FUN AT LA FATTORIA DEL GELSO - MAKING PIZZA
After a full day of wine tasting or truffle hunting, dinner was usually the last thing anyone wanted to think about, but somehow we managed. One evening Bill and Suzy arranged for us to make pizza, or at least help. Gianlucca was the real chef, and he was ably assisted by Javier, who in all fairness, is training to be a chef.
We would learn how to make the pizza dough, then the chefs would take over adding the toppings and cooking the pizzas in the outdoor wood oven. The oven is one step directly out the back door, so it's super convenient. I've always loved these ovens and if we had enough room I probably would have one of my own by now. Unfortunately limited space combined with limited money have conspired to keep me from owning my very own pizza/bread oven. I guess for just the two of us it wouldn't be very practical, so using someone else's oven would be a treat.
The first thing I asked Gianlucca was if he could teach me how to throw pizza dough. I usually just roll out my dough, but then I read that it toughens the dough, so if that's true I really would like to learn how to throw the dough. Plus of course it would be such a cool talent to have! Gianlucca scared with me with quick "No!" in response to my question, but he went on to add that he would teach me an alternative method.
To make the pizza dough we used half "0" flour (AP flour for those of you in the states), and half semolina, which is a little coarser and for me, keeps both bread dough and pasta dough from being quite so sticky. Gianlucca dissolved yeast and sugar with tepid water, and added the flour mixture. At this point we started to knead the dough, adding more flour as necessary. Once the dough was smooth and elastic Gianlucca flattened out the dough and spread a heaping tablespoon of olive oil over the dough and kneaded it until it was mixed in. He repeated the process a second time, then flattened out the dough a third time but this time sprinkled the dough with salt. I know that while sugar feeds yeast, salt kills it, so I usually mix the salt with the flour. I'm not sure how much difference it makes to add the salt in at the end, but it's certainly worth considering.
After everything was completely incorporated into the dough it was left to rise for an hour under a damp towel. The large ball of dough would then be divided into five smaller balls of dough, each large enough for one pizza. The dough was then left for a final rise, and then it was time roll out or throw the dough!
Instead of throwing the dough up in the air Gianlucca just casually tossed it from hand to hand, and of course he made it look so easy and so simple that I felt confident I could do it too, even though I haven't tried yet!