My 2016 Goal is to unearth the divine truths hidden inside The Pizza Bible.
Last year Tony Gemignani, an 11-time World Pizza Champ, published a book detailing the pizza craft. According to the intro, titled Respect the Craft, he says:
Pizza is simple. It's dough, tomato, cheese, and toppings. But as someone who has devoted more than half of my life to it, I can tell you that, like all really great, really simple things, pizza is infinite...And what I can tell you for sure is that pizza doesn't come down to just recipes or formulas. It's a craft.
To up my game as a pizza journalist I know I need to embed myself in the pizza religion. It's something I've been practicing as a hobby for a while, but this year I'm making a covenant with pizza. It should be exciting.
Me and my pizza pal Chad will work our way through The Pizza Bible. We'll have more details to follow, but before you can make a pizza you need to pass The Master Class.
The book begins with The Master Class. This is a 19 page journey into the philosophy of pizza making according to Tony Gemignani. Before you touch a single ounce of flour he would rather you read all 19 pages - this covers everything from gadgets to ovens and key ingredients. It’s the fundamental information you’ll need to become a pizza maker. A pizza maker that can discern ingredients, techniques and toppings. And, more importantly, now how to innovate.
The Master Class consists of charts, graphs and detailed descriptions of the types of flour you’ll encounter on your pizza journey. You’ll find an easy-to-read chart listing the protein %, and what flour is good for what pizza.
This is all before the official first day of the class. The first day has you creating two pizzas from the same dough. Both use a two-step rising process but both will come out of the oven looking like opposites.
At the end of day one, after tediously measuring out every gram of salt and ounce of yeast, you have one large mass of dough. This dough will eventually become two pizzas, but for now it’s a large blob. By letting the dough rise in one piece you’ll find that the individual pizzas bake lighter, crispier and are more flavorful than if they rose separately. Why? Because of the degassing process.
Reading through day one has already taught me techniques to refine home-baked pizza:
Hydration - This is one of the key factors in differentiating dough. The higher the hydration of dough, the lighter, puffier, more tender and more crisp the dough is likely to be. This is because all that hydration turns to steam in the cooking process, which helps the dough expand. Which gives a crispy crust that protects the soft inside. The tradeoff? The dough becomes quite difficult to wield.
High-Protein Flour - Gluten, a protein that forms a "gluten network" helps make the dough more elastic. This is measured in flour as a "percent protein" in flour. It's not listed on the bag, but Tony has a recommended list of flours. This percent protein can change through the year depending on the weather, environment, temperature, etc.
Malt - Malt is perfect for at-home baking as it helps the dough brown perfectly without being exposed to the high-temperatures of pizza oven. It's a neat trick to turn your home into its own pizza shop.
There's plenty of other insights I'm excited to share. I'm sure at the end of this I'll have a better understanding of what makes great pizza great as well as a few new pizza prayers.
If you're interested in learning more, you can visit The Pizza Bible website, which doubles as a pizza community. It's a cool place to post pizza questions and get feedback from your peers.