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Cooking with Peter Reinhart's "American Pie"


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I've had good luck with the New York style and the Napoletana style crust. Just remember to preheat your stone for a solid hour before baking. I like to cook the pie on parchment paper for the first 2 minutes then remove it. It usually takes another 6 minutes to finish. With the Napoletana dough I would stick to 3 toppings max including cheese and sauce.

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BadRabbit, do you still have the box/packing materials for the stone? If so, I would definitely bring it back.

A good pizza stone is dependent on two qualities- thickness/thermal mass and conductivity. There's no material on the planet that could store enough heat to bake a puffy pizza crust with only a thickness of 1/4" or 3/8".

Oven thermodynamics are, by a massive margin, the most important aspect of creating great pizza at home. You can have the best pizza recipe on the planet, but if your stone/oven doesn't have the properties to pump out a pie in less than 5 minutes, the crust will be dense and lack oven spring. It won't be inedible, but it will never stand up to the quality of pizza that you find at the nation's best pizzerias- and with the right stone/oven, it can.

As far as getting great, 5 minutes or less pizza from a 500 degree oven... that's an especially difficult task. A great baking stone, such as soapstone, can make up for an oven's shortcomings, but that's pushing it. If you really want the best pizza possible, I'd consider one of two routes.

1. 1/2" steel plate. Heston Blumenthal is a big proponent of cast iron, but the ~1/8" thick inverted pans he recommends just don't have the necessary thermal mass. 1/2" is as thin as you'll want to go. Steel plate, though, will give you the necessary conductivity for a quick bake time at a low temp. It's so conductive, you might be able to get away with a 475 degree bake.

2. Oven mods. There's a lot of tried and true methods for safely pushing your peak oven temp a little bit higher. While I feel that the cut-the-lock oven cleaning cycle hackers are shortening the lives of their ovens by consistently exposing the internal wiring to radically intense temperatures, a bump of 100 degrees is harmless. With 600 degrees at your disposal, you can work with inexpensive, readily available cordierite kiln shelves. You can pick up a 17" x 17" x 1" cordierite kiln shelf for about $50 shipped.

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BadRabbit, do you still have the box/packing materials for the stone? If so, I would definitely bring it back.

A good pizza stone is dependent on two qualities- thickness/thermal mass and conductivity. There's no material on the planet that could store enough heat to bake a puffy pizza crust with only a thickness of 1/4" or 3/8".

Oven thermodynamics are, by a massive margin, the most important aspect of creating great pizza at home. You can have the best pizza recipe on the planet, but if your stone/oven doesn't have the properties to pump out a pie in less than 5 minutes, the crust will be dense and lack oven spring. It won't be inedible, but it will never stand up to the quality of pizza that you find at the nation's best pizzerias- and with the right stone/oven, it can.

As far as getting great, 5 minutes or less pizza from a 500 degree oven... that's an especially difficult task. A great baking stone, such as soapstone, can make up for an oven's shortcomings, but that's pushing it. If you really want the best pizza possible, I'd consider one of two routes.

1. 1/2" steel plate. Heston Blumenthal is a big proponent of cast iron, but the ~1/8" thick inverted pans he recommends just don't have the necessary thermal mass. 1/2" is as thin as you'll want to go. Steel plate, though, will give you the necessary conductivity for a quick bake time at a low temp. It's so conductive, you might be able to get away with a 475 degree bake.

2. Oven mods. There's a lot of tried and true methods for safely pushing your peak oven temp a little bit higher. While I feel that the cut-the-lock oven cleaning cycle hackers are shortening the lives of their ovens by consistently exposing the internal wiring to radically intense temperatures, a bump of 100 degrees is harmless. With 600 degrees at your disposal, you can work with inexpensive, readily available cordierite kiln shelves. You can pick up a 17" x 17" x 1" cordierite kiln shelf for about $50 shipped.

I actually have a pretty heavy quarry tile that I've been using already. My intention was to set the new pizza stone on top of the tile. I've found quarry tiles, uncoated stones, etc...exceptionally hard to clean when you have a pie accidentally dump ingredients onto the stone so I asked for this particular stone (I've used someone else's before).

All of this is really short term anyway. I am building a little black pizza oven from a Weber grill and a turkey fryer burner. I am going to put a PID controlled actuator on the gas valve and a permanently lit pilot on the burner to give me precise control.

My inlaws gave me the stone and the book and they are staying for a week. They've requested that I make pizza from the book on Saturday for New Years. That's why I need to know which one fits my current situation best. I don't have time to work through the recipes and oven options.

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If 500 degrees is your max temp, remember to preheat for a good, long time. Like 45 mintues AFTER the oven comes to full temperature. I routinely bake Lahey's no-knead crust on a sheet pan at 500 degrees, and it crisps beautifully. Add a good slug of olive oil to whichever of Reinhart's crusts you decide to make. I think the neo-Neapolitan crust is my favorite one from that book...in any event, I like at least a few hours cold ferment in the fridge. Improves texture & browning, as well as makes the dough easier to handle.

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I love this cookbook (and also am making pizzas from his newer Artisan Breads cookbook)

The range of toppings and descriptions of types of pizza and his research into the world of pizza are really amazing. I have to admit that initially, some of the distinctions went over my head but the book remains a wonderful resource and I used it and the Artisan Breads book all the time.

If you don't have a kitchen scale yet, I do recommend you get one, even an inexpensive one makes mixing up the doughs a lot easier. I've made Napoletana, Neo-neapolitan, New York-Style, Focaccia (we love it with herb oil), and having pre-baked shells in my freezer is almost the ultimate in convenience foods and prep for a having a group of people over or an evening when you don't have a lot of time to cook for yourself.

Some of the sauces and oils, make larger quantities than you might need so pay attention to the yield and scale the recipe down or up as needed. Having extra is often useful for other dishes you might be making or even pasta dishes but just be aware that as written, the herb oil recipe makes 2 cups. Having extra tomato-based sauce is never a problem and we usually use the extra for pasta sauce where the brightness added by the wine vinegar really is a nice addition.

More recently, I'm mostly making the pizza dough recipes from his newer book and have noticed that he recommends dividing the dough before refrigerating it. After a few steps of a stretching technique detailed in the book, the dough is divided into individual balls of dough that are placed into oiled plastic bags and put in the refrigerator where they can be used as needed over the next 4 days.

The pizza dough and technique is on page 67 if you want to compare it to the one in American Pie.

Google books - Artisan Breads

Jayne

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I love this cookbook (and also am making pizzas from his newer Artisan Breads cookbook)

The range of toppings and descriptions of types of pizza and his research into the world of pizza are really amazing. I have to admit that initially, some of the distinctions went over my head but the book remains a wonderful resource and I used it and the Artisan Breads book all the time.

If you don't have a kitchen scale yet, I do recommend you get one, even an inexpensive one makes mixing up the doughs a lot easier. I've made Napoletana, Neo-neapolitan, New York-Style, Focaccia (we love it with herb oil), and having pre-baked shells in my freezer is almost the ultimate in convenience foods and prep for a having a group of people over or an evening when you don't have a lot of time to cook for yourself.

I'm definitely a scale person as I bake a lot of bread. I'm currently trying to convert my mother but she is in her early-60s and doesn't see any reason to change what she's been doing. She's a phenomenal baker so I really was trying to get her to do it from an ease of scaling standpoint.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I tried the Napoletana dough the other night and it was spectacular but I thought it was pretty hard to deal with. Even flouring my hands very well didn't keep it from sticking to my hands. I also had a good bit of trouble keeping it from sticking to the peel.

Which of the doughs are the easiest to deal with?

I would like to try something more forgiving until I get better at the shaping technique.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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Tried the Neo-Napoletana the other day and it was MUCH easier to deal with and I thought gave a very similar product. It was still very thin and had a nice crunch.

I also tried the crushed tomato sauce which was much better than I expected. It was really bright and naturally sweet (as opposed to the sugary sweetness of jarred sauces).

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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Some of the sauces and oils, make larger quantities than you might need so pay attention to the yield and scale the recipe down or up as needed. Having extra is often useful for other dishes you might be making or even pasta dishes but just be aware that as written, the herb oil recipe makes 2 cups.

Jayne

Which of the Oils do you suggest?

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I've made and enjoyed the herb oil very often although after the first time when I made the full 2-cup batch, I typically scale it down to 1 cup or even sometimes 1/2 cup. We use [refrigerated] leftovers for a light pasta sauce, especially good with fresh pasta and ravioli.

jayne

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  • 2 weeks later...
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