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Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips Logo

2020-06-25 Pizza AND TRADITION!!

From Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips

Let's change course in the middle of the data stream... let's talk pizza!  AHHH!!!  Pizza!

One of my favorite YouTube series is "Real Dough - is it pizza?" Scott Wiener (owner of Scott's Pizza Tours in New York City  - I really want to take a few if his tours when we can safely travel again!) and his friend Mark Iacono (owner of the Lucali pizzeria in New York CIty, which is a pizzeria I want to visit)  have a long standing discussion.  What IS a pizza?  Mark has some strict rules, and Scott tries to find edgy pies to push Mark's boundaries.  They take pizza tours of their own to area pizza joints.

I won't repeat Mark's pizza rules here, because he repeats them in every video.  Is a Ramen pizza a pizza?  How about Chicago style?  There are some surprises along the way - see if you agree with Mark the pizza purist!

If you want to make a better pizza, there are few better videos than those from Vito Iacopelli Di Bari, the owner of Pizza Provami in Los Angeles.

Without giving a spoiler about Mark's rules, most people think a pizza should be round.  Of course, Detroit pizza, Grandma pizza and a few other pies fly in the face of that.  How about tomato sauce?  We have a nice pizza that uses a basil pesto sauce, and there are white pizzas that have a white sauce.  Some pizzas have no sauce at all.

Ya gotta use Mozzarella cheese!  We have a nice breakfast pizza that has cheddar and eggs on it.  Detroit pizza is usually made with brick cheese (which is a white cheese somewhere between a farmers cheese and Monterey Jack) and it can be made with cheddar.  I tend to view a pizza as a blank canvas on which I can draw whatever I want, a great way to get rid of leftovers!

Here are some recent ideas I ran into - how about using an Indian sauce like Tiki Masala and veggies?  Or add some roasted chicken?   You can buy the sauce in most grocery stores if you aren't up to making it yourself.

A recent sourdough pizza I saw had the pizza maker prepare a sourdough shell, put Swiss cheese in it and par bake it.  When it came out of the oven, the cheese was molten, and then the pie was covered with fresh sliced peaches, arugula, some basil and then had Balsamic vinegar drizzled on it. Gee - this one of those no sauce pizzas I mentioned!  I might have worked on drying the peaches a bit - say between two pieces of cheese cloth, and then baked them as a second bake of the pizza.  And perhaps added some spices to the peaches.  The recipe isn't really yours until you change it!

To paraphrase Joe Cahn, "if you like a food, chances are good you'll enjoy it on a pizza!"

This next part could have been a twofer.  I could have broken it into two different posts, but it's on my mind now, so it goes into the newsletter now.  TRADITION!

Someone on Facebook asked if you could make sourdough bread by kneading it. Instead of focusing on kneading, it is helpful to focus on the concept of developing dough.  That can happen through physical action (kneading), chemical action (NY Times no knead), or a hybrid such as stretch and fold.  All of these approaches have been used for many, many years.  Lately, we've added dough mixers to automate kneading.  They all work.  And when used well, the results really aren't all that different from one another (while we're not big fans of the no-knead as it seems to make blander bread than we prefer, it does work quite well).  If you have joint issues that keep you from kneading by hand, you can use the no-knead technique, stretch and fold, or use a mixer to do the heavy lifting for you.  In general, just use whichever technique you prefer no matter what it says in the recipe!

I have to mention that we've had many students who told us they couldn't knead dough. Since we don't have enough mixers for our students, we knead by hand.  So far, all the students have been able to use our kneading techniques with no problems.  It's a gentle method.  If you think you can't knead, you might give it a try!  We have a whole post about how to knead dough.

One of our posters asked if it isn't more common to slash dough just before it goes into the oven rather than just after loafing?  Again, people seem to think the way they learned it is the only way to do it.  In the real world, if you ask 5 bakers how they do something you'll get at least 12 answers.  Let's start with a bit of heresy - slashing isn't required.  People slash to take advantage of oven spring, so the dough will tear in attractive ways.  Oven spring usually happens when the dough hasn't been allowed to fully rise.  In France excessive oven spring is seen as a flaw, as it means the dough was robbed of its full flavor development through fermentation. However, they do appreciate a good "ear" on bread, so they don't dismiss oven spring, just excessive oven spring.  All this means, yeah, you can forgo slashing altogether.

If you do slash, you can slash as soon as you form your loaves.  The advantage of this is that the loaves won't collapse due to the slash.  On the other hand, the slash will be less distinct when baked as the rising dough will tend to fill in the cut somewhat.  Still it can be attractive, though not as dramatic as slashing a risen loaf.

You can slash a risen loaf, and that can create some vivid patterns on the baked loaf. However, it carries the risk that when the loaf is slashed, it could collapse.  If the loaf collapses, that's a hint that you shouldn't slash the rest of the loaves in that batch.  You can knead the loaf again, and let it rise again so all may not be lost.

Refrigerating a loaf can firm it up and prevent loaf collapse.  This can be especially useful if you get into complex loaf art where you slash loaves very decoratively.  We recently shared a web article about Blondie B's bread art on the Bake With Mike Facebook page.  In case you missed it, look at

Until next time, no matter how you leaven, loaf, slash or raise your dough, may it always rise!

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