Better Pizza

If you search pizza on WordPress you invariably come across folks who are trying their hand at the craft, and some of those people are doing a great job. But, most of the time, the photos show a finished product that is pretty unappetizing. Not that it isn’t fun making an awful pizza, but you can strive for, and achieve, so much better.  Making a great pizza starts with making a great dough. And a great dough typically does not use yeast measured in whole teaspoons or tablespoons, unless one is making enough dough for thirty pizzas!

Too much yeast is an indicator of a rushed dough, one that has had insufficient time to develop and will yield a flavorless and difficult to digest dough. Tiny amounts of yeast and a long ferment in cool temperatures are what you are after. 

For the love of all that is great about pizza, skip trying these recipes and stop posting them. If you are baking with instant or active dry yeast, look at Roberta’s New York Times formula for a nice easy place to start for a tasty dough. You can read about how I make that pizza here.

If you are feeling more adventurous, and have a sourdough culture, you may skip the commercial yeast altogether. These pizzas were made with less than an ounce of sourdough starter, and were fermented for 42 hours in a cooler with some frozen water bottles. I made enou dough for 9 small pies.  They were made in my pizza party oven.

        

Sourdough Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes

 If you have a sourdough culture bubbling away and wish to make some  fine pancakes from scratch, here is one way to do it.

  1. On Saturday evening, in a glass bowl, add a tablespoon of stater (15-20 grams) and disperse in 200 grams of water.
  2. To the now clowdy water, combine  200 grams of flour (I used home-milled whole wheat in the pictured pancakes) until well combined. Cover and set aside overnight.  The following morning you should have a thick but airy batter, courtesy of the sourdough yeast activity. Mine looked like this:  
  3. Put the griddle on medium-low heat to warm up. You want the pan to be sizzling hot, but to get there slowly.  Add an egg, 2 tablespoons of oil and 2-3 tablespoons of honey to th batter.  I forgot the salt on this batch. You may add a 1/2 tsp of salt, but apparently that is optional. 
  4. Combine well with a fork and you have a lumpy batter. If you used 2 eggs it will be smoother. If you used sugar instead of honey, it will be lumpier.  
  5. Add some more liquid to get the batter to the desired consistency. This could be 1/4 – 3/4 cup of water (milk if you wish), adding a little at a time and stirring with the fork.  I could have made this a bit thinner, and after the second batch I added more water
  6. Combine two handfuls of whole blueberries or chopped strawberries.   
  7. Add 1/2-3/4 tablespoon baking powder and stir it up. This will thicken the batter considerably, as well as aerate it. Next time I will see how they cook up with it the baking soda.       If the batter is too thick at this point stir in more liquid.
  1. Oil the hot gride and use a ladle to pour the batter.
  2. Cook until done. Usually that means bubbles are covering a good portion of the pancake and then flip and cook for another 2 minutes if pancakes are thick and  1 minute if they are thin.  I    

Wood Fired Pizza

I’ve written about pizzas that I have made in my home oven. And, those were really good. But really good was not quite what I was after. I wanted amazing! I am well on my way, with my wood-fired pizza oven, available on Amazon if you like at Pizza Party 70 x 70 . You can also read all about it (and purchase it) direct from the manufacturer at Pizza Party 70×70. I was reluctant to buy a wood fired oven (WFO) for several reasons: having to light a fire and having to go outside to make pizza were right up there with, “will I use it?” and “will I make better pizza than I already do?” This oven is relatively small and lightweight for a WFO, which means it heats up and cools down fast, and also that you can take it with you when you move. These are all pros or cons depending on what you want a in a WFO.  The hearth (floor) is made up of six fire bricks, which is like cooking with a pizza stone on steroids. The door is only 14 inches across so you won’t be making New York style 16″ diameter pizzas in this oven. My pies tend to be around 10 inch diameters and they are enough to feed one adult. It takes under 2 minutes to get a great pizza.  You can make a long pizza to feed more people if you like. I am still working on getting the longer pie to slide off the peel without making pizza train wreck.  When you do “make a mess”, you can clean it up by dragging a flaming log over the melted cheese and burned sauce, and wait for it turn to ash! I’ve had two pizzas burst into flame, though they did not flame so long that they were ruined. Yes, the oven gets that hot, and yes, it is incredibly cool to see that happen  Pictured below is my oven, chugging away. The first thing to note is that the fire is super easy to start. I bought kiln dried oak and mixed hard woods, and I can get a fire going with one match and some crumpled paper. It was expensive to buy the firewood. Make sure you price the wood before you decide to buy or build a WFO. On the positive side, I didn’t have to cut or stack the wood myself, and it is very clean so I don’t have to worry about spiders or wood rot while it waits in my garage. I also decided to buy a stainless steel table to put beside the oven for a prep table. That makes it easy to prepare the pizza outside, rather than having to do it in the kitchen and then carry it otu ot the yard. By now, you may be asking yourself, why bother?  First, starting fires is fun.  Second, cooking with an open flame is also fun. But, most importantly, the pizza is just better when cooked on a hotter surface. You can get similar results with less of a hassle with something like the Blackstone Pizza Oven, but I’ve not tried one of those, and more importantly, I didn’t want another propane tank to deal with. Plus look how cool this red oven looks…. Pizza baked at high temperatures is really quite different from the pizza made at lower temperatures–it is soft and tender, and makes your mouth very very happy. Here are some pies made the second time I used the oven. They will only get better with practice.       

Sicilian Pizza

I don’t really know what to call this pizza, but I know it is delicious. It was based on a focaccia formula.

The dough is made over two days, using an overnight poolish. It uses a lot of oil so it is not a low calorie food. But it feeds a lot of people and it tastes great.

I can write it up if you like. Just let me know.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/1b1/58609242/files/2015/01/img_2584.jpgThe crumb is quite tender.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/1b1/58609242/files/2015/01/img_2583.jpg