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    Brooklyn, NY USA

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  1. paulraphael

    making our own couverture

    Sure! I assume obsession is why most people would do it. Or maybe just falling for the process. It's like when people who live in major cosmopolitan cities get into making bread ... they'll have to jump through many hoops just to equal what the best local bakeries are doing for $6 a loaf. But the process becomes an end in itself. If it doesn't, they've made a math mistake.
  2. paulraphael

    Pizza Dough

    The proper pairing for Roman pizza is a cosmopolitan.
  3. paulraphael

    Pizza Dough

    Yeah, it's hard, but this is eGullet, and plenty of people here take things farther and more seriously than the average Joe. I never addressed anything to "the vast number of home cooks ... " In the post of mine that you first responded to, you may recall that I gave up on Neapolitan pizza (or my intended variation) because my oven wasn't up to the task, even with all the tricks. So we're not disagreeing on the need for the right oven. That said, you may be paying too much attention to oven temperature. What cooks a pizza fast is the rate of energy transfer. Ambient temperature is only one factor. The top of the pizza cooks by radiant heat, and temperature does not directly tell you the radiant heat output (a bed of 1000°F glowing coals kicks out more radiant energy than a 3500°F gas flame, for example). And the bottom cooks by conduction. So temperature differential is one factor, conductivity the other. Steel has 80 times the thermal conductivity of fire brick. Remember that we're not trying to incinerate the dough at 900°F; we're trying to get the inside to 212°F and the outside to (roughly) 400°F quickly enough that it doesn't dehydrate. There's a range of ways to get there. And keep in mind that a steel slab set 6" under a high-powered infra-red broiler is going to get a lot hotter than the ambient oven temperature. It's these related variables: radiant energy from the broiler, and temperature/conductivity of the steel, that will determine the cooking speed. And even cooking speed offers a bit of wiggle room. Because dough composition offers another set of variables. Traditional Neapolitan dough recipes are formulated specifically for traditional Neapolitan oven conditions. If we're changing one set of variables, it's reasonable to assume we'll want to change another set to compensate. The most obvious compensation for a slower oven is higher hydration. The next compensation is to ditch the 00 flour and use something that can handle the hydration and conditions you're creating. Unbromated Italian flour isn't magical, and doesn't really do anything besides respond in a predictable way to certain baking conditions.
  4. paulraphael

    Pizza Dough

    My purism is about the pizza being awesome and have certain qualities I like. It's not about following arbitrary rules, whether the AVPN's or anyone else's. And I precisely mean taking pizza in a "Neapolitan direction." Because the best pizza I've had has been a hybrid style. I've had purist AVPN-compliant pizza, and I've had variations that I think of as "Brooklyn Neapolitan," and I like the latter better. So that's what I go for. The differences aren't relevant to my points above, because the Brooklyn variations are no easier to make, and are just as demanding of a blazing hot oven. With the right kind of home oven, however, people have been able to get into 90-ish second territory. Because the high-powered infra-red broilers on the pro-sumer ranges kick out serious energy. Between this and the heat capacity/conductivity of a 30lb slab of steel, you can recreate wood oven conditions. Incidentally, the Modernist Cuisine crew has put to rest the idea that there's anything magical about a wood-fired oven (besides ambience). It doesn't matter what the heat source is. As long as you have enough power, and can balance the conductive energy delivery from the deck and the radiative energy delivery from above, you can do anything. Including a perfect Neapolitan pie. Even if VPN rules say you have to use wood. People who have hacked their home ovens to cook on the self-clean cycle figured this out decades ago.
  5. paulraphael

    Do Brita-type filters work?

    It would be interesting to see how quickly the softening ability changes as the filter ages.
  6. paulraphael

    Anova Nano --- New

    They say it opens to 0.7". My coolers are right around this thickness. My guess is that since both the cooler walls and the clamp are plastic, there's a bit of wiggle room. I just hope the clamp is burly enough to handle some flexing.
  7. paulraphael

    Pizza Dough

    Plain old slabs of steel work best if you're going for anything in the direction of Neapolitan pizza (and I no longer acknowledge the existence of any other kind. End rant.) The most economical way to get a slab of steel seems to depend on geography. In rural places you can visit a scrap yard or steel fabricator. You'll probably have some work to do, removing sharp burs and rust and scale. In NYC I found the fabricators more expensive than just buying a steel on Amazon. I got this one back when it cost less. There may be better options today. Consensus seems to be that 3/8" thick gives better results than 1/4". 1/2" offers advantages over 3/8" only if you're baking several back-to-back. Beware that a 1/2" steel weighs over 30 lbs. It can put a lot of stress on oven racks and on cooks, and if you were to drop it on a toe, goodbye toe. And of course a fatter steel will take longer to preheat. Pages have been written on how to get the best results out of these things. They seem to offer the most value if your oven has a powerful broiler element at the top. The usual method is to preheat the oven with the steel on a high rack, then blast it for a few minutes under the broiler, and then with the broiler still on, slide the pie onto the steel. All preheating and broiling is done with the knobs at 11. The biggest variable is the distance you put the steel from the broiler. Managing ratio of conductive heat from the bottom to radiant heat from the top is 90% of pizza baking. If you have an oven like mine, with the broiler in a separate drawer, you're probably out of luck. Even with a 1/2" steel, there's nothing I can do to get baking times below 4 minutes. Which means, lousy pizza.
  8. paulraphael

    making our own couverture

    I just visited the Chocolate Lab at ICE, for a half-hour intro to what chocolate making looks like. It's hard to imagine that this is going to become a thing for most chocolatiers. Certainly not for pastry chefs. There must have been $100,000 worth of equipment in there, and it filled a room. Beyond that, chef Laiskonis said his takeaways were that "making chocolate is easy. Making good chocolate is really hard." The other takeaway: "90% of chocolate making is janitorial." It would seem the reason to take this on, besides being obsessed—in which case on one's going to stop you—is if you have a particular vision for the flavors you want, and none of the commercial makers are delivering. I don't think you'd do it just for the quality. It's doubtful you'll outdo Michel Cluizel and Amedei.
  9. So you doubt that global warming is caused by declining numbers of pirates?
  10. A good friend of mine has an older Wolf range. I believe it's from before the consumer stuff got spun off to SubZero, and I don't know if the designs have changed. He had problems with the char grill failing. Presumably from getting gummed up by drippings. The second time a service guy came out to fix it, my friend asked if there was anything he could do to keep the thing working. The repairman said, "if you want to grill, go outside."
  11. paulraphael

    Melanger experimentation

    I just visited Michael Laiskonis's chocolate lab at ICE, and found it interesting that in a room full of $10,000+ machines, the melanger was this little made-in-India tabletop geegaw. Apparently it does a good job!
  12. paulraphael

    Anova Nano --- New

    I'm impressed by the video. My biggest complaint upthread was that the clamp wouldn't open wide enough for a cooler, but it turns out Anova specs it at 0.7" ... it should just barely fit. This looks perfect for a 2nd circulator, for those times when you need different temperature water baths. It would also be great for travel. I've crammed my Anova 1 into checked luggage. Passable but not fun. I prefer the construction of the Joule, but am just not interested in a phone-only interface. And the construction of this thing looks quite solid. Time will tell if it's built well enough to be a workhorse, but that's now how I'd use it.
  13. paulraphael

    long dry aged ribeyes are tough?

    That's never been my experience. The reduced moisture intensifies flavor, but at the same time enzymes are breaking down the connective tissue. Dry aging does desiccate the outer layer of meat, and longer dry age times give a thicker layer of desiccated meat that has to be trimmed off. But the meat that remains should be more tender and subjectively juicy than non-aged meat.
  14. This thread is full of white chocolate discussion.
  15. It's hard to give much better guidance than that. 20 years ago or so the landscape was simpler. There was Valrhona, if you wanted the best, then there were a handful of good, higher value brands like Callebaut, and then there was a whole lot of junk. Today it's more like wine and coffee. There are more high-end chocolates than anyone can count, including tiny artisanal bean-to-bar producers who seem to be cropping up everywhere. Most attention is on single-origin chocolates that are appreciated for their complexity and distinctiveness. Valrhona probably isn't even considered top-tier anymore. I still consider Callebaut an excellent value brand; it's more than good enough for anything where the distinctiveness of a single-origin chocolate won't shine through, and costs 1/2 to 1/3 the price of the highest end chocolates. Like most value brands, the flavors are solid but not especially interesting. Seventypercent.com used to be a great review site; it's useless now. If anyone knows a good one, please share. It was useful back in its day.