Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sourdough Activation - 24 Hours

After starting the process by mixing my dry sourdough with flour & water, the mixture had been inside the proofing box for 24 hours.
At 11PM on Tuesday, I did the first "feeding"...adding 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cup water. Here is a picture before the feeding (nice and bubbly!): On Wednesday morning around 9AM, I did the second feeding. Our jar was getting a little full, so I poured out half of the mixture into a bowl and stuck it in the fridge as a backup. I then stirred in 1 cup flour and 3/4 water. Hopefully we will start seeing some frothing soon!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sourdough has arrived!

I ordered 2 italian cultures from a few weeks ago, and they finally arrived on Friday! I made a proofing box out of a styrofoam cooler and 2 small light bulbs. Per the directions, I mixed the culture with flour & water last night around 11 and it is being proofed right now. I will take some pictures and report back over the next few days.

Emmental Cheese & Carmelized Onions

I got the idea to do this pizza from Varasano's menu. I had never made a white pie before, but I wanted to mix it up a little bit. I used a half size of my normal dough recipe (aged 24 hours in the fridge). Spread the dough and covered lightly with dried thyme. The dough was so easy to worth with that it ended up being the size of a normal pizza...but just thinner. Covered the pie with a healthy covering of SwissRose emmental cheese I had shredded. Added a few drops of olive oil (very lightly) and then spread out the carmelized onions (made from 1 medium yellow onion). Cooked for 8 minutes at about 500.

It came out great! The saltiness/tanginess of the cheese worked really well with the sweetness of the onions. I used a little less yeast then I normally use, so the crust was not too puffy around the edges...I may actually stick with this amount of yeast in the future. My only concern would be using such a think crust with a sauce, I'm concerned it could get a bit soggy.

Some homemade pies & lessons learned...

Here are a few pies from the last few weeks, some better than others.

Clams! I used canned clams and some fresh garlic. It was alright, but lacked some flavor. Next time I may have to add a little salt or maybe more garlic.

I made a plain cheese pizza, but used shredded Sargento shredded mozz...ugh, not good. It was so greasy that it soaked through my thin crust.

Fresh Mozz Half Pepperoni. It was actually much better than how it looks in the picture. The crust was delish, nice and crispy but still springy inside. One of my best!
A few items I must remember to do:
- Fully preheat the oven/stone! I purchased a small thermometer so I can now know when my oven is fully preheated. Lately I have been preheating for at least 30 minutes, and the oven is usually cranking along at about 500-525
- Make the dough the day before! The dough is so much better when I make it the day before and put it in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Let the dough cool! After aging the dough for 24 hours, take it out of the fridge at least 90 minutes before making the pizza...a dough that is room temp is much easier to work with than a cool dough. It will still be okay with cool dough, but it doesn't seem to want to stretch as much.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Homemade #4 - Let it rise!

Homemade dough (see below)
Trader Joe's Pizza Sauce
Bonelli EVOO
Grated parmesan
Sargento shredded mozzarella
Sliced yellow onion
Sliced jalapeno from garden
40 minute oven/stone preheat @ 500
10 minute cook at 525

Mix flour & water, 20 minute autolyse, add salt & yeast, 5 minute spoon mix, 15 minute rest, 5 minute kneed, 20 minute rest...shape and bake. I was hungry and I shouldn't have used the dough so soon, it needs time to rise! The crust ended up being hard not very fluff whatsoever. Disappointing, but I learned my lesson. Although, this was the easiest dough to work with yet...the full 20 minute autolyse really helped the strength of the dough.

I used dry mozzarella on half the pie and the other half was jalapeno and onion. The half with mozzarella was pretty good, I used a fairly small amount of mozz and it spread and congealed quite well. I probably didn't need to put any olive oil on top as the cheese seemed to let out some oils of its own. I put a base layer of grated parmesan cheese on the entire pizza, so the non-mozz side ended up being pretty good to.

Zuppardi's - West Haven, CT

Tempting. Tasty. Fancy.

There is nothing else to say.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Joe's Pizza - New York, NY

Joe's Pizza
7 Carmine Street
New York, NY

While in NYC for the US Open, the wife and I had to make at least one stop for pizza! Joe's was listed in Jeff Varasano's "Tier 1", sold slices and wasn't too far out of the way...perfect!

The inside is pretty bare-bones; a counter for ordering and a small amount of seating (some pics).
We arrived around 5PM and walked right up to the counter, no line. I ordered one slice each of fresh mozzarella and pepperoni, the wife order a plain. Most of the seating was occupied, so we ate on a bench in the park across the street. I started with the fresh mozz and was very impressed. The bites with cheese were delicious, but so were the bites of just crust and sauce. The sauce wasn't overpowering...really, none of the compontents were overpowering, but all tasted great and worked really well together. The folks at Modern should take a trip here and see how a no-cheeser pizza should taste. My slice of pepperoni was also delish, as was the wife's plain.

Probably one of the best NY-style slices I have ever had. When eating it, none of the components stole the show...they just did their job well and worked in harmony to enhance each others flavor. With the amount of good pizza in NYC, I don't know how far out of my way I would go to come back...but if I am in Greenwich Village again, I will be back!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Homemade #3 - You like-a da sauce?

We had a late lunch, so I made this with about half the dough I normally use. This was my first attempt making my own sauce, I figured it would be the weak point of the pie...but it actually turned out well for a first attempt. The mozzarella ended up being the subpar ingredient; it just didn't have the flavor of other fresh mozz. Not sure if it was because I used smaller balls or if it was just low grade mozz from the grocery store. Going forward, I may stop adding Basil it to the sauce and sprinkling on top after baking...being such a bold flavor, it gets in the way of evaluating other parts of the pie (and I just don't like it that much).

Homemade dough (see below)
Homemade sauce (see below)
Bonelli EV Olive Oil
Grated Parmesan
4 small fresh mozzarella balls sliced (Hannaford)
Fresh basil (our garden)
30 minute oven/stone preheat @ 500
10 minute cook at 500

I thought I might have been using a little too much yeast in a the previous attempts, so I used half of what I had been using (1/4, since it was a half size pie) Combined 55g room temp water, 85g bread flour, 1/2 tsp iodized salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of active yeast in a bowl and mixed for 15 seconds. I have been meaning to only add 3/4 of the flour initially (mixing the rest in during the spoon mix), but have forgotten each I added another splash of water (probably about 1 tbsp) and figured I could just add additional flour if needed. Covered and let sit for 20 minutes. Mixed with spoon for 6 minutes. Covered and let sit for 15 minutes. Hand kneaded for 2 min adding minimal flour, shaped and put to side for about an hour before baking. The dough was quite wet, but I was able to work with minimal stickage. I put a little too much flour on the dough while shaping, you can see a little in the attached picture...need to be more aware in the future.

The extra splash of water helped keep the dough wet, so although it was only half...I was able the stretch the dough well and make about a 5/8 pie. Halving the yeast worked as expected; I didn't get the same rise as previous pies, but it was closer to what I wanted. Next time I plan to use 2/3 or 3/4 tsp (full size).

I decided to go with ugly ripe heirloom tomatoes (from Hannaford) rather than canned. I blanched them (30 sec boiling water, 30 sec ice water, peal), squeezed out the seeds putting the big pieces in the strainer. Moved them to the food processor and added a few leaves of fresh basil from our garden. Processed for 20 seconds. Strained again. Added a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp of white sugar, pinch or dry oregano. Still tasted a little bland. Added a few shakes of garlic powder, that helped a lot. Added about 1/4 tsp of parmesan cheese. Sauce actually tasted pretty good before cooking! After adding the sauce to the pie, I added a light sprinkle of parmesan.

The sauce turned out well and had a good amount of flavor. Next time I may add a small amount of EVOO to the sauce to help the texture. I always drizzle a little on top before baking, so next time I will try adding it to the sauce instead (or both).

Mirabella - Saugerties, NY

117 Partition St
Saugerties, NY 12477

Following some late afternoon tennis, the wife and I had been planning to eat at Tango (one of our favorite breakfast/lunch spots). Unfortunately for us, they were closed when we arrived. We walked around town and ended up at Mirabella, a small Italian family restaurant/bar. We had eaten at Mirabella a few times before and the food was decent, but I had never tried the pizza. I was concerned by the menu listing "hunting lodge-style pizza", but I decided to go for it anyway. I ordered an personal size Italiano: Fresh Mozzarella, Sliced Prosciutto, Fresh Basil.

I'm still not exactly sure what "hunting lodge-style pizza" means, but it is not a good. The crust was crispy inside and out and lacked any flavor or springiness. The sauce was a bit spicy, almost tasted like the chef threw in a few drops of Frank's Red Hot. I like hot sauce and spicy food, but it was really overpowering. The fresh mozzarella wasn't terrible, but was hard to taste next to the sauce. The prosciutto was not high quality, it really tasted more like ham...and may well have been ham. Lastly, the pie was covered with enough fresh basil for probably about 3 pies.

Many of my favorite dishes are the simple ones that good ingredients and flavors that can balance each other...this was the exact oposite. I ate it all, but I wasn't happy about it! I would eat at Mirabella again; as my caesar salad and the wife's stuffed clams were good, but that is the last of "hunting lodge-style pizza" for me!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Modern Apizza - New Haven, CT

As I was planning our trip to Connecticut for my stepmother’s birthday, I remembered we would only be about 20 minutes from New Haven. I grew up here but had never been to any of the “big three” New Haven pizzerias (Pepe’s, Sally’s & Modern). Why go there and wait when you could get a comparable pie from Zuppardi’s or Papa's? It was time to see what all the fuss was about…

After a grueling visit to Ikea (seriously, we were there for hours), we (my wife & sister) made our way towards Modern Apizza around 6 o’clock. Having read about the waits, we were expecting the worst. After parking we walked up and were a bit confused about protocol. There were about 10 people waiting outside and about 15 more in a small room. At first we thought that the people outside were in line, but after seeing a few people walk inside…we realized this was not the case. We sent my wife inside and she reported that it was oddly quiet (hungry people = no chatting?) Somebody directed her to give the server her name…but the server was nowhere in sight and there was a large sign instructing us not to enter the restaurant until our name was called. She came back outside to confer. We finally asked another group of people what to do and my sister went inside (busted past the sign!) and tracked down the server. We were finally on the list! After a 25 minute wait (not bad!), we were seated. The atmosphere was very pleasant; although it was packed, there was no bar area so you could talk and hear each other comfortably.

After just a few minutes, a waitress came over and took our order: Small mozzarella ½ pepperoni, small clams casino w/no mozz (clam, bacon, and pepper), small eggplant w/no mozz, two small salads and a pitcher of Foxon Park Birch Beer. I wasn’t timing things, but our pitcher and salads came out fairly quickly. Shortly after the salads were gone, the main course arrived…

Everything looked and smelled delicious! The crusts were charred well and the cheese on my ½ pepperoni was the perfect color. I was surprised how thin the crust was, this was different from other local pies. In my opinion it was almost too thin…I’m not one who loves a huge crust, but I think a little thicker crust could be enjoyable. The pepperoni was a little disappointing. Nothing special about it, and it was the type of pepperoni pizza where the wrong bite of pepperoni will take most of the cheese with it. I have no complaints about cheese on my pie, it fact it may be some of the best I have had! Just the right amount, perfect amount of saltiness…very delicious!

The ladies were not quite as pleased with their pies. They both said that they felt things were a little bland…I found this hard to believe, but it was true! Without the mozzarella the crust and sauce just couldn’t do the job. My sister (who never adds salt), sprinkled a little bit of salt on top and said it helped things. On the clam pie, I was surprised to see large pieces of soft bacon. It was good (who doesn’t love bacon?), but not great…overall the clam pie was a bit of a let down. We had similar feelings about the eggplant pie. The eggplant pieces were good, but not great…and overall the pie was just okay.

In summary, we had a great time a Modern Apizza. The wait was not bad, service was quick and friendly and the pizza was good. The mozzarella pie was very good and I would put this up there on the list of better pizzas I have consumed. If you live in the area, it is definitely worth checking out and even worth the wait. Did the make the list? Unfortunately not.