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 The Pizza Thread - Piffle

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Posts : 1108
Join date : 2011-02-20
Location : Morelia
Humor : Ironic

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PostThe Pizza Thread - Piffle

The Pizza Thread - Piffle SAM_0314

To pizza I say piffle, that's PIFFLE - Pizza Is For Food Lovers Everywhere.

Anyone who doesn't like pizza just hasn't found the right kind of pizza to suit them yet, but who doesn't like pizza? It is one of America's favorite fast-foods, though it's not always that fast, and it is probably the most healthy choice in fast-foods not to mention the tastiest. It certainly is the most versatile and personalize-able of the fast-foods, but lets get off the fast-food kick, discard the Domino's delivery pizza for a moment and talk about the pizza made at home.

There is just no end to what you can do with pizza made in your own kitchen. You can throw the kitchen sink into a deep-dished everything-under-the-sun meat and veggie pizza, or the purist can make a simple pepperoni pizza on a crisp thin crust. they are all good. The pizza pictured above is actually a "white" pizza, that is to say it has no tomato sauce but uses a special sauce I made to help bring all the elements together. It turned out good, was an experiment prompted by a friend online whose husband prefers white pizzas, and in a conversation on the subject of white pizza said I would have a go at it myself. But to be honest I prefer the traditional red-sauce pizzas. It is just not a hard, fast rule in pizza-making that one needs to use a tomato sauce, there really are not any rules. There are some obvious limitations but essentially for pizza, anything goes. Todo vale. This white pizza is topped with roasted chicken, baby portobello mushrooms, mango, and calabacitas (zuchinni), and tomato slices.

I will get into the intracacies of pizza making in this thread. Actually there is only one step that really can be critical and that is making the crust, a good crust can make or break a pizza, and it is the only part that has to adhere to at least some rough measurements, proper ingredients, and requires a little effort to get it right. So to get ready for that big step I will end this first post here and open my sack of flour to get ready to show that first big, all-important step.

"There is no route out of the maze. The maze shifts as you move through it because it is alive. "
— Philip K. Dick (VALIS)
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The Pizza Thread - Piffle :: Comments

Dave and Rosy
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Mon 27 Jun 2011, 15:30 by Dave and Rosy
We await your tutorial recipes... yummm and please with tomato sauce...
Don Cuevas
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Tue 28 Jun 2011, 06:00 by Don Cuevas
My Pizza Pics; some of my pizzas, some of pizza pros'.
Click me for pizza!

I'd better include a wedge shot of a recent pizza.

The Pizza Thread - Piffle IMG_0698
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Tue 28 Jun 2011, 10:18 by Peter
A "recent" pizza?? Is this one you made at home recently? Looks good! Your Picasa spread had many that appeard to come from American pizzarias. Almost unfair comparison but we tend to make do here.

Finding suitable cheeses is not always easy. Queso Oaxaca works, it melts, and there are mozzarelas to be found in most larger stores but that is often limited to bags of shredded cheese. Costco and Sam's has some good cheeses but it is not always dependable to be able to find certain ones again after buying some to experiment with. What did/do you typically use?

For my white pizza I would have like to have made it with a clam sauce but locating such items are kind of hit and miss here. I settled for using chicken in mine. Last Friday we were at Mega Commercial and found a large can of chopped clams for around $200mx. I passed for the time being as the can was so large it would have meant eating clams all week. When the weather gets cooler I will hope to find these again and make clam chowder.
Don Cuevas
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Tue 28 Jun 2011, 18:21 by Don Cuevas
The colorful wedge in the pic was at Ray's Famous NY Pizza, Verona, NJ.
I have several shots of their amazing pizza varieties in a dedicated Pizza Album.

At home, the most recent pizza I made was a simple Margherita, with crushed Italian tomatoes, mozz cheese and fresh basil.
The Pizza Thread - Piffle IMG_0702

The second pizza was a Puttanesca, with tomatoes, black and green olives and anchovies. It also got a sprinkle of mild red pepper flakes.
The Pizza Thread - Piffle IMG_0703

About clams: Wal-Mart and I think, Superama, have jars of whole baby clams. The same product is also available in cans, for somewhat less. They are excellent products, running about $60 pesos per.

Here's a photo of the classic white clam pizza, at The Spot (next door to Pepe's), in New Haven, CT.
The Pizza Thread - Piffle DSCF0024

Now this is making me hungry.
Don Cuevas
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Tue 28 Jun 2011, 18:54 by Don Cuevas
Another thought: I'm not too keen on most of the pepperoni I've had in recent years. Locally, I prefer to use a semi-dry Spanish type chorizo. It works well, is less greasy and to me, it tastes better.
I can get them at Don Chucho's, the gringo's gourmet grocer of Pátzcuaro, as well as other places.

The Pizza Thread - Piffle IMG_6306
The ones on the left. The ones on the right are "casero", and too picante for my taste.
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Tue 28 Jun 2011, 21:53 by Peter
Gringo gourmet grocer... I don't know of such in Morelia. I guess we have some supermarkets that are semi-gourmet for the upscale crowd. None of that on my end of town though.

I end up making a lot of linguicia pizza or Italian sausage that I get at Superama. I find pepperoni in various forms here and there. Mostly use the bags of frozen, sliced pepperoni from Sam's or Costco but haven't bought any for awhile. For a time I was craving pepperoni but after a time of havng it regularly I do prefer the local-made sausages. I will buy the Argentinan chorizo, white or yellow variety, when my carnicería makes them but that is not regularly. I like those anytime but their availability usually prompts me to make pizza with them.

Good thing about pizza is that anything goes. A favorite Mexican style I haven't made in a long time is tuna and jalapeño. I use much more mango than piña when the occasion calls for a sweet touch. One of the pizza photos I have coming up has mango as a topping and how to deal with the mango. Cut off the flat sides, score them in a criss-cross then push them out and cut off the dices.

The Pizza Thread - Piffle SAM_0304
Don Cuevas
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Wed 29 Jun 2011, 05:15 by Don Cuevas
Don Chucho's customer base are local people, but they do carry a lot of specialty foods that appeal to gringos. Much of those items they buy at Costco or maybe Sam's and add a little markup. There's a cheese factory across the street, and the Panadería La Espiga, with its wood fired oven and terrific sourdough rolls is a few blocks north

Besides those delicacies, I was able to find Cristal Manteca Vegetal—the only store in Pátzcuaro that I know of. I consider Cristal second only to Crisco for making pie crusts.

Last edited by Don Cuevas on Thu 30 Jun 2011, 06:49; edited 1 time in total
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Wed 29 Jun 2011, 08:59 by Peter
Thanks, I'll watch for that brand. Not sure which I've used here, everything is kind of make-do. I've gotten some reasonable pie crusts though. Might have been that brand I used. Don't remember off-hand where I bought it, Soriana or Superama perhaps.
Don Cuevas
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Fri 01 Jul 2011, 03:34 by Don Cuevas
I like the U.S. brand, "Precious" Mozzarella, as sold in 907 gram blocks at Costco. It's to be preferred over the pre-shredded mozz in a bag. As you say, Peter, Queso Oaxaca makes a good substitute. There are other white, melting Mexican cheeses that will do in a pinch, but the Oaxacan is closest to mozz.
Hound Dog
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Fri 01 Jul 2011, 11:03 by Hound Dog
I´m sympathetic with you guys but, since I prefer pizza prepared in a wood fired oven, of which Dawg ain´t got one in his home, I prefer that someone else prepare it. As someone once said about sandwiches, they always taste better when prepared by someone else - well that´s Dawg´s preference as well when it comes to pizza.

When we are in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, a town with a large Italian colony, we prefer the thin crust pizzas from Pizzeria El Punto prepared in the wood fired oven and are especially fond of their versions of Pizza Pugliese and Siciliana but they have many varieties and I have never had a bad pizza there. There are a number of very good pizzerias in San Cristobal but El Punto, with two locations, has a branch on El Cerrillo Plaza near our home there and that, plus their delicious thin crust, wood fired pizzas makes them the winner down there in our book.

Now, when we are in Ajijic, we rarely eat pizza except when we have swimming parties for the kids of our local Mexican friends and we have learned long ago that Domino´s is fine but we had damn well better have some catsup in the house as that is an essential ingredient for these youngsters.

Sorry no pictures but as to the latter pizza, just invite some Mexican kids over, order any Domino´s pizza and pour catsup over it. Maybe, I´ll try that method the next time the kids are over only with a bit of mayonnaise as well.

Now Dawg´s darlin´ wife is a frog and she has added immensely to my pizza eating repertoire by the addition to my menu the delicious pisaladier or French onion and anchovy pizza popular in the Nice area and made on a thin crust with tomato sauce but no cheese. Damn, I could have married old Betty Sue back in Alabama and spent my life after youthful and complicating sexual adventures having subsisted on collard greens and hog jowls and I married a frog and lived on stuff like pisaladier. Here´s to variety.
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Fri 01 Jul 2011, 13:30 by JimRP
So Pete, when you started this thread, you promised to share your recipe for pizza crust. I hope that is still on the way!

Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Fri 01 Jul 2011, 23:11 by Peter
Pizza Dough

The Pizza Thread - Piffle SAM_0306
Ready for the oven

Well, here it is, the magic formula:

- 3 parts flour for the foundation
- 1 measure of dry yeast to make it rise
- 1 spoon of sugar to feed the yeast
- 1 dash of salt to give it flavor

Mix these together and add:
- 1 part water, very warm to start the yeast
- 1 drizzle of oil for the helluvit

Knead vigorously by hand 7-10 minutes (or more) or use electric mixer with dough hook. The dough should aggregate completely and should pull cleanly away from the mixing bowl, or adjust flour or water slightly until it does.

The Pizza Thread - Piffle SAM_0309

The Pizza Thread - Piffle SAM_0311

Give it a few minutes rise time covered with a towel then roll it out to fit your pan, then allow a few more minutes covered before adding toppings. I set the pizza pan with the ready dough, covered, on top of the stove as the oven pre-heats so the warmth will rise the dough quickly.

The Pizza Thread - Piffle SAM_0302

That's the basic formula and all you would ever need to know or do to have a good pizza crust every time. But taking a look at all the pizzas pictured you will see plenty of variation, though all on the same general theme.

Slight adjustments to the mixture, rise times, type of flour, freshness of the yeast, thickness of the dough, baking times and temperatures, addition of other ingredients, reposing the dough, etc., all will customize your dough and/or make it suitable for thick custs, thin crusts, deep-dish style, give it crispness, stretchiness, and other characteristics.

Best to start out by following the basic imprecise formula, then roll out the dough suitable to the type of pizza you want to make. See by practice what that does for you and how you may want to customize your dough.

The grade of flour you use, how active your yeast is, how you activate the yeast, how you rise the dough, if you use canola oil vs. extra virgin olive oil, all will give somewhat different results. There is no right or wrong way, the experts and afficionados can argue the fine points, there is just making a kind of dough you like. Simple!
Don Cuevas
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sat 02 Jul 2011, 03:26 by Don Cuevas
I use a variation of the pizza dough recipe in "The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two", by Anna Thomas.

Quote :
1: I am not a vegetarian, but I really like this book.
2: This is not an authentic Neapolitan pizza dough recipe, but it works well.
1 pkg (1tbsp) dry yeast (I prefer to use less, if Im not in a hurry, and let the dough rise more slowly. It tastes better, risen over 4 or 5 hours. Easy to do in col Pátzcuaro area weather.)
Dissolve in 1/4 cup of warm water, let sit 5 minutes.
Approx 1 cup warm, not hot water in mixing bowl.
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
The dissolved yeast
approx 3 cups of flour, added in increments. I like Sello Rojo Tradicional, if I can get it. If not, I use Harinera Guadalupana OPTIMA.
1 tbsp Olive oil and a bit more for the bowl.

I usually start mechanical mixing with the flat beater, then as the dough begins to come together, switch to a dough hook. But as Peter indicated, hand mixing is fine.

When the dough forms a ball and cleans up the inside of the bowl, it's kneaded.
Coat with a light film of olive oil and let rise slowly, covered, (I use hotel shower caps) at least 2 hours and up to 5.

I could eat pizza every week, but it's more trouble than pasta, so we have pasta more often.

Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sat 02 Jul 2011, 04:20 by Peter
Sounds like the same formula but in a somewhat different order. The only real difference is the shower cap, but if you are going to let it rise for five hours you may need something more airtight than a towel to keep the dough from drying out on top.

My preference is to make up enough dough that I have enough left-over for one or two more pizzas then store the extras in the refrigerator to let them repose for a couple days or more and rise slowly in a plastic bag. When you get ready to use it let it come up to room or kitchen temperature. If there is need to store longer than a few days they can be frozen of course.

Less yeast used can give a chewier dough.

My pasta maker gets a good workout also. Been making more pizzas lately though.
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sat 02 Jul 2011, 04:35 by Peter
Peter's Choice: I use a long-neck corona bottle to roll out the dough. It is wide enough to make a nice, flat dough and the area by the neck of the bottle is good for small adjustments to allow for making an almost perfectly round dough.
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sat 02 Jul 2011, 09:04 by JimRP
Thanks guys! I'll be checking this out. I like the idea of using the Corona bottle to roll out the dough--'cause then you need to empty one while cooking!

Don Cuevas
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sat 02 Jul 2011, 10:08 by Don Cuevas
Although I have 3 different rolling pans, I prefer to gently extend (stretch) the dough by hand, if I've made it right. But two-thirds of the time, I end up rolling it.
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sat 02 Jul 2011, 13:55 by cheenagringo
With all of these pizza experts on this forum, I have a question to ask. Does anyone have experience with baking on a pizza stone? We got one earlier this year and would appreciate any suggestions or secrets that you might wish to pass on!
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sat 02 Jul 2011, 14:33 by JimRP
In addition to Neil's question, I have another. What is the expert advice about cooking temps and times for pizza? I'll be using a conventional oven. In my case, it will be on a pan--not a stone.

Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sat 02 Jul 2011, 18:25 by Peter
Exact times and temperatures would be somewhat subjective. Hot ovens for short durations are typically what is suggested. A starting suggestion might be 475 F for 12-15 minutes.

A thin-crust pizza would require less "cooking" time and might make its entire journey on the upper racks. Precise times would have to be determined by what type of pizza you are making, how big and thick, and what your preferrences are. I typically like a thin-crust pepperoni pizza to be more well-done than most other types. The thin-crust takes little time for it to cook and high-temps are desired to get the browning. A thick-crust with lots of toppings has a different cooking dynamic, more time cooking and less time browning. Too much time spent browning after having cooked it you may end up with a pizza cooked on thick, hard bread.

Pizza ovens generally put out higher more intense heat than a standard oven. They have different levels that would use a lower shelf to cook the pizza initially and finish it off on top for browning. My Drago stove can be more intense than a standard oven so is good for pizza. I warm it up medium-high and start cooking the pizza at that level but then blast it short of full-out to finish on the top rack.

Pizza stones. Some people would swear by them. I would be more one to swear at them. The advantage people claim is it makes a crisper crust as the stone will remove moisture as it cooks.

The problem I have is more with limitations and logistics. For the stone to work efficiently it must be pre-heated and it is generally assumed you will be cooking the pizza directly on the stone. One limitation is that you are not going to be able to use oil on the bottom of the pizza as some might put in a pan. Another is that you are not going to be able to cook a deep-pan pizza directly on the stone, though there could be some advantage to placing an intermediate vessel onto a heat-retaining surface for transferring heat onto the bottom for more thorough cooking of the dough. The other problem is getting a prepared pizza onto and off of the stone without incident.

For stone-cooking it is recommended to have a wooden pizza peel, like a shovel or wide spatula, for preparing the pizza and for getting it onto the stone. Then it is further recommended to have a metal pizza spatula for removing the pizza from the stone when it is done. With a little compromising it may be possible to find and use one tool suitable for both purposes. It will likely take some practice using these before it becomes an easy task and can be done consistently accident-free.

There are forces of friction, adherence, inertia, and thrust that will need to be mastered to use these effectively. Loosely-topped pizzas would create a problem with shifting load when attempting to remove the uncooked pizza from the peel while reaching into the oven as the heat waves rise up into your face. A toppled-off olive or sausage piece may have to be abandoned for later clean-up. Nevertheless, when there is a will there is a way.

The pizza peel would need to be well-dusted so that the pizza can slide easily. Some people rapidly suggest using corn meal on the bottom, others suggest corn meal can burn and is too hard and gritty to be pleasing. If your pizza requires quite a bit of assembly the dough's moisture can bleed through the dusting and cause it to stick to the peel, so would have to be delicately peeled back and re-dusted underneath.

It will always be necessary to check that the pizza can freely slide off the peel before inserting into the oven, then the problem is conveying the pizza the short distance to the oven without dropping it and a firm grip on the round handle will be necessary. There are these same problems in reverse when removing it from the oven. A metal spatula will be necessary in case there is any problems with sticking to the stone which could very easily happen if there is any cheese run-off down the edges, or from any other topping that may have become dislodged in the transfer process.

One other limitation is that the stone is placed in the oven in a fixed spot for the baking process so there will not be opportunity to move the pizza up to a higher rack for browning.

The baking stone is a modern throw-back to the masonary oven and there are some old-time advantages one might expect to gain. The crisp crust is what stone-lovers claim make it all worthwhile and so swear by the stones. You may have to try yours out for awhile to see if you are a "swear-by" or will remain a "swear-at" user, as I would expect there is some normal amount of swearing that must be expected to take place while learning to become adept at using these.

Note: I have a stone pan that is shaped like a large cookie sheet with a ridge around the sides. It is large enough that a medium pizza can be maniplated into place easily enough. This was a present from a dear aunt of mine around a decade ago but I really have not used it much due to the problems I described. I could see there may be an advantage to the slow-heating stone surface that usually needs to be pre-heated for a half-hour minumum before use. I used it effectively un-preheated to keep the bottom of some items I was baking from taking too much heat and over-browning while attempting to thoroughly cook the insides of the project.

Best of luck to you and I would be curious how well the stone works out for you. You might ask for some tips from the friend that gave you this stone. I expect it was new and not his old one he was passing along, eh?
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sat 02 Jul 2011, 20:43 by cheenagringo

Thank you for your extensive response to my query!

Actually the stone, pizza paddle and rack was purchased by myself as a birthday present for Kathy. It was kind of a desperation thing since I usually use up all of my great ideas for Christmas presents and then have to deal with her birthday 25 days later.

I did some research on the Internet and read the instruction book that came with the kit thoroughly. Since everything I read recommended seasoning with olive oil, I did go through that process of heating and reheating with applications of olive oil. The stone is a very nice golden brown and we have not had any sticking problems. You are absolutely right about the learning curve of placing the pizza on the stone and it's removal at the end of the baking process. While the paddle does make things a bit easier, we have found that a very wide nylon spatula can be handy in the manipulations.

Tonight we are cheating with a pre-made "take-n-bake" from our favorite pizza joint that is clear on the other side of the city. Their regular baked on the premises pizzas are great when fresh out of the ovens but lack something when reheated after a trip across town.

Kathy is the pizza critic while I can be satisfied by most any pizza that does not have a bitter sauce and a decent crust!
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sat 02 Jul 2011, 23:32 by Peter
I have seen arguments about whether to season or not season the stone, the argument being that by seasoning it a lot of the porousness is gone and only heat retention quality remains. I don't have an opinion on the matter but I can see the point being made. A cast-iron skillet is seasoned with oil so is less prone to rust and has a better surface for non-stick. The stone won't rust and not sure if the other quality is necessary or desireable as a trade-off.

Still dangerous to use oil on the bottom of the pizza. It would be similar to heating a dry skillet at high level then tossing on a spoon of oil - almost explosive sizzle. Even an oil-treated stone is dry in the oven, then with an oily-bottomed pizza thrown on suddenly it could have consequences. Meant to be baked dry.

To re-heat pizza I like to use some oil in a skillet and a cover. I've actually had that improve the texture and flavor from the original fresh-from-the-oven pizza.

I can imagine a pizza stone is a type of thing I might buy then wonder later if it was worthwhile having. I'm sure the cost could be easily justified for the entertainment value of just experimenting with it whether or not I later decide if it is worth using. Who know? It might be.

Let us know what you think about it, please.
Don Cuevas
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sun 03 Jul 2011, 05:55 by Don Cuevas
When I was in Spanish Language School in Cuernavaca in 1992, I thought it would be a treat to make pizza for my host family's daughter's 16th birthday.

We went to the Super Gigante to buy delicacies with which to adorn the pizzas.
All went well until I discovered that there were no suitable pans for pizza in the house.

I went out into the patio to ponder this dilemma, and near the service patio found several slabs of loza, or floor tile. Just the ticket!

I cleaned them up and with them lined the oven grate. The peel deficiency was apparently solved by wrapping some cardboard sheet with aluminum foil. Not really. The improvised peel was o.k. for insertions but not so good for withdrawals. Embarassed

Came the moment to bake, I opened the inadequately preheated oven, inserted my "peel", and with a jerk, released the pizza which doubled up and flew against the back wall inside the oven.

After scraping out what I could, I proceeded more carefully. The pizzas were tasty but never attained a state of full doneness.

For several days after, my host mother and her muchacha helper were cleaning the oven.

My next exercise, on our return a year later (the amazing thing is that that family not only tolerates me, but likes us to visit!) was spaghetti and meatballs. That story is for another day. It was a long and tedious process but very successful. Well, the spaghetti sucked but the meatballs and sauce were divine.
Re: The Pizza Thread - Piffle
Post Sun 03 Jul 2011, 09:15 by Peter
Good illustration of the joy of pizza stones. Of course you were using make-shift implements but I have heard stories of things going sour even under more ideal circumstances. Crap occurs, and some circumstances can be natural laxatives. This is not to say that accidents cannot happen when using pizza pans but they do greatly minimize the risks factors.

I would love to have the aplomb to toss and spin pizza dough like those guys in the windows of their pizzerias and might then have more appreciation for the stone-cooking methods. I am not yet convinced of the all the merits given to the stones though they may be true. A proper gas pizza oven with stones placed on different levels would overcome the deficiency I see with the home pizza makers' use of these. The rest is simply a matter of becoming skillful with the tools necessary to use the stones.

Perhaps if I were to build a wood-fired brick oven I would in-turn become a purist in the art of pizza-making. As it is though, I like the convenience of gas-fired ovens, BBQ's, metal pizza pans, and many other trapping of the modern world and am thus far willing to accept certain trade-offs that compromise the ability to attain perfection in this art.

There really is a special of quality of flavor leña imparts and I have a not-overwhelming desire to build a small brick oven here for that specific purpose, but even if I had such I could foresee most instances where convenience would win-out and that brick oven would only find use on worthwhile special occasions where I would assent to making a day of it. The flavor gained would be well worth the effort. Though if that were my only means or if I became that much of a purist then I am sure I would be making much less pizza than I do today.
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