Anyone who has ever eaten one of Johnny Di Francesco’s pizzas at 400 Gradi knows how good they are. After all Johnny was crowned the world’s best pizza maker a few years ago taking out the specialita traditionale garantita pizza prize for his margherita pizza.
Johnny’s pizzas are made in the traditional Napoli style which meets a very strict set of criteria – he even imports the water to make his pizzas from Naples in the quest for perfection! The finished product is a light pizza base, thin in the middle and with puffy edges and a smoky char from the wood firing.
I was invited to attend a pizza making master class at 400 Gradi where Johnny shared the secrets behind his perfecto pizzas. The master class is a hands on experience where you learn the science behind pizza making, the correct ratios to use and get your hands dirty making your own dough before finally getting to eat your finished product straight from the woodfired oven.
Johnny’s first tip is in the ingredients you need. He recommends Tipo 00 flour with a W strength rating of between 280-330. The W strength rating is annoyingly not printed on the packet so you need to google the name of the flour to find out.
Johnny also recommends using wet yeast rather than dried and you only need 1-3 grams of yeast in order to allow the dough to rise slowly and mature. You’ll need to leave the dough for 24 hours to make a true Napoli pizza.
When it comes to putting toppings on Johnny’s advice is that less is more. His rule is four toppings maximum and that includes olive oil! Don’t even think about putting pineapple on your pizza – Johnny says no.
- 1.7kg Tipo 00 flour with a W280-330 (Google to find this information)
- 1 litre of water at 8 degrees
- 50g fine sea salt
- 1-3g fresh yeast
- Your choice of pizza toppings.
- 1. Mix the water and salt by hand until the water dissolves.
- 2. Using a dough mixer (or by hand - but it's hard work) sprinkle in 20% of the flour to the salty water. Mix for 5 mins on the lowest setting.
- 3. Add the yeast and then gradually sprinkle in the rest of the flour while you are mixing allowing it to aerate. You will use most of the 1.7kg packet of flour. Mix for another 8 mins in total.
- 4. Once the dough has combined and springs back slightly when you touch it, stop the mixer, remove the dough and put aside to rest covering it with a wet cloth like a chux. Final dough temperature should be 23c-24c.
- 5. Allow the dough to rest for two hours then divide into about eight pieces. Make each piece into a round dough ball.
- 6. Place the dough balls into a sealed Tupperware container in the coolest part of the house and allow to rest for 24 hours. The balls should double in size.
- 7. Use your fingers to press out the dough into a circle leaving the edges puffy. Then use a flat hand to stretch out the dough gently.
- 8. Preheat your oven as hot as it can go. Top with pureed tomatoes and your choice of toppings. I added Italian sausage, cheese and olive oil. Bake for 8-10 mins in a standard oven. If you are lucky enough to have a woodfired oven bake for 90 seconds at 400c.
Gourmet Chick was a guest of 400 Gradi. More information on pizza master classes here.