L&B

Thick and pillowy upside down Sicilian inspired by L&B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn.

The dough is 65% hydration, with 4% oil. I cooked it in a 10×15 quarter sheet tray. 825 grams of dough, enough for 5.5 grams of dough per sq inch, which made for the perfect thickness

I’m pleased with how it came out, with one exception, I overcooked it a bit, and the crumb wasn’t quite as moist as I would’ve liked. The bottom was well browned and crunchy, and the crumb was light and tender enough. There was a satisfying amount of sauce and cheese, with that pleasant “sauce first” eating experience you get with an upside down slice.

All in all, very good for a first try.

Utica

I used Roma Sausage—Utica’s most famous tomato pie—as my template when I set out to make a facsimile. In my opinion, what makes Roma’s pies so special is the sauce. The sauce is laid down in a thick layer, and one gets lots of that deliciousness in each bite. The sauce is simple and tomato forward. Its balance of salt and sweetness is nearly perfect.

Utica tomato pie is working-class fare. It’s supposed to be cheap eats. This is not gentrified fare we’re creating. I used inexpensive crushed tomatoes.

I added nothing to the tomatoes except some tomato paste for body, salt, and a little sugar to get the salty/sweet balance just right. I cooked it just long enough to thicken it up a bit.

I didn’t want the sauce to cook in the oven. I wanted a light, bright sauce, not one that’s concentrated and cooked down like an Italian gravy. The pizza will spend a reasonable amount of time in the oven, and the sauce will further cook during that time. When I baked the pie, I put only a very thin layer of sauce to prevent the crust from browning. I added most of the sauce post-bake.

I was delighted with the result. The eating experience and flavor profile were very similar to Roma’s.

My tomato pie is on the left. On the right is Roma’s tomato pie.

Homemade tomato pie.
Homemade tomato pie.

True NY

I owe a debt of gratitude to Joe Rosenthal for helping me to make true NY style pizza. Before one can make something, one has to know what one is making, and to make it well, one has to understand the details and nuances of said thing. Joe Rosenthal goes into detail about NY style pizza, what it is and how to make it, and he leaves no stone unturned. Thanks to his tips, procedures, and dough formulation I’ve been making excellent NY style pizza at home.

Here are two recent examples of my homemade NY style pies.

NY style pizza made in a typical home oven — plain cheese.
NY style pizza made in a typical home oven with homemade Italian sausage and sautéed mushrooms.

Pep in your step

I discovered a very good NY style pizza dough recipe a little while back for use in a home oven with a steel. This has become my go to dough for pizzas made in my home oven at 550F, and it’s also worked well when I’ve used it in my Roccbox at about 850F.

I’ve fallen in love with pepperoni. I have half-a-dozen different brands in my fridge at any one time, and I’m constantly trying different brands. I’m not sure if this is an original idea, it likely isn’t, but I thought it’d be fun to put three different styles of pepperoni on one pie.

NY style pizza baked in a typical home oven with flat pepperoni, cupping pepperoni, and cubed pepperoni.

Detroit

A Detroit-style pizza I made on a whim. 75% hydration, with a mix of 90% King Arthur 00 Pizza flour, and 10% semolina. Cubed Monterey Jack and Mozz blend. Topped with pepperoni and red chili.

It turned out beautiful. Tender open crumb, with a crisp undercarriage and lovely caramelized edges.

All Aboard the Palate Train!

Picky eaters drive me nuts. There’re few things more frustrating than dining with a picky eater. Some restaurants don’t have food that they’ll eat, and that usually means one person will dictate where a group eats because they ‘don’t like’ whatever it is the group wants. Any shared dishes must be chosen to appease their picky palate. They don’t like broccoli, so this dish it out, or they don’t like tomatoes, so we’re not ordering that appetizer. There’s no telling the weird restrictions picky eaters will enforce. I’ve met people who don’t like potatoes of all things.

Cooking at home is the same. Picky eaters enforce lowest-common-denominator cooking and dictate what is made. Sometimes two separate meals need to be prepared, one for people that will eat whatever you put in front of them, and one for the picky eater. I find it to be unfair, and I understand it’s not intentionally so, but it’s selfish.

To be clear, I’m talking about those who “don’t like” and choose not to eat certain foods. Allergies are a different issue; dietary restrictions due to allergy are not made by choice.

There’s a great irony here. I was a picky eater.

Continue reading “All Aboard the Palate Train!”

It’s the Culture

Why does NY City have the largest concentration of the most famous pizzerias anywhere outside of Italy? Why does NYC have so many fantastic pizzerias, compared to the rest of the country?

I have heard it said over and over, “It’s the water!” as though NYC water had some magical properties to it. But that myth is easy to debunk. If New York’s water were the secret to its great pizza, there would not be great pizza elsewhere, and we all know that is not true. Not only is there great pizza all over the USA (just not in the numbers NY has), but there’s also great pizza everywhere in the world—especially in the pizza capital of the world, Naples.

There are two reasons why NY has so many great pizzerias compared to other parts of the country. Continue reading “It’s the Culture”

Sugar Sugar and More​ Sugar

I’m convinced most Americans are addicted to sugar.

I went to 20 North Broadway Tavern last night with friends. We ordered wings, and one of the sauces we tried was the ‘triple threat’. Apparently, it’s popular and people really like it. But I found it lacking. It’s not a triple threat, it’s a single threat. Ostensibly, heat is one of the three threats, but in actuality, it’s only a threat to your blood sugar levels. It’s all sweet, with no heat.

I’m a big fan and sweet and spicy. But, it must be very spicy, with a hint sweet. I’d put the proper ratio at something like 80% spicy, with 20% sweet.

Continue reading “Sugar Sugar and More​ Sugar”

Random Thoughts on Pizza

I’ve eaten pizza in four of the top ten pizzerias in America. Soon, I’ll be making the trip to NYC to check the fifth and possibly a sixth off that list.

I have plans to spend a weekend in Brooklyn, and a weekend in Boston to eat pizza. I hope to make the trek to New Haven again and explore more of the pizza there. (I have eaten at Pepe’s.)

I’ve driven as far as 2 1/2 hours one way just to eat pizza at a single pizzeria, and then I turned around and came right back.

I’ve eaten at every single Neapolitan style pizza joint within a 2-hour radius of Albany. Every. Single. One.

I’ve eaten at 95% of pizzerias that have a wood oven in the area (that I’m aware of), and at most of the wood-fired pizza trucks. If I discover a pizzeria that has a wood oven and I haven’t been, I usually go immediately.

I’ve eaten pizza at well more than 100 local places and counting.

I just spent a weekend in Buffalo, the primary impetus to go there was to eat the pizza at Jay’s Artisan, a fantastic Neapolitan style pizza joint.

I once talked my wife into spending a weekend in Syracuse to go shopping at its giant mall, but I secretly wanted to go to eat pizza.

I put all of that out there not to toot my own horn, but to list my credentials. My opinions are based on a fair amount of experience. One can disagree with me (and you should!), but my opinions are not born out of ignorance.

Continue reading “Random Thoughts on Pizza”

Bad Chain Restaurants XIII – Domino’s Deception​

I had a good friend who worked at Domino’s Pizza in the mid-’90s. He worked the late shift and was left in charge. On occasion, he’d invite me to hang out with him. I got to spend time behind the counter watching the delivery drivers come and go, watch my buddy make the pizzas, and he’d also let me make my own pizza. I’ll never forget the contraption they used that would apply the cheese pellets (and they were indeed pellets). You’d load the proper amount of cheese into an elevated cone, then slide the pizza under, press the release button, and bam! A perfectly cheesed pizza.

At the time, I ate Domino’s pizza and would order a pie for delivery now and then.

But that was more than 20 years ago, and it wasn’t too long after that I met my wife, who was instrumental in nudging me toward learning to appreciate better food. She loathes Domino’s, and I haven’t eaten it since.

Recently, I decided it was time to revisit the chain. Admittedly, I fell victim to their marketing, and the idea of eating a pizza with a soft doughy crust, that’s sweetly sauced, and with a generous amount of cheese appealed to me.

I may have temporarily lost my mind. Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants XIII – Domino’s Deception​”