Posts tagged ‘pizza’

Perfect New York Style Pizza

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.”

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

Thin, Crispy Pizza Done Right

About once a week we make homemade pizza from a batch of homemade whole wheat pizza dough recipe. After much experimentation, I think I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out the perfect way to do thin-crust pizza. Here’s a hint: high heat is the key. (Note: if you like deep-dish, high heat is probably a horrible idea. Nothing like uncooked dough and soggy pizza).

Yes. High heat is all you need, but I’ll break my technique down a little further. First, defrost the dough if it was in the freezer. (When I make a batch of dough, I usually double the recipe and divide it into 4 portions. Eating pizza once a week, a batch lasts us a month). Next, let it rest somewhere warm and dark for at least 30 minutes. This helps the glutens relax and makes it easier to roll out. It will rise a bit during this time. Begin rolling out the dough. When I roll mine to about the edges of our pizza pan, it ends up being about 1/4″ thick or less. If you like bubbly pizza, let the dough rest again for another 30 minutes or so. Doing this allows the yeast to keep eat, and as they do so, the release carbon dioxide.

Preheat the oven to 350. Stick the dough in for 5-10 min. so that it cooks slightly, just until the outside looks dry instead of doughy. (You make skip this step if you want. However, I’ve had a couple pizzas turn out doughy. Since I started pre-cooking the crust, I’ve never had it burn, so I don’t think there’s any risk with this method). Meanwhile, start preparing the trimmings. Chop and cook anything that needs chopped or cooked before it goes on the pizza (like onions usually do, in my experience).

Once the dough has cooked for a few minutes, remove it from the oven and crank up the heat to the highest your oven will go. I mean that. Get it as hot as possible. Mine goes up to 550. I’ve heard that in Italy, some restaurants crank the heat up to 700. (If you’re really hardcore, get a couple dozen unglazed quarry tiles from the hardware store. Stick them in the oven and bake them at your highest heat for 15-20 minutes. They’ll absorb it, and allow you to get much higher temperatures out of your oven.)

While you’re waiting for things to heat up, top your pizza with whatever ingredients you decided on. I can’t say enough about adding minced garlic and rosemary to the sauce. It’s really the best thing that’s ever happened to my pizza. If you’re using fresh basil, remember to put it on right after the sauce, under the cheese and other toppings. Otherwise, it will come as nothing more than like crispy, black flakes. Once the oven is hot, put it in and bake until it’s done. When is it done? Up to you but I have three criteria. 1) A good portion of the cheese is a warm, golden brown on top. 2) The ends/edges of any toppings sticking up too far out of the cheese are shriveled and burnt. 3) The crust is a nice, medium-heading-towards-dark, toasty brown color.

Experiment all you want with this method, but it’s been consistently turning out quality results for us.

April 30, 2011 at 9:22 am Leave a comment


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