22 September 2011

First Attempts at Pizza

It was finally decided that pizza would be cooked for dinner. Discussed many a times, even enacted once at a cooking class for E's birthday last year, but not for friends. My local expensive yuppie grocery store recently began stocking tipo 00 flour, the kind (hypothetically) used by chefs in Neapolitan cooking for their famous pizzas. That is, assuming you buy tipo 00 bread flour and not pastry flour. My packaged contained, as you can see, many photos of bread. The protein content was listed as 3g for 30g of flour (10%+ protein is a good indicator) and listed its humidity as 15,50% (another good indicator that it is meant for bread).
So, we set to work preparing procuring ingredients and prepping dough. The Saturday farmers market seems to be lacking in Mozzarella; though it appears Californian producers exist, none was found for sale. We did manage the large, juicy heirloom tomatoes and some smaller green zebra ones, as well as fresh basil. Generally, a pretty poor haul but we also wanted simple pizzas. We also snagged dates, as all the delicious ones are finally back in season. Notably Barhi dates, both unripened and ripe. Do try the unripened if you can, for an interesting experience, but note it was something like eating waxy paper or really bad jicama. It is amazing they turn into the ripe version; if you let them get warm in the sun they explode in your mouth. Soft, sweet, utterly delicious. But not a pizza topping.
For the dough, we used a modified Reinhart recipe, leaving out the oil and honey, and substituting 100% tipo 00 flour. The recipe warned us that less water would be needed; I didn't really listen. The initial dough was almost a batter, like the mini baguettes I make so frequently. Good for those, not so great for a pizza crust (unless you want it misshapen and thick). Just for the hell of it, I took about 1/4 of the dough aside to see what it would be like as crust, then poured flour into the dough and mixed until it felt right. I ended up using ~20% more flour than the recipe called for. So, yes, tipo 00 needs much less water than you would expect. And it still wasn't really glutenizing all that well, likely due to a combination of being worked for too long a period and being mixed in stages.
The resulting pizzas were quite good, though I'm not sure the crust had anything to do with it. The first pizza (the last photo here) was under-cooked. Given that the oven seemed to top out at 500 degrees, the cooking time was extended from the recommended 5 minutes in to the 10-15 minute range. The best pizzas were ones with a crust that had just started to blister and brown, however long that may take in your oven.

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