It doesn't necessarily sound like it's going to be great, but once you try it, the combination of spicy, garlicky, pickled kimchi and ooey, gooey cheese is tough to turn your back on.
'The Food Lab' on Serious Eats
I don't miss too many foods as a vegan, but... pizza. My first true love. Light of my life and fire of my loins. It will forever rest in that OMG WANT corner. Fortunately, as I found, great pizza is not off-limits to vegans by any means. Here's how to make vegan pizza every bit as satisfying and delicious as a cheese-topped pie.
In yesterday's Pizza Lab article about how to make fried pizza, I mentioned that the most popular pie of the night was a breakfast-themed pie. I've got to say that it was one of the most seriously delicious pies to come out of my kitchen, and I'm saying that as one who is not even a huge fan of breakfast pizzas or egg-on-pizza in general.
This week's Pizza Lab makes unbearably hot pizza making a thing of the past. No need to light up the grill or crank up the oven. We're making 100% bake-free skillet pizza, and yep, it's good.
Pizza need not have sauce or cheese in order for it to be insanely delicious. Exhibit A: Pizza Bianca. The long, flat, lightly dimpled, flecked-with-coarse salt, crisp-on-the-outside, just barely chewy bread sold by the square in Rome (or Sullivan street, if you prefer). Jeffrey Steingarten wrote at length about finding the perfect slice of pizza bianca at Forno, a bakery in Rome's Campo de' Fiori. I've been there. It's f*&king phenomenal (just ask Ed—he tasted pretty much the whole menu last May. My goal this week at The Pizza Lab is to bring some of that crisp, chewy, olive-oil soaked magic into my own kitchen.
Any pizza lover and observer of Sicilian New Years' traditions may know sfincione, the true Sicilian pizza made with onions, bread crumbs, caciocavallo cheese, and a ton of olive oil. It's pretty delicious any time of year, but especially appropriate for new years, when delicious, simple, hand-held, booze-spongey foods are at their apex of popularity. Not only that, but it's pretty dead-simple to make.
Any serious discussion about the state of pizza in the United States must eventually lead to sausage. In large swaths of America, a pizzeria is judged not just by the quality of its crust, but by the quality of its preferably-homemade-but-definitely-at-least-custom-blended-by-a-master sweet Italian fennel sausage. What's that? Never made sausage before, you say? Don't worry. By the end of the day, you'll be a pro.
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.
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.
For wood-fired, kinda soggy-in-the-middle, true Neapolitan pizzas, a high-moisture, freshly made mozzarella (preferrably from water buffalo milk!) is key. But for the vast majority of pizza styles in the U.S.—our beloved New York style, crispy Greek style, bar pies, New Haven apizza, even Chicago deep dish casseroles—low-moisture aged mozzarella is the cheese of choice. Which is the best?
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.
It's time for another round of The Food Lab. Got a suggestion for an upcoming topic? Email Kenji here, and he'll do his best to answer your queries in a future post. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt] Just as the jocks like to stick together and nerds travel in packs, obsessives bordering on the psychotic (like me) seek out the acquaintance of others like themselves, in a manner that some say borders on the, well, the obsessive. The first time I heard that the mineral content of water might have an effect on the properties of bread dough was about eight...