Author Topic: American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review  (Read 29563 times)

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Offline DKM

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American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« on: January 31, 2004, 12:12:33 PM »
American Pie is a book in two parts.

The first third or so of the book tells the story of Peter Reinhart’s journeys across Italy and America as he tries different styles of pizza for his search.  Although I found his search very interesting and something that I would like to do on my own one day, I also found him to be somewhat over critical and working too hard to figure out what his personal favorite was.  He never seems to truly understand what Chicago deep-dish is and at a place in Italy he notes when trying a chef’s personal creation that he thought he could do a better job of making it.  It also seems that he didn’t do a lot of research for some background stories such as his not understanding of the history of all the various “Ray’s” pizza shops in New York and how they came about.  Although it is a confusing story it is possible to tell in about a paragraph.

The rest of the book is a cookbook full of recipes for various dough, sauces, and techniques in the making of all sorts of pizza.  As someone who has made pizza at home for over 10 years and spent 4 years prior to that making pizza in various pizza shops, I wish I had had this book when I first started at home.  Reinhart, who has written books on making bread, excels in explaining the various steps of making the dough and what the cook should be looking for.  I made 3 of his pizzas- New York style, Chicago style and Napoletana and only the Chicago deep dish did not turn as good as I hoped.

Still, if you want to learn how to make pizza, start with this book.

DKM
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Offline Randy

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2004, 06:45:51 AM »
That's the way I see it also DKM.
I would add that for people that do not have a mixer that will knead, this is the book to have.

Randy

Offline Steve

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2004, 08:22:59 AM »
Thanks, I just ordered this book. I also ordered the Bread Baker's Apprentice and Crust & Crumb.  8)
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Offline Steve

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2004, 02:35:18 PM »
My copy just arrived.

The long (outer) edge of the pages has a "torn" appearance. Is this typical or did I somehow get bad copy of the book?  ???
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Offline Randy

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2004, 04:06:24 PM »
Normal
 8)
Randy

Offline DKM

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2004, 10:08:28 PM »
My copy just arrived.

The long (outer) edge of the pages has a "torn" appearance. Is this typical or did I somehow get bad copy of the book?  ???

Its a style of page.  Forget what it is called, though.

DKM
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Offline Pierre

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2004, 01:20:53 PM »

Its a style of page.  Forget what it is called, though.

DKM

do you maybe mean ragged edged parchment??

Pierre

Offline pizzaluvr

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2004, 11:08:03 PM »
Been awhile since I made a post, or a pizza for that matter.  I did just get my copy of American Pie today and I really like what I've read so far.

I didn't start at the beginning; I went right to the chapter on the different doughs.  I found it to be very detailed and interesting.  I just made the dough for a Napoletana pizza which I will make tomorrow night.  

I feel this is a great reference book, especially for a relative rookie like myself.

One criticism of the book is the lack of photos, and the ones that are in the book are somewhat blurry and not in color.  That's a minor flaw, though.

I call this a "buy"   book.  
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Offline davtrent

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2004, 11:01:13 AM »
The printing/ publishing industry refers to the ragged edge you describe as a "deckle edge".

Offline giotto

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2004, 04:29:04 PM »
The travels and experiences were the best part.  Despite his travels and obvious knowledge of techniques and why they exist, I was surprised that he covers only 1 way to mix many of his doughs (e.g., Neo-Neopolitan and NY style doughs)-- just throw in all the ingredients at once and mix them.

I've witnessed excellent thin crusts made by top notch pizzerias that make their dough in stages, and despite the number of permutations that may exist, P. Reinhart's comments on their considerations based on his travels seemed to be missing.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2004, 04:39:26 PM by giotto »


Online Pete-zza

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2004, 08:33:47 PM »
Giotto,

After I finished reading Peter Reinhart's book, American Pie, I wondered why, after devoting a sizable part of his book to his travels in Italy and praising the Neapolitan pizzas he sampled throughout the Naples area, his only tribute to the Neapolitan style pizza in the book was a single Neapolitan dough recipe and a few, rather standard, classic Neapolitan pizza recipes (Pizza Margherita, Marinara, Quatro Stagione, etc.).  And all of those recipes were based on using all-purpose flour.  I know he was aware of the extensive and widespread use of 00 flour throughout southern Italy, and that there are many 00 Neapolitan dough recipes that he could have used in the book.  And possibly several others based on combinations of flours that try to "mimic" the 00 flour.   It took me a while to come up with appears to be a logical explanation.  When I saw who published American Pie, Ten Speed Press, I recalled that a fairly detailed and comprehensive book had already been written on Neapolitan pizzas, by Pamela Sheldon Johns, also published by Ten Speed Press.  The book (of which I have a copy) is filled with recipes for Neapolitan (and other Italian) pizza dough and pizza recipes, including at least one calling for a combination of flours having characteristics similar to 00 flour.  It made sense therefore that there wasn't a need to cover the same ground and step on a fellow author's toes.  

It also occurred to me that potential readers of Peter Reinhart's book would not be particularly interested in trying to hunt down 00 flour when there are only a few sources in the U.S. and they are hard to find.   I think that was the genesis of the use of all-purpose flour for the Neapolitan pizza dough recipe.  I think keeping everything simple was also consistent with what most people want today--to make a passable pizza using commonly available ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions.  So, it was logical to cover the obvious pizza styles, such as New York style, Neo-Neapolitan, deep-dish, etc., and, to the extent possible, use common ingredients and simple processing techniques.  If I were to write a book on pizzas. it would be more like a textbook--full of technical detail and technique--and I would be lucky to sell one copy, and I'm not certain that I would buy a copy either.

I have several other books on pizzas and where they often fall short is in the pizza recipe area.  It seems that cookbook authors have an unwritten code of honor about appropriating recipes of others, or modifying them, whether there is a credible potential copyright infringement issue or not.  And coming up with completely original recipes that have undergone testing and fine tuning is not easy, and it is time consuming.  You have to be a big-name chef with a loyal following to be able to sell books just on your name only.  Consequently, most pizza cookbooks, at least the ones I have, tell you how to make simple pizzas, with pretty photos of pizzas and vegetables and cheeses, lists of ingredients that one can use on pizzas, and a few original recipes, reinterpretations or updating of old recipes, or recipes from their childhood or handed down by Aunt Mary.  

Peter

Offline giotto

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2004, 09:41:49 PM »
Interestingly enough, I had another person with extensive international knowledge of pizza making mention that he thought all the details related to the travel was an overkill for most people, and it was way to oriented toward one style of pizza.   This is the thing that threw me though.  On the one hand, information about his travels appear to be for an audience passionate for learning about pizza; yet the recipes appear to be for another group.  

I sure did like the travels though.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2004, 09:49:12 PM by giotto »

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2004, 11:15:22 PM »
Giotto,

I agree that there appears to be a disconnect.  As I understood what Peter Reinhart was trying to do, it was to try to find the best pizzas around the world and, at some point, to come up with a set of recipes for doughs and pizzas to include in the book.  It was natural and logical to confine his search to Italy, where the pizza had such strong origins, and the U.S., where the Italian style of pizza was transformed and reinterpreted by creative and inventive pizza makers from coast to coast to satisfy decidedly American tastes.  Once he found the best pizzas or best pizza doughs, there was very little he could do with the information he gathered on them.  The people whose pizzas he so enjoyed weren't about to reveal their trade secrets so that they would appear in a book for everyone to see, and it would have been difficult for Peter to reverse engineer their pizzas, even though it would have been legally permissible to do so (at least in the U.S., and provided he used legal means to do the reverse engineering).  But it would have been unseemly for him to do this especially since many of the people who welcomed him into their midst as a guest undoubtedly revealed things to him that they would not have otherwise done.  

Under the circumstances, I suspect that the only thing he could do and not betray any confidences or repeat the work of others (like Ms. Sheldon-Johns) was to come up with his own collection of recipes.  Peter is basically a bread man and a teacher of baking (at the Johnson & Wales University), and not a pizza designer as such (although he certainly understands the physics and chemistry of pizza dough).  So, I think it was natural for him to present a collection of recipes in his book reflecting the different "styles" of pizzas--which is a worthy objective and safe to do--and to do so in a simple and uncomplicated way so that the ordinary cook can replicate the results of the recipes in the home kitchen.  Ultimately, the long term success of the book will turn on the quality of the doughs and pizzas made from those recipes.  And maybe the book will encourage others to hit the road to find their own "best" pizzas.

Peter

Offline pizzaluvr

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2004, 04:47:34 PM »
I've had the book for a few months now and have made the classic napoletana-type pizza, the new york and the pizza americana.

I like the napoletana the best, although they are all good, imo.

I really don't like the fancy ragged edges of the book.  A paper clip will take care of that though for a bookmark.

Being a Non-Italian-American,  I have no roots or hand me down sauce recipes like others.  I really liked the Crushed Tomato Sauce recipe in the book.  It's easy to make and is WAY better than the canned sauce.  I think I will try and expand on it in the future, perhaps going for a more prominent red wine flavor.    

I'd like to hear opinions on using fresh vs. dryed oregano, basil for the sauce.  I've only used dry so far, so I'm curious about the taste differences, if any...

Finally, I did also try making the Chicago, and it came out VERY bready.  I've had real Chicago deep dish once when I was in Chicago, and it was fantastic!  But, that's a whole 'nother ball of dough ;)
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Offline Foccaciaman

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2004, 05:13:50 PM »
I also liked the crushed tomato sauce in the book. ;D

As for using fresh spices over dried. I still use dried oregano,but I use fresh basil, the comparison is apples and oranges to dried basil. If you like basil at all you will love fresh basil. Since you get to use more when using fresh ingredients ,because you will not overpower anything,  you also get a great fresh taste and wonderful color to your sauce. ;D
« Last Edit: August 30, 2004, 05:14:49 PM by Foccaciaman »
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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #15 on: August 30, 2004, 06:14:12 PM »
I have both basil and oregano growing out back and use both the fresh and dried versions in sauces and on pizzas.  I especially like fresh basil on Margherita (Neapolitan) pizzas and add it both before baking and at the end.  I tend to use the dried versions in sauces, although you will find recipes for sauces that call for dry or fresh forms of basil and oregano.  Professionals us mainly dried herbs, but for them it is done because the dry versions are cheaper, easier to get, and easier to use.  

With herbs, the best thing is to just experiment using both forms and see what you like best.  I have made pizzas with just fresh herbs--such as oregano, basil, summer savory, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (basically anything growing in the herb garden)--and a basic tomato sauce (and sometimes without any tomato sauce) and a little cheese, and the result is a potently flavorful and fragrant pizza.  In fact, it's so potent and fragrant that it is a real eye opener.  If fresh herbs are unavailable for any reason, you can use the dry versions, using a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio of dry to fresh.  

I, too, have tried Peter Reinhart's Neapolitan style pizza dough but found it too "cardboardy" for my taste, although I will confess that I have used 00 flours for so long that I may have a bias on this point.  I just don't think that an all-purpose flour is comparable to the Italian 00 flours.  They are made from different grains and have different starch/protein compositions.  Your recent experiment with bread and cake flour was more like a Neapolitan style pizza using 00 flour.  Did you like the crust of that pizza better than the crust you made from the recipe for the Neapolitan dough from the Reinhart book?

Peter

Offline pizzaluvr

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Re:American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #16 on: August 30, 2004, 10:37:00 PM »
Did you like the crust of that pizza better than the crust you made from the recipe for the Neapolitan dough from the Reinhart book?

It's too early to tell.  I'll have to make both side-by-side and then judge.  I haven't made the neapolitan in about a month, so my taste buds don't remember :)

This combo-flour pizza just got my attention last night; it hit the spot!

I thought the results were remarkable, considering I didn't use a stone, and my electric oven is nowhere near the consistency of a wood-fired hearth.  I have used stones in the past (acutally discs), but overtime, they end up getting broken.  My last one exploded because the crust tore and some moisture from the sauce and toppings hit it and Ka-BOOM !   Right in two !  Of course that's because it's thin and cheap.   Someday I'll get off my butt and go get some bricks like another poster here uses.
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Offline pftaylor

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Re: American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2005, 03:44:29 PM »
The UPS driver just delivered "American Pie" and "The Art of Making Pizza."
I'm about 40 pages through Reinhart's book and now realize I am, and always have been, a Pizza Hunter...
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Offline DKM

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Re: American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2005, 11:31:46 PM »
I am making plans.  I will go to Chicago in 2005.

DKM
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Offline Steve

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Re: American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza – a review
« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2005, 08:12:11 PM »
If you buy this book from Amazon, please use the following link:

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