Breaking in a Pizza Stone with Kate and Nir

As do most newlyweds, Kate and Nir have a neglected pizza stone. It was pretty obvious from looking at it that its only purpose had been reheating a couple rogue slices. There are certainly better ways to reheat a slice (or maybe this one) and most folks who have stones have no idea how to use them, so I figured this would be a great opportunity to show them you don’t need a brick oven to pop out a good pie.

This was a particularly rainy night and I foolishly rode my bike across town so I traveled pretty light. All I had was some dough, a bit of cheese, can of tomatoes, small tin of oil and a cheese grater. No peel, no extra flour, no slicer, etc. I like improvising but the underside of a lipped cookie sheet isn’t the most efficient means of transporting a dressed dough skin into the oven. I had some near disasters but the resulting pizza, however misshapen, was still pretty tasty.

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Weekend Pizza Making

I made a batch of pizza on Friday and it came out great so I thought I’d post some photos and current dough formula for those who are interested in trying it themselves. Here’s the scoop on the dough:

380g warm tap water
595g King Arthur All Purpose flour
20g salt
2g instant dry yeast
100g Ischia starter
splash of olive oil

I started with the water, to which I slowly added the flour as I mixed. About halfway through adding the flour, I tossed in the yeast, salt and oil. When everything was incorporated, I covered the bowl and went out to run some errands. This is the autolyse phase, during which the flour gets hydrated and kneading becomes easier. I usually give about 30 minutes for this but errands took longer than expected so I didn’t get to the kneading phase until 5.75 hours later. By that time, the dough was totally ready to rock! I poured it onto my kneading surface and spent about 5-6 minutes working the batch until it felt done. I just split the mass into four 275g chunks, balled, then stored in oil-lined plastic quart containers in the refrigerator. 

Four days later, I took the dough out of the fridge and gave them about 2 hours to rise (still in their containers). The oven took about 1.5 hours cranked on broil in my basic gas oven (the broiler is on the bottom so I get most of my heat this way). Each pizza spent about 4.5 minutes in the oven before a 180 degree rotation and a final minute to finish. The results were pretty even, although my stretching definitely improved over the course of the night. Here are a couple of the results:


Mozzarella, crushed tomato, basil, sun-dried tomatoes.



Spinach, garlic, mozzarella, crushed tomato, black pepper.

I also conducted a quick, completely non-scientific, experiment using tomatoes left over from the tomato tasting I hosted at the Brooklyn Brainery a couple weeks ago. I tried two different tomatoes, one from Paulie Gee’s secretly sourced stash (Italian) and one from a popular restaurant supplier (California).

 
Uncrushed Paulie Gee tomatoes (Italian), hand-crushed tomatoes from Stanislaus (CA).

Both were plenty tasty and the pizzas were a bit different so I can’t report any conclusive findings, but the California tomatoes were definitely saltier. As always, use whatever floats your boat.

And finally, for all the pizza nerds who like looking at the details, here are a couple glory shots.

   
All pies were baked in a quarry tile cave. Check out the video at EconomyBites.

Mother’s Day Pizza Party

This year my family decided to celebrate Mother’s Day in the most relaxing way possible: pizza party. Come to think of it, we had pizza last year too! That’s right, my mom wanted to get a clam pizza from Lombardi’s. Dang, it was tasty! We decided to keep things a bit more low-key this year so my brother and his fiance had us over to their place and I brought some dough to get the party started.

I made the dough three days in advance (recipe below) so it would have time to develop. After all, this was going to be my first time making pizza for the family so the heat was truly on. I talk big game about pizza so I really had to put my mozzarella where my mouth is. Speaking of mozzarella, we picked some up from Alleva in Little Italy. They make great cheese but you really need to slice it and drain some moisture before you use it on pizza.

Mom loved the mozzarella, mushroom, onion and garlic pizza and I think it was my favorite too. I sauteed the shrooms and onions so they would handled the oven heat without burning or drying out. My brother’s oven isn’t exactly what I have in Brooklyn so I had to take a few chances. He has a broiler on top and I thought that would be good for some sweet top heat but the thing didn’t want to ignite so I had to ditch that idea.  My home oven can get pretty hot with the quarry tile method I use, so I’m used to getting the bake zone up to 650 degrees F within 50 minutes. My brother’s oven got up to exactly 500 degrees F at its max so I had to leave the pizza in the oven for an extra 2+ minutes for each pie. This made a big difference in the end product and dried out the crust a bit more than I had anticipated. Oh well, it still tasted awesome!

The pie above has a pile of post oven arugula, chunks of grana padano, prosciutto di parma, mozzarella and a squirt of lemon juice.

Here’s one of my new favorite pizzas, which covers a layer of thinly sliced potatoes with strings of red onion. I should have put more potato and onion on there because they shrunk up a bit inside the oven. I also failed in topping distribution. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to make it again!

I was pretty nervous about making pizza for my family, but all the pies came out great and we had an absolute blast hanging out together. Hooray for Momma Wiener!

Dough recipe:
600g All Purpose flour
50g whole wheat flour
412g tap water
18g sea salt
1.5g dry yeast
100g Ischia starter

20 minute autolyse (resting period)
short knead, rest, short knead
split into 4 pieces at 291g each, balled and stored in the refrigerator for three days
room temp rise 2 hours pre bake

Bake until crust browns and cheese melts, usually about 8 minutes in a standard oven that has been pre-heated with pizza stone for 60+ minutes.

More Pizza Experiments

This weekend marked one of my most successful pizza experiments to date. I made a batch of dough with 21 oz of all purpose Gold Medal flour, 14.3 oz cold tap water, less than 0.5 oz dry yeast and 0.5 oz sea salt. This is less yeast than I usually use and I added the salt between mixing and kneading instead of before mixing. I also gave the dough a 1 hour autolyse before mixing. During this phase (which usually takes 20-30 min but I ran out to run an errand and left it longer - oops) allows the flour to become hydrated and requires less kneading as a result. Next I separated the dough into four 9 oz balls and stuck ‘em in the fridge for over 4 days.

Part of the experiment was to make dough that lasted longer than two days before blowing up and getting too alcoholic. On the morning of the baking session, I took two of the doughs out and let them sit at room temperature (around 74 F) for about 10 hours. They poofed up a bit, but not as much as usual. The doughs on the left had 10 hours at room temperature, the doughs on the right only had about two hours to rise. Just look at those bubbles!

Now for the ACTION —
The first pie I made was pretty standard, but my buddy Bryan brought over some tiny cherry tomatoes so we did fresh mozzarella, crushed California tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and olive oil. Bake time was about 7 minutes total (we added the cherry tomatoes half way through) and surface temperature of the baking surface was about 625 F at the start of the bake. Here’s the result:

 

The next pie helped me respond to a challenge posed by my friend Cat, who wanted to see comte cheese used on a pizza. NO PROBLEM! Comte is the perfect base for a pizza with thin potato slices soaked in rosemary-infused olive oil. I tossed on some sea salt at the very end and it was mighty tasty but a bit on the oily side. Check out the before and after.

 

For some reason, I sauteed a bunch of onions while waiting for the oven to heat up so we used them on the final pie. Potatoes were already soaking in olive oil, so we tossed them on there as well. Add that to the remaining bits of mozzarella and you’ve got the most tasty pie of the night. I must give major props to Choice Greene, my local provisions shop, for their excellent fresh mozzarella. I was able to snag a small chunk for about $4 and it covered two pies. This one got some freshly ground black pepper after it exited the oven and it really hit the spot.

 

I’m going to add more yeast to the dough next time and I’m not so sure about saving the salt until after the mix because it resulted in a very sticky dough that was harder to work with than my usual dough. Regardless, this was a massively successful pizza night and I’m looking forward to making some more dough tomorrow!