I’ve seen a lot of food trends come and go, many masquerading as kitchen cottage crafts: the huge pot of mango chutney bubbling away during a hot Cairns summer, kombucha which grew unusual growths yet (fortunately) didn’t poison us, preserving and fermenting, ginger beer that refused to be contained in a bottle and bread making (pre-breadmaker days) using freshly stone-ground flour.
It’s the bread making I revisit as I bend my head down to the live yeast before me. I’ve been invited to learn how to make Neapolitan-style pizza in a masterclass led by Double Zero’s head pizza chef Nicola Masci, and I jump at the opportunity to learn more.
I love bread and pizza. The aromas of yeast and baking dough are hypnotic, plus there’s something timeless about bread as a food. Bread making dates back to the Stone Age and, broken down to its most elemental form, pizza dough is really a bread dough, a very special one, with topping.
Basic food. From British origins, we have the sandwich. The Italians have all the luck – they got pizza. In fact, for generations pizza was the fastest street food in Italy. Make it, bake it in 90 seconds, fold it in a piece of paper and you have a cheap takeaway. You’ll see it still in Campania, Italy – the region which surrounds Naples, Nicola tells us.
Nicola started his first job in a little pizzeria in Italy in 2002. After a month, he could make something edible, he tells us, necessity being his teacher as the shop’s owner preferred to spend time with his girlfriend, leaving young Nicola to cook for the customers. His move to Australia five years ago presented new challenges. While his skills as a pizzaiola (pizza maker) were valued in Italy, nobody was making authentic pizza in Australia. Australian culinary habits were quite far removed from the European concept of gastronomy, he tells us.
From there, the story is well known. He met Double Zero’s owners, Matt and Martina, and has helped Double Zero gain accreditation by the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association, the very first pizzeria in Queensland to be recognised worldwide for its service of true Neapolitan style pizza.
Nicola teaches us to make the dough, the most time-consuming part of any great pizza. It takes a combination of high resistance ‘00’ flour, sea salt, fresh yeast and water, added at the right times in the correct amounts, together with a lot of kneading and resting; a 24-hour process so that the yeast’s work is completed and the dough is easily digested and feather light.
There’s something therapeutic about making bread as well. The kneading reminding us that families for generations have been fed by hard work reaping the grain and making the dough. Moreover, we’re making pizza as it’s been made in Italy for centuries.
Ingredients, method, oven… they’re all part of the rules of certification, and when we add just a few toppings and pop our pizza into the huge domed Stefano Ferrara M 130 oven, we can finally see the result of our hard work… surprising fabulous with disaster averted by Nicola’s helping hand at just the right moment! Sweet success!
It’s time then to sit and enjoy a communal lunch with classmates and a celebratory glass of wine. What fun this class has been!
Will I be making pizza again in a hurry? Apart from a test run with my take home dough, probably not as often as I’d like to eat it! However, what we all gained was a new appreciation for really good pizza. As I dine out, I’ll be looking into the vertical slice cut for those air pockets in the crust’s edge, checking out whether there’s flour burnt on the bottom of the base, or whether the crust is too crispy. There’s a chance I may become a very picky pizza eater but, if all else fails, at least I know where to find great authentic pizza!
Note: Double Zero’s head pizza chef Nicola holds a 3-hour pizza making class on the first and third Saturday of the month from 11am, to teach you how to make the perfect Neapolitan-style pizza. Cost is $79 per person, including the lesson, a meal ‘Italian Style’ where you will sit and eat the pizza you have made. Course notes and a glass of Italian wine to complement your pizza are also included. Enquiries and bookings by email to [email protected] or call 5526 8635. Double Zero ‘s address is 2/2715 Gold Coast Highway, Broadbeach.
Note: Good Food Gold Coast took the Pizza Masterclass as a guest of Double Zero. Read more about Double Zero here.
This review has also been published on Blank GC here.