Author Topic: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period  (Read 5641 times)

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Offline John in Florida

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Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« on: December 04, 2011, 07:28:35 PM »
10 years ago my wife and I moved to Florida from the New Haven area of Connecticut. We've both grown up on Wooster St. pizza and it's our favorite style. Pepe's, The Spot, Sally's. Here in Florida, or at least where we are in Florida, you can't get good pizza. So I've spent the last 10 years trying to come as close to Pepe's as I could. Here are some observations now that I've come so close I think you could sit one pies next to a Wooster St. pie and not tell one from the other with daily variations that you do see on Wooster St. pies. I worked on dough, ovens, and ingredients all at the same time, here are my observations.

Several years ago I decided to venture into a wood fired oven after using an electric at 550 for the first 7 years thinking it was necessary for the high temps. 3 years after making pizzas in both electric and WFO with virtually infinite variations of dough my personal opinion is that a WFO is not the best for making Pepe's style pizza. When using high gluten flour and striving for the thin, stand out straight on it's own chewy slice, I have not had good luck in a hot (750-900 degree) WFO. As many others have noted "00" is much better suited to the hot WFO, I agree and have had similar better results with "00" in the WFO, but not achieving my desired crust characteristics. While traditional Neapolitan (made to the spec) pizza is wonderful, (I've made many in the WFO) it's not what I've been after. My best luck has been with high gluten based dough (Sir Lancelot) made 24 hours in advance and spending overnight in the fridge and cooked in the electric oven at 550 on a good porous stone.

For those who have been to Pepe's you'll know that the ovens there and at The Spot are coal fired. You may also know that cook times are in the 6-7 minute range, not WFO times/temperatures for sure. You'll also know that they use very high moisture content dough, just watch pizzas being made, no tossing anything in the air. Try to toss that dough and you'll wear it.  The fire boxes in the ovens are also low and to the side of the cooking chamber of the ovens. In my opinion the coal fired nature of these ovens does not contribute in the same way that a traditional WFO operates, at higher temperatures with a sheet of flame on the dome. If you cook a pie in a 750 floor, 850 dome WFO without a fire in the dome the top of the pie is undercooked. So I believe that these big ovens, Pepe's, Spot, Sally's, do not rely on traditional WFO cooking principles and given the cook times also don't use the temperatures of WFO's. Also they all use high gluten flour, you can see it laying around in 50 lb. bags.

In a 550 electric oven, on a porous cast pizza stone, I get a perfectly cooked pie at 6-7 minutes which is typical of Pepe's pies. The crust just starts to blacken in places and the bottom is mottled with some dark spots, and with two ingredients or less, with or without cheese, a slice will stand out on it's own when held from the crust.

I think my claims are further supported by another New Haven area pizzeria, Zuppardi's in West Haven. In business since 1934 they make pies very similar to Wooster St. but they use standard electric ovens, heat is heat with this style pie I believe.

Pepe's observations:

High gluten flour (I understand they use bromated flour, or used to anyway, I don't see any difference in the end product I've made without bromated flour)
Very wet dough
6-8 minute cook times
"No fire in the dome" oven technique, in fact no fire in the cooking chamber of the oven at all

So unlike some suggestions that I've seen I don't believe that a WFO or temperatures are necessary to create Wooster St. pies, and in fact I think it's very difficult to do so in a WFO.

One more note is on cheese, if  you've never tried Boar's head Mozzarella, sliced in a deli section to your order, you must, it's the standard for Wooster St. pies, you'll never use any shredded mozz again if that's what you've used. The creamy taste and texture is unmatched. For tomatoes I use Pomi chopped, right out of the box, one box is good for four 12 inch pies.

I look forward and comments and discussion, there's always something new to learn!

Best Regards, John in Florida


Offline Tscarborough

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2011, 07:46:36 PM »
Pictures or it didn't happen.

(I agree with all of your comments regarding heat.  Pizza don't care where the heat comes from).

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2011, 08:16:19 PM »
Welcome to the forum John.  I'm glad you are able to make pies that are nearly identical to Pepe's.  I too would like to see pictures of your handy work.  I have never eaten at Pepe's but  I do see some posts about it, along with Sally's, and other NH style joints.  No doubt these places are popular for a reason.

Now about the WFO.  John I'm not sure that the WFO is the best tool to make NH or even old school NY styled pies either but it doesn't mean you can't make them in the WFO.  Who says a WFO has to operate at 750F - 900F?  Who says they are best suited for Neopolitan style pies?

As far as I understand, a WFO is just another oven that burns wood for fuel.  I can operate my WFO anywhere from 200F - 1000F, therefore I can make any style of pizza I want in it.  Have you ever tried baking your Pepe's pies at 600-650F in the wfo?  You can if you know how.  

Here are some NY style pies baked in my WFO at temps of 650F baked 5m+.  Reply #133, pg 7
http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,14201.120.html
Reply #204, pg 11
http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,14201.200.html

Yes, I would agree that a WFO is a must for the NP style and only an option for the other styles.  But given my choice, and I have baked with many different types of ovens, I would choose a WFO for baking a 6-8minute pie over the others anyday.

Chau
« Last Edit: December 04, 2011, 08:20:25 PM by Jackie Tran »

Offline Tscarborough

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2011, 08:20:55 PM »
True that.  I generally only make one or 2 Neo pies per firing then let it cool down to my preferred temp range, 600 floor 800 dome.

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2011, 08:23:24 PM »
I only bake my NY style pies with coal on the side b/c I like the browning effects on the rim.  John, if you want to bake a pie without any live fire or coal at all and just on the residual heat alone, that is even easier.  Just let the oven cool down to 600F or so and bake it right next to the wall.  Turn the pie several times and voila!

Chau

Offline John in Florida

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2011, 08:48:22 PM »
Trying to post photos... first too large, then small ones don't post for some reason, hmmm I'll attach here. Yes I have been able to do well with a cooling WFO, but honestly I'm usually making 6-12 pies and I'm cooking solo. I can't maintain the WFO myself and would just as soon shovel them in and out of the electric... this is only ok since I'm getting the results I'm looking for. Looking for photos and don't have too many that really show what I'm looking at. The white pie here is really good, it's white chicken, which is a Pepe's and Spot speciality. The pepperoni was done in a WFO where I was firing at lower temps as you can see from the dark oven in background.

Is 128k the highest resolution photos you can post?

John

Offline John in Florida

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2011, 08:55:35 PM »
Here are two Pepe's pies, a white clam and a sausage for comparison.

Offline John in Florida

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2011, 09:05:42 PM »
Jackie, those links and pies look great. Thanks for them. In my dough, and the Wooster St. style, I don't get the rise around the edge crust, it's a more flat pie, and quite frankly in the photos I posted the Pepe's pies don't look like anything special, naturally pictures can loose a little when it comes to pizza. I see some photos are higher res postings, need to look into that to post higher res versions of mine to convey more info. The other thing is I'm using a Forno Bravo small WFO, so it's very difficult to maintain it at any temp, it's either heating up or cooling down, a lot. So not so good for "production".

John

Offline Jet_deck

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2011, 09:12:26 PM »
I'm not a particular fan of pepperoni, but yours do look nice with the cupping and the darkened edges.  I can understand about having to babysit the oven, with the temps going one way or the other fairly quickly.

Would you characterize these pizza as crispy but not crackery? or plenty of chewing action to get a bite down?  Nice looking pizzas either way. :chef:
Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends

Offline John in Florida

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2011, 09:18:55 PM »
Hi Jet, yes the pepperoni really changes when the cupping happens and the edges are curled and burnt a little. This is signature of Sally's in New Haven. My pies and Pepe's style are never cracker like, but thin and chewy, the outer crust is very crisp and also chewy. There is a character to the middle bulk of these pies where the bottom is very dry and tough, then as you go up through the base of the pie it becomes softer, very subtle and hard to appreciate without seeing and chewing on a piece! All this is taking place in a 1/8 inch thick space... :)

John


Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2011, 09:20:19 PM »
John thanks for the nice words and your pies look good as well, especially that sausage pie.  I hear ya about the fluctuating temps of your WFO.  I have a FB as well, but it's the 40" model so the temps are probably a little bit more stable.  

John, I haven't tried to make a Pepe's Pie before.  Are you interested in posting up your recipe and technique.  I'm sure there are many members here who would like to know how to make a Pepe's Pie, especially using an electric oven.  

Chau
« Last Edit: December 04, 2011, 10:09:30 PM by Jackie Tran »

Offline John in Florida

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2011, 09:28:22 PM »
Jackie, 40" WFO would be just great, enjoy that oven. Yes I think it would be good to try to post my methods. But I think I might try to do it via videos since it's so easy to miss something in a written description. I'm an engineer and I'm used to documenting things in writing very well, but, I'm also all too familiar with how lacking the written word can be with these things. I've already recorded many parts of the sequence, I think over the coming weeks I'll try to complete the series and put them together and perhaps post to youtube or something. My methods seem very simple to me... but the devil is in the details that I might take completely for granted, even being a decent writer. So yes I'll try to document. Thanks for asking and motivating me to do so. That's been one reason I've waited so long to get involved in a forum such as this. Wanted to have something to offer when I did.

John

Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2011, 10:06:22 PM »
A video series is even better.  I'm very much looking forward to your video(s) John.  I agree with you completely about ALL of the details as they can make or break the pie. 

cheers,
Chau

scott123

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2011, 10:58:20 PM »
John, I'm a NYer, so I always appreciate some bravado.  I also think that earnest recipe reverse engineers will have a special place in heaven  ;D

That being said, I'm going to have take Tom's comment one step further and say

More pictures or it didn't happen- specifically, upskirts.

Anyone can get good char with the broiler on for 6-7 minutes, but 6-7 minutes with a 'porous cast stone' at 550 will never produce an undercrust that resembles Pepe's. If you don't get that coloring/char underneath, it completely changes the nature of the pizza.  
« Last Edit: December 05, 2011, 08:27:55 AM by scott123 »

buceriasdon

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2011, 06:19:40 AM »
Hi John, I use this free downloadable program for image compression for posting here. Once you have a photo in your computer it's an easy right click, click Optimize Here and your ready to upload here.   
http://www.imageoptimizer.net/Pages/Home.aspx
Don

Offline John in Florida

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #15 on: December 05, 2011, 07:22:10 AM »
Hi Don, I'll check it out, thanks!

Scott, that's funny, a broiler... no, sorry to disappoint but no broiler involved. :) I'll have to take some better photos next time I make some pies, which will be either during the week or this weekend. The bottoms look just like the top edge crust in the white pie photo I've posted. Not sure why you don't think this can be achieved...?

Early in my engineering career I was taught to use a number of words sparingly, two of them were always and never. I'm happy to have the opportunity to show that I can achieve what we're talking about here in a 550 electric oven with a stone.

John 

Offline John in Florida

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #16 on: December 05, 2011, 07:28:16 AM »
Oh, I just re-read Scott when you refer to Tom, that's Tscarborough who posted above? I actually didn't know that his words were meant for me.. "Pictures or it didn't happen." I thought that this was one of those clever sayings that people attach to all their emails and so on. I'll do better than photos, I'll do a video of the whole cooking cycle, including keeping an eye on the "Bake" indicator on the oven...  LOL 

John

scott123

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #17 on: December 05, 2011, 09:23:25 AM »
Okay, John, bring it!   ;D

Just so we're both on the same page here, I want to clarify a few things.

Quote
My best luck has been with high gluten based dough (Sir Lancelot) made 24 hours in advance and spending overnight in the fridge and cooked in the electric oven at 550 on a good porous stone.

An electric oven at 550 degrees.  Not an electric oven set at 550.  From your description of your WFO experiments, it sounds like you own an IR thermometer.  I'm going to need to see a temp reading from the top of the stone pre-bake.

Quote
I get a perfectly cooked pie at 6-7 minutes which is typical of Pepe's pies.

If you're going to do a video, that's a very admirable task.  That kind of irrefutable proof could very well send me scampering away with my tail between legs  ;D  If you're going to do this, though, it's obvious that you've got to film the 7 minute bake in one uninterrupted shot, right?

Quote
In a 550 electric oven, on a porous cast pizza stone, I get a perfectly cooked pie

This is a retail stone, correct? Is it Fibrament?  If you, or a friend, has found some way of casting refractory that's food safe, durable and freakishly conductive, then that's something we need to talk about. Otherwise, I'm going to assume that it's a stone that anyone can purchase.

Lastly, this hasn't been broached, but I don't think it's too much to ask to make sure that we're talking about a low/no sugar dough- 1% or less.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2011, 09:25:07 AM by scott123 »

Offline John in Florida

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #18 on: December 05, 2011, 02:19:13 PM »
Scott, thanks for the questions, I'm enjoying discussing all this since, as I say, I've been working away for 10 years at all this on my own. So fire all questions away and I'll answer all.

Temp of stone at baking, good question, I've never measured but I will, and yes I do have an IR gun.

LOL yes the video would have to be continuous! I might even need an independent quality monitoring representative! :) I think it would be easier (and more tasty) for you to get on a plane. :)

As for the stone. It's commercial off the shelf retail stone made by old stone oven company, I have two of them. They are very porous, if you spill oil on the top it will come out the bottom! I can take pictures of mine with burnt oil stains on the bottom.

Dough, no sugar at all, ingredients, flour, water, salt, instant yeast, nothing else. I'll publish any and all details when I get organized and have time, likely over the holidays.

The one interesting point is that this charing on the bottom and general cooking outcome has never been a problem for me, in fact with any and all dough recipes I've gotten very consistent results in this area. That's one reason I find this line of discussion funny since this has been the easy part for me... but I will say that I'm using a somewhat unusual oven, it's a Jen-Aire, I'll find the model and post here later... I wonder if that has an influence... it's not some fancy convection or other odd ball sort of thing. Just a regular oven, built in though.

Any other questions?

Here's the stone I use...

http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&q=old+stone+oven+pizza+stone&revid=147358638&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&biw=996&bih=756&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=7405272497518514532&sa=X&ei=cdzcTt_EGaXKsQLfqrjODQ&ved=0CI0BEPICMAI

Offline John in Florida

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Re: Recreating Pepe's over a 10 year period
« Reply #19 on: December 05, 2011, 02:29:28 PM »
Make that Jenn-Air...

Here's the oven.

http://www.shopping.com/Jenn-Air-JJW8530C/info?sb=1

I'd have to verify actual model number but this is basically it...