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The Perfect Pizza: A Lesson from Those Who Know Best

Comment | March 26, 2012 | By | Photographs by Clay Williams

There are those who like pizza and those who love pizza.  The lovers were at the Brooklyn Brewery this past Wednesday evening for How to Knead, Top and Toss, the latest installment in our How To series that taught pizza fans all they needed to know about creating the perfect pie.  We rounded up some of the most knowledgable people on the subject, Pizza a Casa Pizza School, Murray’s Cheese and Motorino and here’s a little re-cap of what we learned.

Pizza a Casa Pizza School kicked off the evening with a lecture on the foundation of crust.  Some of the things we learned? Avoid using a baking sheet–it makes the pizza sweat, resulting in a soggy pizza.  Instead, invest in a pizza stone.  Your pizza will benefit from having the moisture pulled out.  Also, avoid rolling pins, and while it may be tempting, don’t throw around your dough like you see on TV.  A pizza peel is a handy way to shimmy your pizza in and out of the oven, but a piece of cardboard will also do the trick.  Speaking of ovens, pre-heating is key (an hour should suffice) and as irresistible as it is, don’t open the door while the pie is cooking.  If you weren’t at the lecture, bummer!  Twelve lucky audience members got to taste Mark Bello’s creation, fresh out of the oven.

Murray’s Cheese was up next with a demo on how to make–you guessed it–cheese!  Tip #1: Never, ever, ever use ultrapasteurized milk when making cheese.  And lucky for us pizza addicts, mozzarella is pretty simple cheese to make at home.  All you need is a gallon of milk, a cup of cool water, a teaspoon of citric acid, 1/2 rennet tablet and a tablespoon of kosher salt.  We got to try Murray’s own mozzarella (um…delish) and take a recipe home.  One insider trick we learned: though cheese cloth might sound logical for this kind of recipe, try muslin instead.  It works better.  Who knew?

And last but nowhere near least, Motorino taught us not to overlook the humble tomato when making pizza.  In Italy, the sauce changes based on geography.  Up north, the French influence seeps into sauce recipes with carrots and celery, while further south, Neapolitan sauce is on the sweet side; this is the sauce that Americans are most used to.  Before we learned how to make a proper sauce, Chef Mathieu Palombino walked us through a blind tasting of various brands of canned tomatoes.  His recommendation?  Don’t rely on a brand name when deciding what tomatoes to use.  Even within a brand like San Marzano, which comes from a region where volcanic ash created nutrient rich soil, the quality of tomato varies from season to season.  Instead, pop open a few cans and taste to see which one offers the right amount of sweetness and acidity for your palate.

There’s nothing like a pizza lecture to leave you craving a slice.  Lucky for us, the Eddie’s Pizza Truck was parked outside.  If you missed out on our evening-o-pizza, check out our slideshow.  Buon appetito!

About Michaela Johnson

With an affinity for making lists (complete with check boxes), a history of smuggling goat cheese into college cafeterias and a never ending obsession to perfect her pie crust, it was only natural that Michaela Johnson would find her way into the position of planning and executing events for a food magazine.

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