00PM

Steps Hours Time
Stage 1: Make Preferment 0.5 Fri 6:15 PM
Ferment Biga @ 18°C 18 Fri 6:45 PM
Stage 2: Complete Dough 0.5 Sat 12:45 PM
Rest 1 Sat 1:15 PM
Make Dough Balls 0.5 Sat 2:15 PM
Proof In Air Tight Container 3 Sat 2:45 PM
Place in Fridge 0.75 Sat 5:45 PM
Get To Room Temp 0.5 Sat 6:30 PM

Pizza Time

  1. If placing the dough in the fridge, make sure you give the dough a chance to come back to room temperature before using.
  2. Prepare your wood fired oven by;
    1. Ensuring the soot has been burned off the dome. 
    2. Move the fire to the side of the oven.
    3. Add some firewood to ensure you have a big flame, licking at the top of the oven dome.
  3. Take your dough ball out of the box and place it into a bowl of dusting flour or semolina. Flip it a few times until it is coated. 
  4. Pay attention to which side of the dough ball is the top and bottom. When you place toppings on the pizza, the toppings should always go on the top.
  5. Take a small handful of flour or semolina and dust your working surface.
  6. Using your hands, begin to press the air out from the centre of the dough ball to the edge (into the crust).
  7. Ensure you stop pressing once your hands get close to the edge of the pizza. You want to leave at least 20mm-25mm of dough puffed up.
  8. Rotate and flip your pizza as you continue to push air into the crusts. Always paying attention to which side of the pizza is the top.
  9. You can now perform the Neapolitan Slap, or hang the pizza over the back of your knuckles to allow it to stretch to full size.
  10. You are now ready to put the toppings onto your pizza. Dust your peel with some flour or semolina.
    1. If you’re like me, and think less is more; you can build your pizza on the bench and slide it onto the peel.
    2. If you like a lot of toppings on your pizza, you may find it easier to build the pizza directly on the peel. 
  11. Pop any large bubbles on the crust that may have formed during stretching. These will blister and burn if not popped. Don’t worry, there is still plenty of air trapped which is ready to puff the crust up.
  12. Give the peel a little shake before sliding it into the oven, to make sure it is not sticking.
  13. Finally make sure you’re using a nice big flame inside of the oven before you slide the pizza in. You want the steam caused by cooking to get caught in that strong gluten, and that’s going to give you the big, beautiful crusts full of air.
  14. Depending on your oven and it’s temperature, the cook should take from 90 seconds to 120 seconds.

Check out Adrians amazing pizza creations below. Don’t forget to check him out on Instagram here: @agesfirekitchen.

Also – for an in depth pizza making masterclass with Adrian, listen to the Wood Fired Oven podcast: Season 1, Episode 10.