A Great Pizza Read – Recipes from a Pro

Recently I’ve purchased Peter Reinhart’s fabulous pizza book, American Pie, and let me tell you: best – pizza – book – ever! The book details Peter’s travels through Italy, New York, California, Chicago and other locations in search of his most favorite pizza in the whole world. The first half of the book is his tales of pizza travel. The second half of the book, however, is a giant pizza resource center wherein Peter tries to re-create all of the various pizzas he had across the world and shares his recipes and findings with you. This would be cool enough for me to pick up a copy, but then you consider that Peter is a professional baker AND recipe product developer and suddenly his collection of dough, sauce and toppings recipes seem like the Lost Arc of the Pizzanant! I guess what I’m trying to say is that Peter’s book was not only a mouthwatering good read, but also has become my #1 go-to guide for new dough and sauce recipes.

I wanted to share with you a recent recipe I made from his book, as well as some photos of the results. This dough was much different to work with than my dough that I usually make, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly, and the flavors and texture (not to mention the great big bubbles that formed out on the crown of the pizza) were well worth the learning curve. I would highly recommend you go spend $15 and pick up this great resource!

Peter Reinhart’s Neo-Neapolitan Dough

The dough to use for making New-Haven-style pizza and/or pizzas in the style of Lombardi’s, Totonno’s, or Grimaldi’s. Makes a “thin, crisp crust with airy pockets in the crown”. Slightly sticky and may be tricky to work with. Requires high-gluten flour.

Makes 4 10 ounce dough balls ( but I like to make 13.3 ounce balls)

Ingredients

Directions

  1. With a big metal spoon, stir together all the ingredients in a 4-quart bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer until combined.
  2. Fit mixer with dough hook; mix on low speed for about 4 minutes, or until all the flour gathers to form a coarse ball.
  3. Let dough rest for 5 minutes, then mix again on med-low speed for 2 more minutes, or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and sticks just a little to the bottom.
  4. *If the dough is too soft and sticky to hold its shape, mix in more flour by the tablespoonful; if it is too stiff or dry, mix in more water by the tablespoonful.
  5. The dough should pass the windowpane test—snip off a piece of dough and gently tugging and turning it, stretching it out until it forms a paper-thin, translucent membrane somewhere near the center; if dough does not form this membrane, it probably needs another minute or two of mixing).
  6. Immediately divided the dough into 4-equal portions; round each piece into a ball and brush or rub each ball with olive oil.
  7. Place each ball inside its own zip-lock freezer bag; let the balls sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then put them in the refrigerator overnight or freeze any pieces you will not be using the next day.
  8. The next day, remove the balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to roll them out to take the chill off.

Results

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Yeast-Free Pizza Dough – The Photographic Results

After trying the recipe in my original post on Yeast-Free Pizza Dough, I have some results to report. The dough itself was much more solid feeling than a regular pizza dough – I began in the same fashion I would normally flatten dough out, on the counter with my hands, but after a certain point, it began to feel like I was trying to toss a big sheet of cookie dough, not piza dough. So I got out my trusty rolling pin and went to town – this easily created a very thin, very pliable dough that I could then load onto my pizza pan and prep for the oven. When the pizza came out, it looked as if it had not risen at all – I suspect that my long rest in the fridge negated any effect the baking powder had, and the double acting feature was all but absent. The dough baked very thin, but because of the high oil content, it was very crispy – it began to taste like a homemade cracker after a few bites. There was good snap, it supported the weight of the toppings, it had a real buttery flavor ( even though there was no actual butter in the dough) – all in all, it wasn’t bad.

However, coming from the yeast world and knowing what I was missing, it wasn’t great either. I think it was just a preference thing. I felt it was a bit dry and a bit dense. I can actually get my yeast dough just as thin, but the yeast dough feels much lighter and airier in your hand and in your mouth. Also, as you eat the yeast-free slices, they feel heavy in your stomach – the yeast slices feel like you could go on eating forever! My dad tried a slice and actually liked the yeast-free pizza a lot, but I think for my money, if I had the option, I would stick with a yeast leavened dough. Now please enjoy some photographic samples of a yeast-free pizza.

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Mario Batali’s Pizza Dough – Wine and Honey Makes a Sweet Pie!

This was posted a year or two ago in the New York Times and I thought I would pass it along because I’ve never stumbled upon a recipe that used WINE in the dough! If there was ever a pizza dough that was perfect for me, it would be a dough where I pour a glass of wine for me, and a glass for the dough 🙂

  • Makes two pizzas
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 1 ½ ounces yeast (1 yeast packet)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Method:

Combine wine, water and yeast in a large bowl and stir until dissolved. Add the honey, salt and olive oil and mix thoroughly. Start by adding 1 cup of flour and make a wet paste. Add remaining flour and incorporate.

Place dough on a lightly floured board and knead for 2 to 3 minutes.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise for 45 minutes.

How to Make Sourdough for Pizza – For (Nearly) Free!

If you’ve read about how using sourdough cultures can take your homemade pizza making to a whole new level, you’ve read right! If you haven’t read about it – keep reading! You will never, ever, EVER go back to making pizza with store bought, dried, packaged yeast. Whatever your pizza tasted like before sourdough, it will seem like cheezy cardboard after you’ve started using sourdough cultures.

Ok, enough about how much you’re going to love sourdough pizza dough (seriously though, you are going to love it). Let’s talk about how you can get your hands on some wonderful tasting, unique to your area, evny of all your friends sourdough starter!

To many people, sourdough seems imposing. Raising live bacteria cultures isn’t an everyday activity for most home cooks. Well I’m here to tell you: raising a sourdough culture from scratch is about the easiest thing you’ve ever done in the kitchen. The only thing it requires is a bit of patience and a bit of time. Below I have outlined the few steps you need to take in order to raise your own living sourdough culture. Enjoy!

Step 1: Mix 1 cup water with 1 cup all purpose flour in a container which has a lid. Glass is best (since you can see what’s going on inside) but anything with a lid will do. Squirt a quick squirt of lime juice, lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar into the mixture and make sure it is well blended. We’ll get to the “why” later on.

Step 2: Leave it near an open window with the lid off for 24 hours.

Step 3: Pour out half of your mixture and add 1/2 cup each of AP flour and water.

Step 4: Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you begin to see lots of bubbles and/or a nice little frothy top on your culture. Tada! You’ve got yourself a sourdough culture!

Step 5: Use to make way better pizzas than you ever would have before.

Once your culture is bubbly and frothing (activated) you can keep it in the fridge for up to six months without feeding it. When you want to use it, pull your culture out, give it some fresh bacteria food (equal parts flour and water) and let it sit out on the counter until it is bubbly again. Bubbles = ready to bake!

After a while in the fridge, you may start to see a greyish liquid form on top of your culture. This is called hooch and is a natural byproduct of yeast. You can either pour it off or stir it back in – either way works. I like to stir it back in because I feel like doing this keeps that sour flavor stronger than if I dump it off.

Ok, now for the whys. There are thousands of wild yeast floating around everywhere on earth. Whether you are in your kitchen, in your yard, or at the beach, chances are good that you are surrounded by wild yeast floating through the air. What we are doing by setting out some water and flour is giving these yeast a place to cultivate and grow. The yeast float on into your container and set up camp. The reason why you add a bit of acid (lemon juice, vinegar, etc.) and the reason why this mixture never grows mold is rooted in the yeast as well. Sourdough yeast like a acidic environment. They thrive in it, in fact. So by making the mixture slightly acidic to begin with, you ensure that the yeast will begin to grow quickly. After the sourdough is going strong, the mixture is extremely acidic, and this acidity makes the mixture uninhabitable for most other microbes. The mixture protects itself!

The best part about this process is the fact that your culture is unique! Your sourdough will taste different from the San Fransisco sourdough at the store and different from the sourdough from the bakery down the street. You have atruly unique taste – and you can brag that your bread/pizza is a truly LOCAL taste. Enjoy!

-Ryan

Pizza the Alton Brown Way

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure olive oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 cups bread flour (for bread machines)
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Olive oil, for the pizza crust
  • Flour, for dusting the pizza peel

Toppings:

  • 1 1/2 ounces pizza sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon each chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, for example
  • A combination of 3 grated cheeses such as mozzarella, Monterey Jack, and provolone

Directions


Place the sugar, salt, olive oil, water, 1 cup of flour, yeast, and remaining cup of flour into the mixer’s work bowl.

Using the paddle attachment, start the mixer on low and mix until the dough just comes together, forming a ball. Lube the hook attachment with cooking spray. Attach the hook to the mixer and knead for 15 minutes on medium speed.

Tear off a small piece of dough and flatten into a disc. Stretch the dough until thin. Hold it up to the light and look to see if the baker’s windowpane, or taut membrane, has formed. If the dough tears before it forms, knead the dough for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

Roll the pizza dough into a smooth ball on the countertop. Place into a stainless steel or glass bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours.

Place the pizza stone or tile onto the bottom of a cold oven and turn the oven to its highest temperature, about 500 degrees F. If the oven has coils on the oven floor, place the tile onto the lowest rack of the oven.

Split the pizza dough into 2 equal parts using a knife or a dough scraper. Flatten into a disk onto the countertop and then fold the dough into a ball.

Wet hands barely with water and rub them onto the countertop to dampen the surface. Roll the dough on the surface until it tightens. Cover one ball with a tea towel and rest for 30 minutes.

Repeat the steps with the other piece of dough. If not baking the remaining pizza immediately, spray the inside of a ziptop bag with cooking spray and place the dough ball into the bag. Refrigerate for up to 6 days.

Sprinkle the flour onto the peel and place the dough onto the peel. Using your hands, form a lip around the edges of the pizza. Stretch the dough into a round disc, rotating after each stretch. Toss the dough in the air if you dare. Shake the pizza on the peel to be sure that it will slide onto the pizza stone or tile. (Dress and bake the pizza immediately for a crisp crust or rest the dough for 30 minutes if you want a chewy texture.)

Brush the rim of the pizza with olive oil. Spread the pizza sauce evenly onto the pizza. Sprinkle the herbs onto the pizza and top with the cheese.

Slide the pizza onto the tile and bake for 7 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. Rest for 3 minutes before slicing.

Free Sourdough for All!

sourdoughHello there – if you would like an active, ready to bake with, sourdough culture and you live in or around the Chico, California area, leave me a comment here on the blog and you can have any of the three cultures I keep active in my fridge at all times. I currently have two cultures from Italy, one of which is over two hundred years old, and one is actualy local Chico sourdough which I captured and have been feeding for the past year or so. Give me a few days notice and plan on bringing a little container and whichever strain sounds yummy is yours! All three make exelent pizza.

Published in: on March 10, 2009 at 8:11 am  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!!!!!