'Pizza Lab' on Serious Eats
Today's installment of The Pizza Lab presents what is probably the most important work of my career. Nay, my life. It's a story of such unparalleled importance that it makes pressing international issues like comparative baking surfaces and cold fermentation seem trivial in comparison. I'm talking about pepperoni curl. What it is, what makes it happen, and how to maximize it. It's far more fascinating than you may think.
Neapolitan style pizza with one key difference. Before going in the oven, the stretched-out disk of dough is deep fried until crisp. I figured it was worth a deeper look. I'm glad I did, because I can tell you that these were some of the finest pies to ever come out of my home kitchen, and believe it or not, it's remarkably simple to do.
There's a reason the old saying that "pizza is like sex—even when it's bad, it's good,"* exists, but it fails to take into account Greek pizza, which is only ever good when it's not terrible. There's no real middle ground here. In other words, if your Greek pizza ain't spectacular, then it ain't worth eating. And spectacular is what we're after.
I've long said that grilling pizza is by far the easiest way for a regular home cook to get pizzeria-quality, soft and airy, crisp, well-charred, smoky pies at home (that is, without resorting to hacking your kitchen equipment), and with grilled pizza season well into full swing, I figured it was time we updated last year's Grilled Pizza Guide, which gives a pretty good overview of the process, but ignores one thing: Toppings.
Pop quiz: what do whipped cream, Nerf footballs, Pizza, and Tempur-Pedic mattresses have in common? That's right — they're all foams. Wait, huh? Pizzas are foams? You mean those annoying, piddly things that chefs were goofing around with in the mid 2000's? That's right, as are hot dog buns, Wonderbread, Pane di Genzano, Portuguese rolls, Naan, pancakes, and pretty much every other leavened batter or dough-based product in the world.
The bar-style pie (that's ultra-thin crusted, crispy around the edges) at Star Tavern is awesome in every way except one: there's only one location. Here's how to recreate the same awesomeness at home.
In his recipe for thin crust pizza from Cook's Illustrated, Andrew Janjigian takes the novel approach of placing the stone on the top rack of the oven. This is totally contradictory to what most pizza authorities recommend: putting the stone on the bottom rack (or even the floor of the oven) in order to maximize the amount of heat it absorbs. So why does this method work?
The ideal square pie needs a soft, moderately chewy, and pliant crust, with an almost fried crispness to the bottom. The layer of cheese should be thicker than on a traditional pizza, and as for the sauce, I like it with a hint of roasted garlic, a touch of herbs, and lightly cooked with a distinct sweetness and overt tomato flavor. I know—I'm a demanding guy, but I'm also willing to work for my pies. 23 takeout containers worth of leftovers,** 8 pounds of mozzarella, 16 pounds of flour, and more tomatoes than you can shake a stick at later, I finally achieved the pie of my dreams. Let me walk you through it.
New York pizza is my favorite style of pizza. Sure, I love me a neo-Neapolitan, sit-down-with-a-fork-and-knife on occasion, and grilled pizzas are fantastic in the summer. Even chewy, Roman-style pizza bianca has its place. But the pizza I find myself most often craving is of the simple, by-the-slice, medium-thin, crusty and lightly chewy style. Here's how to make it at home.
The key to great NY-style sauce is the balance between sweetness, acidity, heat, with a definite herbal backbone and a texture that's thin enough enough to spread, but thick enough to keep your pizza from turning soggy during the de rigeur fold-and-carry.
Fermentation is a fascinating thing. It's what gives a great pizza crust (and all yeast-leavened breads, for that matter) its light, airy structure and distinctive complex, slightly sour taste. But what's the best way to ferment dough? This week, I try to find out.
Perfect Neapolitan pizza at home is a myth. It's a golden ring that can be strived for but never quite achieved. So where does that leave the rest of us home cooks? The ones who want to throw together a quick, really good pizza that doesn't require jury-rigging the oven? Lucky for us, really-really-good-but-not-quite-authentic-Neapolitan-pizza is not an unattainable goal. All you need is a skillet and your oven's broiler.