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  1. Pizza Baking Steel

    A few things. 1. Kenji targets a very non obsessive audience. For the obsessive, everything comes down to bake time with pizza. As you slow down the bake, the dough doesn't puff up as much and it dries out and takes on a stale quality. 8 minutes is better than a 10 minute bake, 6 is better than 8, 4 is better than 6- for most obsessives. The thickness of the steel relates directly to thermal mass, and thermal mass impacts bake time. A 1/4" steel won't bake as fast of a pizza as 1/2" will. For a non obsessive, this may not be the end of the world. At the same time, though, it's pretty much impossible to know whether or not one is ever going get the pizza bug, and should that occur, if they're stuck with a 1/4" product, it's not going to cut it. Steel, by it's nature, is an advanced pizza baking tool. It almost always the device that people reach for after they've worked with stone a bit and want to take it to the next level. The worst thing someone in those shoes could do, though, is rather than strive for the ultimate, would be to settle for a slight improvement (if any) with 1/4." 2. Another obsessive aspect of steel is length and width. The beginner may be perfectly fine with 13" pizzas, but, as you up your game, you absolutely want to share your works of art with the rest of the world, and, when you do, in order to serve a larger number of people, you need as much real estate as you can get. I've done parties that required six 17" pies in about an hour. That kind of output only happens with a 17 x 17 x .5 steel. 3. A single 30 lb. steel (or, preferably, a 40 lb steel) is very far from portable, but if you get it cut in half, the resulting pieces are a heck of a lot more manageable. In theory, if someone had a health issue and had trouble lifting a 20 lb. steel into place, they could cut the initial steel into thirds. One important aspect is that oven shelves have a tendency to bow a bit in the middle, so you want the seam(s) to run against the bow, not with it. 4. Domestic oven shelves, by their nature, are built to support 25+ lb. Thanksgiving turkeys, inside heavy baking pans, with vegetables and stuffing. 40 lb. is no problem whatsoever for your average oven shelf. During the last decade, I know at least 200 people who've purchased 40 lb+ steels and no one has ever complained about an oven shelf breaking. Believe me, if this were a potential issue, some one would have experienced it, and they would have scream bloody murder. They haven't. The shelf, as I said, will bend a bit, some a bit more than others, but it will not break, and, when you remove the steel, the shelf will bounce back to it's original shape.
  2. Dessert Pizza

    A pizza-sized cookie is... still just a cookie I'm not saying it's bad, it's just not dessert pizza. I know, for certain, that while I'm sure a handful of NY pizzerias, over the years, have tried versions of dessert pizza, there is no pervasive history in the area. I'm also relatively certain that the Midwest has mostly steered clear of this phenomenon as well. On the left coast, they do some pretty wacky stuff, so I have no doubt that dessert pizza, to an extent, is a thing there, but I'm sure it's mostly Neapolitan inspired, and thus doesn't lay any claim to defining it. Long windedness aside, dessert pizza is, at it's core, Neapolitan. Perhaps not Neapolitan in relation to Naples, but more in relation to Neapolitan style pizza as it is served here in the U.S. Based on Naple's infatuation with both pizza and Nutella, I think it's safe to say that someone there most likely had the idea first, and I know of one or two places there that go this route. On this side of the pond, though, I've never come across a Neapolitan pizzeria that didn't offer an least one dessert pie- which is almost always Nutella. The absolute ubiquitousness of the Nutella pie in domestic Neapolitan pizzerias is Dessert Pizza's greatest defining component. Here's the most basic approach: Form the pizza skin Dock it (this is one of the only times Neapolitan pizza dough is docked) - you can alternately not dock it, let it blow up like a pita, and stuff it with fillings Bake it untopped Immediately out of the oven, spread a generous schmear of Nutella, sprinkle with powdered sugar (and possibly some whipped cream) Serve That's as bare bones as you get, and, as long as you're working with a Neapolitan capable oven/a sub 90 second bake time, the results may not match up with a quality baklava or french pastry, but it's not the worse dessert in the world. The residual heat from the pizza helps melt the Nutella a bit, and the resulting ooziness is pretty delightful. One can build on this a bit. I have my clients give the baked skin a quick light brush of butter prior to the Nutella schmear. The butter takes the very lean dough and gives it a bit more richness. The bread can only absorb a very small amount of melted butter, though, so you want to use a light hand. If you're too excessive, the resulting pizza can get incredibly messy. You can also go as crazy as you like with the toppings. This is pretty creative https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=43129.msg431717#msg431717 Nutella, bacon, bananas, candied jalapenos, aka, the 'Flaming Elvis.' At the end of the day, the most critical aspect, imo, is the oven. You're not going to see the same results with a longer baked pizza in a non Neapolitan capable oven. Fortunately, the number of consumer level Neapolitan capable ovens is growing, so this delicacy is much more obtainable for the home baker than in years past.
  3. Amazon buys Whole Foods

    I wish it were the toast. The toast can go in- and out of style. But Chinese demand is here to stay- and they're not getting any poorer. Next season is supposed to be more bountiful than this one, so hopefully prices will be a bit more sane, but as long as the rest of the world wants avocados, and can pay for them, I think the days of the cheap avocado (and cheap beef) are over.
  4. Amazon buys Whole Foods

    Umbrella prices don't mean much when you live in a desert. Considering that peak avocado season ended a couple months ago, any price at this point is meaningless. If they can beat Shoprite and TJs avocado prices next January, then we'll talk.
  5. Bromate is a dough enhancer, not a bleaching agent. Most of the distributors that I've come across carry the bromated bleached versions of the flours, but, for most millers, bromated unbleached is an option.
  6. Yes, I'm familiar with those studies When I come out with my book on pizza, the inherent safety of bromate (in pizza) will get it's own chapter. That being said... much like I dissuade people from eating raw dough made from bromated flour (including failed launches where the dough folds over itself), the idea of rolling your own bromated flour doesn't give me much of a warm fuzzy feeling. The scale required would have to be incredibly precise to measure the parts per million, and, even with that, I would be too concerned about potential mismeasurement. Thanks, though.
  7. Drats. May I ask what aspects of the quality went downhill?
  8. While we're on the topic of commercial flours in consumer sizes, if anyone comes across mail order 12.7% - 13.3% protein bromated flour (can be beached or unbleached) please drop me a line. I have at least 30 friends west of the Rockies who'd be ecstatic to find a source for this.
  9. I've been looking for small, reasonably priced quantities of pastry flour for decades. A couple weeks ago, I found an acceptable analog. https://www.walmart.com/ip/White-Lily-All-Purpose-Flour-5-lb/10535905 At 8-9% protein, it's a titch higher than your average pastry flour, but it should be low enough for my needs, and, with ship to store, it's dirt cheap.
  10. Plastic wrap

    OUCH!! They stopped carrying gallon twist ties? That's horrible. I just did a quick search and Walmart carries them: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Great-Value-Twist-Tie-Storage-Bags-Gallon-100-Ct/11303925 Shoprite (when they carry them) and Wegmans have them at 2.66 cents a bag, while Walmart's are 2.88 cents a bag- a little bit more, but not horribly so. If your local Walmart doesn't stock them, you can either buy enough to qualify for shipping or have them shipped to the store.
  11. Plastic wrap

    Were they baggies? My shoprite used to have sales on those about 3 times a year where they'd be 99 cents a box. At one point, I had about 25 boxes. But then they discontinued them and only offer the private label for 1.99 for 75- and these NEVER go on sale. If doubling the price was bad enough, the new bags are narrower/taller (10" wide rather than the 11.5" they used to be), so they're exponentially harder to get food into. A new Wegmans opened near me so I checked their offerings. Identical bag, identical price I haven't gone this route yet, because you have to commit to a large amount, and I'm not sure that thinner bags work for my needs (or the material), but the Webstaurant store offers large rolls of produce bags. https://www.webstaurantstore.com/inteplast-group-phnonp20ns-12-x-20-plastic-side-print-produce-bag-on-a-roll-4-case/130PB1220.html With shipping, these are a penny a bag, and they're 12" wide. But you have to buy a huge amount (3500 bags) and you have to store them. Each roll is going to be pretty large as well, so it won't fit in a drawer.
  12. Best Wegmans Deals?

    I now have a local Wegmans (yay!!!) and I'm looking for good deals- specifically deals on low end, typically staple foods. There's, obviously, the $2.29 ground beef, and I've tracked down what appears the be the same frozen corn as Trader Joe's for about 30 cents less. Shoprite frequently has hamburger buns for a dollar, but Wegman's buns look like they're higher quality. Any phenomenal deals come to mind on staple-ish stuff?
  13. Plastic wrap

    I use plastic wrap about once every 3 months. When I make pudding (sorry George Costanza, no skin for me), and when I make enchiladas and I don't want them to dry out in the fridge. I use gallon twist tie bags for just about everything. If it's something like chili that I want to dry out a bit, I'll just put in the fridge uncovered. I also have a huge collection of bag clips, probably around 25, so, if it comes in a bag and I don't finish it (like bagged salad), it gets clipped and goes back in the fridge.
  14. There's no free lunch when it comes to indigestible foods. Anything we consume is going to be attempted to be digested by our digestive system. That's what digestive systems do. And when it fails to digest, there will always be repercussions. If the quantity is minimal, then those repercussions might go unnoticed, but making entire dishes out of fiber isn't going to just be uncomfortable, it could very well be dangerous. We are not cows There's a reason why we don't consume large amounts of fiber- and why our bodies are so noticeably unhappy with very high fiber food. The human digestive system just isn't made to handle it. The idea that some types of fiber can be tolerated while some can't is garbage. If you eat large amounts of anything that can't be digested, you will pay the price. Trust me, I've tried. It's possible that you might be able to develop a tolerance over time so that your body doesn't react so violently, but not with the quantities you're discussing.
  15. i have a family member who is sensitive to phlalates. With our hard water, none of the phlalate-free detergents will get our dishes clean. When I wash dishes, the detergent I use forces me to take a lot of extra steps to minimize exposure. Because of this, I have to wash dishes very infrequently, so I'm hyper aware of the dirty dishes I create and go to great lengths to minimize them. Part Artist/Part Engineer To be a good cook, you have to be part artist, part engineer. Most people are comfortable with the artistry, but the engineering, for some, can be a struggle. There's a reason why top chefs are renowned for being overbearing control freaks. Everything you do in a kitchen has ramifications. An extra pinch of a particular spice may not be a huge deal, but, if you're making a waffle that takes 4 minutes to cook, you can't leave and come back in 8. Dishes are unbelievably unforgiving. If you dirty a dish, it's not going to wash itself. Mise En Place Never Ends Most people can understand the necessity of having your ingredients prepped and in place before you start cooking. But that concept of thinking ahead, of planning at least 4 chess moves in advance, is applicable to everything you do in the kitchen. You grab a spoon to stir a sauce- "how many times will I be stirring this sauce? I better not put the spoon in the sink until I know I'm done with it" "Can I use this spoon to eat the meal with?" "Can I stir the sauce with a utensil that I've already dirtied making something else?" From the moment you walk into the kitchen to start cooking, until the last dish has been put away, you need to be planning ahead, and streamlining the process. Disposables I couldn't survive without disposable kitchen wares. I go through probably 10 pairs of plastic gloves a day. I handle meat and cheese with gloves, put away and dispense cooked pasta and rice with gloves. When I'm done with a glove, I'll turn it inside out and use it as a counter protector. Almost every meat that I cook gets baked on foil- including bacon. Dry-ish foods, like cooked rice and pasta go into gallon plastic bags. In addition to re-using plastic gloves as counter protectors, I'll use plastic sandwich bags with a paper towel on top as a stove protector. I drain every meat that I bake on plastic grocery bags with a layer of paper towel. If I'm cutting a lot of things, I'll break out the cutting board, but if it's something small, I'll cut it on two layers of paper plates. If I'm serving a sandwich for lunch, it's going on a paper plate. If the sandwich doesn't soil the plate, I'll save it for use as the bottom layer when cutting. Are paper plates, paper towels, plastic bags and plastic gloves the most environmentally conscious choices? No. I try to make up for it in other areas of my life, and I try to re-use my disposables as much as possible, but it's an impact that I'm still not completely comfortable with. The alternative- forgoing these products, that's not an option, though. Engineer Your Dishwasher Space I used to use beautiful china that had been handed down for generations- but it was large and inefficient and took up too much dishwasher space. I'm pretty much 100% cheap Corelle dishes now. Light, thin and efficient. I also wouldn't be exaggerating to say that I've spent more than 10 hours testing various stacking arrangements to get the most dishes I possibly can into a load while not having them touch/potentially chip and maximizing cleanliness. I've replaced pots with odd handles that haven't played well with my dishwasher My dishwasher is 35 years old. When the motor went, I spent countless hours figuring out how to fix it rather than replace the whole machine because I didn't want to have to start over the arranging process with a new unit. My dishes, right now, fit like a glove. It's amazing. I've sat there thinking "this absolutely has to be it, I can't fit anything else in here," but, then I rearrange the puzzle one more time and squeeze in one more thing. Look at everything you're putting into your dishwasher. I guarantee you that you'll find a few things that are space hogs- and that, if replaced, could use space much more efficiently. Besides replacing pots, pans and dishes that didn't fit well into my dishwasher schematic, I also replaced quite a few hand washable items- and am in the process of replacing more. As we speak, I'm looking for a cheap good machine washable steak knife. For instance, cast iron is wonderful, but you can pretty much match the baking properties with clad stainless- and clad stainless can be put in the washer. Beyond replacing, there's also re-sizing. I've cut down acrylic cutting boards so they don't hog so much dishwasher space. Sometimes Re-use/Sometimes Wash/Sometimes Rinse Know your soils. If you're, say, rinsing broccoli in the colander, you don't need to wash the colander with soap and water. Just a good rinse with very hot water will suffice. If you're measuring dried herbs with measuring spoons, a rinse is fine. A cutting board used for onions or peppers only gets a rinse. A glass used to drink water can be re-used through the day. Soda glasses can be rinsed- a couple of times until the fingerprints start adding up. Weigh As Much As You Can If you don't have a digital scale, get one, and use it for everything. The only time I use my measuring cups these days is to scoop and spread pizza sauce. That's pretty much it. Can I Do This With a Smaller Pan? I boil a 1 lb. box of macaroni in a Revereware 3 quart covered saucepan. Pasta purists are probably pulling their hair out at such a thought, but I'm happy with my results. I apply this way of thinking to everything. Sometimes my frugality backfires on me, and my pot ends up being too small, and I have to transfer the contents/dirty something else, but, if I write pot sizes down in the recipe, I have less of these mishaps. Spoons are a major pita to load in the dishwasher in such a way to prevent nestling, so if I can achieve the same thing with a knife instead of a spoon, I will. Bottom line, you always have to maintain a situational awareness as to the current actions you're taking and how they will effect you down the line. I'm not going to lie, maintaining this awareness can be exhausting. But food, no matter which way you cut it, is hard work- mentally and physically. The more thought you give to your kitchen management, though, the less physically back breaking it becomes.