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The FotW Homemade Pizza Thread

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 05 April 2018 at 09:06
This may sound a bit obsessive, but some of my most treasured "food memories" throughout life revolve around pizza: a family outing to Eugene's Pizza in Glasgow, Montana after a day of fun at Fort Peck Reservoir; "Pizza Day" at school lunch, back when they actually cooked school lunch; working at a local pizzeria as one of my first jobs; pizza dates with The Beautiful and Future Mrs. Tas...and, of course, "Homemade Pizza Night," both when I was a child and later on when I had my own children. Throughout my life, pizza has been there through celebrations and good times, and while I have always enjoyed eating it, I came to find out that I enjoy making it even more. I've also found, over the years, that I am not alone in this feeling.

The purpose of this thread is for members to discuss and share memories, recipes and techniques that will help us all improve the pizza that we make and enjoy at home. I am placing this thread in "Breads and Baking" because - even though pizza originated in Italy - it has become much more than its origins, in many cases. This thread is intended to be as comprehensive as possible, including pizza from Naples to New York; Chicago to San Francisco; or even Berlin to Chinook, Montana. This thread is for people - like me - who love to make pizza, who want to share how they make pizza and who want to make the next pizza even better than the last pizza.

I would like to stress that I will post about my own experiences on this thread and will share what I have done and currently do when I make pizza; however, I am absolutely NOT saying that my way is the best way, the only way or even a great way...it's just what I currently do and how I've come to do it. I invite, encourage and beseech anyone and everyone to share what they do, how they do it and why they do it.

With a few exceptions, the primary and universal ingredients of homemade pizza are dough/crust and a tomato-based sauce, topped by cheese; from there, ingredients abound and are limited only by imagination and taste. My own intention is to primarily discuss dough/crust and sauce, but this is my own self-imposed restriction and I absolutely do not foist it on anyone else; please feel free to discuss ANY aspect of homemade pizza making here!

With that, I'll close for now - please consider the gates to be flung open!

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 April 2018 at 12:33
I'm not looking to re-open the pizza-belt vs the rest of the country debate. But, there is one point to stress about toppings, and how they are used by most commercial chains and many home-pizza-makers:

LESS IS BETTER!

Most of us---and I've been as guilty as anyone else---pile far too many toppings on a pizza. Fact is, if you want pizza (which, as Ron notes, is crust--cheese--sauce) with, say, pepperoni and sausage, then make two of them, rather than putting both toppings on one crust.

I know Ron intends discussing retarded fermentation, so won't go into it for now. But, the single most important part of pizza crust is that the dough has to be stretched. Rolling, alone, won't do it. The end result might be tasty, but, call it a flatbread. Pizza requires the stretching.

Know need to toss it, like the better pizza makers do. Tossing is very dramatic, but ranks up their with saloon flair: it takes a lot of practice, and a lot of dough (and bottles) wind up on the floor while you're learning.

Leave it on the work surface, if you must, and use your knuckles and finger tips to pull and stretch the dough. When you're done, you'll have a more-or-less circular dough (in my case, more less than more more), mostly flat, but with a raised edge.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 April 2018 at 13:17
Here is my current "go-to" recipe for pizza dough, and a little story involving one of my favourite pizza memories: the first time that The Beautiful Mrs. Tas and I cooked together!

This would have been during the winter of 1989/90; we were both freshmen at Jamestown College in Jamestown North Dakota, living in the dormitory known as Kroeze Hall. The dorm had a small kitchen in it, and we decided to have a "pizza night together." We didn't have a car between us, so we walked down to a local grocery store and bought the ingredients. We needed to keep it simple, so along with the usual toppings (pepperoni, mushrooms...maybe some olives), we bought a boxed "pizza kit" from a brand that I hadn't seen before; it was similar to the Chef Boyardee's offering at the time, but looked better...I "think" it was called "Mama Siciliana," but when I looked around for it on the internet a moment ago, I wasn't able to find it. The neat thing about this kit is that it had a little packet of dried herbs inside of it; I assume it consisted of oregano, basil and perhaps parsley. I am pretty sure that it came with a little can of parmesan cheese, but we also bought some Mozzarella, of course. We then head back "home" to make our pizza.

The preparation went well, and was perfectly normal; the only thing we did "wrong" was to put the packet of herbs into the dough, rather than sprinkling it on the sauce, which is what was intended. I remember that the pizza tasted pretty good, but what makes this a cherished memory, of course, is who I made it with. It might sound silly to say this, but we bonded quite a bit from that shared experience, and it ranks as one of my favourite memories of all time.

Anyway, over the years I experimented with trying to make my own pizza dough, but never really got it the way I liked it. Finally, after trying a few different things, I settled on this "current" way to do it, based in large part on a recipe that I received from Time-Life's Foods of the World - the Cooking of Italy (1968). The base recipe looks simple enough:

Quote For 4 individual pizzas:

2 packages of dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1.25 cups lukewarm water
3.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into 1/4 cup of lukewarm water. Be sure that the water is lukewarm (110-115 degrees, neither hot nor cool to the touch). Let it stand for 2-3 minutes, then stir the yeast and sugar into the water until completely dissolved.

Set the cup in a warm, draft-free place (a turned-off oven would be best) for 3-5 minutes, or until the yeast is almost double in volume. If the yeast does not bubble, start over again with fresh yeast.

Into a large bowl, sift the all-purpose flour and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture, 1 cup of lukewarm water and 1/4 cup olive oil. Mix the dough with a fork or with your fingers. When you can gather it into a rough ball, place the dough on a floured board and knead it for 15 minutes, or until smooth, shiny and elastic. Dust the dough lightly with flour, put in a large clean bowl and cover. set the bowl in a warm, draft-free spot for 1.5 hours, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.


When I first tried this, it seemed to be everything I had ever wanted in a pizza dough (and resulting crust). Over a bit of time, I tried a couple of tweaks that "seemed" to improve the dough. These included:

Using beer (warm/flat) in place of the water.
Using a dollop of honey in place of a bit of sugar.
Allowing the dough to rest (autolyse) before working it.

Another thing that I tried was replacing a portion of the all-purpose flour with a ratio of bread flour. Since we usually made double batches of this dough (7 cups of flour total) I tried experimenting with different ratios of bread flour based on this amount; eventually, I settled on what seemed to be the "sweet spot" of 3 cups AP flour (roughly 40%) to 4 cups bread flour (roughly 60%).

Looking back, I have no idea if this was beneficial; the reason that I include this caveat is that about the same time, I started experimenting with pre-ferments and (unwittingly) retarded fermentation with my pizza dough, and the benefits that I was perceiving could have been from this, rather than any magical mix of flours. The next chance I get, I'll try making a recipe of dough with this mix and another that is all AP flour, and compare results.

Anyway, as I said, probably the biggest thing that I did to improve my pizza dough was to utilize retarded fermentation of the dough, which simply means that I made the dough and then let it sit over-night in the refrigerator before using it the next day. This slows down the process and allows some very nice flavor and character to develop, and it is something that I will indeed be working with more as I continue to learn what I can about pizza dough.

So, with these factors in mind, here is Ron's "current" recipe and method for pizza dough:

Quote For 8 individual pizzas:

2 packages of dry yeast
Dollop of honey
2.5 cups room temperature, flat beer
3 cups all purpose flour
4 cups bread flour
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup olive oil

Sprinkle the yeast and honey into 1/2 cup of beer. Let it stand for 2-3 minutes, then stir the yeast and honey into the beer until completely dissolved.

Set the cup in a warm, draft-free place (a turned-off oven would be best) for 3-5 minutes, or until the yeast is almost double in volume. If the yeast does not bubble, start over again with fresh yeast.

Into a large bowl, sift the flours and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture, the remaining 2 cups of beer and 1/2 cup olive oil. Mix the dough with a fork or with your fingers. When you can gather it into a rough ball, place the dough on a floured board and knead it for 15 minutes, or until smooth, shiny and elastic. Dust the dough lightly with flour, put in a large clean bowl and cover. Set the bowl in a warm, draft-free spot for 1.5 hours, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Punch down the dough, then put it in a covered bowl and refrigerate, at least overnight. Use dough within 3 days or freeze for long-term storage.


What are your thoughts on pizza dough, and what is your "go-to" recipe for pizza dough?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Percebes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 April 2018 at 13:22
Norwegian style is my favorite.

Intensified flavours of your little spice package.
But Fennel and anise-centric 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 April 2018 at 13:24
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

[T]he single most important part of pizza crust is that the dough has to be stretched. Rolling, alone, won't do it. The end result might be tasty, but, call it a flatbread. Pizza requires the stretching....Leave it on the work surface, if you must, and use your knuckles and finger tips to pull and stretch the dough. When you're done, you'll have a more-or-less circular dough (in my case, more less than more more), mostly flat, but with a raised edge.


I'd have to agree with this; my pizza crusts were good when I rolled them, but I noticed a much better form and texture when I began to stretch them instead. Generally, I end up with something that is nowhere near perfectly round, but it is close, and that works for me. One major characteristic that I have seen is that the edges are just slightly "thicker" than the middle portion; when I lay down my sauce, I tend to adhere to this "boundary," and the finished pizza has a nice rise at the edges, which bubbles a bit with the heat and takes on a nice, golden-brown colour.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 April 2018 at 13:26
Originally posted by Percebes Percebes wrote:

Norwegian style is my favorite.

Intensified flavours of your little spice package. But Fennel and anise-centric.


Sounds good, Murray!

Other than the fennel and anise, are there any other differences with the Norwegian style?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Percebes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 April 2018 at 13:39
Originally posted by TasunkaWitko TasunkaWitko wrote:

Originally posted by Percebes Percebes wrote:

Norwegian style is my favorite.

Intensified flavours of your little spice package. But Fennel and anise-centric.


Sounds good, Murray!

Other than the fennel and anise, are there any other differences with the Norwegian style?

You mean other than the Reindeer Pepperoni?
Usually some Aquavit in the dough and sauce
And in my house I like the tomato sauce to be mounted
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 April 2018 at 14:35
I can make some pepperoni from whitetail or mule deer - but reindeer would be difficult!

Sounds pretty good, though ~
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tom Kurth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 April 2018 at 15:20
I've been struggling with home-made pizza for almost forty years now, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Agree wholeheartedly about retarding the dough. Whether for pizza or bread this is the number one way to develop good bread flavor. Second, I found that the bigger Walmarts carry a whole milk mozzarella that melts and stretches and has good flavor compared to the dairy plastic pawned off on us by Kraft Foods, etc. Just wish I could find fontina. One of these days I intend to try making my own mozza. We'll see. The third biggy for me was starting to use a baking stone. Hopefully this summer sees the next improvement: It is my intention to build a wood-fired oven. Pizza, bread, and long, slow braises.

My biggest hurdle is finding a pizza sauce I like. I like tomatoes and tomato products that are tart and acidic; almost every commercial sauce is too sweet for me. The best result I've had was using no sauce at all. Instead I used homegrown Brandywine tomatoes, peeled and seeded, topped with oregano and basil. May not fly in New York City but that's what I like.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 April 2018 at 15:46
I know what you mean about commercial sauces, Tom. You can try adding a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar to up the tartness and hide some of the sweetness.

One exception to the too-sweet syndrome is the Pomi brand of products. They seem to taste more tomatoey than the others, without the added sugar.

Agree fully about a baking stone. If nothing else, one of them helps stabilize the heat in a home oven, and the darn thing doesn't cycle as often.

Mine lives permanently in the oven.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 April 2018 at 17:22

i am quite classic with pizza preferring a simple thin crust with some fresh tomato or fresh Marinara, mozzarella di bufala,  fresh basil and a drizzle of Italian Extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt .. 

A Margherita in other words ..  


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MyPinchofItaly.co.uk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 February 2019 at 12:18
Being Italian, I can say that my fave pizza is the simplest one, i.e. Margherita. 
I love it also with addition of buffalo mozzarella or fresh tomato slices and a lot, a lot, and I repeat, a lot, of fresh basil leaves..practically a basil pizza with something else LOL

I like even the diavola ones (with spicy salame or calabrian 'nduja), cured ham, cherry tomatoes and rocket salad with some parmesan cheese flakes and that with tuna and onions too (this is to eat far away from others!)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 February 2019 at 12:20
They all sound good to me ~

I like to have some meats in my toppings, but I am open to almost anything -
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MyPinchofItaly.co.uk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 February 2019 at 12:26
Me too! I have my favourites, but nothing prevents me from trying new combinations.
I'm always keen to try new pizzas, paired with a good beer Big smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 February 2019 at 13:43


Definitely wonderful Pinch of Italy ..  

I  am a grand fan of Margherita Pizza ..  

Fresh Mozzarella di Bufala and fresh tomatoes & of course fresh Basil which i grow on my dining room table ( mine do not like Winter on terrace -- too too cold ) ..  They do quite nicely ..

LOTS of light but not direct sun except early mornings ( east exposure ) .. 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MyPinchofItaly.co.uk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 February 2019 at 14:06
Sometimes if I have not mozzarella at hand, I add smoked scamorza...uh, great!
Same thing about basil; if I haven't, rocket salad is just perfect
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