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Pizza--Cook-Off 8


Chris Amirault
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Instead of a stone, you can get tiles cheaper, and the peel is totally worth it. They're not expensive, got mine in a restaurant supply store, I think we paid around $20 for a medium-large one. Smaller ones can be had for less. You look at it and go, "where am I going to store that???" But it was easy to drill a hole in the end of the handle to hang it on the wall of the garage, if you have a pantry with some available wall space, you could hang it there, or even in back of a clothes closet (if you clean it off first). :wink:

Garage?

Wall space?

The closet's full of clothes.

So far, I've been pleased with the results from a simple screen.

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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I've tried quarry tiles (pavers) and don't like them because sauce/cheese, etc., falls through the cracks and burns onto the bottom of my oven.

Been using a rectangular (almost square) 1/2" thick pizza stone that looks exactly like the one that was recently shown on America's Test Kitchen as the absolute top choice pizza stone.  I've had mine for 22 years, and it has never broken.

About every 3 or so months, I just leave it in the oven and put the oven on self-clean cycle.  Stone comes out beautiful.

1.  Never put a cold stone in a hot oven.

2.  Never take a hot stone out of the oven.

3.  Never get water on the stone.  It soaks it up, and it's still in there for a long time.  You don't want water in your stone when you're cooking with it.

I've followed these rules for 22 years, and my $8.95 pizza stone (1983 prices) still works wonderfully.  I shied away from round stones, because the rectangular stone has more surface area for buns, rolls, square pizzas, etc.

Many times, I leave it in and place casseroles, roasting pans right on it.  As long as it has heated up sufficiently, it evens out the heat and nothing ever burns anymore.

doc

Thanks for the great info, doc. That's what I have and I appreciate the tips.

Good job, Grub. Impressive.

I am following this interesting cook-off, but want to pass on participating this time.

Cheers!

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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After two days of stuffing my (e)Gullet full of pizza, here's my contribution. On my last visit to Italy I brought back some flour expressly for pizza. I knew there was a reason to save it for a special occasion: an eGullet cook-off! The flour is a relatively soft one, only 10.5% protein content, as tradition wants.

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My intention was to try and reproduce a classical Neapolitan style pizza at home, using a few tricks I learned through experience and tips from friends who are pizzaioli. I think the results are not too far away from the original; what's really lacks is a wood-burning oven! Until I manage to convince my wife that, 1) a wood-burning pizza oven is an essential item for our baking needs, and 2) that we need therefore to move to a house with a garden in order to be able to build one there, I guess I'll have to stick to my old but reliable electric oven.

There are a few basic things that mark Neapolitan pizza in comparison to most of the ones I've seen in this thread up to now, so I'll just point them out to explain why I did a few things the way I did.

- While I sometimes amuse myself creating baroque pizzas with rich toppings, in Naples traditional toppings are simple, even minimalist. Because of this I've made a classic margherita and a one with grilled aubergines.

- Mozzarella should melt but not brown. Easier to say than to do in a domestic oven: to overcome this I always bake my pizzas without cheese for the first few minutes and then add the cheese.

- Neapolitan pizza should always have cornicione a rim of puffed up dough which should ideally be almost hollow. To get this you really need to work with a very moist dough; I'm close but not exactly there.

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To make my dough I used the classic recipe as a guideline, but modified taking inspiration from a method I found on an Italian food forum for pizza al taglio, the rectangular pan pizza typical of Rome. The original recipe (qsomewhat different) was developed by a cook-pizzaiolo called Gabriele Bonci, who's considered a bit of a pizza guru.

I first made a rather fluid starter which was left to rise 2 hours at room temperature and the 20 in the fridge.

550 g lukewarm water

400 g pizza flour

1/4 tsp dried yeast

The followoing day I added

600 g pizza flour

125 g water

1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

and kneaded the finished dough for about 20 minutes in my mixer set at the lowest setting. Pizza flour needs a rather long time to both hydrate properly and to fully develop the gluten. Once the dough passed the windowpane test it was left to rise 2 hours at room temperature plus 10 in the fridge, after which it had nicely doubled in size. I then punched it down, split it in 4 pieces, the so called panetti each to be used for an individual pizza, and let them rise in the fridge for another 12 hours.

To shape the pizzas and get the cornicione you need to leave the dough thicker on the rim. Since I can't shape the pizzas with the wrist work the pizzaioli use I use a trick which I think I first read in Peter Rehinardt's "Crust and Crumb", i.e. I pat the dough in a rough circle and then pick it up from the rim and flick it downwards, moving around the rim with every new flick. After a little practice it works very well.

As "sauced" I simply used good canned plum tomatoes, finely chopped, sprinkled with salt and a little tasty EV olive oil. I would have loved to use real S.Marzano but found none this time. The mozzarella was cut a day ahead and left to drain in a sieve overnight in the fridge.

The aubergine margherita before going into the oven, cheese-less.

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Finished, with a couple of basil leaves added for decoration and a little aroma. The basil should actually go on the pizza before baking but I find it always bakes too log in a home oven, loosing it's nice fresh smell, so I compromise. I left the cornicione too thick, but nobody complained :wink: .

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The margherita.

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I was quite happy about the pizzas: while fully baked they didn't get too crisp even in the thinnest spots, and the cornicione puffed up nicely and was almost as it should be. The dough came out with a nice flavor of its own. It doesn't beat sourdough pizza though.

I had one dough ball left today, but didn't exactly feel like pizza again. So I decided to recycle the dough to make panuozzi a sort of pizza dough panini created in Gragnano (a town on the slopes of mount Vesuvius) exactly for this reason. The dough is shaped into a long oval which is then baked till it just puffs up.

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At this point it is split open and stuffed with whatever one fancies. I had a little mozzarella and aubergines left from the previous evening, and added some prosciutto to that, closed the panuozzo and baked it till the cheese melted. I waited a tad too long (telephone salespeople be damned) so the top became too crunchy. Quite palatable all the same :biggrin: .

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Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Great work Alberto, Grub, Tracy, Jackal, Tepee, and Jason Perlow! I've been checking this thread every day, absorbing the sagely pizza wisdom, knowing that I'd have to make pizza this weekend.

Clearly I'm the amateur here, but I'm in pizza ecstacy right now, having just finished a couple of slices of my pie. I know I've probably committed a few faux pas along the way (cooked the sauce, probably used too much topping), but here it is nonetheless. Topped this fresh mozza and some parmesan, caramelized onions, and pepperoni. Baked at 500F on a small stone for 10 minutes. At 4 minutes left, I turned off the oven and turned the broiler on low.

Lucky me, I have everything I need to make another one tomorrow!

Cheers!

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"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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Fantastic, Alberto. It puts our American-style pizzas to shame.

Jason (and Susan, Patrick), thank you for being so kind :blush: . Neapolitan and American pizza have so many differences that they shouldn't be compared, I think. I like both though I won't hide I prefer the Neapolitan one, but I'm Italian after all :biggrin: .

I really hope I didn't put anyone's pizza to shame: I find everyon has done a great job. All the pizzas I've seen in this thread up to now are extremely mouthwatering.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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I really hope I didn't put anyone's pizza to shame: I find everyon has done a great job. All the pizzas I've seen in this thread up to now are extremely mouthwatering.

Yeah yeah yeah, Usually I go for the Margherita kind, but there is no way I'm posting a photo after you, man :laugh:

Maybe I will provide an example of a few wonderful German versions, such as, for example, tunafish with hard boiled eggs and sweet mustard sauce, chicken with sweet indian curry sauce pizza, or the ever popular ham, pineapple and corn niblets :wacko: The only problem is, somone would actually have to eat the thing.

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Wait, so Alberto, "real" pizza flour is low protein flour? I assumed bread flour (higher protein content) would be more appropriate. Anyone care to discuss the differences or, better yet, do an experiment using two different flours but otherwise similar techniques?

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Last night I had a bunch of friends over for one of my pizza-making marathons. These are fundamentally Italian style pizze, but in a larger size so everyone can have a piece of each one. I don't have any pictures of the dough or anything like that, but here are the finished products:

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Here are all the ingredients. I use a fairly wet dough that fermented for around 12 hours (I usually go 24 hours, but realized last night that I was out of flour). Fat Guy and I traveled up to Arthur Avenue for some of their amazing best-of-class fresh mozzarella -- as good as any fior di latte mozzarella I've had in Italy.

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We started with a margarita.

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Shitake mushrooms and cubes of pancetta.

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Fresh artichoke and filetti di pomodoro.

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Red peppers with eggs "fried" right on the crust.

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Here is a picture of an egg slice.

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Spicy broccoli rabe.

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Shrimp and chives.

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Sausage and ramps.

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A "pizza nonna" -- a tomato/mozzarella pizza topped with a dressed salad (upland cress, in this instance) with prosciutto draped over the top.

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Littleneck clams baked right on he crust.

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Gorgonzola picante and asparagus. You can see that the stones in the oven were beginning to lose heat by this point.

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Here's my oven setup. As you can see, it's a crappy residential stove -- actually pretty good for a Manhattan apartment. There are two levels of stones, with the stone on the bottom being a slab of slate from docsconz's back yard. I only baked on the two lower stones, sometimes transferring a pizza from the bottom stone to the middle stone if we weren't quite ready for the next pizza. Especially in the beginning, the slate stone was throwing up some serious oven spring and baking the pizze in around 5 minutes. I estimate that the slate weighs around ten times more than the conventional baking stones.

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Here is a view of the bottom of the crust towards the end of the run. Still getting good thermal performance from the slate, although the baking time increased to around ten minutes by the last pizza.

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Wait, so Alberto, "real" pizza flour is low protein flour? I assumed bread flour (higher protein content) would be more appropriate. Anyone care to discuss the differences or, better yet, do an experiment using two different flours but otherwise similar techniques?

I've discussed this a number of times on eG. Yes, real Italian pizza flour is lower in protein than American bread flour. It's also perhaps a bit lower than American AP flour as well. In addition, "00" flour is more highly refined. That said, not all "00" flour is the same (the "00" refers to the level of refinement, not the protein level). "00" flour for pizza is higher in protein than "00" flour for pasta. Still not as high as American AP flour, though. A lower protein, more refined American flour might work well, such as the biscuit flours from the Southeast.

I personally find that a lower protein flour gives a crust that is more to my liking. But I make what are fundamentally Italian-style pizze. American style pizze have a lot more stuff on top of them, and it is likely the case that a stronger dough is required in order to support those toppings.

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slkinsey, I just love  :wub:  the one with the fried egg. I just had dinner but I could eat that right now.. I might copy that idea later in the week when I finally have time for baking some pizza!

Egg-topped pizza is also one of my favorites. Sadly it's almost never seen in this country.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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I personally find that a lower protein flour gives a crust that is more to my liking. But I make what are fundamentally Italian-style pizze.

So Sam, did you use AP or bread flour, or did you use imported 00 Pizza flour like Alberto did?

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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

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I ran out of 00 flour, so I used regular AP flour mixed with cake flour (highly refined, low protein flour) -- which I find is a good approximation of 00 for pizza.

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Sam, those pix are astonishing. The first shot of the topping larder was breathtaking, and they got better from there.

When you answer Jason's question, can you also give brands? Do you have a preferred AP and cake flour?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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What are the proportions [of AP flour to cake flour you use]? 50/50?

I don't measure exactly, but I'd say I use around 25% - 33% cake flour.

Sam, those pix are astonishing. The first shot of the topping larder was breathtaking, and they got better from there.

When you answer Jason's question, can you also give brands? Do you have a preferred AP and cake flour?

No preferred brands, really. The cake flour was Swans Down, because that's what seems to be available around here. I often use Hecker's, which I think is a good quality AP flour. As chance would have it, I used Hodgson Mill AP flour this time. I prefer either Hecker's, Hodgson Mill or King Arthur.

How do you stop the top of the egg drying out and toughening  when you cook the egg on the pizza in the oven? Lots of cheeae on top?

The cheese is under the eggs. Primarily, I guess I avoid drying by simply not baking it for very long -- around 5 minutes. And I like to use a fair amount of tomato on the pizze with eggs, so perhaps the steam mitigates any drying.

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How do you stop the top of the egg drying out and toughening  when you cook the egg on the pizza in the oven? Lots of cheeae on top?

The cheese is under the eggs. Primarily, I guess I avoid drying by simply not baking it for very long -- around 5 minutes. And I like to use a fair amount of tomato on the pizze with eggs, so perhaps the steam mitigates any drying.

Just to be clear, the egg goes on top raw, just before the pizza goes in the oven, correct? In the short time in the oven, the egg cooks, but doesn't overcook or dry out.

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MadVal, Seattle, WA

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Exactly. Crack a few raw eggs on top just before the pizza goes into oven. The eggs cook through before they dry out (mostly, imo, by "frying" from the heat coming up through the crust). It helps to have very fresh eggs for this, as they will not spread as much as older eggs. This is, needless to say, only possible to do well with a very thin crust and a very hot rock.

It's a much more elegant presentation in true Neapolitan-style single-serving format. That way you have one egg in the center of the pizza.

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There was a place in philly that did a great prosciutto and egg pizza. They also did my favorite Margherita. Around here you just can't get a real pizza.

Okay. I am going to bite the bullet and post my results. It's a bit of a cheat because I usually make a double batch of Peter Reinhardt dough that I keep in the freezer. These were my last two disks. Looking at the above pizzas, I think I want to try a new recipe. Reinhardt's dough has great flavor, and so far it has been my favorite, but it ends up stretching amost absurdly thin. If I want to be sure to get it off the peel intact I have to work super fast and use tons of semolina. For today I didn't feel like dealing with it, so I just used parchament paper.

My oven just does not go past 500 F :angry: I figured if I did the pizzas after baking my ciabatta the stone would be nice and hot. I don't think it made much of a difference though.

For toppings, I had some leftover mozzarella, plum tomatoes and a ton of basil so the decision was made for me. I often drape prosciutto over the top, but today I didn't have any. The one version I had in Germay and england that I actually liked is marinara, tuna, oil cured black olives, no cheese. Maybe I will do one of those next time. Anyway, here is today's effort:

The dough. Hand stretched, it is practically translucent in some spots. It never actually tears, but I think it is maybe too thin. It is only about 10 inches across.

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Waiting for the Ciabatta to finish. The oven is set to 500 but it really is at 450. At least it is consistently 50 degrees off.

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Ciabatta out of the oven. Temp cranked up to 550. I put the toppings on as I wait:

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(I use Marcella Hazan's Margherita toppings recipe: plum tomatos cooked briefly in olive oil. Mozzarella and a little parm. She adds the cheese later but I've found in my oven it doesn't make much of a difference.)

First one out of the oven. Scatter some basil leaves, sprinkle with olive oil and you're good to go.

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Bottom view. Notice how you can see the tomato through the middle. It still holds together but I really want to try a thicker verision:

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(Ignore the dirty-seeming thumbnail. I was peeling artichokes all weekend :unsure: )

Well, that makes two cook-offs I've participated in :smile:

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I've had a hard time finding 00 flour anywhere in my area, but I always have plenty of cake flour on hand, so I'll try a cake/AP flour mix and see how that goes. Samuel, you must have had quite a few guests! And how lucky they were.

I made another pizza tonight, basically the same as last night, except I used prosciutto instead of pepperoni, and used a bit less sauce.

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"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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Wait, so Alberto, "real" pizza flour is low protein flour? I assumed bread flour (higher protein content) would be more appropriate. Anyone care to discuss the differences or, better yet, do an experiment using two different flours but otherwise similar techniques?

Rachel, I'll add a few things to what Sam already said. Bread flour as you know it in the States was pretty much unknown in Italy till after WWII, so all traditional Italian breads (except those using semolina or other flours) where made with relatively soft flour.

I made the same assumption regarding bread flour, but often noticed that Italian pizzaioli advise against using it even if it is quite easily available today. I've read and asked around a bit to understand the reasons of this preference. Essentially it is not a problem of low vs. high protein flour rather the dough should be prepared according to certain standards and ripened enough to have the proper character and be easily digested.

Without going into the details (which I still haven't completely researched) the real problem of strong bread flours is that they give you the chance to obtain a dough with the proper mechanical characteristics, because of the higher gluten content, using quick 2-3 hour rises with larger (compared to the standard amounts used) amounts of yeast, something that cannot be done with softer flours which necessarily need longer times. This might seem an advantage at first sight, but what one gains in speed is lost in "lightness" of the dough, which in turn is connected to ripening. According to what I've read, soft flour needs between 12 and 36 hours of slow rise to reach the proper stage, dough made with strong bread flour on the other hand need at least 24 and up to 72 hours. Furthermore, dough made with more yeast tend to have a more compact crumb instead of the irregular and large holes you see in proper Neapolitan pizza crusts.

I never tried both flours side by side, but it would be worth a go. Next time I make pizza, maybe.

I really hope I didn't put anyone's pizza to shame: I find everyone has done a great job. All the pizzas I've seen in this thread up to now are extremely mouthwatering.

Yeah yeah yeah, Usually I go for the Margherita kind, but there is no way I'm posting a photo after you, man :laugh:

Maybe I will provide an example of a few wonderful German versions, such as, for example, tunafish with hard boiled eggs and sweet mustard sauce, chicken with sweet indian curry sauce pizza, or the ever popular ham, pineapple and corn niblets :wacko: The only problem is, somone would actually have to eat the thing.

Nadia, where the hell did you go for pizza in Germany :wacko::laugh: ? OK, the pineapple, ham and niblets ones is a classic, which I carefully avoid. I'm allergic to pineapple on pizza: makes me hydrophobic :wink: . But the tuna, mustard and eggs one? Maybe you should give it a go, at least it would quench my thirst for pizza-kitsch. Actually the more I think about it... would you post that margherita, please?

Edited to add: just noticed you did after posting. Looks really good. As Sam said, you might want to try adding the prosciutto to the pizza after it's baked. Tastes better IMO.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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      lamb kangari
      a lamb and goat thread
      If anyone finds more, post 'em!
      So: find yourself a leg of lamb to bone, sharpen your knives, and get ready to update your spice drawer!
    • By Chris Amirault
      Welcome to the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off! Click here for the Cook-Off index.
      This cook-off focuses on felafel. I've enjoyed fine felafel here in the US and overseas, but I have literally no idea how to make this, the national street food of at least a handful of Middle Eastern countries. Several people who have recommended this cook-off did so because, while they felt they had some clues, they didn't really have a consistently successful recipe or method. Sounds like a good cook-off topic, eh?
      There are a few topics on the felafel matter, including this one on tips and tricks, an older topic that finds more woes than techniques, and this preparation topic, How Do You Like Your Falafel? I also found this recipe by Joan Nathan, which seems like it might be useful.
      But what do I know? Not much, I'll tell you. Time to chime in, you!
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