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The cost of pizza


Fat Guy
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Question for all of you who disdain the need to use ingredients from an ocean away. Where is your olive oil coming from? Italy? Spain? Tunisia? Argentina? California? Pluto? My Bulls**t detector went off when I read that the age of an oven or the number of pizza's produced, in that oven, influeneces the taste. I can see an experienced pizzaiolo being important.

The pizzas I get in Naples (and elsewhere in Italy) all seem to have more char on the bottom, which influences the taste. I am guessing that the build-up of tens of thousands of pizzas has something to do with that char. It tastes different than the the VPN pizzas. Since the VPN pizzerias are using Italian flour and baked in ovens imported from Italy using "correct Neapolitan methods," something has to account for the difference.

It probably tastes different because it's baked a little differently, or because some of the ingredients are a bit different. I've been all over Italy and had pizza in most places I've stayed, and I wouldn't say that the generic "single-serving wood oven pizza" one has in Italy has all that much in common with Neapolitan pizza. In particular, Neapolitan and Neapolitan-style pizza is much puffier and wet. Meanwhile, if the pizza you get in Italy has more char on the bottom than you are getting in Neapolitan-style other places in the US, it is surely due to a difference in the temperature of the oven floor, or due to the construction of the ovens and the material used in the oven floor (the home pizza technique recommended in Modernist Cuisine, by the way, proves that it's possible to get plenty of char in a regular home oven).

Regardless, I don't see how any difference could possibly be due to some kind of spiritual residue of pizzas gone by. Most likely a major differentiating factor is experience. In most of the pizzerie in Italy, the pizzaiolo is an artisan who has been baking pizzas in the same oven for years and years, and is in many cases the owner of the establishment. Very few of the Neapolitan-style ovens in the US are fired and pizze baked by owners or pizzaioli with a decade-plus of experience and knowledge.

By the way, the most traditional New York City pizza has significantly more char on the bottom than any Neapolitan pizza. Why? Because the oven is coal-fired and the temperature of the oven floor is much higher.

As for sourcing ingredients from the other side of the globe, I'm certainly not against it. Where else are we going to get saffron, porcini and parmesan? But for common ingredients that can be sourced locally (or at least far more locally) like flour -- what's the point of bringing it in from Italy? The clock starts ticking the second it's milled.

Actually, porcini mushrooms (aka Boletus edulis) grow all over the Northern hemisphere. I've foraged them myself in the United States. And it's not like American cheesemakers don't make granular cheeses in the style of Parmigiano-Reggiano. They just aren't nearly as good, so most people prefer P-R. So these are both "common ingredients that can be sourced locally."

As for flour, although I think you have a point I don't entirely agree. I think you're way underestimating the amount of time and other conditions experienced by American milled flour before it makes its way into your kitchen. And I think you're way overestimating the negative effect that these conditions can have on the milled flour. That said, I don't think you're wrong in believing that American grown and milled flour ought to be better than imported flour. If an American company were growing and otherwise processing flour in the Italian way to produce a very-finely-milled, highly-processed, 11% protein doppio zero flour, then it probably would be better than any imported flour. But the fact is that no one seems to be doing this. So there is a significant question as to which one will best give you the result you're after: American-style flour from America or Italian-style flour from Italy. Does the style of the flour trump the freshness, or is it the other way around? That strikes me as a somewhat open question, although as previously stated I personally don't think using imported 00 makes such a big difference in home pizza cookery.

I do agree that it would make more sense and would be more conducive to making a great pizza for the VPN people to promulgate a specification for the flour (e.g., milled to such-and-such, processed in such-and-such way, with such-and-such protein, etc.) rather than specifying that it has to be a special imported flour. 00 flour is, after all, a highly processed ingredient and it doesn't seem likely that terroir plays a huge role in its properties. However, the VPN people aren't necessarily about making it easy for people outside of Naples to make "certified true Neapolitan pizza." And it strikes me as somewhat reasonable for them to say that "if you want to call your product 'certified true Neapolitan pizza' then you have to abide by the same rules and use the same exact products as the guys in Napoli do." This would include the flour. And this would be why I generally think that VPN certification is nonsense.

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Where is a source of this " type 55 style flour "?

Sometimes it's hard to sort that out, since none of the manufacturers refer to their flours this way. Giusto's and King Arthur both make Type 55 flours (that's like a French type 55 - the ash percentages are figured slightly differently here IIRC). I think Giusto's is called 'Baker's Choice', about 11.5% protein. I think they make a type 75 flour also (with some of the milled bran added back in), but I think it's still not available for retail (see egullet link below). I believe KA's is called "French Type Flour" (11.5% protein). They also have a "European-Style Artisan Bread Flour" (11.7% protein). If you really want to nerd out about ash percentage and other specs, I believe both companies publish them somewhere.

A bit more on this over here:

which might be a more appropriate place to have this particular side-discussion.

Giusto's seems to make three different pizza flours - an "00" which is designed for pizza, an "Italiano" pizza flour, and a whole wheat "00" (some of these also come in versions made from organically grown wheat).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flour#Flour_type_numbers

http://www.wessexmill.co.uk/recipe/flourguide.html

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Reporting back on the Danicoop San Marzanos: they are incredible. I made Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce with tomato, butter and onion - which I thought was the ultimate test of the quality of a tomato. They ended up tasting roasted, complex, with just right balance of acidity and sweetness, and incredible, creamy depth. My partner walked up to the stove and exclaimed, "It smells like pizza!"

I just ordered another 12 cans from Gustiamo. Unfortunately at $4.50 for half a standard tomato can (400 grams, or about half a standard 28-oz. can), they are not cheap. There is a fixed ground shipping charge of about $20 for an order of 7 cans or more, so large orders bring the per-unit shipping cost down.

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Reporting back on the Danicoop San Marzanos: they are incredible. I made Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce with tomato, butter and onion - which I thought was the ultimate test of the quality of a tomato. They ended up tasting roasted, complex, with just right balance of acidity and sweetness, and incredible, creamy depth. My partner walked up to the stove and exclaimed, "It smells like pizza!"

I just ordered another 12 cans from Gustiamo. Unfortunately at $4.50 for half a standard tomato can (400 grams, or about half a standard 28-oz. can), they are not cheap. There is a fixed ground shipping charge of about $20 for an order of 7 cans or more, so large orders bring the per-unit shipping cost down.

Picked up a 12 pack.. I think they are 12 oz'ers ( or IE 400 g)

Edited by Paul Bacino (log)

Its good to have Morels

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The flour makes little difference in pizza, it is high heat, kneading and sourdough.

If you do not have high enough heat, your pizza is gonna become a dried out biscuit and not what it was intended to be. On my grill, a 14" pizza takes about 3-5 minutes, I'm close to 700F. When the grill is cooler (rain, cooler weather) it will not get so hot.

Fresh Mozz, I get very good stuff in North Haven, 13.50 for three pound bucket, so it is not too bad. You can use dried mozz, Sallys, Pepes and Johnnies all use it and who can say it is inferior?

Tomatoes, that could be expensive, but worth it.

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Nice price on the fresh mozz. How does it do on you pizza? Is a little wetter than the store stuff and, if it is, do you drain it? Here's the weekend pizza, quatro fromage with prosciutto on half.

DSCN3044.JPG

"I drink to make other people interesting".

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