White Clam Pie

By Craig Priebe with Dianne Jacob | October 13, 2015
Frank Pepe founded Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, Connecticut in 1925. He served only two pies back then: one with Romano, oregano, and tomatoes; and one with anchovies and mozzarella. Frank got his inspiration for the clam pie from the freshly shucked clams he served in the bar. It was only a matter of time before the clams found their way onto the pizza. This is a plain pie with lots of taste. It is made without mozzarella because they say the cheese overwhelms the clams and makes the pie too rich. I think they are right—this is one of the best pizzas I have ever had without mozzarella. Littlenecks are one of the smallest clams. They come 7 to 10 to a pound. Because they are tiny, they cook quickly, and they are one of the most tender clams to eat.


Makes 1 (14-inch) pizza, serves 2

Naples-Style Pizza Dough (recipe below)

36 littleneck clams
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Make the pizza dough at least 24 hours ahead. Rest the dough on the counter until it comes to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Move an oven rack to the lowest position. Preheat the oven to 500 F for 30 minutes. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Place the clams in the boiling water for about 1 minute. The clams will begin to open. Transfer the open clams to a colander and run cold water over them to cool them quickly. Slide a knife in the crack and open them. Any clams that do not open wide enough to slide a knife into should be discarded. Put the clam meat on paper towels and discard the shells. Pat the clam meat dry.

Shape the dough and place it on the pizza pan or screen, according to the instructions below. Place the clams on the pizza crust, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle with the Romano, oregano, pepper, and garlic. Drizzle the olive oil over the toppings.

Bake the pizza for about 15 minutes, until the crust is deep brown and the toppings are bubbling. Check underneath with a metal spatula to ensure the bottom crust is deep brown too. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes. Cut it into 8 wedges and serve.

Naples-Style Pizza Dough
Makes enough dough for 1 (14-inch) pizza crust

This dough makes a spongy crust with a crispy top. It incorporates a poolish, a dough starter that gives the crust extra flavor and character. Make the poolish the night before and leave it to ferment on your counter for at least twelve hours. The next morning, mix it into the dough, refrigerate it, and by evening you’ll have dough that’s easy to handle and ready to bake.

In this recipe, I combine Italian 00 flour (also called Caputo 00 flour) with bread flour, which provides strength and structure to the dough. The 00 flour is so soft that it is best used in combination with another strong gluten flour. It is worth the time and effort to use this 00 flour, as it gives a silkiness and authentic texture to the Naples dough. Look for it in Italian specialty stores or online. If you cannot find it, use unbleached bread flour. The dough will be less silky, and you may have to add about 2 tablespoons more water because the bread flour is more absorbent.

For the Poolish
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached bread flour
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

For the Dough
1/2 cup unbleached bread flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Italian 00 flour
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for the bowl
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray

Make the Poolish: Mix the flour, yeast, and water in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight at room temperature, about 12 hours. The poolish will bubble as fermentation takes place. When it is ready, it will teem with millions of living yeast cells.

Make the Dough: Scrape the poolish into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the bread and 00 flours, 1 tablespoon of the oil, the honey, yeast, and water. Mix together on low speed until a dough ball forms.

Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for about 10 minutes. Add the salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for 15 minutes. When the dough is ready, it will be wet, sticky, and elastic. To test elasticity, hold a 1-inch piece between your fingers and stretch the dough. This is called making a windowpane. The dough should look like stretched-out bubblegum. If not, knead for another 5 minutes and test again. Keep kneading until the dough passes the test, up to 30 minutes more.

Pour the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil into a large bowl. Wet your hands with water, shape the dough into a ball, and place it in the bowl. Turn the dough to coat it with oil. This prevents a crust from forming on its surface as it rises. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in the refrigerator for about 12 hours. It will double in width when ready. Rest the dough on the counter until it comes to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Get the Dough in Shape:
Stretch the Dough Lightly flour a clean, dry countertop. Gently place the round of dough on your counter. Do not knead or press on it. Instead, let it settle. Dust the top with flour. Make dimples in the dough with your fingertips by pressing down in the middle to stretch it out. Move the dough around in a circle as you press down with your fingertips. A 1-inch rim will be created naturally. Press your fingertips along the inside of the rim, moving in a circle. Place your hands on the dough, fingers up against the rim, and push out while turning in a circle. Add more flour, if necessary, to ensure the dough slides easily.

Finish stretching the dough by sliding your open hands underneath it and picking it up. Let the dough fall around your hands to stretch it. Keep your hands along the edges, rather than in the middle. Stretch it to 14 inches in diameter.

Hand-Tossing Technique 
You can handtoss any of the pizza doughs in this chapter if you like. Pick up the dough and, with your palms down, drape the dough over the knuckles of both hands. Toss the dough a few inches into the air and put a little spin on it to rotate the dough. Do this several times and keep the dough close to your hands. Don’t throw it up into the air. The dough should be thin in the center with a ring around the edge, 14 inches in diameter.

Place the Dough on the Pan or Screen
Spray a 14-inch pizza pan with nonstick cooking spray and place it next to the shaped dough. Slide the shaped dough onto the pan. Reshape as necessary. If you’ve hand-tossed the dough, spray the pan before you start and transfer the shaped dough to the pan. Your Naples-style dough is now ready for pizza toppings.

Excerpted from The United States of Pizza by Craig Priebe with Dianne Jacob, Rizzoli New York, 2015.  Images by Jeff Kauck.

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