0 pounds of flour used since Feb 2004!

Welcome to (aka Pizza Maker's Journal) where I document my journey to the perfect pizza! I have set out to create several pizza recipes that can be made at home, inexpensively and of the quality that you expect from a fine pizzeria. I hope you find my notes useful. Happy Pizza making!

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(the Pizzamaniac)

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    Buffalo Chicken Pizza
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    Grandma Pizza

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    Went to Pittsburgh and came back with pizza goods

    Filed under: — PizzaBill @ 2:08 pm

    Tomato wall at Pennsylvania Macaroni
    This month I took some time to do some visiting in Pittsburgh. While there, we made a trip to the strip district for some shopping. I wandered into the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company unaware that inside was a treasure for the home pizza maker. As soon as I walked through the door I saw a large wall of canned tomatoes. Taking a closer look, I realized that many of the brands I’ve read about were all for sale there. I saw La Valla, Escalon 6-in-1, and Bella brands as well as some others from the San Marzano region. In addition to tomato products, they also sell two famous brands of pizza flour – Caputo 00 Pizzeria and All Trumps bromated flour. The flour could be purchased in 5 lb or 50 lb bags at a very reasonable price. The cost of shipping these products is what had kept me from experimenting with them in the past. As such, I was extremely excited to load up my car with flour and tomato cans.

    Shop at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company

    As soon as I got home I tore into both flour bags and made large dough batches from both brands. From my research, I knew that the Caputo 00 flour was designed for very high temperature ovens. Since I was making this pizza at home, the best I could do was plan to turn it up to 550 degrees and hope for the best (more on this in a future post). I made the Caputo flour blanks into classic Napoletana magherita pizzas using the La Valla tomatoes and some fresh cheese and basil. The results were good, but I clearly need more heat in order to get this dough to perform.

    The real surprise was the All Trumps flour. I used the All Trumps to bake a New York Style pizza in all of it’s glory. Since All Trumps is formulated for lower oven temperatures, it is perfectly suited for the home oven. The dough recipe I used was a modified Lehman recipe which had 65% water. Below is the dough recipe I used:

    Flour (100%): 337.4 g | 11.9 oz | 0.74 lbs
    Water (65%): 219.31 g | 7.74 oz | 0.48 lbs
    IDY (1.36%): 4.59 g | 0.16 oz | 0.01 lbs | 1.52 tsp | 0.51 tbsp
    Salt (1.69%): 5.7 g | 0.2 oz | 0.01 lbs | 1.19 tsp | 0.4 tbsp
    Total (168.05%): 567 g | 20 oz | 1.25 lbs

    I mixed the IDY into a small amount of the water (water should be around 100 degrees) and let it dissolve for about 10 minutes. Then I mixed that yeast water into the rest of the water in the mixer bowl along with the salt. Next, I added the flour slowly with the mixer on low speed for around 5 minutes until it looked well mixed. Then, I mixed for 5 minutes on second speed. When the dough looked smooth, I removed it and formed 20 oz balls ready for the refrigerator. The dough smelled, looked and felt wonderful after a 48 hour cold rise.

    I stretched it onto a pizza screen and topped it with my Traditional Sauce with Escalon 6-in-1 tomatoes for the base. I then layered whole milk mozzerella cheese and chopped pepperoni and baked it for 8 mnutes at 485 degrees.

    The pizza had great oven spring, a wonderful chewy crumb and a well darkened crust rim complete with the tiny blisters that are the hallmark of high hydration dough. The flavor and texture of this dough easily matched and probably exceeded that of the pizzas I had made with KASL several months ago. Best of all, I could purchase All Trumps for the same price that I pay for flour at my local grocer. In fact, I think I will change to this flour for all of my traditional style pizza making from now on – it’s that good.

    Here are some shots of the various pizzas we made from the dough – Enjoy!

    Napoletana from Caputo 00

    Napoletana from Caputo 00 crust

    NY style with All Trumps crumb cam

    NY style with All Trumps


    Leftover Night – San Marzano Tomato and Basil

    Filed under: — PizzaBill @ 2:25 pm

    Leftover San Marzano tomato pizza

    After having success this week with Grandma Pizza, I had leftover San Marzano tomatoes and some remaining fresh basil. When I peeked into the refrigerator and realized that the second dough ball of my double batch remained I was compelled to go another round.

    Being somewhat hungry and having no fresh mozzarella I decided to go for a round pie. Since the dough ball was larger than normal, I opted to stretch it for a nice large crust. Next, I coated the dough with olive oil and a healthy heap of shredded mozzarella. I topped the cheese with the last of my chopped basil as well as some salt, oregano and pepper.

    I prepped the tomatoes again by squeezing much of the water out and combining them in a large bowl to be crushed. When they were semi-pureed I spread them liberally onto the pizza and placed it in the oven to bake at 480 degrees for 9 minutes.

    I was pleasantly surprised by this quick pizza. It had some of the classic flavor from the Grandma Pizza enjoyed the night before even without the classy cheesy and fresh roasted garlic. This pie, however would be much cheaper to make and a bit quicker too. It also had far less olive oil as it was baked on a screen and not fried in a pan.

    I’ll keep this little gem in my mind as a great classic tasting option when cost is a consideration. Next time, I’ll try domestic peeled tomatoes and see if that destroys the amazing combination of flavors.

    NOTE: I topped the pizza with fresh Parmesan after taking photos and that was a good thing.

    leftover san marzanos leftover san marzanos


    Best Ever Grandma Pizza

    Filed under: — PizzaBill @ 2:00 pm

    Grandma Pizza -
    This weekend I went for round two of my attempts at creating Grandma Pizza at home. Originally inspired to try this recipe after tasting a “grandma pizza” at a pizza shop in Harrisburg, PA then instructed by Chef Bruno in this video Chef Bruno Makes Grandma Pizza I was ready to begin trying some variations on my first attempt.

    The basic approach remained the same. I used my traditional recipe, a bit wet (slightly higher water) for the dough. It was very soft, but not sticky coming out of the bowl. This was allowed to rest in the refrigerator over night in about 22 oz. balls. The next day around noon, I took the ball out of the oven and stretched it into a cookie sheet which was lightly coated with olive oil. Chef Bruno says to use a lot of oil, but I had too much oil on my first attempt, so I cut back this time by simply wiping the pan with an oiled paper towel, rather than allowing puddles to form. I also treated to top of the dough with a very light coat of olive oil in the same way, no puddles. I wrapped the top of the tray with cellophane to keep it from drying out and let it rest at room temperature. Two hours later I came back and stretched the dough gently into the corners of the pan. I could see that it had risen and bubble were forming in the crust. I used care not to flatten or press on the dough, but rather stretch it by gently pulling on it. Two more hours later, the dough had risen just above the tray top and almost completely filled the corners. I pulled very slightly toward the corners and set it aside.

    The toppings are very expensive for this pie. I spared no expense this time, but will begin to experiment with slightly less expensive toppings for future trials. It gets topped with mozzarella and Parmesan, whole tomatoes, garlic, rappi (rappini), oregano, basil, salt and pepper.

    First up was the roasted garlic and rappi. I roasted this myself while the dough was rising. Simply peel the cloves (I used 1-1/2 small cloves) and place them in aluminum foil with chopped rappi (about 2 TBL). Then place the wrapped ball in the oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes until the garlic becomes tender.

    I used 1/2 lb fresh (U.S.) mozzarella for one half and a 1/2 lb ball of smoked mozzarella for the other side of the pie. The cheese goes down first, sliced thickly in about 1/4 inch slices. I left about a 1 inch gap between slices for melting.

    Once the cheese in in place, I sprinkled the pie with Oregano, salt and pepper. Next I spread about 1/2 cup fresh chopped basil liberally over the cheese.

    Up next were the tomatoes. I purchased Cento brand San Marzano tomatoes in cans. The cans were $3.99 each and I used 1 and 1/2 cans (youch). It hurt to spend that much on toms, but they are San Marzanos, after all. I did my best to hand squeeze most of the water out of the tomatoes before slightly crushing them and laying them onto the pizza. I like lots of tomato, so I covered most of the top leaving about 1 inch gaps between tomatoes.

    Lastly before baking, I smashed the garlic and rappi and spread it over the pizza as well. I’ll need a better way to spread garlic as doing it by hand was a messy and inefficient affair. Once done, the pie was ready to bake.

    grandma pizza - pizzamaniac.comgrandma pizza -

    I had raised the temperature to its max for my home oven – 550 degrees. This requires caution when using oil and a cookie sheet on the bottom rack as the oil gets close to it’s burn point very quickly. The idea is for the oil to lightly fry the bottom of the crust. If you begin to see smoke, the oil is burning and you might have to lower the temperature. I baked it for just about 10 minutes and it had just began smoking at that time.

    When the pizza comes out it will look and smell amazing! However, stop to finish it with 1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese for a little extra texture and flavor.

    I noticed immediately the difference that less oil had made this time. Combined with the wetter dough and longer rise time it made for a wonderfully light airy, yet robust crust. I could almost imagine it being healthy for me! The other observation worth noting was that, for me, the fresh mozzarella tasted better than the smoked cheese for this pie. It seemed to have a tang that complimented the tomato perfectly while the smoked cheese was more subtle and seemed to blend in rather than stand out as a distinct flavor. This pizza seems to explode in your mouth and it’s a truly wonderful experience especially right out of the oven. This is one that you can use to impress even the most snobby of your pizza friends because the taste is classy and timeless. I highly recommend this recipe despite it’s higher cost.

    Next up – I’ll try to get the cost down by using other tomatoes and shopping around for fresh cheese. Enjoy!


    First Attempt at Grandma Pizza

    Filed under: — PizzaBill @ 10:56 pm

    grandma pizza

    Ever since I first heard about Grandma pizza I’ve been wondering what it would take to make one at home. Tonight, I gave it my best shot and I was very pleased. The pie is baked in a rectangular tray, similar to my tray pizza. The similarity stops there.

    For my first attempt, I used my traditional dough recipe and allowed it to raise in a bowl for several hours. Once it had achieved double volume, I stretched it into the well-oiled tray and allowed it to rise again. Once it filled the tray, I placed it in the refrigerator over night.

    The next day, I spread olive oil on the top of the dough, then layered slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese. Next was hand crushed San Marzano tomatoes sprinkled with oregano, salt and pepper. Finally, I spread chopped fresh basil and a whole clove of roasted garlic and rappini.

    The pizza went into the oven as soon as it was heated to 480 degrees. At that high temperature, however, the oil was smoking pretty badly. I was afraid that the smoke would spoil the flavor, so I turned the temp down until the crust looked light brown. The bottom looked to be starting to burn, so I turned on the broiler to finish the toppings and brown the cheese.

    The result was an amazing mix of flavor. My favorite part was the way that each bite was slightly different because of the way the toppings were placed on the pie. The classic ingredients went perfectly together and the crust had a wonderful light, crisp feel.

    I need to find a way to get the cost of this pizza down as the fresh ingredients added up quickly. I may also reduce the amount of oil slightly as it seemed a bit greasy. I am hooked on the taste of this pie and I will be baking another one very soon. It even reheated very well the next day.

    grandma pizza prebake     grandma pizza closeup


    Pizza Napolena from Biga Dough Batch

    Filed under: — PizzaBill @ 1:34 pm

    Pizza Napolena (before) Pizza Napolena (after)

    Tonight I made two pizzas from my recent test batch of Biga dough (dough made with a pre-fermented starter mix). The first was a Napolena, or as close as I could get, with hand crushed San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh buffalo mozzarella, drizzled olive oil, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

    For the oven prep, I used two pizza stones (one under and one over) with the oven set at 550 degrees. I wanted to have as much heat as possible in order to get a fast bake. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the pizza to bake any faster than normal. It baked in just under 8 minutes. I also ditched the pizza screen in order to get the best heat reaction on the pizza base. As you can tell by the photos, not using a screen allowed the dough ball (20 oz.) to shrink more than normal while on the peel. This caused the crust to be thicker than I wanted it to be. I’ll fix that next time.

    As for taste, I can’t say this any simpler… it was the best tasting pizza crust I’ve ever made. The texture and flavor was very near perfect in my opinion. There was a crisp outer crust with tender elastic inside crust. The flavor added by the pre-fermentation was unmistakable. It added a rich pizza bread flavor which most of my other dough batches were missing. In fact, I generally rely on the toppings and sauce to lead the taste of my pies. This dough recipe will allow me to keep toppings very simple and still have an effective overall taste experience. The Napolena in it’s beautiful simplicity really highlighted the flavor of the new dough recipe. Everyone at the table agreed.

    The second pizza was an attempt to serve a typical American pizza on the new (3-day old) dough. For this I used the same sauce that I always use and store brand cheese, pepperoni and mushrooms. The pizza was very good, if not somewhat trumped by the first one. I noticed with this pie the natural sweetness of the biga dough as the overall taste of the pie was far sweeter than my normal dough (despite the fact that this dough had no sugar added). I really liked the taste of a sweet pizza as this is something I’ve been after in sauce for quite a while.

    Overall, the first run of pizzas using the pre-fermented dough can be considered a smashing success for me. I learned a few things and I have some ideas for the pizzas I will be making from the rest of the batch. The main frustration was not seeing the quick bake that I was looking for in the oven. I’ve seen all sorts of zany ways to handle this, so stay tuned as I continue to tweak that part of my process. Enjoy the pics!

    Pizza made from biga test dough

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