Love to eat

Great Pizza at Home

Posted: November 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

Back in April I had the good sense to sign up for the Great Pizza at Home class offered up at The Pantry at Delancey. Good thing I did, because those classes are getting harder and harder to get into. I tried to sign up for the Advanced Pizza Workshop, but within 30 minutes of receiving the email announcement for the class, it was sold out.

Six month after signing up, I finally attended the 3-hour workshop, lead by Brandon Pettit, and here’s s summary of what I learned.

Use Fresh Flour

Fresh flour tastes better. Whole wheat flour is probably already rancid by the time you get it home. You know that “healthy” taste that we attribute to whole wheat flour? — it’s the flavor of rancid flour. Store your whole wheat flour in the freezer to help maintain its freshness.

Washington state is one of the largest wheat producers in the world, so we have access to really fresh flour here. Italian flour is not necessarily better, as it is likely milled from wheat imported from the US. Stone Buhr flour is made from Washington wheat and is commonly stocked in grocery stores.

Good Flavor Takes Time

A flavorful pizza dough cannot be achieved in the 2 hours typical of most pizza dough recipes. The Delancey dough requires relatively little yeast and a slow rise. The dough is left to proof 16 to 20 hours, during which time it grows 2 to 2-1/2 times its original size. Pettit recommends Fleichman’s yeast for its flavor.

More Salt

Another typical flaw of most pizza dough recipes is inadequate salt. Salt slows the production of yeast, which produces better flavor.

It’s Not the Water

Contrary to what some pizza nerds believe, where the water comes from doesn’t really make a difference. According to Pettit, he’s tried the dough with water from locations all over the country and hasn’t been able to tell a difference.

Get a Wood-Fired Pizza Oven

Sadly, the single biggest takeaway from this class for me was that my home oven alone isn’t capable of producing the pizza I’m aspiring to make at home. We prepared and sampled the Delancey dough cooked in their wood-fired oven along side the same dough cooked in the Pantry’s home-style gas ovens. As you might have guessed, the wood-fired pizza was heavenly, while the other was, well, just homely.

A maximum temperature of 550-degrees is not hot enough to get the crispness, subtle smokiness, or the spotted underside that is characteristic of really good pizza. The pizza oven at Delancey is fueled by apple wood and reaches temperatures of 700 to 800-degrees.

Combinations of grilling pizza, cooking pizza on cast iron, and broiling were all discussed as ways to get the subtle char and a properly cooked top and bottom. Home oven hacks were touched on briefly, but I guess details on that topic are being saved for the Advanced Pizza Workshop.

The Recipe?

So what about the recipe? Well, Pettit is working on revising the recipe to work better in a home oven which I think is worth waiting for. While the dough was delicious from a home oven, it didn’t shine. My recommendation is to find the dough recipe from The Mozza Cookbook which has been modified to work in a typical home oven.