Perfect New York Style Pizza

July 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm Leave a comment

A while back my brother-in-law posted a link on my Facebook wall with the comment, “Obsessive immersion in a hobby at its best.” It was a link to Jeff Varasano’s New York Pizza Recipe. Now, those of you who know me are aware that I occasionally nerd out about cooking. I’m as enthralled by understanding and perfecting the chemistry of it as I am by eating my creations. I figured, “Cool, someone else who nerds out about cooking,” and clicked on the link.

Ok. This guy takes it to a whole new level. He is quite literrally obsessed with creating perfect, authentic, New York style pizza. For example, most home ovens go up to about 500°F, but New York style pizza cooked in brick ovens usually run at 700-900°F. So what did he do? Well, he cut the lock on his oven, rewired it to override the safety setting, and sets his oven to the clean cycle in order get the temperature inside up to 900°F and cook his pizza. Just for the heck of it, I clicked print preview to see how long the page would be if printed out: 94.

Also included are:

  • a thorough comparison of the protein and gluten percentages of various types of flour, how these will affect the outcome of your pizza, and his recommendation on which flour is best
  • a detailed explanation of how to mix and knead the dough—using a technique that I was not familiar with that purportedly yields significantly better results
  • a discussion on the various types of mozzarella, how they react differently when cooked, and a caveat about the importance of using the freshest cheese available
  • instructions on how to leaven the dough, a process that can take anywhere from three to six days
  • a review of pizza restaurants from around the world and a list of his top picks
Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was that authentic New York style pizza isn’t leavened with just yeast. It’s usually leavened using a sourdough culture. Sourdough—while usually associated with bread from San Fransisco—is actually just a mixture of wild yeast and bacteria. Apparently, you want the bacteria go to work on the dough for up to a week before letting the yeast go to work.
He’s obsessed, as I said. But after reading it, somewhere deep inside me I heard a still, small voice whispering to me, “Cut the lock on your oven.”
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Entry filed under: Methods. Tags: , , , , .

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