I have been on a quest to make a great pizza dough these last couple of years. In North America, we tend to treat pizza dough as little more than the substrate for the toppings, and usually, the more toppings the better. Hence, we find frozen pizza dough disks in the supermarket, on which one can conveniently toss every manner of ingredient and call that a “pizza”. But what I have learned during my quest is that it is in fact, all about the dough. Really great pizza uses toppings very sparingly and mainly to enhance the flavor of the dough rather than to overwhelm it.
Any pizza quest inevitably leads one to Naples, home of the reference base for truly great traditional pizza. The Italians love to preserve and even sanctify their culture, often in the form of DOC standards that entrench the basics and the allowable variations for many of their iconic foods and beverages.
For example, there’s a DOC standard for Bolognese sauce. There’s a DOC for Parmesan cheese. And inevitably, there’s a DOC for real Neapolitan pizza (Verace Pizza Napolitana).
In the world of VPN, one name stands out: Caputo flour. It is the flour used by the majority of the pizzerias in Naples. The VPN rigorously states the parameters of an acceptable flour for the making of an authentic Neapolitan pizza:
|Percentage of proteins||11,5% – 13,5%|
|Percentage of dry gluten||9,5% – 11.5%|
|Milling technique indication||Si|
|Falling Number “FN”||250‹FN‹380|
|Absorption||55 – 60|
|Stability||6′ – 12′|
|Value index – Caduta E10||max 60|
Caputo flour is very difficult to find in Canada. There has been a mini explosion of VPN certified pizzerias, mainly in the Toronto area, and this has encouraged a couple of suppliers to import it from Italy for these clients. I managed to track the largest wholesaler down, and Tuesday found me parking my car at the side door of a warehouse in a nondescript industrial area north of Toronto. Caputo of Canada doesn’t even have a sign on the door. If you can mange to reach the owner, he might invite you to the warehouse, and if he likes you, he might sell you a 50 lb. bag of Caputo Pizzeria, the Holy Grail of pizza flour.
Paul, the owner, is an extremely nice gentleman. I ooohed and aaahd all the other great stuff in his warehouse, finally walking away with a half-gallon of gardiniera (mixed pickled vegetables), a half-gallon of giant green olives, and two bottles of olive oil that he brings in for select customers. All at ridiculously low wholesale prices. He also helped me load my 50 lb. bag of Caputo flour into the back of my SUV.
Back home two days later, I couldn’t wait to make my first pizza with this sanctified material. It did not disappoint. It was, simply put, the greatest pizza I have ever made. My son, who has a nose for when good stuff is in the offing, unfortunately showed up in time to claim his fair share of the two pizzas I made. It was so good, my wife ate three pieces, my son ate three pieces, and I got only two!
I have downloaded some of the flour into three 5 lb. Ziplocks, one for Mr. Italo, one for Dr. J., and a third for quotidian use in our kitchen. The rest I’m going to store in the cold-room in the basement. It only has about a 9 month shelf-life, so pizza will have to become a twice-weekly ritual. Tough, I know.
NOTE: Do not confuse the design of the large 50 lb bag with those of the small blue bags of Caputo you may find in some Italian specialty stores. Caputo makes many types of flour for different uses, and their packaging is very confusing. The similar-looking 2 lb. bags are NOT the same flour as the “Pizzeria” type. The flour in the small blue bags is a general purpose flour and will not yield a great pizza crust. I know, I have a few sitting in my pantry. If you can find the small red bags, that flour is very similar to the Pizzeria type.