Author Topic: New York Pizza Definition  (Read 16257 times)

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Offline Randy

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New York Pizza Definition
« on: August 28, 2003, 03:45:32 PM »
It would be real nice if we could define what a New York Pizza is and maybe more importantly what it is not.
Like is a chain pizza like Papa Johns is that a New York pizza.
I know it should be thin in the center as Steve described it but what else?  Those of us who have never had a authentic New York pizza could use a good definition.

Randy


Darrellthecrabber

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2003, 09:27:28 PM »
A true New York pizza is hand tossed then put on a pizza peel dressed with sauce cheese toppings then slid into a oven and removed on the peel. Lots of places do it these way. The crust is a bit crispy and its not real thick . It will droop a bit as you hold up a slice. At Ocean City Maryland the Dough Roller makes a great pay by the slice New York style Pizza as do lots of places. ;D

Darrellthecrabber

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2003, 09:32:38 PM »
No thinking about Papa Johns.. Not a New York Pizza as they are cooked in a pan. Lots of places use pans because of the skill to hand toss a pizza. Now that is not bad and a pizza can be cooked and taste the same pan or not but the true NY is placed on a peel and baked on the oven stone. Now you could make the NY dough and cook it in a pan and it can be good and if you want call it a NY pizza like Pizza hut did.

Offline canadave

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2003, 12:51:46 AM »
I was born and raised in New York City (in Manhattan, to be precise)....lived there for 28 years, until I moved three years ago.  I've eaten at the famous John's Pizza on Bleecker Street (just a few blocks from my house) and I've eaten many times at Lombardi's (first pizzeria in the USA, in 1905).  Beyond that, I basically grew up on New York pizza at normal street pizzerias almost every day.

So those are my credentials for my opinion on this interesting question of what makes a "real" NY pizza :)  I've always thought of New York pizza as being relatively thin crust (but not Neapolitan thin), cooked directly on the surface of a pizza oven (no pans).  This browns the crust on the bottom.  In addition, the 1/2 inch edge of the piizza is made "poofy"--rises higher than the rest of the pizza.

Also, the dough recipe is simpler, I believe, than "chain" pizzas.  At least the guy at one of the pizzerias near my house, when I asked, told me that his dough is pretty basic in terms of ingredients--salt, water, flour, yeast, some sugar.

Another thing is the proportion of cheese to sauce.  Many places outside NYC that I've gone to seem to think that sauce should barely be included in a pizza.  Others (such as Pizza Hut) seem to think that the sauce should be very spicy and "hot".  True NY pizza sauce is a bit "sweeter", in my experience; and it is also in more equal proportion to the cheese on the pizza.

An ongoing debate (discussed on this board) is whether the water in NYC is partly responsible for the unique taste of the pizza.  Some say not.  I personally think there is a definite difference, since I can taste the difference between NYC tap water and tap water in other locations.

So what makes a NY pizza unique?  Preparation style; ingredients; cheese/sauce proportion; physical characteristics of the pizza (thinner crust, "poofy" edge", browned at bottom).  That's my answer :)

Comments?  Questions?

Cheers,
Dave K.

Offline canadave

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2003, 09:10:29 AM »
Randy,

Glad I could be of some small service :)  Good to know that my years of chowing down on NYC pizza was good for something! *staring at my somewhat rounded belly*

Dave

Offline DKM

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2003, 11:09:18 AM »
WOW Dave, that is a great job.  I am actually new to making New York Style pizza (less then a year), but my brother who lived there for a 2 years and friend who just went on vacation there said I come pretty close.

I had a slice as a kid, but thats been some years.

DKM
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Offline canadave

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2003, 09:45:47 PM »
Forgot to mention.....

To Darrellthecrabber:  FYI, the hand-tossed dough thing is a myth :)  Few pizzerias in NYC actually still toss their dough into the air (they used to more often "back in the old days", but it's just too time-consuming nowadays).  It is usually still shaped by hand, though, either on a countertop or draped over the fists, so in that sense you are somewhat correct.

DKM: Thanks :)  Glad I was of some use!

Randy:  YES, I totally forgot to mention that! :)  The slice MUST be foldable--if not, it's not a NY pizza.  In fact, I could always tell the native New Yorkers in my local pizzerias (I had four within a three-block radius) because they were eating the slices folded; the tourists were all eating the slices flat.

The crust itself is rather soft and indeed should be pliable.  I'm grasping at how to describe its exact consistency.  I will say that the bottom of the crust can be either crispy (cracks in half when you try to fold it) or "leathery".  I personally preferred the somewhat "leathery" feel (not that it TASTES like leather...it just feels the same as if you were folding a piece of leather!)  The actual dough crust itself?  Hmmmm....I suppose it is ideally somewhat chewy, slightly airy.  Definitely NOT like a cracker.  About a quarter-inch to a half-inch is the right height.

I just remembered something!!!

On my last trip home to NYC to visit my folks, I took some pictures in my favourite pizzeria near my house.  I'm attaching two photos below; the first is a close-up of a slice of pizza; the second is a picture of the array of pizza pies waiting to be served to customers.  Note the thinness of the crust (not too thin, not too thick) and cheese/sauce consistency!

A final note of trivia: the pizzeria in question is Ben's Pizza on W. 3rd Street.  They have a "sister" Ben's Pizza a few blocks south, in Soho, on Spring Street.  The Spring Street Ben's is the pizzeria in "Men in Black 2", where the evil aliens hatch their plan.  How do I know this?  Because I was there when Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith filmed it :)  And you can see the "Ben's Pizza" facade in the movie!

If anyone wants some external pictures of Ben's (the W. 3rd Street one) including a good bit of the street it's on, I'll be happy to post it here or email it.

Enjoy,
Dave
« Last Edit: August 29, 2003, 10:03:36 PM by canadave »

Offline canadave

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2003, 09:49:32 PM »
Can't do more than one attachment at a time, eh? :)  Oh well...here's that second photo I was talking about:

« Last Edit: August 29, 2003, 09:49:44 PM by canadave »

Offline canadave

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2003, 10:07:57 AM »
Thanks Randy...

That's the same photo of your pizza you posted before, the one I was drooling over :)  It's the best photo of a "user-made" New York pizza that I've seen!  That's why I was so gung-ho about getting the ingredients and recipe from you on this board a few weeks ago...it looks MUCH better than any NY pizza I've found in my neck of the woods (near Edmonton, Canada).

If you'd like some suggestions to make yours even more "NY style":

1. Your crust is a little too "high", as you pointed out; hence the "foldability index" (I just invented that word!) is quite low.  To fix this, you might want to try using less dough to make each pizza; then stretch the lesser amount of dough much thinner.  How thin?  Well, my rule of thumb is to stretch it until it is "skin-like"; or, if you prefer another description, I stretch it until the point where if I stretched it anymore, it would either a) rip, or b) light would shine through the dough (seriously).

2.  As a corollary to the above, to maintain the puffiness on the edge even after stretching it thin: Stretch out the pizza about an inch further in diameter than you're planning the final pizza to be.  Once you've stretched out the pizza, fold over about a half-inch of the outer edge on top of itself, and sort of "mush" or "mold" it into the surface plane of the dough.  If done carefully, that half-inch from the outer edge inwards will rise into a poofy edge, while the rest of the dough (which is thinner) will rise only a quarter-inch to a half-inch.

As far as the "browning" of the crust goes, it looks like you've got that nailed just about perfectly :)  It looks awesome in that regard...

You might want to also try just a wee bit less cheese.  The sauce you're using looks really good; why hide it almost completely under a layer of cheese?  Notice how with the Ben's pizza, there are a number of spots where the sauce is exposed without any cheese on it.  This, to me, makes the pizza taste better.

Try that, and then send me a pie, because yours already looks fantastic! :)  

Oh, one other thing I forgot to include in my definition of "true" New York pizza--the pizza pie should be at least 15" in diameter.  I don't know how exactly you're looking to adhere to the definition of true NY pizza, and it's tough to tell from the photo of your pizza how wide it is; but just so you know, there's no such thing as a true NY pizza that's 12" in diameter.  Most NY pizzas are 16"-18".  Check out the picture of the pizza pies arranged in front of the Ben's guy; note the size :)  That's why I got so frustrated trying to buy a pizza stone online; most are 12", because that seems to be the "default" home pizza size.  I think one stone was 15", as I recall.  I finally wound up just getting 1/2"-thick unglazed quarry tiles, 8 inches square, and stuck four of them at the bottom rack of my oven to form a 16" square, which still seems a wee bit smaller than I'd like.  Ideally I'd like to form an 18" square, but I don't think my oven's quite big enough, and it would also mean finding 9" quarry tiles :)

Cheers,
Dave
« Last Edit: August 30, 2003, 10:15:27 AM by canadave »

Offline DKM

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2003, 09:32:42 PM »
there's no such thing as a true NY pizza that's 12" in diameter.  Most NY pizzas are 16"-18".  Check out the picture of the pizza pies arranged in front of the Ben's guy; note the size :)  That's why I got so frustrated trying to buy a pizza stone online; most are 12", because that seems to be the "default" home pizza size.

I understand, my stone is only 12" also and i'm not sure i could fit a 18" in my oven.

Randy when I make a NY crust my wife like's me to make the edge like that.  Typically I make my normal crust and pat the edge back in from the side.

Since I hand strech the crust before giving it a couple of tosses (mainly for the kids) I get an edge like in the New York photos.

DKM
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old6537

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2003, 01:30:48 PM »
In the beginning (the early 50's) your local bar in an italian neighborhood in Brooklyn would make a small (13-14 inch) cheese pizza for 50 cents. and a large (16-18 inch )for a buck.  You could buy a slice of some of the best tasting pizza in coney Island for a dime.

An essential ingredient in a New York pizza was to drizzle olive oil over the top before baking.

As to puffy crust, check to see what's causing the puffiness. If it's bready, cut down on the amount of dough you're using. If it's just gas bubbles, try puncturing the bubbles about halfway through the baking.

Offline Randy

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2003, 03:11:12 PM »
The New York Pizza definition thread went much better than I expected with several heart felt thoughts and tummy teasers that made me hungry.  Maybe Steve would add some of your information to his New York page.
 8)
Thanks
Randy

Offline Steve

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2003, 08:51:08 PM »
Yeah, I need to rewrite most of the pages on the main site to reflect what I've learned here! You guys are great!  8)
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Offline canadave

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2003, 04:57:38 AM »
Wow....I am everlastingly grateful to the people on this board.  Since I moved away from New York, I've been searching for how to make a true NY pizza (never made pizza before in my life, but I figured I'd better learn how otherwise I'd go nuts) ;)

So with the help of all you people, by reading your recipes and suggestions (and checking out Randy's pizza, especially), I think I've hit on a formula that works pretty well for genuine NY pizza!

Here goes:

Ingredients
========

-- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
-- 2-and-a-half cups bread flour
-- one-half cup of "00" flour
-- slightly more than 2 cups of warm water
-- 2 tsp yeast
-- 2 tsp fine sea salt (not the thick chunks; it should look like regular salt)
-- 2 Tbsp mild olive oil (as you all pointed out to me, NOT extra-virgin)
-- just short of 1/4 cup of RAW (not "normal") sugar (thanks Randy for that tip!)
-- approx 9 tsp of wheat gluten (about one-and-a-half tsp per cup of flour).  You should be able to get gluten at any decent supermarket cheaply--I got mine at Safeway.

So here's how I made my masterpiece:

1. Put all the flour, wheat gluten, and sea salt into a big bowl and mix it all together briefly.

2. Pour the two cups of warm water into a small bowl and then add sugar.  Stir until dissolved; then add yeast.  Dissolve the yeast, and then wait about 5 minutes, or until water mixture becomes frothy.

3. Pour olive oil into the big bowl.  Then add the water mixture.

4. Mix with wooden spoon until entire mixture congeals together enough to remove with your hands (a tip--remove any rings you have on your fingers before you do this!).  Then take it out of the big bowl and shape it into a rough ball in your hands.

5. Knead by hand for approx 10 minutes on a surface well-dusted with flour, until dough is smooth and relatively non-sticky (it can be slightly sticky).

6. Place dough on cutting board and divide into two halves.

7. Spray some oil onto each half, then place each half into a separate small plastic grocery bag, knot the bags closed, and refrigerate overnight.  Every few hours, if you can, pull the bags out of the fridge (without opening them up) and squeeze the air out of the dough.  Theoretically, it should taste even better after two days of refrigeration (although mine tasted delicious after only one day).

8. When ready to make pizza, preheat the oven to 485 degrees for about 45 minutes.  You MUST have a pizza stone or tiles on the bottom rack of your oven; a pan won't do for New York pizza.

9. While the oven is preheating, take one bag out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit towards room temperature.  Then take the dough out of the bag and put it on a dusted pizza peel.

10. Punch down the dough into a rough disk.  Then shape and stretch the dough by hand (you guys all know how to do that properly, right?  Either by tossing or draping it over both fists?)  The dough should be stretched as much as possible, but no more than approximately 16"-18" in diameter; it should be stretched thin enough that if it were much thinner, it would break.  Do NOT use a rolling pin unless it is absolutely necessary.  Once the dough is stretched out on the peel, poke it in a couple of places with a fork to dock it a bit.

11. Here's where the procedure changes according to your oven.  I've gotten the best results by putting the sauce on first (without any cheese), baking it for about 2-3 minutes, then taking it out, putting the cheese on, and placing it back in the oven.  You might want to just put the sauce and cheese and toppings all on at once.  Either way, cook the pizza until the bottom of the dough is browned.  The cheese should NOT be browned at all.  It should be melted and bubbling, but not brown.  Also, keep a close eye on the crust in the early stages of the baking; make sure that if any bubbles start to form in the crust, poke them with a fork to prevent the dough from becoming one huge bubble.  Finally, remember that the sauce and cheese should be in a decent proportion (see the photo of the slice from Ben's Pizza, earlier in this thread, for a sense of the correct proportions).

12. This recipe in full yields two 16" authentic New York pizzas :) Use that second bag of dough the next day (I enjoyed the first one so much that I immediately made a second one the next day!); or if you're going to go awhile between pizzas, put the second bag in the freezer until needed.

What seems to have made the difference for me was the addition of the raw sugar, the wheat gluten, and the flour mixture.  The wheat gluten in particular is crucial, unless you have special high-gluten flour to work with (I don't).  The mixing of the different types of flour is a bit unusual, but it seemed to work (I only tried it because it was all I had on hand--I ran out of bread flour while trying it out the first time, and put in some 00 flour on a whim!)  The new things made the dough tastier, and also gave it the proper rising and consistency (lots of air holes inside, but not "fluffy" like soft white bread.  "Spongy" would be a better way to describe it).  Again, the final dough should be approx 1/4" to 1/2" in height once cooked.  I shoot for 1/4" as a target.

Once again, thanks everybody for your input...it's made a huge difference and I'm finally happy with my NY pizza!!  If anyone tries this recipe, please let me know how it goes......

--Dave
« Last Edit: September 06, 2003, 05:26:41 AM by canadave »

Offline DKM

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2003, 10:10:35 PM »
I'm tired just reading that...  :)
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Offline Randy

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2003, 08:01:05 AM »
Dave send a picture of your creation, it sure sounds good.

Randy

Offline canadave

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #16 on: September 07, 2003, 12:22:08 PM »
lol DKM, I just wanted to get it down for posterity's sake in as clear a manner as possible.  It's actually not all that tiring to do when you're actually making the pizza ;)

Randy: I'm making a dough batch today; I'll post some pics in a day or two if I can :)

Dave


Offline DKM

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #17 on: September 09, 2003, 09:52:42 AM »
What is a good source for 00 flour?

DKM
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Offline Steve

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #18 on: September 09, 2003, 10:22:17 AM »
« Last Edit: September 09, 2003, 10:23:20 AM by Steve »
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Offline canadave

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Re:New York Pizza Definition
« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2003, 12:06:22 PM »
Also, a good Italian grocery store or specialty grocery would be likely to have 00 flour.

I'm thinking that the recipe I posted would probably work with 3 cups bread flour and no 00 flour.  I'll try that next....

Incidentally, I noticed something...although my pizza tastes great, the yeast doesn't seem to make the dough rise very much.  In fact, when I put the yeast into the water with the 1/4 cup of raw sugar, it doesn't seem to create that "goopy" layer at the top that signals the yeast activating, even after waiting 5-10 minutes.  How can this be if the yeast is in that much sugarwater?  The temp of the water seems okay...warm, not hot...

Maybe I shouldn't mess with a good thing...it's just that I wind up having to strain with a rolling pin to get the dough to be 16" in diameter, and I usually don't have to do that with other recipes....

Dave