Five Minutes with … William Baffoni, head pizzaiolo, Fratelli Fresh
William, what, for you, makes perfection in a pizza?
It has to be a Neopolitan-style pizza, which originated in Naples and is made using the natural sourdough process, as we do at Fratelli Fresh. I always judge a pizza by its crust: the crust never lies. It tells if the fermentation, to create sourdough, has been done properly. At Fratelli our fermentation takes 36 to 48 hours, which creates a very light base. The water we add to the dough is between 20°C and 25°C in temperature — never higher — as we want the fermentation to go slowly, which helps create those big bubbles in the crust. A well-made, Napoli-type pizza should be very light and thin with a very big, outer crust that has a thin layer of crispness to it and a cushiony, chewy interior. My preferred topping is San Marzano tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. The combination of a Neopolitan-style base and margherita toppings are the components of a perfect pizza. But creating the perfect pizza is the Holy Grail for most pizzaioli: we’re always striving to be better.
Does the sort of flour you use make a difference?
At Fratelli Fresh we use 00 flour because it contains carbohydrates and sugar, which feed the natural yeast during the fermentation process. We have a fermented starter, which we use a little of every day to create our pizza dough. We refresh the starter mixture with more 00 flour and water daily to keep the fermentation going and our starter alive. The 00 flour is an important part of this process.
Where did you learn your pizza-making skills?
I’ve been making pizza since I was a 13-year old living in the town of Porto Sant’Elpidio in central Italy. I worked for an old-school pizza chef on the weekends and during summer holidays and he taught me his secrets and techniques. We were making Roman-style pizza. When I left culinary school, I moved to London where I learnt about Neapolitan-style pizza and the fermented sourdough process.
Have you seen a marked improvement in pizza in Australia in the past few years?
There has been a massive improvement in Sydney, especially in Neapolitan-style pizza. There is so much more competition now than a few years ago as everyone is trying to make the best pizza. This is good for customers and it keeps me on my toes as I continually try to improve the pizza experience for our guests.
Is there any sort of pizza you really can't stand and won't make?
I guess I’m a pizza purist. I believe some ingredients are not supposed to be used on pizzas: barbecue sauce, pineapple, chicken. I’ve banned them at Fratelli Fresh!