I’ve been in the process of migrating my website to .NET, and moved the blog from opensourcepizza.com/blog to blog.opensourcepizza.com. It’s taken me a bit of time to get the new site in place and working, with the correct paths and redirects in place. But I think it all should be working now. Sorry for the inconvenience and any broken links!
The Slice at Serious Eats website has some great articles that explain the science and details about some of the fundamentals of pizza. The one I’m reading now is about New York Pizza Sauce. I always use the same sauce recipe I found from Cooks website, but it never has tasted quite right. The Serious Eats article is a good resource for learning about the different ingredients (olive oil versus butter, crushed tomatoes versus tomato puree, dried herbs versus fresh) that make a good sauce. Of course everyone has their own preferences for how a sauce should taste (should it be sweet or spicy?).
Some of the things I’ve learned already is that it’s OK to use canned tomatoes rather than rely on the freshness of the ones found at a store, and dried herbs do just as well as fresh if you cook them long enough to bring out the flavor. Except for basil which should be added fresh, a sprig added at the beginning and taken out at the end.
I’ll have to keep reading and use some of these tips for my next sauce!
Several months ago I got some high gluten flour from GFS Marketplace. It isn’t the same brand as the one pictured, but I’m not sure if brand matters? I finally got a chance to try it out a week ago. Since I got a 25 pound bag, I have plenty to experiment with, but I haven’t deviated from my original recipe yet. I’m just trying to get a consistent crust.
With basic bread flour I’ve tried pizzas on a pizza stone with cornmeal, a deep dish pan with shortening or extra virgin olive oil, and a perforated pan. I can’t seem to get the ones in an oiled pan to be as crispy as I’ve liked, almost like it’s not cooked in the same amount of time. Perhaps the temperature needs to be higher. The texture of the ones cooked in cornmeal seem like the most professional.
The high gluten flour wasn’t much harder to knead than I was used to (I was warned it would be tougher since the gluten strands develop more). It also wasn’t much harder to roll out. I’ve learned to be more patient and let it rest and get up to room temperature after its retardation time in the fridge. I’m now trying to spin the dough to help spread it out, but for some reason it gets oblong shaped and I’m not sure how to correct that except with hand pressing and a rolling pin. I have a nice 2 sided rolling pin that seems to work really well. I’ll blog about that one and my other utensils in a future post.
When I first heard about gluten-free pizza dough, I was thinking this is just another trend that will die out in a few months. I also felt very bad for anyone who normally can’t eat pizza!! Why is it that some people can’t eat pizza dough?
Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance
About 2.88 million or 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance. This means that the villi that line their small intestines get damaged from eating gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye. A good article about the disease can be found here.
Recipes and Products Available
The 2011 International Pizza Expo offered more information on gluten-free products than ever before: gluten-free flour, pizza crusts, and recipes. The recipes are made with rice, potato and corn flours, guar or xanthan gums and/or tapioca/cassava starch. The dough is more like a thick batter and must be cooked differently. As more attention is paid to the issues, more options become available for the crust recipe so that it is more like traditional crusts instead of the texture of a cracker, as it has previously been. (Source)
Are you gluten intolerant or know of someone who is? How does it change your diet?
I was reading through the Serious Eats – Slice Pizza blog and boy do they have a lot of posts! The website has a bunch of great resources, articles, recipes, etc. that I will be checking out and contributing to whenever I get a chance. I will have to submit my homemade pizzas to their My Pie Monday feature. For now you can see all my photos by going to the Connect page and clicking the Flickr Photostream link. Most of the pizza reviews are in New York, but I see a few articles about Ohio pizza.
The articles I’m most interested in reading are the ones which describe cooking techniques and variants in ingredients. For example, there’s one on types of mozzarella cheese (whole-milk, low-moisture) and scientific descriptions and explanations of how they are made. I may start experimenting with different cheeses next.
I’m wondering how fresh herbs would taste in the pizza sauce compared to dried. My pizza sauce calls for garlic, oregano, fennel seed, marjoram, basil, thyme, and rosemary. I stopped by the garden center today to pick up a few potted herbs. They were $2.99 each though, so I only got basil and rosemary.
And of course we always get a few tomato plants. We have tons of little tomato plants coming up in the garden from last year. But I got a couple SuperSteak and BestBoy plants.
I grew garlic plants last year but was unable to use all of them and it seemed like a lot of work to dig them up each year. I’m not sure if it’s worth it to have fresh garlic.
Here are some images of the other herbs used:
Do you think fresh herbs are better and worth the extra effort to use in pizza sauces?
I found a few recipes on the back of a box of Texas Toast — one for Pizziola and one for Bruschetta. I’ve heard of bruschetta, but what exactly are these dishes?
Pizziola or Pizzaiola Definition
I actually couldn’t find many definitions of pizziola and noticed that it is also (more commonly?) spelled pizzaiola. There are many dishes and recipes out there that include pizzaiola in the name. Wiktionary gives the definition as ‘Prepared with an Italian sauce made from tomato and oregano’ so it sounds pretty similar to pizza sauce to me. The name also applies to dishes made with this sauce. Here’s another source from Home Cooking Consultant that describes it as a pizza-like sauce made with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. It gives a recipe that can be used with meats such as beef, veal, or chicken. The texas toast box just says sprinkle spaghetti sauce and chopped mushrooms on top of the garlic cheese bread.
Merriam-webster defines it as thick slices of bread grilled, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, often topped with tomatoes and herbs, and usually served as an appetizer. The word comes from Italian bruscare, to toast or burn. The texas toast box says just place chopped tomato and onion on top of the cheese bread and sprinkle with fresh basil. Sounds like it’s missing the basic ingredient, olive oil. There’s a good article on eHow.com that explains how to make a basic Bruschetta. Here’s an article that clarifies that Bruschetta just refers to grilled bread, not bread with tomato and other toppings. It also gives a recipe for a Mexican variation.
A big factor in making a pizza great is the sauce! Sometimes the sauce doesn’t stand out at all, sometimes you notice it’s really great, and other times it’s quite bland or not quite to your liking. Is it thick or thin, sugary, sweet, tomato-y, spicy, bland, or just the right amount of spices? Many are concerned with counter-balancing the acidity of the tomatoes in the sauce. I sometimes have a hard time telling if a sauce is too acidic, but comparing it to a sauce I really like, I can tell a difference – it can be a little tart. Some people have acid reflux and acidic foods cause a lot of heartburn. So when making spaghetti or pizza sauce, how do you balance out the acidity and tomato taste?
Mask the Flavor
One method is to add sugar or carrots to counter-balance the acidic taste. You cook the carrots down and remove them at the end if you don’t want to keep the carrots in the sauce. But adding these things won’t change the actual pH of the sauce so won’t help with acid reflux or heartburn. The sugar will make the sauce taste sweet, which I don’t prefer. Adding water will dilute the sauce so the acid isn’t detected as much, but it will dilute all the other flavors as well.
Acid vs. Base
The first way to counter act the acid in the sauce is to add an alkaline (basic) ingredient, like baking soda. Just add a small amount at a time and stir it well, until you get the taste you want. You won’t be able to take any out once you put it in, since it will react! A little milk may also work. Cheese has also been suggested, since the calcium can react with the acid. Try a little grated Parmesan. This will add its own flavors though, so make sure you taste it to make sure it’s satisfactory. Reducing the acidity and not just masking the flavor with others is the best way to go for those that have heartburn. The pH of tomatoes is about 4.6, carrots about 6.0, and water 7.0.
What do you do to balance acidity in tomato sauce?
I’ve attempted a few more homemade pizzas so far this month. The latest ones I tried using a greased pizza pan rather than the stone and the dough was too soft and doughy. The stone allows much more moisture to escape, making the crust crisp and slightly crunchy. The crust also becomes browner with a pizza stone I think.
Pizza cooked in greased pan
(transferred to stone after cooking)
Pizza cooked on stone
Cooking on a pizza stone is definitely the way to go. But the only problem is figuring out how to roll it out. The elasticity of the dough makes it shrink back whenever you try pressing or rolling it out, hence the weird, non-round shapes (a pepper shape may be desired in some circumstances, but I prefer my pizza to be as round as possible). It was much easier to press out the dough into a greased pizza pan:
So I guess I have some more testing to do to find the best way to roll out and cook a pizza! Do you have any comments, tips, advice? How do you roll out a pizza?
Fermentation is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide, by yeast or other bacteria. It happens in alcoholic drinks, bread, and pizza dough! It gives breads and doughs the light, airy texture and a slightly sour taste. So what happens to pizza dough during this process?
During this stage, you mix together ingredients such as water, flour, yeast, and salt. Two proteins in the flour (gliaden and glutenin) begin to connect together and form an elastic network called gluten. Some flours have a higher ‘gluten’ content which supposedly make for a great texture and taste in the dough. But it also means it is very elastic and hard to roll or stretch out.
- First Rise
After kneading, the dough is left to rise for about an hour. This is when fermentation occurs, creating carbon dioxide bubbles, and the dough may double in size. The gluten network continues to develop.
- Second Rise/Proof
The dough can be punched down and shaped into a ball or loaf for a second rise time. This allows fermentation to continue and gluten structure to develop further. This process should take place in a cold place such as a refrigerator, because higher temperatures allow the carbon dioxide to develop too quickly and produce undesirable flavors. Although you don’t need a second rise for a basic pizza recipe, it may result in a more floury or bread-like taste. This process of placing the dough in a cold environment is called retardation.
The dough is then rolled out and put in the oven. When it hits the warm temperature, the air bubbles start to expand, making the dough inflate. At some point the dough reaches maximum expansion and the structure solidifies and you can see the bread-like structure.
As there are so many variables to consider, it can be hard to get a consistent pizza every time you make one. I think the biggest challenge for me is the variable temperature of my electric oven. It’s also frustrating to try to roll out the pizza when it shrinks back so much. What are your suggestions?