Saturday, August 29, 2009

Homemade 8/16

This is my first entry about my own pizza-making trials and errors. While these posts may not feature an established pizzeria, I hope it's just as interesting and informative. I've been making pizzas for about a year-and-a-half now, and not only is it a lot of fun, it helps me get a better understanding of the technique, science, and skill of what goes into the pizzas mentioned on this blog.

Once I have a few recipes I'm proud enough to share, you're invited to come over and review it yourself!

In the meantime, I'll show you what I've been making (and what I'm doing wrong). Lately I've been naively attempting to make a Neapolitan pie. Mind you, I live in a small Brooklyn apartment which doesn't afford me access to a brick oven essential to making this type of pizza, so I'm stuck with your run-of-the-mill gas oven with a pizza stone.

The other night I pulled some dough out of the fridge, a concoction improvised somewhere between Jeff Varasano's and Roberto Caporuscio's home oven adaptation of his Kesté dough. Jeff's website has a great albeit intense step-by-step explanation of how to make (Neapolitan) pizza dough. While I used Molino "tipo 00" (a measurement of finest grain) Italian flour, I haven't stepped into the world of yeast culture starters so I stuck with the Fleischmann's dry yeast I get at the grocery store.

Hey, we're makin' a Neapolitan here! Buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes are a must! I won't get into the science that differentiates a gas oven from the highly-coveted brick oven, but basically the intense radiant heat from a brick oven will cook a pizza in under two minutes. Gas ovens on the other hand cook using convections and At Caporuscio's recommendation, I 'pre-baked' the crust with sauce on it for about 8 minutes on the broiler setting (600 or so degrees) before adding the cheese and basil (otherwise it'll burn!).

Now truly traditional Neapolitan pizzas use NO olive oil in making the dough. I don't know why, they just don't. My guess is it would burn the eff out of the pizza (remember, it's only in the oven for about a minute as it is!). I'd like to stay as traditional as possible, but I'm also not baking in brick oven. That being the case, I'm willing to bend a few rules to get my desired outcome, so I brushed half the pizza with EVOO to see if it would burn faster/cook different from the other half. The finished product:

I wish I had a better close-up of the cornicione, but the side on the right is the olive oiled side. Obviously this is nowhere near a traditional Neapolitan in taste or appearance (no leopard spots!)

What a disappointment! Not a char in sight, it hardly even looks browned! The crust was chewy, but in a stale sort of way, and by no means airy or fluffy. I am sad. The buffalo mozz tasted great, but puddled up in the middle of the pie.

Overall it tasted pretty decent- but it was miles away from what I'm trying to create. Next time I am going back to using olive oil in my dough and repeating the process to see if it makes much difference. Also, I know the preheating of the sauce on top of the dough keeps the pizza moist and not too dry while baking, but that cost my sauce it's moisture. Bummer!

I'm still trying to figure out the trick to really light, fluffy cornicione that just blows up in the oven. I would love to try Kenji's broiler & stove top 'hack' - if I only had a true broiler compartment beneath my stove.

*Sigh* The restrictions of a conventional oven. Maybe I'll just make one of these.

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