Wednesday, February 21, 2007

...baked bads!

I got my first real paycheck yesterday and I celebrated by purchasing a pizza peel. And then further celebrated by making my first ever home baked pizzas. They were edible, but certainly didn't fall under the category of "good." Number one out of four came out more as a calzone than a pizza. the edge got stuck on the baking stone as I was shoving it in the oven and as I tried to push it in it just kind of flipped up on top of itself.

The recipe I used, by the way, was roughly this one posted by Adam Kuban.

Current problems:
- Bland crust. I'm trying to remedy this. I have two plans. One might call it a two-pronged attack. (1) Use fresh yeast instead of instant dry yeast and (2) cultivate my own sourdough yeast culture. I seem to have succeeded in cultivating a sourdough. I just have no idea if it's going to be any good. It sure looks and smells pretty gross. I may use both of these in my next attempt.

- Too much pull-back when stretching the dough to make the base. Probably due to not enough hydration.

- The sauce is maybe a bit bitter and I think generally needs some more seasoning. Jeff Varasano rinses his tomatoes to rid them of the bitter flavoring that I assume is due partially to the tin the tomatoes are packaged in. At least, that's one theory Mr. Varasano posits.

Things that were alright: basil, cheese, olive oil... basically anything I didn't really have a hand in actually making. Though, even the mozzerella was a bit bland this time around.

The tentative plan is to try making one set of pizzas a week. Making dough is pretty time consuming though.


Erica said...

Very exciting, sir! Did I ever tell you I was a pizza-making master when I worked at Sbarro in highschool? I'm also a devotee of food-nerd Alton Brown, so between the two of us I have some advice:

1.) Bitter sauce: tomatoes are naturally acidic, and pretty much anything with a high tomato ratio will taste bitter/acidic. Some people like to use sugar or spices to mask this, but you can actually counter-act it with... baking soda!

Remember when you were little and made a volcano out of baking soday and vinegar? That's your average acid + base = water and salt, and bubbling. Adding a pinch of baking soday to your sauce will a) neutralize the acid, b) add a little salty flavor (so don't add any extra salt to the sauce), and c) be fizzy for a minute before you stir it in. Delicious and fun.

2.) Dough: I'm no good at bread, but check out AB's receipe here:

If you can track down the actual episode of this I would highly recommend it, he explains all about gluten and the like. Basically the step where you knead the dough until it forms a membrane is important. I just like the part where you throw it in the air.

Hope some of that helps in your quest for the perfect pizza...


Flushy McBucketpants said...

thanks for the tips. i think i'm going to try a batch with the sourdough poolish i've cultivated. it looks and smells really gross (kind of reminds me of that bulemia video i was forced to watch in health class--starring calista flockhart--about the girl who kept her vomit in jars in her closet), but when mixed with the rest of the dough it might turn out alright. there's only one way to find out. the baking soda trick sounds like a good one. i'm thinking i might try a combination of fresh and canned tomatoes also. i'm not sure i want to neutralize the acidity. i mean, that is part of the tomato flavor... but then again, i guess we won't know until i try. i'll keep you posted.

Dad said...

I'll take your word for it on the quality of the flavor, but from the pictures it looks like real pizza! Seems like there is a lot more science to pizza making than I thought. Are you throwing and twirling the dough so its even? Did any stick to the ceiling? As for acid in the tomato sauce, my taste definitely runs toward less acidic. I think it allows the cheese flavor to come out more. Keep at it. Only good things can come from having a pizza chef in the family.

Flushy McBucketpants said...

It's a weird art-science combination. There's definitely a chemistry to all the interactions among ingredients, the temperature and stuff. I made a 2nd batch of pizzas (Photos TK) with the sourdough yeast culture I have. The rise time is completely different. I tried autolysing the dough too (just letting the water and flour sit before working with it) and it seemed to make a reasonable difference in terms of elasticity.

At the same time, you kind of just have to do everything by feel. You can't just stick to strict ratios from a recipe as humidity will have an effect on how much water, flour, and yeast is needed. It's all a bit crazy.