Pizza Box Talk on the Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show

Check out this episode of my favorite podcast, The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show, in which Jeff and I discuss my new book Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box, available in bookstores and internets everywhere Nov 5. We talk about a lot of specific boxes and I thought it might help to post photos of them here. They’re in the same order talk about on the show. Your life hasn’t been this easy since Jeff released enhanced editions.

LISTEN NOW!

Here’s the episode guide:

imageWe’re talking about a fantastic NYC pizzeria called Ben’s (on Spring St). Try their Sicilian pizza, particularly the Palermo. As for the box, see if you can spot all the differences between their old box and the new one!

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This is the historic predecessor to the modern pizza box. The stufa is made of copper and pointed at the top to allow for better steam release than what we use to transport pizzas today.

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Here’s a strange box from the Faroe Islands, an actual country north of Scotland that has funny telephone numbers.

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As you’ll hear in the show, Luca Ciancio is my favorite Italian pizza box artist. He’s designed over 250 images like this and they are all amazing. Keep in mind this isn’t for any particular pizzeria, it’s a generic stock box! Much better than the “Hot and Tasty” or “Only the Finest Ingredients” we get in the US.

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The Walker Lock is the most common box type. I am in awe of its simple elegance. The Walker Lock is essentially the rollover self-locking mechanism that keeps most of the nation’s pizza safe and secure during transport.

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The Chicago Folder is a useful box for thick deep-dish pizzas. It’s more rare than the Walker Lock and costs more to produce.

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Jeff and I talk about my favorite new pizza box technology and right now I’m super into this VENTiT box from India. It uses standard corrugated boxes with ports cut into the different layers of paper in such a way that they don’t line up - that lets steam out but keeps heat in! Amazing.

*Listen to the Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show for more information about these and other boxes, as well as other non-pizza box related programming.

Pizza History Class Starts TONIGHT!

My three-part class on the history of pizza starts tonight at the Brooklyn Brainery and I couldn’t possibly be more excited. The course will cover the evolution of pizza from pre-origin to futuristic pizza machines via a cultural, economic, scientific, historical and gastronomic perspective. I’m splitting the course into three parts, beginning with tonight’s What is Pizza? class. There are just a couple spots left so grab them while they’re hot.

I should also mention that we’ll have FREE pizza at each session donated by local pizzerias whose products are historically appropriate for the evening’s class. Tonight’s featured pizzeria is Sottocasa, Atlantic Ave’s newest Neapolitan pizza purveyor.

Sign Up For The Class Here

Brooklyn Brainery
515 Court Street
$50 (pizza included)
Three Wednesdays, October 12, 19 + 26
6:30-8:30pm

My Best Dough Yet

If you asked me about making my own pizza around this time last year, my response would have been something along the lines of “I deal exclusively in O.P.P. or Other People’s Pizza.” To be fair, I knew that pizza making would lead me down a strange and mysterious path that would exponentially grow my pizza obsession, for better or for worse. I had plenty of excuses but the real reason was simple. I was afraid. Dough is so simple to make, yet endlessly challenging because of all the variables associated with its production. But once you get your hands on a good batch of dough, you just never go back.

The point of no return for me came in the form of a pizza making class I took at Pizza a Casa in the Lower East Side. It amazed me by simplifying the entire process into a form that was - both literally and figuratively - digestible. Fast forward ten months and now I’m experimenting with different dough hydration and yeast varieties. I have become exactly what I was afraid of and I couldn’t possibly be any happier.

I’ve made good batches and I’ve made bad batches, constantly in search of the perfect crispy-chewy texture and a salty-smokey flavor. Some batches would have the flavor while others would have the texture. I felt like I didn’t have control of anything and my life was in a tailspin — until my pal Brooks showed up with a batch of dough and an Ischia starter. WHAT THE HECK IS AN ISCHIA STARTER? That’s easy. Yeast is a fungus that floats through the air looking for a nice place to live and sometimes people build little yeast traps and put the little guys to work. The “nice place to live” can be a grape skin or apple peel and the trap is a cup half filled with a mixture of flour and water. Once the yeast start moving into their new watery-floury home, they get “put to work” on the fermentation plantation, where they feed on the natural sugars released by the reaction of water and flour and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol.

See those bubbles in the cup? Those are the product of yeast burps! Anyway, this bubbling goo is your “starter” and the particular one I am using came from an island off the coast of Naples called Ischia. Hence, ISCHIA STARTER. You can make a starter anywhere and name it as you wish. There’s an amazing step-by-step guide to starter cultivation on Slice. DO IT!

  

So what do these yeasty creeps have to do with pizza? Yeast is necessary for fermentation, which results in the gassy leavening of dough as well as flavor development thanks to bacteria and alcohol. It’s very easy to open a packet of yeast and pour it into your dough, but natural yeast forges an even closer bond between pizzaiolo and pizza. It also gives you a unique flavor that is often more developed than commercial yeast. You use this starter in the same way that you use a packet of yeast, but the measurements are not the same. I experimented with a recipe Brooks gave me and ended up making three batches of dough, each having a different amount of dry yeast. Here’s the winning recipe, which gave us a perfectly airy crust with rick flavor and a good dose of crunch.

595 g flour (I used King Arthur All Purpose)
381 g water (I used cold tap water)
91 g Brooks’s Ischia starter
1.5 g dry yeast
12 g salt

Mix those and let it sit for 40 minutes so the flour can fully hydrate. Then knead the dough for about 4 minutes and let it rest for 5 minutes before one last kneading session of roughly 3 minutes. Separate into four balls and store in sealed containers (just like the first picture above) on the counter for about two hours, then refrigerate until you’re ready to bake.

You can use the dough after letting it sit overnight, but I left mine for just over four full days (about 100 hours). I let it rise at room temperature for about 5 hours prior to baking and they were extremely soft and gooey. My pies didn’t come out all looking picture perfect, but the flavor and texture is by far the best I have ever made. Here are a few selections from last week’s pizza session. I just wish you could bite into your screen.

    
    
  
    

Set Your DVR

I’ll be talking about pizza on Discovery Science Channel’s new show BLAIS OFF tonight at 10 PM EST. The show features Top Chef’s Richard Blais, who re-engineers iconic foods with a scientific approach. Tonight’s premier features Patsy’s in Harlem, where Blais learns all about pizza before tinkering with the basics in his kitchen lab. 

Here’s a sneak peak!

Central Park Pizza

I made a crazy pizza last night that incorporates lots of ingredients I collected while on a foraging tour of Central Park with "Wildman" Steve Brill.

Here’s a breakdown of the most “local” pizza imaginable. Lamb’s quarters-laced ricotta cheese with field garlic and Jersey crushed tomato (not found in Central Park) topped with sheep sorel and finished with black nightshade-infused olive oil and a light dusting of sassafras root.

And here are some photos of the foraging/assembly of the pizza. First up is sheep sorrel, which has leaves that look like little sheep heads. They taste acidic, a bit like like lemonade.

 

These berries are in the nightshade family, so they are related to tomatoes. They grow wild in Central Park and have a sweet and tart flavor. It would be a great sauce if you could find enough of them, but it’s the end of the season so I could only grab five. In order to harness their flavor, I crushed them up and infused the flavor in some Coluccio and Sons Extra Virgin olive oil. The oil sat for about 12 hours and was used to dress the pie post oven.

 

This pie was a fun escape from standard ingredients and it actually tasted pretty damn good. Just be sure to consult a field guide before you go picking wild berries for your pizza!