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Pizza Toppings: Simple/Elaborate, Traditional/Unusual

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21 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

Modernist Neapolitan dough

 

Sorry for being so far out of the loop, but explain modernist pizza dough to me?

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7 hours ago, Dante said:

 

Sorry for being so far out of the loop, but explain modernist pizza dough to me?

 

In Modernist Bread they present a two different recipes for Neapolitan-style pizza dough: what might be called "Regular" and "Modernist" (though note that the regular still incorporates their work on modifying the dough hydration to compensate for the low baking temperature of a home oven). Neither of those recipes are quite the one from Modernist Cuisine at Home, however. The one I made, the "Modernist" variant of their dough, includes a few additional components over their regular version to enhance the crispness and rise of the crust. Here it is today, after proofing for one day (the recipe calls for 1-2):

 

20200501-183029.jpg

 

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Now, to the other end of the pizza spectrum: same dough, but this time cooked in a skillet on the grill since it's starting to get a bit warm to have the oven on at 500°F for an hour and a half. Enormous quantity of Cabot extra sharp cheddar both above and below the sauce, as well as (taking a page from Reinhart's pan pizza book again) chunks put along the outside edge of the dough so it gets crispy. And olives, of course.

 

20200502-183142.jpg

 

20200502-183239.jpg

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Hey, it got cool here again! So the oven's back on:

 

20200512-192621.jpg

 

That's olives, goat cheese, and rosemary, on a pretty normal Neapolitan-style crust, and a smooth tomato sauce.

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Okay, so I satisfied an itch that wanted scratching for a million years. I made a clam pizza. I used canned clams, justified by telling myself it was pandemic pizza. I used a NYT recipe. It looked good, and it smelled like clams and the crust was my husband's no-fail OO thin crust. But I have to admit I wouldn't do it again. I don't even like white pizza very much, and clam pizza seems to be typically of the New England persuasion. Maybe Manhattan clam pizza would have been a better choice? I'm sure fresh clams would have been an improvement, but if I had them I would not make pizza with them. It just confirms my bias against cheese and seafood together. 

 

The second pizza (this crust recipe makes 2 and a half pizzas) was one of our old favorites: radicchio quick sauteed with garlic, ovalini and fresh slices of tomato plus our usual red pizza sauce. The half or "personal" was just a basic margherita. Lots of leftovers, and I'm very grateful to my Crustmaster for eating the leftover clam slices, which he claimed were just fine.

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3 hours ago, Katie Meadow said:

Okay, so I satisfied an itch that wanted scratching for a million years. I made a clam pizza. I used canned clams, justified by telling myself it was pandemic pizza. I used a NYT recipe. It looked good, and it smelled like clams and the crust was my husband's no-fail OO thin crust. But I have to admit I wouldn't do it again. I don't even like white pizza very much, and clam pizza seems to be typically of the New England persuasion. Maybe Manhattan clam pizza would have been a better choice? I'm sure fresh clams would have been an improvement, but if I had them I would not make pizza with them. It just confirms my bias against cheese and seafood together. 

 

The second pizza (this crust recipe makes 2 and a half pizzas) was one of our old favorites: radicchio quick sauteed with garlic, ovalini and fresh slices of tomato plus our usual red pizza sauce. The half or "personal" was just a basic margherita. Lots of leftovers, and I'm very grateful to my Crustmaster for eating the leftover clam slices, which he claimed were just fine.

 

Pandemic pizza.  I like that.  Reminds me of The Masque of the Red Death.

 

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15 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

Pandemic pizza.  I like that.  Reminds me of The Masque of the Red Death.

 

Geez. You order pizza for your guests at the castle and the delivery guy turns out to be a super spreader who just won't leave. 

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Last night's pizza: goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, and pistachios, on the regular Neapolitan dough recipe from Modernist Bread. This dough is a bit trickier to stretch out than the Modernist version, so these pizzas are a bit smaller and not exactly round :)

20200513-190335.jpg

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Chris Hennes
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Normally I make two of the same pizza each night, but I'm using up a few leftover ingredients, so tonight it was two different pies...

 

Finocchiona (homemade) and fresh mozzarella (those little Bel Gioioso "Pearls") on crushed tomatoes:

20200514-183351.jpg

 

And cherry tomatoes and mozzarella on crushed tomatoes:

20200514-185205.jpg

 

I used the Modernist Bread technique of drying the mozzarella in the fridge for a couple of days, but with the pearls you end up with a sort of weird marshmallow-like appearance, and the texture is a little rubbery. The technique works well with the whole 8oz balls, but it's a bit of a bust with the little pearls.

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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4 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

Normally I make two of the same pizza each night, but I'm using up a few leftover ingredients, so tonight it was two different pies...

 

Finocchiona (homemade) and fresh mozzarella (those little Bel Gioioso "Pearls") on crushed tomatoes:

20200514-183351.jpg

 

And cherry tomatoes and mozzarella on crushed tomatoes:

20200514-185205.jpg

 

I used the Modernist Bread technique of drying the mozzarella in the fridge for a couple of days, but with the pearls you end up with a sort of weird marshmallow-like appearance, and the texture is a little rubbery. The technique works well with the whole 8oz balls, but it's a bit of a bust with the little pearls.

 

I had not remembered that Modernist mozzarella technique but I usually dry my mozzarella an hour or so at room temperature on a stack of paper towels.  I find it makes quite a difference.

 

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I've reported on this pizza before, but I think this time I was much more successful. I'm using the recipe from Modernist Bread, in the toppings for the no-knead crust (which this is not, this is the Neapolitan crust), but it's effectively identical to the pizza Reinhart calls "New York Style White Pizza" in American Pie. I did a couple of things differently this time. 

 

First, I did actually make the Modernist Béchamel instead of a normal one. It uses a pressure cooked roux for convenience, and is thickened with Ultrasperse 3 and Kappa Carrageenan. The pressure cooked roux thing is probably more useful in a restaurant situation, since they claim that the technique "improves reliability," which I don't find especially problematic when making small batches at home. That said, having a jar of roux ready to go in the fridge was handy tonight, it only took a minute or two to make the béchamel. The modernist thickeners yield a gorgeous texture and the milk flavor does seem to pop a bit more than usual, so overall the flavor and texture of the sauce were excellent. Truth be told, though, I suspect the biggest improvement over last time was just me taking a bit more time to adjust the seasoning on it. I was sort of cavalier with the salt and nutmeg last time, but this time I did a couple of rounds of tasting and seasoning to get it really dialed in. Amazing what difference a little care makes!

 

The other change I made over last time was to use air-dried mozzarella that I then blitzed in the food processor to get small grains, which I distributed more or less evenly over the pizza. In this particular pizza I find the flavor and texture to be better with an even distribution of the mozzarella and a chunkier distribution of the ricotta, rather than a chunky distribution of both. Personal preference, of course: YMMV.

 

So, after all that, I was really happy with the end result:

20200515-184742.jpg

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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My watercress was just beginning to flower today, so I pulled it all and made this: the "sauce" is just olive oil, sprinkled with an herb mix of rosemary, dried oregano, chopped watercress stems, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Olives and chèvre went on before baking, and a watercress salad dressed with lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil was put on after. The crust is the Modernist Neapolitan from Modernist Bread (so has soy lecithin for volume and polydextrose for crispness), but I wanted pizza NOW so although there is a poolish, there was no multi-day refrigeration stage. Also, I didn't use the broiler because I was worried about smoking the place up with all that olive oil.

 

20200520-175231.jpg

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Tonight was Reinhart's Pizza con Rucola from American Pie: low-moisture mozzarella, quartered cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan, baked, and topped with arugula. His recipe calls for a chiffonade of full-grown arugula, but since what I've got on hand is baby arugula I just gave it a rough chop. 

 

20200521-181416.jpg

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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This is another one directly out of American Pie: Three Cheese Pizza with Roasted Eggplant, Tomato, and Lemon. Which is kind of an odd name for a topping whose flavor is much more heavily olive than it is eggplant. I mean, yes, there's an eggplant in there, but there's also a quarter pound of olives on each pizza! You roast the eggplant, tomato, olives, and an onion, along with the zest and juice of a few lemons, then sprinkle the resulting stuff on a pizza with three cheeses (I used mozzarella, feta, and parmesan). This is put on a sourdough crust and baked. The result is delicious, but I'd say very much about the olives and the lemon, with a tip of the hat to the tomatoes.

 

20200522-180111.jpg

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Chris Hennes
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Another "grilled" pizza today, though as usual not what you normally think of for grilled pizza, since I made it in a pan. The dough is a sourdough at the end of its useful life, so not much rise but a lot of flavor. The sauce is just crushed tomatoes, topped with low-moisture mozzarella and chunks of soppressata (not homemade this time, alas). Finally, topped with baby arugula when it was done cooking, left to wilt for a minute or two before serving.

 

20200524-182137.jpg

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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It's a holiday here today, so clearly that calls for pizza. This one is the Modernist Neapolitan crust, crushed tomatoes, a crap ton of rosemary because the plant is getting out of control, the last of the eggplant/olive mixture from Friday night, and feta. It's rainy and cool here, so cooked in my oven.

 

20200525-174019.jpg

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Green bell peppers, onions, and jalapeños, given a quick sauté and then put on the same crust as last night, crushed tomatoes, and low-moisture mozzarella.

 

20200526-180528.jpg

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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@Chris Hennes, have you kept track of how many days in a row you are eating pizza?  I'm so impressed! I know you like to cook through a whole book, but this different.

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2 hours ago, TdeV said:

@Chris Hennes, such lovely pizzas! What is the diameter of your standard pizza?

The commercial-yeast pizzas are about 10" diameter. The sourdough are 12", and anything I make in the big pizza pan is 14"

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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9 minutes ago, Katie Meadow said:

@Chris Hennes, have you kept track of how many days in a row you are eating pizza?  I'm so impressed! I know you like to cook through a whole book, but this different.

It's normally four days in a row because that's how much dough I make at a time. Then I make Sichuan or Mexican for a couple of days, then back to pizza :) . I am trying to get better at it, and the only way to do that is to practice. Truly, I suffer for my art.

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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I'm not usually a huge white pizza fan, but after my last success I thought I'd poke at it a bit more, so tonight I made two different white pies. The first was a béchamel topped with ricotta, olives, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. It was pretty good, I'd make it again:

20200527-182103.jpg

 

The second was based on the flavors of the famous Cacio e Pepe. I wanted to make sure to preserve the creaminess of the pasta dish, so I incorporated a portion of Pecorino Romano into the béchamel and added a significant quantity of black pepper. I sprinkled it with mozzarella essentially to prevent it from drying out in the oven (and because I figured it would look nicer), then hit it with another batch of Romano and pepper after taking it out of the oven. This was excellent: the sauce stayed creamy (it's the Modernist béchamel) and the flavors of the Romano and pepper really popped. 

20200527-184008.jpg

 

I have two more iterations on this pizza I want to try. One is Vetri's crushed ice method, and the other is to make a sodium citrate-based cheese sauce instead of a béchamel.

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Tonight, two more takes on Cacio e Pepe. I should note that all of these are using the same cheese: a Pecorino Gran Riserva di Grotta, which is superb. So, having basically two ingredients in the topping, the taste on all of these is great, it's just the texture and technical complexity that set them apart from one another.

 

Tonight's first pizza is Marc Vetri's recipe from Mastering Pizza. You make a blank 10" crust, top it with 70g of crushed ice, and bake it as usual. What comes out of the oven is (supposed to be) a shallow pool of water in the middle of a raised rim, into which you sprinkle ~50g of Romano. You shake it about to get the cheese to melt, then slice and add another 20g of Romano and plenty of black pepper. Of course, the trick here is really being a master of your crust, and getting the middle to be even enough that the water distributes evenly over it. Then, you need to make sure you cook it the exact right length of time to give enough water to melt the cheese, but not so much that the pizza is soggy. Then you need to get it out of the oven without spilling any of that starchy water, since you can't really replace it. So, let's say I'm not quite ready to go work in Vetri's kitchen just yet, because I failed on all counts. I wound up with a pretty soggy crust, unevenly distributed sauce, and a pizza that was too cold for my tastes. The fact that what came out was edible is more a testament to the versatility of pizza than to my skills as a chef, or to the quality of the recipe. This thing is finicky to get right, and though I'm sure it works if you practice enough, I don't really want Cacio e Pepe for dinner every night.

 

20200528-182356.jpg

 

OK, my next idea was to make a modernist-style cheese sauce using the Melty Cheese Calculator. This was 50g water and 50g cheese, plus 2.5g sodium citrate and copious amounts of black pepper. Spread on the crust and baked, then topped with another 20g of Romano. I was worried that the baked Romano would have the wrong taste for this dish, but it wasn't an issue. Really, the only problem here is that I don't think that cheese sauce is the right texture for pizza. As my wife points out, it's a little too queso-y. So this one isn't really worth trying again either, especially considering that I was very happy with the béchamel-based version from last night. Trying to get the pure flavor of the cheese and pepper seems like a good idea, but in the context of pizza the added creaminess of the béchamel and toasted-butter flavors from its roux worked better than the pure-cheese hit you get from Modernist cheese sauces.

 

20200528-183542.jpg

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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