I just wanted to say thank you all for this forum, I was a lurker and tried my first batch last night. After years (yes, years) on the path to make a good pizza, I believe I am finally on the correct path. I currently live in Dublin, Ireland and although there are some positive attributes (yes, the Guinness is actually better), the pizza is intolerable. I am originally from Buffalo, New York and although the chicken wings are the claim to fame, I think the pizza ranks up there with the best (typical buffalo pizza is a cross between New york Style and Pan style...there is a heavy Italian influence in the area, so the ingredients are typically pretty high end). I've lived in Buffalo, NYC, Upstate NY, Los Angeles, CA and San Fran as well as travelled a good deal and Buffalo is the best out of all I've had. I worked in a pizza parlour for about 3 years and observed (but never noted) the practices.
After much research, I made my first batch of New York Style dough last night. Dough being the most critical point of a pizza (IMHO). It was a roaring success!!!!
Here's my synopsis:
-In Ireland, I have yet to find any quality flour, definitely no King Arthur to be found. Regardless, I used a local 'Strong' flour (Odlums Flour Strong White) intended for bread machines (11% protein..gluten I assume).
-I followed the recipe almost exactly but added about 1/2 teas. sugar at my wife's suggestion. Used local fast acting yeast.
-I don't have an electric mixer, so I mixed and kneaded by hand. Starting off by blending the dry ingredients and doing the pile of flour with a 'lake' in the middle and working all the components togeher until a dough formed.
-I assumed the yeast was activated once I could smell the 'yeasty' smell while kneading.
-I kneaded for the prescribed 15min and then put into an oiled bowl under wrap into the fridge overnight.
-I took the dough out and gave it about 1.5 hours to rise, facilitating by putting in a warm spot (not hot in any way, just a few degrees obove room temp.). Looking back, I would probably have let it rise more slowly for longer (i.e. take it out earlier). either way, it worked.
-Unfortunately My pizza stone broke and the ovens over here are not the best quality, so to attain the highest heat possible, I used a stoneware cookie sheet (almost 1" think) and placed it under the hottest broil to get it up to temp.
-After follwing the prescribed flouring, stretching, 'peel'ing methods, I cooked it for approx 4 minutes, turning once. I brushed the crust with oil beforeplacing into the oven.
-This was the best pizza I have ever made or had made outside of a restaurant. chewy crust, crisp bottom and top crust. Sorrt I don't have any pictures, as the product is all gone!
Reccommendations for first timers:
-get a good flour (high gluten seems to make a big difference)
-knead or mix for reccommended time, do no skimp.
-believe the recipe procedures. My wife is a great cook and baker, but knows very little about good pizza. Generally, she has a different procedure for making dough. Stick with the procedure to the letter at least for the first tije, then deviate if necessary afterward.
-I had to clean the semolina off the stone as it was burning vbetween pizza, haven't seen that stated anywhere, it may be common knowledge, but I'm new at this.
-If you are cooking in the oven, make sure to let the stone come back up to temp (and also, give a good 30+ min for it to come to temp).
My next steps:
-I am about 30% done with building a wood fired pizza oven in the back yard, hopefully this will rectify the heat levels for cooking.
-build/buy a better peel. I had to use a cutting board as a peel as mine is too small, need the right tool for the job!
Again, thats for the information, you all have made me a happy man!