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holy grail for the pizza obsessive

I came across this site via Gothamist food--one man's multi-year quest to recreate an authentic Patsy's pizza at home:

http://www.sliceny.com/jvpizza.php

Thousands of words on proper flour, proofing, temperature, etc. I really admire this guy's devotion, and I think anyone who likes making pizza at home can find some useful tips within the exhaustive experimentation contained therein.

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  1. Astounding! Good thing he's on our side. Don't want someone with that kind of tenacity trying to recreate a McDonald's hamburger or a hydrogen bomb.

    1. Wow. I just wish that first picture had a slightly less unsavory background. What is that scum-covered thing by the dish scrubber?

      1. You want obsessive? HERE'S obsessive!

        http://pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php

        Learned nearly everything I know about pizza there, including where to mail order some really outstanding ingredients for your pizza.

        1. There's a lot of good info there, but he's a little confused in certain areas. First of all, sourdough isn't a case where the longer your store it, the better it gets. As the dough ages, acetic acid (vinegar) is created. This acid does add to flavor, but... it creates an inhospitable environment for the yeast/impairs leavening AND the acidic enironment prevents browning from occuring. His pizzas are either pale or charred, nothing in between- this is from the acid in the dough. He seems to be going way overboard with the souring aspect. Places like Patsy's may utilize a sourdough mother in their doughs, but I'm sure they retard the dough until they need it rather than retarding it for a specific length of time. This isn't artisan bread we're talking about here. They make the dough (direct method), they toss it in the fridge, and then they use it. That's fairly standard pizzeria protocol.

          He's a bit off base in regards to flour. King Arthur's bread flour is not only the worst tasting bread flour available, it creates incredibly unmanageable doughs. This is probably part of the reason why he can't toss his currect formula. He says he's tried many flours, but from what I can tell, he hasn't tried commercial bread flours. They're a night and day difference. Patsy's isn't using KA flour, believe me.

          The other aspect that he doesn't cover is the thermal mass of the pizza stone. Without a relatively thick stone, a decent Neopolitan pizza is impossible. There's a huge difference between a 800 degree electric oven and an 800 degree brick oven.

          He's also using dry yeast. Pizzerias never use dry yeast- always fresh.

          I would say he presents about 60% of the information necessary for make a Patsy quality pie. Combine this page with another informative site such as this one here:

          http://www.correllconcepts.com/Encycl...

          along with a little research on thermodynamics, and the aspiring Neopolitan pizza maker should be in good stead.

          2 Replies
          1. re: scott123

            I don't have a ton of time, but since some of this is directed my way I'll tackle it.

            >King Arthur.
            I've used Caputo, KA, Gold Medal, White Lily, Giusto and I'm tell you except for the caputo, I can make a nearly identical pie with these. The caputo is different but excellent. I can tell you that the best bakery in Atlanta is run by a head baker who used to be the head baker at Zabar's in NY. He uses KA. A lot of commercial places use KA. I just made a batch wtih Giusto bread flour and not one person could tell the difference.

            By commercial flours, do you mean bromated flours? Because I'm not adding chemicals to get a certain effect.

            >Can't spin the dough due to low quality flour
            I can't spin my dough because I choose to make a highly hydrated dough with less than full kneading. If you look at the dough I showed windowpaning, which is paper thin, that dough can be spun all day. But that's not what makes the best pie. Spinning is for show.

            "His pizzas are either pale or charred, nothing in between"
            Actually, this is the goal. Look at Da Michelle's pizza at the bottom of my page. That "leopard" charring is the goal of high end neopolitan pizza. It's not about the acid, it's about the temp and the moisture.

            > Thermal Mass
            This is important for running a commercial operation. But the real key is managing the temp differential. Based on the near perfect charring that I get and show in my photos, I don't see how you can say that a decent Neopolitan is impossible.

            >He's also using dry yeast. Pizzerias never use dry yeast- always fresh.
            Same organism and I can point you to several bakers who'll say it makes no difference. When I use it, which is about half the time, I use 1/8 teaspoon for 3-5 pizzas. I'm mostly using a natural starter.

            >Extended aging
            Cold rise is a lot easier to manage. I am going to go over a warm rise technique also but it's difficult to manage if you are outside a commercial environement.

            1. re: JeffV

              Jeff, your reply got past me three and half years ago when you posted it, and, now that I read my post again, I'm a little glad that it did or I might have inserted my foot into my mouth a little farther. I still believe pretty strongly in the inadequacies of KA flour and the importance of thermal mass (and thermal conductivity) in a home oven setup, but... as far as everything else I said, I really had no clue what I was talking about.. I'm currently taking medication for my male answer syndrome and am doing much better :)

              Should our paths cross again, I may disagree with you, but it will be in a more respectful manner. You've earned it.

          2. I don't think he ever said that more time is better, otherwise, sometime in his six years of practicing he probably would have exceeded six days. And he never prescribed an amount of retardation, I think he seemed to advocate just what you suggested, make it and use it when needed.

            What's your justification for saying KA is the worst tasting flour... that's hardly empirical evidence you've provided. He's tried numerous different combos in the six years and even gives the evidence of pizzarias that use anything from medium-low to high gluten. I don't mean sound like I'm flaming here, but you've got to provide some sort of justification before laying out such truisms. Oh, and I hardly think that Patsy educated himself in thermodynamics before making his pie.

            5 Replies
            1. re: amkirkland

              He definitely recommend extended aging.

              "All dough should age 2-3 days in the fridge. I've aged it up to 6 days with good results."

              I highly doubt that Patsy's is aging their dough 3 days.

              I've taste tested KA bread flour against commercial bread flour on many occasions and the difference was night and day. Since so many breadmaking books recommmend KA flour (Reinhart is a huge fan) I refused to trust my own taste buds and kept using it/testing it time and time again. After making crummy pizzas on about 20 different occasions, I finally came to the conclusion that it wasn't me, and that KA bread flour truly is garbage. Period. I switched to commercial bread flour and it's been pure bliss ever since.

              In addition to my own taste buds, I've confered with quite a few other bakers regarding the quality of KA bread flour and, for those familiar with commercial brands, the overwhelming consensus is that the KA flour is vastly inferior. The only people I run across that speak highly of KA flour are the ones that haven't tried any other bread flour, the author of the web page included. At least no where on his page does he mention using a different brand of bread flour. Playing around with different gluten percentages (00, Sir Lancelot, etc.) is useless. Chewy/puffy pizza should be bread flour. A good bread flour.

              Patsy obviously has zero background in thermodynamics. For the home cook wishing to use an electric oven to replicate the effects of a brick oven- that's where knowledge is necessary. For the home cook with their own wood/coal burning oven, little to no thermodynamic knowledge is needed.

              1. re: scott123

                So, who makes a good commercial bread flour and where can you get it?

                1. re: sbp

                  http://www.progressivebaker.com/produ...

                  Inquire at your local bakery as to what flours they use. Most bakeries sell bread flour by the pound.

                  1. re: sbp

                    My local Costco has All Trump high gluten flour at about $6.50 for 25 pounds. It's not Caputo 00, but it is bread flour.

                    1. re: yayadave

                      costco is my source for everyday flour. I've been pleased.

              2. If only I had a coal-fired oven.

                1. He hacked a conventional electric home oven so he could heat it to 800 degrees?!?!!?!!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Jeffrey Steingarten does this in one of his books -- wets a wed of paper towels, wraps it around the oven's thermistor, and then removes it and freezes it solid. Placed back on, the oven always thinks it's cold and keeps heating. He said it made a carbonized pizza the size of a hockey puck.

                    I went through a year-long pizzamaking obsession and have the scars to prove it. Then I figured out it's not really worth the fire code infractions. It's easier to just find a good pizza place and patronize it -- and the looking and tasting is great fun.

                    1. re: themis

                      I make CI's thin crust pizza on a 500-degree-heated pizza stone, and I find it does just fine.

                      1. re: MuppetGrrl

                        I wondered if there was a way to achieve a similar effect with a charcoal grill--that's one advantage of grilling pizza, you get mega-high heat, like a pizzeria. I'm just not sure how to regulate it perfectly.

                        1. re: Mandymac

                          The crust I'm after, I need at least 700F to get it. So the closest I could get was to set my oven on 'clean' to preheat my pizza stone, and then transfer that to my Ducane grill set to high.

                          A Ducane grill is cast aluminum; the same process they use to make a SHO (super-high output) car engine. Before they sold out, every US President was gifted with a Ducane grill, since Eisenhower. They hold heat so well you can use them to deep-fry; they're second only to the Big Green Egg (TM) in that respect.

                          Anyway, many blisters later, like I said -- I just go out for pizza, anymore. You simply can't get the crust sear I'm after without a custom outdoor pizza oven.

                          1. re: themis

                            You're carrying a 700 degree pizza stone outdoors?!?! Whoah! I'm really glad you've given up on this endeavor. Under chilly/moist conditions, a 700 degree stone could explode in your arms.

                            You can get the right Neopolitan crust sear in a conventional electric oven with the right baking stone. It's all about thermal mass.

                          2. re: Mandymac

                            We grill all out pizzas, both for the high heat and the great flavor from being over direct flame. It took some time to work out, but we grill BOTH sides of the pizza crust without toppings, then run it inside where it's topped and slid under the broiler to finish. This works for us.

                          3. re: MuppetGrrl

                            There's a huge difference between a pizza that takes 2-3 minutes to bake and a pizza that takes 6+ minutes to bake. The intense heat creates a massive amount of oven spring and the crust ends up incredibly puffy/light but still chewy on the outside. Naan bread baked in a blazingly hot tandoor can get a similar quality. Imo, there's no better bread on the planet.

                          4. re: themis

                            I'm less worried about the fire code than about burning down my house.

                        2. Ah I see I am about a year late, but I am researching flour today and this link came up. I am not a fan of this style of pizza, but I can tell you I worked years in a pizza restaurant and I got conned into making the dough for a while-until I totally revolted! lol But, the point I wanted to make here, is we ALWAYS used dry yeast and this place makes one of the best pizzas in a big part of Illinois. We also received the monthly Pizza magazine and they advertised canned puree like we used-but it was a great brand, and we used name brand spices to doctor it up and they even advertised yeast. I couldn't talk them into sending me to the national pizza convention-I just wanted an excuse for a paid holiday rofl.

                          I had neopolitan style pizza in Austria and it did not have the spotted charred look. It was all the lighter brown all over the pizza which suited my tastes more. Outside of 2 pizza places in Illinois the best pizza I ever tasted anywhere was in Mälmo!!! (Sweden)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: DerSchuhmacher

                            Hi there, I know you posted this a long time ago, but I recently moved to Malmö, Sweden from Seattle and I am seriously craving some real pizza. What was the name of the pizza place you went to? I am hoping it's still around!