Author Topic: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?  (Read 8524 times)

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Offline Bubba Kuhn

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For those of you who are reading along here is another secret to great old school pie. This is a lost layer of flavor and texture from the old school pizza that was in use when pizza became famous in America. It is the organic nature of each shop that made it unique unto it's self. These practices I'll explain.


Unlike the modern approach to pizza, where everyone is trying to recreate old school pizza effects in modern kitchens. Old school east coast pie shops depended literally on organic nature or the world. Using methods handed down in the bakers crafts over centuries to affect their dough to make a better pizza.

Not like the new generation of pizzas that are so ubiquitously underwhelming in there sameness. Having a wider selection or toppings and choice sauces as Shakespeare would have said if he could, "doth not a better pizza make."

Bear in mind that at the time Pizza was coming into its own in the early years, the "golden years" some lament, there was no active dry yeast (ADY)  nor individual dry yeast (IDY) general available. There were one pound blocks of cake yeast, 12 to the case, that was commonly used in most doughs of the day. That is when I came into the trade. I was 11 years old and had my first paying job. After school I sorted beer bottles, washed pots and pans and helped make pizza dough every night. You gotta start somewhere.   

Now here is where thing were really happening. Along with the old fashion yeast who's strength varied therefore demanding at least a once raised "proofed" to see how active the yeast was and to allow the propagation of the yeast through the batch. The dough table on which you raised, cut and rolled the dough on every day was made of wood and alive with HOUSE yeast. The dough bowls at the end of mixing a batch were dribbled with olive oil and the dough was dumped either on the cutting table or in an oiled trash can then slid under the ovens for warmth and to raise by double. The dough bowls were seldom if ever cleaned. The bowl remnants were left to be incorporated it to the next days dough. And here is a heads up to a real trade secret only practiced by some of the places I worked and a thing that I would practice in my own shops. Take a large dough leftover from the day before and toss it into the mixer with the new dough batch each day. That way in practice you always have some of your first batch of dough in each pie and a house yeast culture that will become uniquely your own. This practice is used by some liquors too.   

Dough balls were kept in trays that fit a cabinet a carpenter built to fit the work space. You then had it hooked into a remote compressor to chill it.  The dough trays were left open to the circulating fans the cabinet needed to spread the chill. This would create a dried out dough ball and for all intents and purposes render it unusable. That is right the dough was not stored in airless plastic bags, dough pots. or air tight stacking trays. Makeup tables were new, few and far between and were a poor solution at the time.

So this is how it worked. Dough trays also carried house yeasts as they were made of wood and open to the cooled air. They were dovetailed and water tight at about 4 inches in high. These trays were then heavy basted in olive oil. This would leave a residue of standing olive oil in the bottom of the tray and the dough ball was then laid in the oil when place in the tray. A container of olive oil was kept to the side with a basting brush. Then oil was brushed on the top of the dough to protect it from the ravages of the drying effects of the moving air in the cooler. You would re baste the dough every 12 hours if needed but your storage time is short for this stuff. You know cake yeast, hot proof and all. This dough was prime from 24 to 36 hours in age.   The now yellow skinned oil soaked dough went immediately into bench flour to help dry it so it would slide off the wooden pizza board with out raising the grain in the board due to moisture over the repeated use all shift long.  When lifting the dough out of the tray it was always turned "dry" air exposed side down and worked like that. This helped aid in sliding the pie into the oven and onto the brick easier. So what happened here was the oil soaked and newly floured crust bottom went directly on to the hot brick. This is what gave a pizza crust its unique texture and flavor. Brick toasted oil infused and properly cured pizza dough. That is the lost pizza crust flavor that is often talked about and for the most part poorly imitated. Wood dough tables gave way to stainless steel as did the old wood framed work stations with the oil bath dough storage. The new yeasts gave rise to long chilled slow souring proofs that gave better shelf life to dough storage and less food cost due to dough loss.

So I make my argument that true old school pie of days and legends gone by are most difficult if not imposable to recreate in a modern pizza shop.
 
Having the LOST factor of a yellowed oil soaked skin formed on the dough excludes an important part of the original curing of the old school pizza doughs recipe. 

Bubba.
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Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2012, 05:33:53 PM »
Awesome post Bubba Kuhn.  Perhaps you are right that true old school pizza is lost or has somehow degressed over the years.   I've never spent anytime working in a real NY pizzeria, so I can't realistically compare my NY dough, but it does have several of the attributes you talked about.  I can make my NY dough with any yeast, including SD starters, but my prefered yeast is block CY.  My simple old kitchen aid mixer gets washed after each session and I don't have any old dough to incorporate into the current batch.   I do a 1-2h hour bulk ferment at room temps, and then ball the dough to be cold fermented for the next days bake.  My balls are heavily oiled and then CF between 40-50f. When they come out of the cooler, they looked skinned over and yellow as you describe.  They then get a room temp (75f) counter proof or they will go into the home oven with the light on and warm proof at 80f plus if I need the dough sooner.  When the dough warms up, the dry skin is no longer dry but semi moist. Sometimes, I'll get a bit of a dry ring around the doughball but that's it.  The resulting dough makes a really great NY style pie that I assume to be very close to an old school Ny slice. I bake the pies up in my wfo around 600f plus for 5-6m. The bottom and rim crispy, and the crumb a very soft and light texture with very little chew.  It is so easy to eat, it just leaves me wanting more and more.

This is about as close as I can get to real Ny pizza and I'm very happy with it.

Chau
« Last Edit: May 20, 2012, 05:35:45 PM by Jackie Tran »

Offline Pappy

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2012, 05:43:26 PM »
Bubba:

What an amazing coincidence that you posted this today.  Earlier this afternoon I made my first stab at Sicilian pizza.  While I love NY style, I grew up eating a Sicilian pizza from a place called Morena's, in Wakefield, MA.  This was 30-40 years ago; the place is still in business, run by the next generation of the original family, and the pizza was still fantastic  the last time I had it, about five years ago.  It's my all-time favorite pie, and I've never had a Sicilian pizza that was remotely as good.

I used the following dough recipe:

Flour:  800 grams (100%)
Water:  520 grams (65%)
IDY:  2 grams (.25%)
Salt:  16 grams (2%)
EVO:  40 grams (5%)

I put all the dry ingredients in my food processor, and gave them a quick pulse to combine.  I added the water (cold, from the tap) and oil, and pulsed for 15 seconds.  I autolysed for 30 minutes, then gave another 15 second pulse, until the dough was spinning around the blade.  The temperature of the dough at the end of this process was 74.5 degrees.

I hand kneaded the dough, using a pastry blade with a little bench flour, for 3 minutes, at which point it was beautifully hydrated, wet, sticky dough.  I did my usual window pane test;  I could have made a tarp out of the dough.

I let the dough ferment on the countertop overnight at 72 degrees.  After nine hours, the dough had nearly tripled in size.  I poured the dough on the counter, oiled my hands, and did a quick stretch and fold, then let the dough double again (2 hours).  I then heavily oiled a 13x18 sheet pan, and stretched the dough to fit using my oiled hands.  After a thirty minute rest, I sauced the dough (Escalon 6 in 1's with salt, sugar, black pepper, garlic, fresh basil), and put the pie into a 450 degree oven for ten minutes.  I then pulled the pie, added Parmesan and slices of whole milk mozz, and let it cook for ten more minutes.

The result was thick and ugly, but the taste was almost exact; this was the pie of my youth.  And I attribute 90 percent of that to the olive oil.

I'm going to try this recipe again, with less yeast and less hydration, as the pie was a tad too thick and moist.  I'll take pics and post the results in the Sicilian section.  I am also going to try a NY pie using olive oil on my hands when I manipulate the dough, rather than bench flour.  Thank you again for your fascinating post. 


Offline Tscarborough

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2012, 06:16:22 PM »
There is a lot to be said for dirty kitchens, but those days are gone, my friend.

Offline norma427

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2012, 06:39:44 PM »
Bubba,

Thanks for your great post!  ;D I always wondered what someone was talking about when they said “old school pizzas” or ones that tasted different years ago.  Even though I am old, I wasn’t interested in understanding pizza except for eating it, until a few years ago.

Do you know if many pizzerias years ago (like back in the 50’s) used lard instead of oil in their dough? 

Norma   
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Offline JimmyG

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2012, 06:47:37 PM »
Great article Bubba Kuhn.  The only pizzeria that I can think of that still uses wooden proofing trays and some of these old schools methods is Umberto's in New Hyde Park. Definitely, one of my favorite pizza joints in NY state.
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Offline jason83

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2012, 06:52:34 PM »
@Norma427, I read in an article that Tacconelli's in Philadelphia uses lard in their dough.

@Bubba, I always wondered why the dough was turned over after it was taken out of the dough tray.  Now I know.  Please post more information on the old school pizzas.  This is a great post and I hope to read more of your stuff soon.

Jason
« Last Edit: May 20, 2012, 06:57:41 PM by jason83 »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2012, 07:07:12 PM »
The subject of wooden dough boxes and their merits comes up from time to time on the forum. Several years ago, I looked into wooden dough boxes and reported on my results at Reply 516 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,576.msg31992.html#msg31992. I assume that they are still available today for those who want to use them.

Peter

Offline Aimless Ryan

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2012, 07:41:09 PM »
Wood dough boxes are not uncommon.

Offline norma427

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2012, 07:55:26 PM »

@Norma427, I read in an article that Tacconelli's in Philadelphia uses lard in their dough.

Jason


Jason,

Thanks!  :) 

Norma
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Offline pizzaneer

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2012, 08:23:11 PM »
This is fascinating.  I'm interested in wood-surface bacteria and its symbiotic relationship with our gut bacteria.  I use a wood surface for kneading / food prep, don't use antibacterial soaps, and always wondered if my family's above-average health was a result of it.   Possibly, we have very strong immune systems.

I have no doubt at all that wood prep tables & wood proofing cabinets contribute something unique.  The really wonderful thing is that every single installation will have different results.
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Offline Bubba Kuhn

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2012, 09:18:53 PM »
Awesome post Bubba Kuhn.  Perhaps you are right that true old school pizza is lost or has somehow degressed over the years.   I've never spent anytime working in a real NY pizzeria, so I can't realistically compare my NY dough, but it does have several of the attributes you talked about.  I can make my NY dough with any yeast, including SD starters, but my prefered yeast is block CY.  My simple old kitchen aid mixer gets washed after each session and I don't have any old dough to incorporate into the current batch.   I do a 1-2h hour bulk ferment at room temps, and then ball the dough to be cold fermented for the next days bake.  My balls are heavily oiled and then CF between 40-50f. When they come out of the cooler, they looked skinned over and yellow as you describe.  They then get a room temp (75f) counter proof or they will go into the home oven with the light on and warm proof at 80f plus if I need the dough sooner.  When the dough warms up, the dry skin is no longer dry but semi moist. Sometimes, I'll get a bit of a dry ring around the doughball but that's it.  The resulting dough makes a really great NY style pie that I assume to be very close to an old school Ny slice. I bake the pies up in my wfo around 600f plus for 5-6m. The bottom and rim crispy, and the crumb a very soft and light texture with very little chew.  It is so easy to eat, it just leaves me wanting more and more.

This is about as close as I can get to real Ny pizza and I'm very happy with it.

Chau

 Sounds very close to me. Bubba
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Offline Bubba Kuhn

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2012, 09:24:01 PM »
Bubba,

Thanks for your great post!  ;D I always wondered what someone was talking about when they said “old school pizzas” or ones that tasted different years ago.  Even though I am old, I wasn’t interested in understanding pizza except for eating it, until a few years ago.

Do you know if many pizzerias years ago (like back in the 50’s) used lard instead of oil in their dough? 

Norma   

Yes. Along the way I have dallied it the pan style pizza domain and have seen it used there before. Shortening was more commonly used though. in the dough and to coat the pans.
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Offline Bubba Kuhn

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2012, 09:29:02 PM »
Awesome post Bubba Kuhn.  Perhaps you are right that true old school pizza is lost or has somehow degressed over the years.   I've never spent anytime working in a real NY pizzeria, so I can't realistically compare my NY dough, but it does have several of the attributes you talked about.  I can make my NY dough with any yeast, including SD starters, but my prefered yeast is block CY.  My simple old kitchen aid mixer gets washed after each session and I don't have any old dough to incorporate into the current batch.   I do a 1-2h hour bulk ferment at room temps, and then ball the dough to be cold fermented for the next days bake.  My balls are heavily oiled and then CF between 40-50f. When they come out of the cooler, they looked skinned over and yellow as you describe.  They then get a room temp (75f) counter proof or they will go into the home oven with the light on and warm proof at 80f plus if I need the dough sooner.  When the dough warms up, the dry skin is no longer dry but semi moist. Sometimes, I'll get a bit of a dry ring around the doughball but that's it.  The resulting dough makes a really great NY style pie that I assume to be very close to an old school Ny slice. I bake the pies up in my wfo around 600f plus for 5-6m. The bottom and rim crispy, and the crumb a very soft and light texture with very little chew.  It is so easy to eat, it just leaves me wanting more and more.

This is about as close as I can get to real Ny pizza and I'm very happy with it.

Chau

Can I come to your house? Bubba
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Offline Bubba Kuhn

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2012, 09:36:13 PM »
Bubba:

What an amazing coincidence that you posted this today.  Earlier this afternoon I made my first stab at Sicilian pizza.  While I love NY style, I grew up eating a Sicilian pizza from a place called Morena's, in Wakefield, MA.  This was 30-40 years ago; the place is still in business, run by the next generation of the original family, and the pizza was still fantastic  the last time I had it, about five years ago.  It's my all-time favorite pie, and I've never had a Sicilian pizza that was remotely as good.

I used the following dough recipe:

Flour:  800 grams (100%)
Water:  520 grams (65%)
IDY:  2 grams (.25%)
Salt:  16 grams (2%)
EVO:  40 grams (5%)

I put all the dry ingredients in my food processor, and gave them a quick pulse to combine.  I added the water (cold, from the tap) and oil, and pulsed for 15 seconds.  I autolysed for 30 minutes, then gave another 15 second pulse, until the dough was spinning around the blade.  The temperature of the dough at the end of this process was 74.5 degrees.

I hand kneaded the dough, using a pastry blade with a little bench flour, for 3 minutes, at which point it was beautifully hydrated, wet, sticky dough.  I did my usual window pane test;  I could have made a tarp out of the dough.

I let the dough ferment on the countertop overnight at 72 degrees.  After nine hours, the dough had nearly tripled in size.  I poured the dough on the counter, oiled my hands, and did a quick stretch and fold, then let the dough double again (2 hours).  I then heavily oiled a 13x18 sheet pan, and stretched the dough to fit using my oiled hands.  After a thirty minute rest, I sauced the dough (Escalon 6 in 1's with salt, sugar, black pepper, garlic, fresh basil), and put the pie into a 450 degree oven for ten minutes.  I then pulled the pie, added Parmesan and slices of whole milk mozz, and let it cook for ten more minutes.

The result was thick and ugly, but the taste was almost exact; this was the pie of my youth.  And I attribute 90 percent of that to the olive oil.

I'm going to try this recipe again, with less yeast and less hydration, as the pie was a tad too thick and moist.  I'll take pics and post the results in the Sicilian section.  I am also going to try a NY pie using olive oil on my hands when I manipulate the dough, rather than bench flour.  Thank you again for your fascinating post. 



i refer a well done Sicilian pie as a cloud trapped in a crust and lightly topped with a bit of heaven.
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Offline Bubba Kuhn

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2012, 09:39:15 PM »
Wood dough boxes are not uncommon.

No but finding a county that allows unsealed wood to be used for food storage may be a bit of a challenge if your not grandfathered in.....
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Offline Bubba Kuhn

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2012, 09:47:22 PM »
There is a lot to be said for dirty kitchens, but those days are gone, my friend.

Sadly yes as is the French baguette a true bagel and a real old fashion fresh that day New York Style soft pretzel!
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Offline Bubba Kuhn

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2012, 10:12:31 PM »
This is fascinating.  I'm interested in wood-surface bacteria and its symbiotic relationship with our gut bacteria.  I use a wood surface for kneading / food prep, don't use antibacterial soaps, and always wondered if my family's above-average health was a result of it.   Possibly, we have very strong immune systems.

I have no doubt at all that wood prep tables & wood proofing cabinets contribute something unique.  The really wonderful thing is that every single installation will have different results.

Please bear in mind that we would grind pork for sausage and other prep was done on these surfaces. They were bleached and scrubbed at the close of each shift as best one could. But there we always some activity left. As they were thick maple block every few years some places re planed there tops down to new. There is always a "symbiotic relationship" between us and our food. We are what we eat! So be careful.
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Offline norma427

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #18 on: May 20, 2012, 10:19:20 PM »

Shortening was more commonly used though. in the dough and to coat the pans.
 

Bubba,

Was there a certain brand of shortening that was used in the dough? 

Norma
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Can the OLD SCHOOL PIZZAS of legend even be made today?
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2012, 10:31:52 PM »
Bubba,

Was there a certain brand of shortening that was used in the dough?  

Norma


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