I have stepped away from audiophilia indefinitely but in the meantime I have decided to pursue a hobby that is even more awesome, and less divisive: PIZZA!
Here is part of a post I put up at a pizza forum:
Around 2010 or so I tried making pizzas at home, with mixed results and gave up quickly. Now I'm ready to give it another go; thankfully there are now several tables (dough calculators and portion charts) handy ie Lehmann, Yeast chart etc. that I don't remember being available before. This has made my re-entry much, much easier.
Backstory: Grew up in NJ, with fam in NYC and pizza was my favorite street food (okay tied with a Jamaican beef patty or a good NJ sub). This was in the 80s and early 90s. I don't remember any specific place. It was just the slice we'd grab at whatever joint was on the corner in Brooklyn, Manhattan, or NJ.
I've lived in different parts of the country since then: Minnesota, Los Angeles, and now Seattle. Minnesota has a couple fancy shmancy spots and even a decent NY-style pizzeria (Andrea's) that kept me going thru the harsh winters. Los Angeles has/had Johnny Rockets (?) which was good for a fix and The Coop in Culver City which was legit excellent when the right person was at the oven. Now I'm in Seattle and pizza costs like all kinds of crazy money. Bad enough I can't even find decent Chinese take-out (yes plenty of 'authentic' but sometimes I just want some chicken w/broccoli to go), but $25 for a 14-16" pie? That's not happenin'. Also my significant other can't eat dairy, so that makes things even more tricky.
So I set out about a month ago to try and replicate that slice as best as I could at home. I've made about 12-14 14" pies so far, and with each pie I'm learning more and more about what I'm looking for.
My goal: Modified NY-style street slice. Thin, salty, kind of floppy umami bomb. Softer bottom okay (just easier to digest).
Here are the parameters so far:
All the pies have been RT [Room Temperature fermented] except one or two. RT lengths of ~16hrs or same day 5-6hrs.
Home Oven: Temp 475 to 500F
Non-stick pizza tray or Lodge Cast Iron 14"
Time: Started at ~13min, now down to 7-8m.
Formula has been a variation on this:
[Baker's percent by weight, not volume]
Bob's Red Mill Artisan Flour: 100% (Hi Gluten)
Hydration: 61 to 63%
ADY [Active Dry Yeast]: .042 to .168 (~ 12-16hr or ~6hr)
TF [Thickness Factor]: .102
Sauce: SM Brand Crushed Tomatoes - too acidic and bright for my taste
Cento Certified Peeled - Nice balance
Bianco DiNapoli Crushed - Favorite so far. Mild, sweet, flavorful. Wanna eat straight out the
Add'l Ingredients: Ghee (replaces butter since my gf can't eat dairy), 1.25tsp salt, 1tsp umami powder (shiitake based), oregano, 2tsp light tasting oil. Quick pulses in Nutri-bullet to thin.
I started out using the pizza tray, then moved on to the Lodge (prepped pie on it, put in oven), now I leave the Lodge in the oven and use it like a stone. Needless to say the first few were kind of soggy and slightly undercooked, hence the longer baking time.
Lessons learned so far: Hard cheese gives me the salty umami base punch I failed to get from my previous tries over the years. Currently using Kirkland Peccorino Romano. In fact, the biggest surprise for me has been how much overall salt has to be added to get the flavor I'm wanting.
Pre-heating the Lodge is a must (duh) to get good oven spring. Maybe too good, cause now my biggest issue is getting a handle on TF. My TF is too high for a NY slice and as I get better at the baking, the pies are turning out just a little too thick. I have to learn how to stretch the dough nice and thin
and even without tearing. Will try for .09-.1 TF next. Maybe just practice stretching dough for a while.
Cheeses: I've tried several different cheeses so far and make sure to taste them before use.
Galbani LMWM [Low Moisture Whole Milk Mozzarella]: Kind of bland, taste the salt, otherwise non-descript.
Trader Joes LMWM: Tasty, someone here said 'milky' I agree, good flavor. I can eat it straight.
Boars Head: Buttery, least salty but you can tell it's got the highest fat of the three.
So far on my pies, the BH has the best melt but I have to make sure to compensate for its lower sodium. Otherwise the Trader Joe's has been great with a similar melt to Galbani but better flavor. Next I will try Rumiano Organic, Gardenia, and I found a place that sells Grande [commercial-only top grade mozzarella] to the public so will try that.
I keep forgetting to take pics, but this is the last pie. The left side has the BH, the right TJs: