Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pizza Quest

I've been cooking a lot lately. I like to cook. In another lifetime, I was a chef in a few restaurants in Toledo, Ohio. I learned to love to cook as a survival skill. My wife is passionate culinary artist and for the last 10 years, she spends more time obsessed  with creating things in the kitchen and I spend more time slaving away outside. This winter though, she has been forced to stay off of her feet to recover from surgery...which she is rapidly...but I have been doing a lot of the actual cooking. For a few years, I was obsessed with creating the pizza crust of my dreams...I grew up in Detroit and there was a little hole in the wall Pizza place on Kentfield and Schoolcraft with a brick oven that made the pizza that will always be the ideal, my unobtainable dream of pizza perfection. Light thin bubbly crust. Crispy, yet not hard. Dusted with semolina. My friends, two brothers lived on the next block, the older of the two brothers eventually bought 2 Pizza carry out places in Detroit and was the proud owner of Pizza Boy #1 and #2. From Mike, I learned how to make a great pizza sauce. For my birthday one year, he gave me an industrial sized tin of anchovies!  Mike was quite a guy, he owned and operated the Pizza shops and was a Detroit Cop at the same time. We were unlikely, but lifelong true friends. I have to mention that I have been back to Detroit and was introduced to The Supino Pizzeria, up at the Eastern Market. I will give them 5 stars...great crust! Great Sauce! and really affordable! World Class Pizza still lives in Detroit!
When I lived in Toledo, I realized what an art great pizza truly was. I can unabashedly say that there is no good pizza in Toledo. Just franchise crap. Then I moved to New York where the price of a piece of pizza seems to determine the rise of subway fares...One of the first really hip little restaurants in the East Village back in the 80's was a place called Two Boots...why Two Boots? the menu was split between Cajun and Italian...and the maps of Italy and Louisiana both look like boots. Frankly, Two Boots makes one of the best pies I have ever had. The opened a branch two blocks from my apartment at East 3rd Street and Avenue A that was also a very hip video you could get a great video and a great pie, one stop no fuss no worry...the Sopressata/Red Pepper Combo was our favorite.
Now, I live nowhere near a pizza joint. Brive-la-Gaillarde is 40 kilometers away. Amazingly enough, there is a pizza maker there who has won world pizza competitions twice, but I have yet to taste his wares. There is a stand in the parking lot of the Intermarche Super Market in Terrasson called Pizza Mania, but I don't think so...they seem to owe their success because they are a block away from the local school.
So, I began my quest to make the crust of my fantasy come true. Finally after quite a few years, I realize the most important elements are simplicity and enough time. Above is a snap of what I made last night. The sauce is from my own tomatoes and I jazzed it up with a pinch of sugar, more basil, anise seeds and minced garlic. I used mozzarella (another nostalgic memory of NYC...buying fresh mozzarella from the guys at the Porceria on Grand and Mott Streets in Little Italy...they'd fish it out of the barrel. I first chained my bike to the bars outside their store, but after a few months, they told me, "Don't chain it, don't worry, if any one tries to steal your bike, They're dead...." I loved that store. I tied to find a link, but I think they are finally gone. It was the place to buy fresh pasta, cheese and any Italian sausage and the very best Prosciutto) Well, there's still great places to buy good Italian products in Lower Manhattan.
So, I bought my mozzarella from the Lidl market in Terrasson and found pepperoni at the Simply. I used mozzarella, some emmenthal and sprinkled parmesan on this pizza...but the soul of a pizza is the crust. Last nights crust was texturally perfect. Totally elastic, I could pull it paper thin if I had wished. I use fine semolina to finish it.
Basically, I start with a packet of dry yeast dissolved in a cup of warm water with just a pinch of sugar. When the yeast is dissolved, I mix a cup and a half of Type 55 bread flour. I guess in the USA, this would be your typical bread, not pastry grade flour. Then I cover the bowl with a towel and let it sit in a warmish place for an hour or so. This makes a "sponge" and it lets the dough rise and form gluten strands. The with a wooden spoon, I add a little salt, about 1/8 cup of olive oil and another cup of flour. Then I tuen it out on a floured surface and knead it for a few minutes...adding flour just until it is not sticky any more. I take the dough and fold it into a ball..I cut a cross into the top of the ball to allow for expansion...then the next element...time. Let it sit covered with a towel in a bowl in a warmish place for  at least 3 hours. When you are ready to make your pizza, turn it out onto your floured surface, if it was like mine was last night, it will be the most elastic dough you evert worked with. I had enough dough to make a few bread sticks
 I only wish I could throw it like this guy!
But the real reason I posted this treatise on my quest for the perfect pizza is to ask you if you have any suggestions. My dough is ...uhhh, okay, but it's not what I fantasize...Do you make pizza? would you share your recipes and techniques with me? Pulll-eeeze?

1 comment:

Ol'Buzzard said...

I make pizza dough in my bread machine, and it turns out great.
the Ol'Buzzard