As you know if you read my previous pizza post, I am a serious pizza aficionado. To the point of obsessiveness. I am also on a quest to perfect my own pizza recipe. I would love to find a way to make a fabulous pizza in my home oven. I know, it will never be the same because my oven only goes up to 500F, and to really truly get the best crust you need an oven temp closer to 800F. And my standards are way too high. Lofty even. Hrm. Then again, deep down, I don’t think that having lofty pizza expectations is a bad thing. In fact, not in the least, as it keeps me out there trying new pizzerias and experimenting at home.
So what does a girl do when she can’t fly to Portland or NY or Rome every time she has a pizza craving? (Okay, that wasn’t really fair, because there is quite a lot of great pizza here in the Bay Area. I’ve just not yet found my ultimate gold standard.) She makes her own. And then makes it again. And again. And she hopes that someday she will find or develop the perfect home pizza recipe. That day has not yet arrived for me, although the experiments continue.
Let me back up for a minute. Growing up, my mom always made homemade pizza. Thanks to her, pizza night for us was way better than for most people, because I grew up in Texas in the 70s. Just try to find an edible pizza. Actually, there was one place in Dallas that I remember had really great pizza and delicious crab claws: Campisi’s Egyptian Lounge. It’s been around since the 1940s. Of course, I would be afraid to go back and ruin my happy memories of the place, but maybe it’s still good. Anyway, I digress. My mom made great pizza, and is still to this day experimenting and perfecting and changing her recipe (and my dad, ever loyal, is still sampling it and claiming it as the best pizza in the universe). Because of her, I developed a love of pizza. Well, maybe a passion, edging on obsession. And I’ve been making pizza for years. All different kinds, and all different recipes. Some were flat-out disasters, and some were amazing, some I couldn’t replicate, and others were fine but still not amazing.
The other night I decided I needed to start trying the recipes in American Pie, Peter Reinhart’s tribute to my favorite food group (and his too, I imagine). If you haven’t seen or read or bought this book, and you like pizza, then I highly recommend purchasing it. It’s a great worldwide adventure in search of the ultimate pizza. It also contains a wealth of knowledge and recipes.
I made his Neo-Neapolitan Sauce and Mutz Pizza (seen above; with some yummy housemade Italian sausage from Golden Gate Meat Company in the SF Ferry Building). I actually, for once, followed the recipe as exactly as I could. (Well, except for the sausage. I admit I have a hard time following many recipes, I always think I know better. Kind of absurd since I’m a cookbook editor. Or not.)
The crust was described as being most similar to what you would find at the famed NY and New Haven-type pizzerias, like John’s, Frank Pepe’s, etc. — a thin, crisp crust with a nice cornicione, generally my favorite. I made the crust according to the recipe, using high-gluten flour, but it wasn’t sticky as the recipe suggested. I did like that he suggested retiring the dough to the refrigerator overnight. This slows the rising time and allows the dough to develop and become more flavorful. I also made the Crushed Tomato Sauce recipe, using a can of 6 in 1 tomatoes. This could not be easier, and I have to say, ended up being my favorite part of the pizza, and my new favorite sauce recipe. It’s simple and because you don’t cook the sauce down, very flavorful. I imagine the choice of canned tomatoes would be key in this sauce, and I suppose I chose well. I also liked the three-cheese mixture of fresh mozzarella, mozzarella, and Parmesan. I prepared the pies on the peel and slid them off onto my unglazed ceramic tile-lined oven rack in my 500F oven, which had been preheating for an hour. Within 10 minutes we were rewarded with beautiful and delicious pizza. yum yum.
The crust, while one of the better that I have made, was not ideal. It was flavorful, but brittle and dry, perhaps even a bit overcooked (although the bottom was nicely browned). It had none of the crisp-yet-tender chewiness that I look for, and no cornicione to speak of. Part of the problem was likely the ratio of flour to water, even though I followed the recipe measurements, it’s always a good idea when making bread to make adjustments (assuming you know what the dough is supposed to feel like). Also, it’s likely that I pulled the dough a bit too thin, especially around the edges.
I will definitely try the dough recipe again, and I’ll be trying his other dough recipes as well, continuing my search for the ultimate home pizza. Crust anyway.
On another pizza note, one of my friends was at Tartine this afternoon and ran into a guy who said he was opening a new pizza place in Oakland in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, she didn’t get any more details than that. Does anyone know anything about this? He might have ties with Delfina (where he was seen prior to Tartine), but I really don’t know. What I do know is that Craig Stoll of Delfina is working on his own pizzeria. Oh, I can’t wait!