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Un Nuovo Percorso

A story about dough, pizza, learning, and new path.

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For a number of reasons (including a 60th birthday and an ailing parent), 2022 was going to be a year of big decisions, change, and new directions. 

I had wanted for many years to go to Napoli and learn how to make authentic Neapolitan pizza. The reasons why are both simple and complex and something that I will explore in the dough blog on this site.

In January 2022 I finally signed up to take the professional basic training course at the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) in Napoli in September 2022. 

Founded in 1984, AVPN was set up with the mission to promote and protect in Italy and worldwide the true Neapolitan pizza by establishing the fundamental rules by which you can recognize and differentiate Neapolitan Pizza from other types of pizza.

The course was intense and while most of it was in the classroom (a fully equipped kitchen with four pizza ovens - two wood fired, one gas, and one electric) there were also theory classes covering flour, yeast, tomatoes, olive oil, wood, and the handling of an oven. These were long days and I loved every minute.

Most of my fellow students were experienced chefs looking to add a new skill to their repertoire. I, on the other hand, was a soon to be retired software guy who found the industrial kitchen an alien environment both in terms of equipment and process. Despite being a keen amateur cook this was all well outside of my comfort zone. 

 

I had no idea that the morning ritual of lighting the wood fired ovens, tending the fire as the flames raise the temperature to between 430c to 475c, cleaning the stones of soot and ash, organizing the wood for the rest of the day, and getting ready to bake could be so zen like and peaceful. 

I have, for a long time, had a fascination with how the combination of four simple ingredients, the magic of fermentation, and the application of heat can produce the most delicious of things, bread. I am convinced that it is without doubt alchemy!!

To learn more about bread, I had a few years ago, bought a copy of The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, a legendary bread maker, and had a go at making various types of breads including baguettes. Despite the limitations of home ovens (and my lack of knowledge and skill) some of the results where quite good and spurred me on.

In his book, Reinhart had a recipe for pizza dough. It was the first time I had come across a recipe that called for a long, cold fermentation (in the fridge no less) and very very little yeast being used.

He explained that this long, cold fermentation would impart a much deeper flavour and better texture to the pizza when baked. I duly acquired a pizza stone and pizza peel and had a go. The end results were much better than I had ever had with store bought pizza dough.

However, I found it very hard to work with the dough. I could not easily handle it or shape it with any confidence. I found it hard to get pizzas on and off the peel. The pizzas were not well shaped. As the dough warmed up it became more difficult and frustrating to work with. I wanted to know the secrets!! 
 
I look forward to sharing my journey, what I learned at AVPN and what I continue to learn every day as I dig deeper into the magic of dough and pizza.

What I am going to do with my new found knowledge?
 
Well, I am not going to be opening a pizzeria (unless, of course, I do).
 
My plan is to make small batches of high quality pizza dough and sell them directly and also at farmer's markets in Vancouver. 
 
I will also offer a private pizza party service for groups of up to 15 people (have Ooni will travel). The abundance of amazing local produce is such an inspiration when thinking about pizza toppings and I am excited to see where my experimentation leads.

That's about as far away from what I have been doing for the last 40 years as possible. A new path  (un nuovo percorso) at sixty... I am excited!

I will keep the website updated as my plans develop but do contact me at anytime for more information - I am happy to share anything that I have learned. Also, if you or anyone you know wants to have fresh, out of the oven, Neapolitan pizza party in your Vancouver home, I'd love to connect.

Ciao,

Amar
amar@handofdough.com

Private Events
FANCY A PIZZA PARTY?

 

I offer a private pizza party service in Vancouver for up to 12 to 15 people. I will bring everything needed (including pizza oven) to serve up a slice of Napoli to your friends and family. Drop me a note and we can figure out the details - including menus.  

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