Perfect Pizza

So now that we’ve mostly finished the pizza oven – did you see it’s build? – it’s time to make pizza.  It’s worth watching the 3 video’s Part 1 – 3 (each 1 – 2 minutes long) if you haven’t seen them:  kritterspaw.com.

I have 10, count them – 10, different pizza doughs that I want to experiment with.  They are all from well renown sources.  No. 1 is a local celebrity, making pretty good pies… even declared best pizza in the world, a lofty if not ridiculous title.  Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco’s in Phoenix, AZ is the first dough we try for our first pizza oven break-in.

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I think it’s fair to stop for a moment and discuss, what makes a good pizza.

Everyone’s definition is different.  Having made our own pizza oven, it’s important to us to make not just the best pizza in town… but the best pizza we (or our guests) has EVER had.  That’s our goal.  So what do we think makes a great pizza:

(1)  The dough.  I know some like to hold up a slice of piece and have it droop down, so they can fold it over lengthwise and eat it. This is what I call a New York tendency.  Bleh.  I like a pizza you can hold up and it stays rigid.  The crust should be stiff enough (thick enough) to hold the topping (and topping not be too juicy to make the crust soggy).  The outer edge should have a rim, and the dough itself be ‘ciabbata-like’, in other words with big holes, a great texture, and pleasant yeast bread taste.  The outer edge should be browned with slight burn blisters, but not overly burned.

(2) The toppings.  Do not over top.  Four, maybe five, toppings at the most.  Over topped pizzas are complicated, overwhelming flavor bombs that are hard to hold up, with toppings sliding right off.  The toppings should compliment each other, not compete.  Juicy toppings should be pre-cooked and used sparsely.. and above the less juicy layers (like on top of the pepperoni… or cheese).  Things like zucchini and mushrooms – juicy ingredients – should be cooked first before being used as toppings for pizza.

(3) Doneness.  The pizza should be cooked through.  The dough shouldn’t be doughy… and shouldn’t be burnt.  The dough should be done from the bottom enough to be browned and stiff.  Much like bread, it should ‘thunk’ when tapped to demonstrate it is done through.  It should never be soggy.

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To achieve each of these things takes discipline, practice, and technique.

The Bianco dough was a nice dough, and made good leftovers when re-heated (not soggy), an important characteristic.  But it was a bit like bread dough… not overly holey.

There would also appear to be an important fire management piece that goes into achieving the best dough.  We built a fire and wiped out the ashes with a wet towel on a stick, but allowed the fire to burn.  As a result, the oven acted like a broiler with the top dome at 850F and the floor at 600F… burning the top of the pizza, while not cooking all the way through on the bottom.  Next time, we’ll get the whole oven up to 900F, then take the fire out completely.  Mop down the floor, plug the oven (with the special door we made), allowing the oven temperature to equalize.  THEN, we’ll make our pizza.  It’s a learning process… next trial, next week.

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