You don’t become the city’s best-loved pizza parlour by cutting corners, and for Pizza Di Rocco’s chefs, making sure they use the very best ingredients from start to finish is super important.
If you haven’t tried it yet (and you really should have), Pizza Di Rocco is a casual, independent venue in the Tourist Club area (with a second branch in Etihad Plaza and a store in Al Ain to open soon) that’s renowned for its rustic pizzas with all kinds of toppings. Another key factor is the way the chefs prepare the dough.
Here, they tell us the method behind those beautiful bases, which are made with a Neapolitan pizza flour, olive oil, salt yeast andf water. Sounds simple, right?
1. Mixing The ingredients are all mixed together. During this stage the dough takes form and is soft and elastic. The motion, speed and temperature during mixing are factors to the outcome of the dough.
2. Rest After mixing, the dough is allowed to rest. During this short period, the fermentation process begins. The yeast starts to become active, reacting with the carbohydrates and producing carbon dioxide – this critical process causes tiny bubbles in the dough that inflate and swell.
3. Balling & Proofing After a short ‘rest’, the dough is hand-rolled into balls and stored for proofing. During proofing, the fermentation continues and the dough starts to slowly expand and loosen. The environment in which the dough is proofed and the temperature at which it is maintained are critical factors that affect its airiness, taste and texture.
4. Baking The expert pizzaiolos at Pizza Di Rocco open each pizza by hand, carefully working the dough into shape (which is called ‘opening the dough’). Once done, the pizza base is formed and the pizza is ‘dressed’ with the toppings. Then the pizza is baked. As soon as the dough enters the oven, which is maintained between 350-400˚C, the air pockets inside the dough immediately start to expand, causing the dough to ‘bubble’, as it rapidly rises and inflates. The heat also causes a multitude of chemical reactions to occur involving various proteins and compounds (such as gluten and sugar) to create physical changes in the texture and taste of the dough, most noticeably the hardening and browning of the crust and the release of flavours, and the very enticing aroma of good, freshly baked dough.
Authentic, traditional pizza dough is usually proofed for at least 24 hours, at a controlled temperature. Heat causes yeast to produce carbon dioxide more rapidly, but this also creates undesirable flavours. A slow fermentation, at a cooler temperature, allows the yeast to produce the desired carbon dioxide, but without the unwanted byproducts, resulting in richer tasting dough, which is fluffy, aromatic and easier to digest rather than a heavy, doughy or floury flavour, which creates a heavy, bloated feeling.
Dough is very sensitive and therefore a lot of effort goes into this process. During proofing, the dough must rest in a controlled environment. This must be at a specific temperature and a protected atmosphere, to prevent drying. The dough will then proof for between 24 hours to 48 hours. They use dedicated fridges for this purpose.
Any fluctuation of factors such as temperature and outside air will have varying effects on the dough such as delaying or accelerating the proofing, reducing the activity of the yeast or drying out the dough. The result of these issues is an inconsistent product during baking, dough that is hard to work open, dough that crusts before baking or doesn’t bake correctly, and obviously the ultimate effect of these issues is impaired taste and inconsistency.
Pizza Di Rocco uses an Italian mozzarella, made by a family run business in the hills outside Rome. It’s known as Fiordilatte Mozzarella and is made using 100 percent Italian cows’ milk.
The cheese is hugely different from processed, commercially available cheese designed to melt well on pizza, which is common in more common in many pizzerias as it is quicker and cheaper to produce, and therefore easier to source and cheaper to buy. In most cases the main differences is that the dairy fat of a normal cheese is replaced by cheaper vegetable oil and additives during the forming process.
Pizza Di Rocco, Al Salem Street, www.pizzadirocco.com or call (02 641 8300). Other location: Etihad Plaza (02 885 3222).