Our office is at the epicenter of the vodka pizza universe, what with both Pomodoro and Rubirosa a couple blocks away. The former is not worth a damn (despite some rave Yelp! reviews)—overly greasy, unspectacular crust, and candy-sweet sauce—while the latter is spectacular. Crisp and charred with a pleasant chew like all great pizza, it's got a creamy vodka sauce that is just rich enough that you know you're not eating regular pizza, but not so rich that you feel like your stomach may fall out or involuntarily empty itself in protest by the time you're done. It's a great alternative when you've been stuck in a pizza rut, and a recipe that's good to have in your own home arsenal.
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It's exciting times indeed in the world of backyard pizza-making. Last year, I tested out two fantastic products that improved the quality of my home-baked pizzas by leaps and bounds. This year, I've combined their powers to produce the ultimate—and inexpensive—home pie-slinging setup.
Back when I was a wee food labber who spent his summers at band camp,* my favorite day of the summer was when the camp's cook, Glen, would make his pesto. We'd have a camp-wide pesto spaghetti eating contest, in which I may have been the only competitor. This simultaneously made me a winner and a complete loser each time. What can I say? I loved my pesto back then as much as I love it now. Today, we're gonna stick it on pizza. But first, a few words to the wise.
French bread pizza doesn't have to be that boring, overly sweet, soggy staple of cafeteria lunches that we all know. Here's how to make a version that's boldly seasoned, well balanced, and perfectly textured.
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.
I've got a confession to make: I love pan pizza. I'm not talking deep-dish Chicago-style with its crisp crust and rivers of cheese and sauce, I'm talking thick-crusted, fried-on-the-bottom, puffy, cheesy, focaccia-esque pan pizza, dripping with strings of mozzarella and robust sauce. If only pizza that good were also easy to make at home. Well here's the good news: It is. This is the easiest pizza you will ever make. Seriously. All it takes is a few basic kitchen essentials, some simple ingredients, and a bit of patience.
Last week, I wrote a piece about a pet obsession of mine: What makes pepperoni slices curl? The final conclusion was that it largely has to do with temperature differentials between the top surface heating faster than the bottom, as well as meat flow patterns inside the sausage caused by the stuffing horn being slimmer than the casing. A few hours after the post went live, I got an email from my friend Evros Loukaides, a research student at Cambridge University studying the behavior and applications of thin morphing structures. Apparently, curling pepperoni falls squarely in the line of his work simulating thin morphing structures.
I first reviewed the Baking Steel a few weeks ago, a new home pizza-making tool that delivered the best crust I've ever made in a home oven, over and over again. Since then, some folks have been asking questions: How does the new half-inch version compare? How does the Lodge cast iron pizza pan stack up? I headed into the kitchen and baked off a dozen pies to see if we could answer those questions.
I came out with the early word on the Baking Steel, a product which at the time was in Kickstarter mode trying to raise enough money for their first run. Thanks to crazy pizza heads like you, they managed to blow past their initial investment requirements by several thousand dollars. By all accounts, founder Andris Lagsdin is in over his head trying to keep up with demand on that first run. This is good news for him, and even better news for home piemakers, because I've got to tell you: This is the most impressive home pizza product I've ever tested.
We've gone through a lot of pizza styles and recipes here at The Pizza Lab, but I still often get asked "what's the best pizza crust recipe you know?" When I'm in the mood to fire up the grill or heat up the broiler, I might take my time and make a Neapolitan-style lean dough. If I want to relive my childhood without stepping out my apartment door, it's a New York-style. Company coming over and I want to feed a crowd without messing up the kitchen? It's Sicilian-style square pie all the way. Here's a brief run-down on the three recipes that every home pie-maker should have in their arsenal to tackle all manner of pizza-centric circumstances.
Good news: we finally got some good results out of the KettlePizza after-market insert that supposedly turns your kettle grill into a wood-burning pizza oven. Strike that, we actually got great results. In fact, I'd even say the pies I've been pulling off my grill for the past few weeks have been some of the best I've ever made at home. This time, we've tried out a few different inexpensive hacks to modify the existing insert into something that really produces a great pie. By the time we were through, we were pulling out neapolitan-style pies that cooked through in a mere two to three minutes, producing excellent charring, a moist, cloud-like interior, and a crackly, blistered crusts.
We tested the KettlePizza insert back in 2010 when it first came out and were not extremely impressed with the results. Since that early look, the inventor, Al Contarino has jumped into the conversation to let us know that he's come up with a new and improved model that should address many of the problems we had with the old one. We were all too happy to give the new model another shot. Here's how it went down.
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.
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.