Wood-Fired Marinara Sauce Recipe

Here is Chef Gerard again, this time to demonstrate a nice wood-fired marinara recipe. Enjoy!

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A Cool Wood-Fired Oven Demo

Although Chef Gerard may need a bit of media training when it comes to his on-camera personality, and he definitely needs a pair of sunglasses, he more than makes up for these small shortcomings with a cool-ass wood fired oven and a very high quality video series on how to use the oven in various pizza related activities. Here he demonstrates how to properly cook a pie in a wood-fired oven.

Tonight’s Pizza Margherita

The Number One (#1) Secret Ingredient in Pizza Dough – You May Not Like The Answer

For a long time, I was an impatient pizza chef. After all, a recipe that required almost a week to prepare sounded ludicrous! Who could plan their eating habits that far in advance, I wondered? Well my friends, you and I have to become those exact people if we are ever to reach our lofty pizzaiolo goals. Time, after all, is the number one secret ingredient in pizza dough.

There is no one bigger ingredient in a dough recipe that will affect the flavor and depth of your dough. Brand of flour, oil or no, salt or no… all of these options are minuscule compared to the choice you make when you prepare a dough half  an hour before you bake it.

I have found this one rule to be true for almost all home pizza making: If the recipe calls for two hours of rise time in between mixing and baking, place your dough in a covered bowl, place the bowl in the fridge, and leave it there for three to five days. If the recipe calls for twelve hours of rise time, place your dough in a covered bowl, place the bowl in the fridge, and leave it there for three to five days. A long, slow, cold rise time will do wonderful things to your dough. In fact, about a day or so into the rise, pull the dough and and punch it down – then place it back in the fridge of course. This will further develop the flavor and texture (not to mention redistribute the bubbles which have formed in your dough).

So there you have it. I know, it’s kind of a bummer. As you read this article, the spark went off in your head “How about pizza tonight!” But what you need to retrain yourself to think is this, “How about pizza five days from now??”

It’s time to start paying attention to time, the secret ingredient in all pizza dough.

You People Love Your White Pizza – What the Food Network Has to Offer

I’ve noticed a trend over the past few months of writing this blog and it is this: you people LOVE your white pizza! The top ten most searched terms on the blog, as well as search engine hits, all have “white pizza” somewhere in the search string. So what is up? What’s with the white pizza obsession? Are you purists who would rather eat pizza in its original state before tomatoes arrived in Italy? Are you all on some kooky new diet where you can’t eat any fruits or vegetables and instead are only eating carbs and dairy? Or is white pizza America’s hidden secret favorite pizza and I’m only just now arriving at the white pizza party? I’d love to hear what your reasons for loving white pizza are!

Anyhow, I thought since you are SO into white pizza, I’d start creating a few white pizza posts specifically for you. Here are a few of the “celebrity” chefs’ takes on white pizza. Many of these preparations call for “pizza dough” without really giving you any specifics. I’d like to humbly point you to this post which I believe is the best dough recipe I’ve tried so far. Enjoy the recipes, and as always, leave me some comments and let me know what you’d like to see next from In Search of the Perfect Pie.

Picture of Traditional White Pizza Recipe Traditional White Pizza

Picture of Traditional White Pizza Recipe Roasted Garlic White Pizza with Garlic Sauce

Picture of Traditional White Pizza Recipe White Pizzas with Arugula

Picture of Traditional White Pizza Recipe White Pizza with Alfredo Sauce

Picture of Traditional White Pizza Recipe Pizza Bianca

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 🙂

Latent Tuberculosis: A New View on Pizza

Ok, so strange turn of events: I have latent tuberculosis. I’ve got some medication that I’ll be taking for the next twelve months and during that time, I’m supposed to avoid all “homemade yeast breads.” Of course, if you are at all a regular reader of this blog, you realize how absurd this is. So, as of this weekend, I will changing the focus of this blog to be unleavened, un-yeasty pizza doughs. Woof.

Wish me luck.

I’ll report back with all new findings.

*UPDATE: I am going to start taking my medicine after the holiday, so until then, the search for the perfect pie is BACK ON!!

A Great New Use for A Shower Cap?

Ever feel weird using plastic wrap for a bit to raise your dough, just to throw it away a bit later? Here’s what you do: take a brand new shower cap, stow it in your cupboard, and when you need to cover a bowl with plastic wrap, just pull that cap out and and strap it down on the bowl! It works like a charm and you can re-use it over and over and over again.

Yugon Gold Potato White Pizza

I saw a pizza episode of “The Best Thing I ever Ate” the other day and Alex Guarnaschelli said that her favorite pizza was the Five Points, yukon gold potato pizza. Well this sounded interesting and new, so I ran out and whipped up what I thought the pizza would be like – and let me tell you, it sounds super funky, but man oh MAN it was good! See recipe and photos to follow.

Ingredients:

  • Pizza Dough – I used this recipe.
  • Mozzarella – I used fresh mozz here, which I liked a lot, but the grocery store stuff would work too.
  • One Yukon Gold Potato
  • Rosemary
  • Garlic Salt – I used Chico Spice Garlic Powder, made right here in Chico.
  • Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Preheat your oven to as high as it will go. Slice your potato up into the thinnest possible slices you can. Using a mandoline would make this process a piece of cake, but all I had was a knife, so I cut slowly and carefully. Next, spread out your dough onto whatever pan, peel, or whatever you are going to use to bake the pizza. Use a silicone brush to brush on a thin layer of olive oil. Next, give the whole crust a light sprinkling of garlic salt and rosemary, and then crack a bit of fresh black pepper on top of the spices. Then, spread out the potatoes in concentric circles around the pie. Place your medallions of cheese down on top of the potatoes. Put a few dribbles of olive oil down on top of the pie and I like to brush on some more oil on the outer crust (and dash on some more garlic salt on there for a yummy finish to each slice).  Place it in the oven until you see some nice browning on the cheese and crust and that’s it! You’ve got yourself potato pizza my friend! Enjoy 🙂

Pizza Sauce Tips from Jeff Varasano Himself

I feel like I’ve published a good many options here for pizza dough, so in an effort to provide you with a more in-depth pizza resource, I will be beginning to bring you sauce tips and recipes as well as any new dough information I may find. Since Jeff Varansano pretty much got me started my pizza journey, I thought I would bring you a small selection from his novelish site on his pizza process dealing with sauce specifically.

Oh! And as an aside, I noticed that Jeff has a photo with Keith Giusto from Central Milling about 3/4 of the way down his page… I told you that Central Milling flour was some good stuff! Take a tip from Jeff and I and pick up some Central Milling flour already!

Please to enjoy, sauce and tomato tips from Jeff Varasano:

  • Always buy Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes and crush them yourself.
  • Be careful of marketing tricks like cans that say Italian ‘Style’ instead of Italian. Italian Style means nothing. It’s subjective. If I grew tomatoes in Chernobyl I could still claim they are Italian Style.
  • Similarly there’s a San Marzano ‘Brand’ which is grown in CA. I hate marketing gimmicks like that. The put the word ‘brand’ so small that you can barely read it.
  • Shake every can as you buy it. If it sounds watery, it is likely to be more bitter. Try to get cans which sound more viscous.  The sound will vary a bit by season. They try to pick and pack in just one season, but still there are seasonal differences even within the same brand.
  • If you have a local tomato supplier, try those too.
  • One time I bought a jar of tomatoes at a farmers market – no can. These were hand packed and they had no tin can taste. They were excellent but all the major suppliers use cans.  Be on the lookout for jars someday…
  • If you want to go crazy and make your own, try ‘ugly ripe’ heirloom tomatoes. The taste of these are amazing and I use these when I need whole tomatoes.
  • When I open a can I taste it. Every can is a little different. About 10% of the cans I just throw out because they are too bitter and I put too much effort in the dough to waste it on a $2 can of bad tomatoes.
  • DON’T make a sauce. That is, don’t pre-cook the tomatoes. The tomatoes will cook on the pizza.  If you cook a sauce first, it will cook again on the psizza, turning it brown and yucky.  No need to make a sauce.  Look at how overcooked many sauces are. The best places don’t do this. This is actually the one step  in this whole process that you can save yourself some time.
  • I strain the seeds. This is really optional. If you do choose to do it, follow these steps, which seem obvious now, but took me a long time to flesh out:
    • Pour the can out into a bowl
    • Cut the green/yellow stem ends off the tomatoes with your hands or a paring knife, then discard.
    • Squeeze out the seeds into the puree and then Dip the tomato into the puree. You can even cut the tomato open to get out any remaining seeds, by essentially rinsing them with the puree.  This will have all the seeds fall into the puree.
    • Put the flesh back in the can
    • At the end of this process you have a can of flesh and a bowl of watery puree and seeds. Strain this, pouring the puree back into the can.  In the strainer are then 90% of the seeds, all by themselves. Discard the seeds.
  • Now crush the tomatoes. This is one of those areas where I made a recent change for the better and it’s really helped a lot. I used to crush the tomatoes by hand. But it was always a bit chunky. Now I blend them with an  immersion mixer (“boat motor”). I cannot tell you exactly why this has made a huge improvement  in the TASTE of the tomatoes, but it has. I’ve done side by side taste tests. The tomatoes should be crushed but not pur ed. Go Easy. I have nothing against using a food processor or mill, but I will say that you should not crush by hand.
  • Tomato Rinsing: All cans have some bitterness. You need some bitterness and you don’t want to strip all of it out. But if the can is too bitter it’s not good. I have a procedure I call tomato rinsing to remove some of the bitterness. But you have to taste the can and determine for yourself if it needs it. The better brands on my list don’t.  Here’s the Tomato Rinsing procedure: Strain the tomatoes in a fine mesh strainer..  If the mesh is fine, the water will be mostly clear with very little tomato escaping. If the water escaping is very red, pour it back on top of the tomatoes and continue straining. Eventually the water will run almost completely clear.  Here’s the key. The water that comes out is completely bitter. Taste it.  What I do is pour fresh water on top of the strained tomatoes and strain them again. Taste this second batch of water.  It’s also bitter but less so. You are removing bitterness and acid without losing a drop of red tomato. Instead you are replacing this bitter water with fresh water. You can repeat this several times if you like, but once or twice is usually fine. The net result is that what is left over, which is all the red tomato solids, is sooooo sweet and yummy.
  • Here are some other things you can do to remove the bitterness. But don’t go crazy adding tons of spices and things. It’s mostly just tomatoes.
    • Add some grated Romano cheese directly into the tomatoes.  I use Locatelli Romano. Some have criticized this, but I like it.
    • A bit of sugar will also help 1/4 – 1 teaspoon.  Taste and see.
    • A pinch of salt
    • A pinch of dried oregano, crushed by hand to release the oils
    • If you are used to putting garlic in your sauce, try these steps once without it.
    • Taste and taste
  • So you are removing and then adding back water. In the end though you should have less water than you started with. The total weight is probably about 1/3 less than you started with. But the exact amount of water you remove depends on the overall temperature of the oven and the temperature differential in the oven.. There is not much time in a hot oven to evaporate the sauce, so the hotter the oven, the drier the sauce must be going in.  But if the top differential is high, the sauce will evaporate too quickly and needs to start wetter. You have to test. Surprisingly, if the sauce is too dry, it’s not as sweet. You don’t want it soupy but don’t overstrain either. This will take real practice with your oven. Sometimes after the first pie I add more water to my sauce. Again, this is another area where recent improvements have really transformed the sauce. I think that when the sauce is chunky (hand crushed) it’s harder to get the amount of water right.