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Pizza--Cook-Off 8


Chris Amirault
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Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index.

For our eighth Cook-Off, due to an on-going campaign for same, we're going to be making pizza. Boy, talk about the perfect cook-off item: lots of folks eat pizza outside their home or toss a frozen pie into the oven, but few make it at home. By putting our heads and hands together, we can learn and share lots of good techniques here, particularly involving the dough.

As always, there's a goldmine of information already on eGullet to check out, including threads devoted to pizza stones, pizza stones, and pizza stone thickness, Patsy's pizza and dough, doughs sticking to peels, unusual toppings, pies at home, dough tips, yet more dough tips, and several dozen more.

So get our your peels and stones, find some good cheese and gravy, and let's get going!

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Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I am rooting around in my oh-so-well-organized (NOT) archives. Many years ago, I had a pizza dough recipe that was oh so forgiving. You made up a batch and it would make maybe three pies. The neat thing is that you made it up ahead and stored it in the fridge. I think it may have come from a Fleischman's yeast bread book. I will go a-googling.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Let's get this party started.

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Eggplant (breaded, left over from the Moussaka cookoff), Ricotta, Mozzarella.

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Baked

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Aerial view

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Shrooms, Genoa Salami, Garlic slivers, red onion, mozzarella.

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Baked

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Side Profile

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The "Kinsey Shot"

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Eggplant Slice closeup

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Salami/Shroom/Onion/Garlic slice

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Well, this particular crust was purchased -- we found some pizza dough balls frozen on-sale in the supermarket, and let them thaw out for a whole day, so they rose a bit.

Oven was cranked up to 500 degrees and allowed to come up to full temp for a half an hour before baking. The cheese is standard low moisture Polly-O and regular supermarket brand ricotta cheese. Pizza was baked directly onto ceramic tiles.

We plan to make our own crust shortly, but we wanted to experiment with the oven and toppings a bit first.

The sauce is also store bought -- "Mishpacha" brand Kosher-for-Passover pizza sauce. The primary ingredients are water, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, olive oil, sugar (as in regular cane sugar, not HFCS) , garlic and spices. Yes I know its perverse to use KFP products on a pizza, but it was on sale and what we had avaliable. Actually as a commercial pizza sauce product it happens to be pretty damn good, I think. Definitely better than that Ragu crap.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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The sauce is also store bought -- "Mishpacha" brand Kosher-for-Passover pizza sauce. The primary ingredients are tomato, then sugar (as in regular cane sugar, not HFCS). Yes I know its perverse to use KFP products on a pizza, but it was on sale and what we had avaliable.

:laugh: You had me going for a second there! I was getting all ready to ask how you got such a lovely-looking crust out of matzoh meal! (Hadn't even thought as far as the salami/cheese combo ... )

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Actually I was quite impressed with the crust we got, with it cranked to 500 for a half hour before baking. I think the ceramic tiles really help, the pizzas cooked in just 5 minutes. We do have a gas oven that has convection, though. So its possible the actual effective temperature is a bit higher.

By the way, your average steel deck Vulcan or Baker's Pride can get to 550, if that. Only your anthracite coal and gas fired brick ovens can go higher.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Okay, I think I can jump in on this one, even though the Fried Chicken Cook-Off (V) is still going strong.

After sampling various local (and not-so-local) pizzas with the Pennsylvania forum's Pizza Club, I got bitten by the bug to make my own. However, not wanting to plunk down the change for a stone yet, I opted for a screen, which the nice woman at Fante's who sold it to me told me would produce a very good crispy crust in a standard oven like the plain-vanilla Hotpoint that is in my apartment.

I've been following the recipes and techniques in a book called "The Art of Pizza Making--Trade Secrets and Recipes" by Dominick DeAngelis, an engineer-turned-pizza entrepreneur who lives on the Main Line and owns a company up near Wilkes-Barre that produces high gluten wheat flour, bags of which--along with the book--were located right next to the pizza pans, stones, peels and screens at Fante's. (Yes, I bought the flour, on the same salesperson's recommendation.)

So far, I've made three pizzas, each one a little better than the previous attempt. For my most recent effort, I made the dough according to the recipe in the book, let it rise for an hour at room temperature, punched it down and let it rise in the fridge for a day. Sure enough, as the book stated, the crust on this pizza was chewy, not crispy like the previous pie I made.

It also came out just the right color of brown baked at 475F for about 10 minutes, again as recommended in the book for screen baking.

It also came out swimming in liquid. I guess I overloaded the pie with fresh mozzarella and pepperoni. After a few minutes, though, you could scoop up the stuff that had run off, and after a few hours, it was perfectly stable.

It seemed to me to have a slightly acidic and slightly sweet taste. (I made the sauce from a jar of organic strained tomatoes from Italy that was on sale at Whole Foods that day. To the tomato sauce I added about a half tablespoon of basil, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of oregano and a pinch of rosemary, thyme and sage.)

I didn't think to take pictures, for I wasn't aware a cook-off had begun. There will be a next time, though.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Oh--the dough! I forgot one more thing about the dough.

So far, I have been unable to stretch out the dough completely by hand. Invariably I'll open up a hole in the dough. I've resorted to using a rolling pin on the last two attempts.

Anyone else have this problem?

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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The trick to stretching is initially to roll out the edges but keep the center a bit thick, so that when you start really stretching it out, the part getting the most stress is thick enough to withstand it. It's also worth learning how to toss those doughs on the back of your hand with that frisbee twirl, using centrifugal force to thin out the dough evenly.

(Did I get the physics right there?)

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I buy dough from my local gourmet pizzeria and find that it's better than what I can do at home, and it's cheap, and it's easier. I make my own really, really simple sauce w/ crushed plum tomatoes, some basil, organo, olive oil, and S&P. I like the light nature of that sacue as opposed to the HEAVY store bought kinds. In general, I keep my crusts super thin and bake on an inverted cookie sheet (bootleg I know), but I get great results.

Some of my fav toppings:

Pear, Proscuitto di San Danielle, Reggiano, and fresh Mozzarella, and goat cheese

Tons of spinach (it cooks down a ton), blue cheese, and Reggiano

It's best to let the crust shine through and have the topping simply serve as accompaniments.

Mmmm, good pizza, I miss it so much.

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here are a few pizza axiums my teacher gave me at school. he was a born and raised neopolitan so i trust him

1. the crust must be foccacia

2. the sauce must never be cooked

3. the sauce must have anchovies

4. pizza must never have seafood of any kind in it

5. pizza must never have raw white onions as a topping

6. vegetarian pizza must never be eaten in his sight

7. when in doubt go for the olive oil

8. if it doesn't taste like momma's then it's not pizza

it really sucks that i can't participate in these cook offs to the extent of those who have cameras. but just for your reading pleasure here is my recipe for crust and sauce given to me by my teacher.

crust

250 g of all purpos flour

110 ml warm water

5 g salt

20 g sugar

40 ml milk

30 ml olive oil

sauce

1 28oz can of whole tomatoes

1 tin of anchovies finley chopped

lots of minced garlic

lots of chopped basil

sugar

salt

lots of olive oil

pepper

chili flakes are optional. i prefer to not have chili flakes

Edited by chef koo (log)

bork bork bork

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here are a few pizza axiums my teacher gave me at school. he was a born and raised neopolitan so i trust him

As a Neapolitan myself I would really like to have a few words with your teacher :smile: , quite a lot there I don't agree upon.

1. the crust must be foccacia

Definitely not. Neapolitan pizza crust is just flour, water, salt and yeast (eventually sourdough). All the pizzerias I personally know in Naples use such a dough with slight changes in water percentages and rising times, which are usually quite long. No oil, milk, soy flour or stuff like that. And since there's no oil in there it is not a focaccia dough.

2. the sauce must never be cooked

Absolutely agree on this one. Especially when baking in a home oven that takes longer than the traditional wood fired brick oven. It's important to spread the sauce really thin though.

3. the sauce must have anchovies

This is the first time I hear such a thing. In Naples you don't even use a sauce per se, just chopped canned tomatoes. I personally find it makes little sense: if I'm topping my pizza with grilled vegetables or meats I wouldn't really like to taste anchovies there.

4. pizza must never have seafood of any kind in it

5. pizza must never have raw white onions as a topping

6. vegetarian pizza must never be eaten in his sight

I'll leave those, toppings are really a matter of choice. I agree on the raw onion thing though.

7. when in doubt go for the olive oil

Yes and no. A nice drizzle of olive oil before the pizza goes into the oven is a must, but too much makes the pizza heavy.

8. if it doesn't taste like momma's then it's not pizza

I have to admit that this is one of those sentences I've learned to dread. Unless his mom was a "pizzaiola" (pizza baker) then I'm pretty sure there's plenty of better pizzas around. The "like mom didi it" concept is something many Italians believe in, at times with a reason. But remaining stuck with that is IMO a great limit in extending your gastronomic horizons.

Definitely count me in on this one, I just bought a special pizza flour last week and was waiting for a good chance to use it. I'll be making the dough tonight so that I can bake on Friday.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Hi folks, first ever time contributing!

My recipe:

4 cups flour mixed bread flour and 00 grade flour 3/4 - 1/4 respectively

1 cup water

1 cup yeast sourdough starter

salt to taste

No sugars at all, just the flour and the starter to allow for the taste of the dough. Always comes out in a proper neopolitan style, with the base actually tasting great and NOT floury. The secret is no oil, no sugar, and SOURDOUGH STARTER. It really really makes a huge difference.

Now, just need a wood burning oven ( :rolleyes: sigh)

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I find the following link to be very informative:

http://www.correllconcepts.com/Encyclopizz...ncyclopizza.htm

I make my dough in the bread machine as follows:

1lb 4 oz Bread Flour

12 oz Cold Water

2 tsp Sea Salt

1 TBSP Honey

1 Capful of the local organic store's yeast which I keep in old Fleishman's little brown jars

The Zojirushi bread machine that I use, heats up the water, and then starts mixing the ingredients. At that point I watch carefully and add a bit more water to get the right moisture content. I can't explain it, I've done it so many times that I just know when it's right. Not too moist, but not too dry.

When it's all done, I weigh it out into two portions. I use a rolling pin to get a thin crust pizza, which I dust continuously until I can pick the dough up right off the countertop (corian). If I don't want thin crust, then I use all of the dough, and push it out by hand starting in the middle in a more traditional way. But for thin crust, I find that I get a more even thickness with the marble roller than I can get by hand, and that way the crust cooks evenly.

I then let the thin crust sit on the counter for a while, picking it up and turning it over frequently so that it doesn't stick. After about 20 minutes, I take it and put it on a corn meal dusted wood peel.

I immediately brush the crust entire surface with EVOO, then I add pizza sauce which I roughly follow encyclopizza's (see above link) recipe for Sweet 'n Sassy sauce. I use our own canned Tomato puree plus Contadina canned paste to get the consistency of sauce I'm looking for (thicker than thinner).

Then I add my own homemade Hot Italian Sausage which has already been browned and drained of grease. Then spread around on the pizza I place a few whole fresh basil leaves out of my Klimagro window greenhouse in the kitchen garden window, sprinkle some fresh chopped Italian parsley, then a few whole fennel seeds, sprinkle with a combo of grated parmesan, romano and asaigo, then low moisture part skim Stella brand mozzarella (that we get in 5 lb bricks from Sam's club) that I've already ground up in the Robot Coupe processor so I can evenly spread it over the pizza. I like to do it this way to allow steam from the sauce to escape through the cheese layer which effect I can't get if I use mozz slices.

The wall oven (Dacor) and square 1/2" thick stone have been preheating at 550 F for 1 hour. It takes approximately 9-10 minutes for the pizza to be perfectly baked.

doc

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Hrm i'll have to get in on this cook-off, but i'm wondering why my pizza only takes 6-7 minutes in my preheated oven..preheated to 500, for about 1 hour. I'm guessing my grust is thinner...

As soon as passover is over, i'm gonna get in on this...

And i'd like to hear how to build a brick oven in your backyard.

jason

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Pizza!! Now we're talking!

In the past I've had a problem with the crust drying out too much while waiting for the cheese to brown, so here's my latest technique -

Place pizza stone in upper part of oven (not the highest position, but the second highest).

Preheat to 500 (more if you can!) for 1 hour

Place the pizza on the stone and turn on the broiler - the stone will hold the heat to brown the bottom, and the broiler browns the top. I think this is the closet thing to a pizza oven because the top of the oven will be well over 500 degrees.

And the crust gets a nice crisp without drying out.

I can't wait to see other techniques here!

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