Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tales From The Pizza Nazi

My kitchen was on fire today. Not the kind of fire that requires a call to 911. The cooking action started around 9:30 AM before heading to church on this Palm Sunday.

 Before anyone was up, I started preparing my kitchen. My island became pizza dough central . 5 lb bread flour - check . Extra large mixing bowl - check . Yeast Packets - check.  measuring cups - check. Rolling ping and board - check.. I was ready for church .

After church, around 10:30 AM I immediately sprung into action.. I knew that I would need several hours to make the dough, and give it enough time to rise, first in a mixing bowl , and second in my pizza trays. If the dough rises in peace, the pizza crust comes out perfectly, golden on top and bottom, crunchy and full of flavor.  I am always afraid of yeast quantities when making fresh dough. But I believe that I have now gotten  the proportions down to where I like them: 1 package of dry yeast to every 5 cups of flour, plus one. Easy to remember, just make sure that your yeast if frozen , needs to come back to room temperature, and remember not to kill it by adding it to very hot and salty water.

After starting my dough , I immediately leap into my mise en place exercises, laying out all that was required to make toppings..  My lenten compatible, pizza topping ingredients included: assorted bell peppers, cremini mushrooms, 1/2 lb of baby spinach , a medium sized red onion, and large shallot, fresh mozzarella and low hydration mozzarella ,  and plenty of herbs, fresh and dry thyme, fresh marjoram , oregano, rosemary   Ingredients

We had a full house today.. Mom, sisters, friends with baby, and cousin Silvia from Italy, yours truly and of course the Queen.  It was a very fun filled day , with fan club and guest behaving . I was on one side of my island, directing kitchen traffic, and they were seated , orderly on the other side or at my large rustic table. At times though, I did have to become strict when they insisted on wanting to slices of some of the pizzas just as they came out of the oven . I forcefully prohibited them from touching or getting near the pies, before I was ready to cut them. Indeed as soon as I sense their conspiratorial moves, I interdicted there maneuvers, and send them right back to their seats.  You see, pizza, like a good piece of roast meat, needs to rest.  I got nicknamed the Pizza Nazi. I liked that. and I will keep the name for the next time too.

The secret to great pizza making lies in creating great toppings and excellent sauce. Or is the secret to great pizza the dough, a dough made from scratch, King Arthur bread flour, yeast, salt and water, nothing else? Well in my kitchen nailing great pizza requires both. Nail them both , I did indeed on this special Sunday. Take at my repertoire


Sunday Pizza Party Menu

Starters
Roasted Eggplant Caponata in a  Lambrusco Fine Mint Vinaigrette
Spicy Boquerones en Vinagre

Mick's Assorted Pizze
The Ab Initio: Rosemary Tomato Focaccia
The Half and Half: Sauteed Mushroom, Sauteed Peppers
Da Bomb: Sauteed Baby Spinach, Goat Cheese Medallions, Sauteed Red Marjoram Onions and Shallots
The Classic : Margherita,  Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce
The Campana : Marinara, Tomato Sauce, Extra Oregano
The Close Out; Tomato Sauce, Sauteed Red Onion, Shallot

Fruits and Salad
Brown Carrot Mixed Salad: Lemon
Pineapple Blueberry Fruit Salad


White Roasted Eggplant Caponata Lambruso Mint Vinaigrette


Rosemary Tomato Focaccia



Half and Half: Sauteed Peppes, Sauteed Cremini

Da Bomb: Sauteed Spinach, Sauteed Red Onion an Shallots, Goat Cheese

Marinara Pizza

Sauteed Red Onion and Shallot Pizzetta

The pizzas were all a great hit. I baked then in order of flavor intensity, in an arrangement that sort of reminded me of a pyramid pattern. The most complex  Da Bomb . was at the apex. It was, as expected also the  day's greatest hit. Folks here's what I learned when making pizza, play with flavors that complement each other, build on them , and you will be able to make small masterpieces for your families and friends.

Brown Carrots - Salad Preparation


Pineapple Blueberry Fruit Salad


It was a good party indeed. full of fun and family joy. I keep thinking about Palm Sunday, and its significance for Christian believers  and non-believers alike. Sunday's during enrich tend to enrich my spiritual life, more and more.

May peace be with you all.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a question I recently got from fan and an my reply back to him Many thanks to Robert S -

    "I've been trying so hard to replicate what you've done with the rosemary tomato pie in this photo [URL omitted]-

    Trying to keep the center ooey-gooey and the bottom and crust crispy

    ANY words of advice would be greatly appreciate.
    I've been trying to get it right for a few weeks now!"



    And my response:

    "Robert, a few tricks i used.

    1. marinate the the tomatoes as if you were making a tomato salad..
    2. use mozzarella di buffala, drain well (ie slice up , wrap with paper towel prior to use) . and not too much .. In italy we never over did it with toppings...
    3. I find that with my oven to get the bottom crispy , ensure the oven is hot, steady hot, usually the first pizza . This makes sure thte bottome gets crusty
    4. before topping the pizza, let it rise int he pan . I used for round pan , medium edge but not that as high as a chicago style pizza
    5. I sometimes add about 25% semolina (high gluten flour) to 75% bread flour. Makes the dough harder to work but provides elasticity which then can translate into crunch.
    6. After taking the pizza out of the oven , let rest for about a minute. then drizzle some raw , extra virgin olive oil and maybe pinch of fine french sea salt.. see what a difference that will make.

    Caveat: Your oven will dictate results, I run my at about 450 or 475 F

    Also , go lite on the rosemary, otherwise you will over power the subtle tastes of the dough , mozza and tomatoes.."


    Happy Pizza Making !

    ReplyDelete