A Great New Use for A Shower Cap – Part II

Okay, so the craziest thing just happened to me. I arrived home to find a padded envelope sitting on my porch waiting for me. I opened up the manila sleeve and to my surprise, a fan of the blog had sent me a SET of “shower caps” which had actually been manufactured for the exact use I was using a real shower cap for! They came in all sorts of fun sizes with all sorts of fun food printed on them.

Come to find out, bowl covers are quite common! In fact, there is even a local company called Green Feet that sells them for six bucks (complete with fun fruit print). Check them out and check mine out below.  Thanks, you North-Eastern pizza fan! And for anyone else out there considering sending me pizza related presents, there’s never been a better time than now – send them my way! I won’t mind 🙂

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Dairy Free Pizza – My Favorite Cheese Alternative

When I first met my wife, my plan was to woo her with food. I was going to be that cool guy who would cook for her. Then I found out that she had a nasty food allergy. To what? Dairy. She can’t eat cheese, yogurt, milk, butter, you know, any of the good stuff. At first, I panicked. My plan to woo through cooking seemed a distant possibility in the face of this new development! What we found, though, is there are a lot of manufacturers out there making products specifically for the lactose intolerant – and we tried them all! The cheeses, especially, were tough to find one that accurately replaced the real thing. After years of sampling, we would like to submit to you our favorite cheese replacement for pizza and all other Italian cooking: Lisanatti Mozzarella Style Almond Cheese. It melts well, doesn’t give off too much liquid, and even kind of looks like normal cheese! My wife swears she can’t even tell the difference (although I have to admit I can – if you can eat real cheese, please do!).

Below you can check out a recent, 100% dairy free pie that she enjoyed. I believe this one dissapeared in twenty minutes flat!

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Hope this tip helps you lactose intolerant folks out there to rediscover the joy of pizza. I know for sure that when I open my restaurant, every item on the menu will be available in dairy/non-dairy versions using this brand of cheese.   It’s great!

Oh, and this crust was made by following my how-to video.

Enjoy,
-Ryan

The Tools of the Trade

I’ve been shopping online lately and wanted to share a few of the better pizza supply stores I’ve come across. Use these sites to get everything you need from trays and screens to peels and stones. A few of these places can send you ingredients which may be nice if you are looking for that special ‘OO’ flour or a certain brand of stewed tomatoes. Check them out and happy shopping!

Pizza Toolshttp://www.pizzatools.com/ – Exactly what the name implies. They’ve got all the essentials when it comes to the tools of the trade.

Mission Restaurant Supplyhttp://www.missionrs.com/pizza-supplies.html – These guys have all the tools you’d ever need but since they are a restaurant supply shop, they’ve also got fun things like pizza delivery bags, boxes, and other more restauranty items. Who knows! Maybe you’re looking to travel with pie?

Pennsylvania Macaroni Co.http://www.pennmac.com/page/27 – These guys have a few tools, but they specialize in ingredients mostly. Many of the better cheeses, flours, tomatoes, etc, can be found right here.

Sourdoughs Internationalhttp://www.sourdo.com/ – I’ve written about these guys before, but you’ve REALLY got to get some sourdough starter from these guys. It’s awesome and your mouth will hank you.

Published in: on March 10, 2009 at 6:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Pizzetta Stone – Translating Jeff Varasano’s Technique

If you, like me, have ever done a Google search for “NY pizza recipe” then you have no doubt stumbled across the bible-esque tome that is Jeff Varasano’s Famous NY Pizza Recipe. The recipe, which is in itself very simple, tips the scale at a hefty 22,000+ words. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve read almost every single one of those words, but it took me months to get up the courage to sit down and plow through it all!

What I’ve prepared for you here is a condensation of Jeff’s recipe; a reduction, if you will, of the simple steps minus all of the asides and fascinating science behind his pie’s creation. What we’ve got here is a recipe you could have open on your laptop in the kitchen (I prepare exclusively from my computer) and actually follow the steps without hours of scrolling looking for the next step. If you ever want more explanation as to WHY you are doing the steps below, please grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a nice bit of reading at Jeff Varasano’s Famous NY Pizza Recipe. And Jeff, if you’re out there, thanks for publishing all of your findings for the rest of us to benefit from. Enjoy!

Things to know before you begin:

  • This recipe assumes you have an active sourdough culture.
  • Prep time on the dough is at least one day.
  • This recipe makes one pie.
  • This recipe is only given in weights. You’ll need a scale that can measure grams.
  • If any of this sounds a bit much, check out my simpler thin crust recipe here.

1. Make sure you have a sourdough starter going before starting this recipe. If you don’t have one going yet, you can order one at sourdo.com or cultivate your own local yeast like this.

2. Measure according to weight (in grams) the following.

  • Filtered Water – 110 grams
  • Bread Flour (Jeff likes King Arthur) – 168 grams
  • Kosher or Sea Salt – 6 grams (This is roughly one teaspoon – my scale doesn’t do well with such small amounts, so I use a tsp)
  • Sourdough Yeast Culture – 15 grams
  • Instant Dry Yeast – 0.5 grams (equivalent to a pinch – optional)

3. Pour everything except for about one quarter of the flour into your stand mixer.

4. Use the standard paddle attachment and mix on the slowest speed until your dough is evenly mixed. You should be aiming for the consistency of a thick batter. It shouldn’t look like dough yet.

5. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. THIS IS IMPORTANT, DON’T SKIP THIS.

6. Put the dough hook onto your mixer and start kneading your mixture. After five minutes, bein to gradually add in the remaining flour. Aim to have all the flour in by about the eight minute mark or so. If you reach a point where the dough looks good but you still have more flour, just don’t add it.

7. After about 8 minutes, click your stand mixer up to the next highest speed. Kneed until you see the dough form a wet ball. Always err on the side of dough that is too wet, and never “be a slave to recipes” as Jeff would say. If the dough needs a bit more flour, put some in.

8. Cover the bowl and rest for 20 minutes. THIS IS IMPORTANT, DON’T SKIP IT.

9. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured counter top, sprinkle the top of it lightly with flour, and use your hands to form it into a nice round ball. It should be wet enough so that it sags when you form your ball. If it’s perk, your dough may be too dry. For photo examples of how wet your dough should look, go to Jeff Varasano’s Famous NY Pizza Recipe of course!

10. Place the dough in a container, cover it with plastic wrap or a nicely fitting lid, and stow it away in your fridge for 1-6 days. The 3-4 day range is best, I’d say.

11. Take the dough out about an hour to an hour and a half before you want to bake it.

12. Heat your oven to as hot as it will go. Jeff broke the safety off of his over and bakes pizzas while it is running on it’s cleaning cycle. Of course, he doesn’t suggest you follow his example… If you are using a pizza stone, make sure it is in when you begin to heat the oven.

12. Spread the dough out on a floured counter (Jeff says it isn’t great for tossing), put a small amount of sauce on. I stick to one ladle full.

13. Top the pie with mozzarella and the toppings of your choice and slide it onto your super hot pizza stone, or if you are using a pan, just slide the pan onto a baking rack.

14. My over doesn’t have a cleaning mode, so I top out around 500 degrees. My pizzas take about 5-7 minutes to bake. Keep an eye out on yours.

15. Pull it out and cool it on a wooden surface if you can. Wait about 3 minutes to cut into it. Serve.

Now if you are dying to know why or how, or want to see examples of what certain stages should look like, or want to know what your options are as far as flours, cheeses, sauces, yeasts, mixers, etc, or just want to read a more in depth explanation of anything you’ve read here, check out Jeff Varasano’s Famous NY Pizza Recipe for Pete’s sake!

Hope you found this helpful!
Cheers,
Ryan

Ryan’s Thin Crust Pizza Dough

Preheat to 500+ degrees (as hot as it will go). Put your stone in if you are going to use it. Yields one pizza.

  • 2 tsp yeast (one packet)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar (a squirt of honey works too)
  • 3/4 cup water (110 degrees. Use a thermometer)
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup bread flour ( don’t just put more all purpose flour… i said bread flour dammit!)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (sea salt would be nice)
  • oil (olive, grape seed, whateva’)

Instructions – Preheat to 475 degrees. Put your stone in if you are going to use it. Put sugar and yeast into 110 degree water. Stir it around a bit to make sure the sugar dissolves and the yeast really starts eating it up. Leave it to the side with a kitchen towel over the top for a couple of minutes. Put both flours and salt into a stand mixer and pulse it to mix the two together. Pour the liquid in on top of the flour mixture and follow these timed mixing stages:

  • 2 Minutes – Mix on medium speed. This stage is to simply bring the ingredients together and get them interacting with each other. Don’t worry if the dough still looks rough after the first 2 minutes.
  • 5 Minutes – Turn mixer off and let dough just sit there. This lets the proteins in the flours relax, unfold, and lets the yeast begin eating the flour as well.
  • 3 Minutes – Mix on medium speed again. If dough is looking too sticky, add more AP flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it pulls away from the sizes of the bowl. If it is too dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time. You’ve got three minutes to get it right!

Take the dough out and throw it onto a floured counter top. Hand kneed it for a minute or two. If it is still too wet or dry, you can continue to add water/flour as you knead. You should see the texture and elasticity of the dough improve visibly as you kneed it by hand. No need to punch it or use fingers. Use the palms of your hands and almost “smear” it across the counter, fold it over itself and repeat. You are kneading to distribute air bubbles evenly into the dough, not pop them by punching it. Anyways, I digress…

If you made this recipe for one, form your dough into a ball, press it in between your hands to form a super-thick pancake form, then start tossing it in the air! If you multiplied this recipe, form your dough into a big ball, rub it with a light coating of oil, and plop it in a big bowl with a dishtowel over the top. When you are ready to toss the dough, pull a ball of dough out of the bowl in the neighborhood of a baseball/softball size, press it in between your hands to form a super-thick pancake form, then start tossing it in the air!

Although you don’t have to, you should have no problem getting this dough thin enough to see light through it. Bake the pizza until you see the cheese/toppings just starting to brown and you can lift a corner of the pizza up off the pan/stone and it seems to support it’s own weight. At this point, you’ve got maybe a minute or two more in the pan/stone OR (what I like to do) put one of your oven’s racks on the lowest height possible and slide the pizza in just on the rack itself. Because it is so close to the heating element, the bottom of the crust will get browned pretty quickly and after a minute or so you should have an extra crunchy crust. Keep a close eye on it because by the time you smell it burning, it will be nice and black 🙂

Other Cooking Tips – You are going to find using a metal pan is actually easier than a pizza stone, but a pizza stone will yield a crispier, crunchier crust. If you use a pizza stone, you need to preheat the stone as well as the oven. The problem with this arises when you realize: you can’t assemble the pizza on the stone. It’s 475 degrees! You’ll need to have a way to build the pizza and then transfer the completed creation to the blazing hot stone. A pizza sleeve (big wooden shovel thing) would be ideal for this, but a large, floured, portable cutting board works decently as well. If you use a metal pan, you can make the pizza directly on the pan and then just slip the pan into the stove. In order to get some of that crispiness back, I liberally oil the metal pan before placing the dough down into it so that as the pan heats, the bottom of the dough actually fries. Different kind of crispy, but super yummy all the same. If you are thinking of using very naturally wet vegetables (onions, bell peppers, etc.), your chances of success will greatly increase if you cut the vegetables before hand, lightly salt them (salt draws the liquid to the surface), and then roll them up in a dish towel so it absorbs all the excess moisture. I’ve had pizzas become too wet because of the fresh veggies and collapse through the middle of the crust right onto my oven’s heating element.. Plumes of black smoke tend to ruin dinner parties.

Final Tips – When shopping for mozzarella cheese, make sure it is part-skim, low moisture. Again, water on top of thin crust is bad and disastrous. For sauce, I like Newman’s Own Marinara or Muir Glen Organic Pizza Sauce found in the canned foods at Chico Natural Foods which is called Pizza Sauce which is organic and tastes pretty good. They also have a really nice pepperoni in the meat and cheese cooler in back which knocks the pants off of the hormel or whateva’ brand you’ll find in most grocery stores.

I’m working on my next pizza volume now… Coming soon, to theaters near you: The Pizza Bible II – Return of Son of Pizza Bible! This time, it’s sourdough!!!!!