There are gastronomic advantages and disadvantages everywhere one might live. When I lived in San Francisco I could not find and missed – or shall I say craved – good barbecue. You know brisket in Austin, ribs in Memphis and James Beard award winner Jones BBQ in Marianna, Arkansas. I tried many of the joints in the Bay Area usually coming away disappointed. Pilgrimages out of state were necessary to enjoy great barbecue. Ultimately, I installed a stealthy Cookshack oven on the rooftop patio of my San Francisco apartment.
But this article is about pizza – Neapolitan style pizza in particular. Great versions can be had at numerous places in San Francisco. Places like Anthony Mangieri’s Una Pizza Napoletana south of Market, Tony Gemignani’s Pizza Napoletana in North Beach and my favorite with a tilt towards California style — Craig and Anne Stoll’s Pizzeria Delfina in the Mission or Pacific Heights.
Back in Orlando, I have great barbecue options both locally and short road trips away. This culinary advantage goes to Orlando. A disadvantage is I do miss the great SF pizza options. I am not saying there are none here mind you – but a salsiccia pie from Delfina is what I crave when thinking of pizza.
All of the pizza described above is made in the tightly prescribed Neapolitan style that because of the flour used, must be cooked in a very hot oven. Good, even great, pizza can be in made in a conventional residential oven. But for Neapolitan style, the oven needs to be at or near 800 degrees.
Craving good pie, I decided that such an oven was needed at my house. A domed masonry oven was out of the question. It was expensive and too big for my small patio. A smaller, lighter solution was needed.
Kristian Tapaninaho, a Finnish amateur baker living in London, was facing the same dilemma which he addressed by designing a small oven. With Kickstarter funding, his first design was brought to the market. Recently, Kristian introduced a second, much improved version of his oven one of which found the way to my house. Meet Uuni 2!
Uuni, which means oven in Finnish, burns food-grade wood pellets for heat. In fact, it has a voracious appetite for these things. Developing a workflow that will produce reliable results on the Uuni takes practice. Though after one, or two pizza fails an amateur Pizzaioli should be able to get good results with this oven. I was rewarded with great results on my second and third try.
There is a known deficiency with the Uuni. The oven generates very high heat above the pizza but, the deck of the oven – the surface that cooks the underside of dough – does not retain enough heat to char the underside of a Neapolitans pie made with the requisite, slow browning Caputo 00 flour from Italy.
To address the lack of char on the underside of my pies from the Uuni I plan on adding a thicker piece of cold rolled steel on the floor of the oven. This hack has been tried by others with good results.
Don’t be fooled into thinking I am an accomplished pizza maker when the truth is I am just an enthusiastic beginner. My early results have been pretty good. In fact these are the best pizza I have turned out at home. So, if you live in a small space, think about giving this oven a try. The Uuni can make a difference in your local pizza dessert.
Making Neapolitan Style Pizza on the Uuni 2
A simple dough is used for this style of Pizza. It consists of finely milled, low gluten flour, yeast or starter, salt and water. The dough does not contain olive oil or sugar.
The gold standard for Neapolitan pizza is an Italian flour — Caputo 00. This flour is hard to find in all but the largest U.S. markets. There are alternatives, but unless you live in New York or San Francisco, bite the bullet and source Caputo flour at Amazon.
For most of us, active dry yeast will be the only choice. I hydrated mine with warm water but some say it can just be added to the dry ingredients.
The only wet ingredient for this dough is water, but there are varying opinions on the ratio (by weight) of water to the amount of dough used. I see hydration ratios that range between 52 and 62 percent for dough made with Caputo. Plan on experimenting with the ratio used.
Neapolitan dough is proofed in the refrigerator. A 24-hour proof improves that dough considerably. A 48-hour proof is even better. One of my dough balls proofed for 72 hours and it was very nice to work with. Dough is proofed in pie-sized balls though some recommend shaping these balls after 24 hours in the refrigerator. I shaped my dough balls immediately after turning the dough out of the mixer.
Many use whole canned San Marzano tomatoes pureed using a mill or a processor. I have become a big fan of processed, crushed San Marzano tomatoes in the box. Just add a teaspoon, or two, of both sea salt and olive oil. The best advice I can give on saucing a pizza is to apply it sparingly – use about 1/2 as much sauce as you are tempted to.
Make an effort to get a great fresh mozzarella cheese – either a Fior di Latte (fresh cheese made of cow’s milk) or a Bufala made of water buffalo milk. Avoid low moisture and skim milk mozzarella cheeses. Buffalo mozz once impossible to get in the U.S. is more commonly available today and can be found occasionally at Costco or more reliably at many Whole Foods stores. Cut the cheese in small pieces so that it melts into the pizza sauce.
The workflow for the Uuni 2 requires a little practice, but this oven will turn our great pizza. Uuni has a great video on baking a 2-minute pizza here. At first my pizzas took about 3.5 minutes on the Uuni 2. With the workflow I’m using today my pizzas cook on this oven in 2 minutes, more, or less.