Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brooklyn Kitchen/Roberta's Pizza Class

While cruisin' for homebrew supplies on the Brooklyn Kitchen's website last week, something caught my attention. At first I thought my eyes were deceiving me- could it really be? A two-hour class taught by Roberta's Chris Parachini on how to make Neapolitan-style pizzas in a home oven?

What a happy coincidence, since I totally have not been making three pies a week for the past five months. Okay maybe I have been, but I haven't been gaining much ground in my battle to make a better pizza. I needed guidance, and this class at BKitchen became my support group.

Brooklyn Kitchen just opened up a new location on 100 Frost St. in Williamsburg, practically under the BQE. As I mentioned, they have a decent selection of homebrew supplies, plus miscellaneous cooking untensils, butcher shop called The Meat Hook, and brand new cooking labs, where the class took place.

The first thing I hear when I walk in was, "Welcome, want a beer?" I knew instantly I was in the right place. Chris runs the class with his chief pizzaiolo from Roberta's, Angelo. They make a great team, and it's laughably clear that even when he's not on the clock, Angelo can't escape Chris's highly-detailed scrutiny.

That's Chris taste-testing Angelo's red sauce, not gesturing that he's going to yak into the bowl of crushed tomatoes. Considering this was the first class of its kind, I'm sure Chris wanted to make sure it all went smoothly, but his potshots at Angelo were all in good fun.

I have to admit that I was a tad worried going into the class that it wasn't going to be worth the cost of admission ($75). After I signed up, I sent the link to Adam @ Slice, and five minutes later Pizza Blogger replied with a how-to video of Chris making pies at Roberta's. Had I just wasted my money?

Definitely not. While the video has some great tips, you can't boil a two-hour class down to a six-minute clip. Angelo and Chris give everyone special attention and were able to right some of my pizza-making wrongs. That alone made the class worth it to me (but then again, I'm in the fringe group of weirdos that makes more pizzas at home than I know what to do with).

Since dough takes time we didn't have to ferment and rise, we set our dough balls aside while Chris brought out some already-risen dough he made the night before.

I love the re-purposing of a spackle knife as a dough scraper. Makes sense though, right?

After Angelo walked everyone through the delicate stretching process, we started making our pies. Did I mention we got to use Roberta's home-made mozz? Here's my pie, pre-basil/pre-oven:

I wish I could show you the "after shot," but with all the commotion and so many pies, I lost sight of it after it came out.

Needless to say, everyone went a bit wild with the cheese. Fine by me!

The difference in crust "puffiness"/hole structure between these pies and the ones I've been making is drastic. Despite my better efforts, my crusts have been dense and bready. This is what I've been after:

My only wish was that we talked a little more about home oven conventions and how to get the most out of them. I know it's a big subject to cover considering everyone's oven is different, and Chris did a good job of discussing stones, ceramic tiles (what we used), and basic airflow/convection, but after reading some of the techniques home-bound pizzaiolos Pizza Blogger and Foolish Poolish have been using, I think the class could benefit from a quick chat on broilers and stone placement in the oven. Woof, run-on sentence much?

In the end, I can't recommend this class enough to anyone who is interested in making great pizza at home, or anyone who just loves pizza. It's a great facility, with great company, taught by great teachers. I went out and bought some new flour and yeast last night at Buon Italia and made some dough; considering how impressed I was with the results from the class, I may not be leaving my kitchen for quite some time!

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