Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pizza Night on Cumberland

Photo by shantilly picnic


Thursday is Pizza Night at the Mignogna/O'Keefe apartment in Fort Greene. I make the pizza dough, Steve always has some over-the-top plan for toppings, and Paul and Mikey are there to bring us back down to earth when we get carried away. Sometimes it's just the four of us, sometimes we're lucky enough to have Rachel (Mikey's girlfriend) join, and sometimes we have special guest appearances. One thing never changes, everyone always leaves happy and stuffed to the brim. The keys to a successful pizza (night) are - the dough, the heat, the pan/stone, the company, and the booze. 


Bring the Heat -- You don't need a wood-fired pizza oven, albeit it would be awesome, but heat is crucial. The best we can do at home is to crank our ovens as high as they will possibly go. Seriously, don't be afraid to use your broiler. Think of it as an upside down grill. If you're not sure where your broiler is located, now's the time to take a look and find out. That drawer under your oven that's oh so convenient for storing your extra cookie sheets and casserole dishes, might in fact be your broiler. If your broiler's on the top of the oven, make sure you move a rack up to the highest possible position in the oven. If your oven's heating element is on the bottom of your oven, then your broiler is most likely in a separate compartment underneath your oven. Either way, get to know your broiler; it's a great tool for quick cooking and finishing off dishes. Our favorite method is to preheat the oven to 500 degrees with the pan inside for 30 minutes, pull the pan out to place the pizza on top, then throw it back in on the top shelf (my broiler is on top) and switch the oven to broil. The pie will be done in 2-5 minutes. If you pull it out and the bottom of the crust didn't cook enough, you can either turn the oven back to 500 or finish it off on the stove top.


Cast Iron -- There may not be anyone in this world who likes pizza more than my man, Steve. And I'm almost certain there's no one that spends more time researching cooking tools and methods. So when he told me that we were getting a cast iron pizza pan instead of a stone, I trusted him. Guess what, he was right. At least for us. The cast iron absorbs and maintains heat so well that it creates the perfect crust. Plus, the side handles make it a breeze to move it around.

Photo by shantilly picnic
Good company and good booze to accompany pizza night goes without saying. I'm going to skip to the dough because, well, that's my game. Slowly but surely I'm figuring out the very best formula for this pizza dough. I usually start the dough on Monday night, allowing for a 3-day, slow ferment in the refrigerator. I always use some of my sourdough starter but the amount of commercial yeast, flour and water, the timing and kneading technique, and the types of flour vary from week to week. We've done side by side taste tests with Peter Reinhart's recipe, the NY Times no knead pizza dough, store bought, and everything in between. Every week we get closer to the ideal dough, with good oven spring, a crispy bottom, chewy crust, and mild yet complex flavor. Last week's dough had the best flavor by far, but the spring wasn't quite there. As such, this week I'm keeping the sourdough starter amount the same but adding a bit more instant yeast and slightly less water. Here's the formula.


Ingredients:
Makes five 13" pies

720 g '00' flour (about 5 3/4 cups)
130 g bread flour (about 1 cup)
550 g spring water, room temp (about 2 1/3 cups)
30 g salt (about 5 tsp)
75 g sourdough starter (about 1/4 cup)
8 g instant dry yeast (about 3 tsp)

Directions: 

Add everything to mixer except for the salt and 25% of the flour. Mix on low speed for 1-2 minutes until fully incorporated. At this point you MUST let the mixture rest for 20-30 minutes. This rest period is called autolyse and it allows for better absorption of water and gives the dough a head start on gluten structure development. So cover the bowl and just walk away.

Photo by shantilly picnic

Ok welcome back. NOW you can add the salt and start kneading the dough on low speed with your dough hook. After about 5 minutes, start adding the remaining flour little by little and turn up the mixing speed slightly. The hook should be making it's way through the dough and not simply pushing it around. Once it reaches that point it's done, hopefully you've gotten a good 10-15 minutes of kneading in there before that happens. The end result should be a wet soft dough. 

Photo by shantilly picnic

Once you're happy with the consistency, let it rest once more in the mixing bowl for 15-20 minutes and then pour it onto a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle a tiny bit of flour on the top and give it a few folds to help it come together in a nice smooth ball. Next, use your bench knife or bowl scrapper to divide the dough into five even pieces (about 300 g each) and shape each of them into a small boule. Place each individual boule into it's own lightly oiled container and let rest for another 10 minutes before placing in the refrigerator. You want to let it bulk ferment in the fridge for at least 24 hours but preferably 3-5 days.

Photo by shantilly picnic

Pizza night!! So depending on the temperature of your kitchen, you'll want to take the pie doughs out of the refrigerator 20-90 minutes prior to baking. If they don't look like they've risen much and/or your kitchen is cold, go ahead and take them out 90 minutes before for their final rise. If they look like they've developed quite a bit (maybe already showing some good air bubbles) and/or your kitchen is very warm, preheat your oven, get all of the toppings together, and then take the dough out just 20 minutes before you need it. You don't want it to over proof so follow your instinct and try to time it well according to your personal environment. Pour the dough out onto a floured work surface and sprinkle a bit of flour on top. Gently form a small lip around the dough using your finger tips. Then place the outside edges of your hands in the crevis you just formed and spread the dough outwards while turning. Your dough should have good elasticity because of all the kneading you did, so stretching is should be a breeze. No need to throw it over your head. Once it gets to about 13" in diameter, remove the cast iron pan that's been preheating in the oven for the last 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the pie dough to the pan (without burning yourself!) using the backside of you hands so that you don't rip a hole in the crust. Working quickly, top your pizza with the fixins of your choosing and throw it back in the oven. 

Photo by shantilly picnic

Immediately switch the oven to broil and keep an eye on that pie! It'll be done before you know it, in 2-5 minutes. Take it out before it chars too much on top. If the bottom of the crust it's crispy enough to your liking, put it on the stove top to finish it off. Here are some of my personal favorites from pizza nights past:

First, I have to give it to the classic margarita. Some might call this the "plain" pizza but I would call it the Puro Pizza (or Pure Pizza). We always make at least one or two, sometimes dedicating a whole pizza night to the margarita. What's nice about it is you can really focus on getting good quality ingredients because there's not too many. We prefer getting San Marzano whole tomatoes and crushing/seasoning them ourselves. We'll also pick up some fresh mozzarella, basil leaves (I like adding the basil after the pie comes out of the oven), some flavorful extra virgin olive oil for drizzling, and finish it with grey sea salt. Delicio!

Photo by shantilly picnic
Photo by shantilly picnic

Our dear friends, Evan and Dolores, joined us for one epic pizza night and brought with them the most beautiful head of frisee. We made up one of my all time favorite salads with this curly endive, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with grey sea salt. It was the balance to all the big flavor pizzas of the evening. 

Photo by shantilly picnic

So perfect in fact that I decided to throw it on a pizza! I love salad pizzas. Just be sure to add it after baking so the lettuce doesn't wilt. Good rule for any delicate greens.

Photo by shantilly picnic
Photo by shantilly picnic

Speaking of fresh salad pizzas, arugula is one of my favorite pizza toppings. Drizzled with a little olive oil and lemon, forget about it! It pairs amazingly with shaved Parmasean and maybe even a little prosciutto for our ham loving friends.
 
Photo by shantilly picnic


Ok now this pizza deserves a post in itself, it was so freaking unspeakably delicious. Steve and I were inspired after watching one of those "best thing I ever ate" shows on pizza. He swears it was Bar in New Haven, CT where we first saw a pizza joint specializing in mashed potato pies but I'm pretty sure it was Otto Pizza in Portland, ME. Either way Steve wanted to recreate this pie using Jeffrey Steingarten's 2-stage cooking method for the perfect mashed potatoes. Apparently gummy, gluey mash results when starch granules, which absorb water during cooking, burst and release their sticky contents. To avoid this, Steingarten suggests cooking potatoes in two stages: first in hot water that is well below a simmer (the top right picture below is after our spuds spent an hour or two in the Sou Vide at 155 degrees), after which they are cooled and cooked again, this time at a simmer, until done. 

Photo by shantilly picnic

Slow roasted tomatoes are another crowd-pleaser, especially during the winter months when it's hard to find good tomatoes. Slow roasting will pull out so much flavor even from the most tasteless of tomatoes. Just be careful not to leave them under the broiler too long because they char pretty quick.. Still tasty as hell.

Photo by shantilly picnic
Photo by shantilly picnic


The Mignogna brothers preparing Paulie's "pie to feed the masses". 

Photo by shantilly picnic
Photo by shantilly picnic
Photo by shantilly picnic



Pin It

3 comments:

  1. Miss Shanti I am going to an Oscar Pahtay Sunday and I want to take one of your awesome pizzas... I don't have time for the sourdough starter and everything else in your blog. HELP. Love you,
    Marti

    ReplyDelete
  2. Baby Doll I can't wait until I go to NY to watch you in action.
    Marti

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Marti! Man it's been a long time. It would be so awesome if you came to NY for a visit! For your Oscar Pizza, why don't you try a quick yeasted dough. I've made Peter Reinhart's recipe and it had nice oven spring, crusty outside and chewy inside. The only thing you're really losing is the sourdough flavor (which is amazing!). Here's a link- http://www.fornobravo.com/pizzaquest/instructionals/59-written-recipes/92-classic-pizza-dough-neo-neapolitan-style.html. Let me know how it works out!

    ReplyDelete