Author Topic: What is the best way to begin?  (Read 2548 times)

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Offline UGAChemDawg

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What is the best way to begin?
« on: January 13, 2006, 11:36:28 PM »
Hello,

One of my New Year's resolutions was to learn to cook pizza. The amount of information is vast, but there does not seem to be a dedicated beginners' section, so I must ask: what is the best recipe for a beginner to make? I'd prefer something that requires you to make everything and not buy any parts of the pizza premade, but that will also work in a "normal" kitchen.

I only have a regular oven at my disposal and normal kitchen utensils.

Any other advice for getting started would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks! :)


Online Pete-zza

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Re: What is the best way to begin?
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2006, 09:07:28 AM »
UGAChemDawg,

It would help to know what style of pizza you like most. I personally think that the Chicago deep-dish style is the easiest to make but that doesn't help if you can't stand that style or if you prefer the New York style or some other style popularized by the major pizza chains. It is also important to know what appliances you have on hand. For example, do you have a stand mixer (such as a KitchenAid), food processor (e.g., a Cuisinart) or bread making machine, or do you plan on kneading dough by hand? I assume also that you will most likely be using flour and other ingredients that can readily be purchased at your local supermarket. At least until you decide that you have become hooked on making your own pizzas and want to upgrade them by using better and more specialized ingredients.

For a deep-dish style, you essentially need only a deep-dish pan, preferably a dark, anodized one. There are several deep-dish recipes on this forum that are simple enough that you can make the doughs by hand. And they use regular all-purpose flour, which is available at virtually every supermarket in the land. For the New York and other styles, you will need something to bake the pizzas on. The best choices are either a pizza stone, a set of unglazed quarry tiles (available from a tile dealer or places like Home Depot and Lowe’s), or a device known as a "pizza screen", which is simply a round screen upon which the shaped dough is placed to be "dressed" (adding the sauce, cheese and toppings) before being put into the oven.

When using a pizza stone or tiles, you will also need something to build a pizza on before loading it into the oven on top of the stone/tiles. To start, you may be able to use the back of a cookie sheet that has been pre-dusted with flour or cornmeal or even a large piece of cardboard that has been pre-dusted with flour or cornmeal. But these methods are not efficient and prone to error, so eventually--if you haven't broken your New Years resolution, that is--you will want to get what is called a "peel". This is a paddle-like tool that is specifically designed to facilitate the loading of the dressed pizza into the oven on top of a stone or tiles.

Before responding to this post, you may also want to take a quick look at the Glossary section of this forum, if for no other reason than to look at what several of the terms used above mean. Many of the terms in the Glossary are quite technical, so you shouldn't be intimidated or deterred by them. What you want to get at this point is a feel for the general playing field. The more detailed understanding will come with time and experience. The Glossary is at http://www.pizzamaking.com/pizza_glossary.html.

In due course, you may also want to get a pizza cookbook or two. I think one of the best pizza cookbooks for a beginner to get to know about the basics of pizza making is Peter Reinhart’s book, American Pie. A review of that book, and others as well, is at http://www.pizzamaking.com/pizza_books.html.

Good luck.

Peter

Offline UGAChemDawg

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Re: What is the best way to begin?
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2006, 02:01:20 PM »
Quote
UGAChemDawg,

It would help to know what style of pizza you like most. I personally think that the Chicago deep-dish style is the easiest to make but that doesn't help if you can't stand that style or if you prefer the New York style or some other style popularized by the major pizza chains. It is also important to know what appliances you have on hand. For example, do you have a stand mixer (such as a KitchenAid), food processor (e.g., a Cuisinart) or bread making machine, or do you plan on kneading dough by hand? I assume also that you will most likely be using flour and other ingredients that can readily be purchased at your local supermarket. At least until you decide that you have become hooked on making your own pizzas and want to upgrade them by using better and more specialized ingredients.

Thanks! I don't really have a preferance. I like them all. All types of crust, all thicknesses, etc. I like Papa John's best of all the major chains that are found in Anytown, USA, but I would like to make a hand-tossed pizza like they do at Domino's. Deep dish is cool though. I was in Chicago once and had a pizza from Numero Uno. It was a delight, as I recall.

I'm a poor college student, so buying more than about 50 bucks of additional equipment is absolutely out of the question. I do have a mixer. It is one of those where it is a stand mixer but you can also take the mixer part off and use it as a hand mixer. I've also got a blender and a George Foreman grill. lol! The oven is the standard electric oven with the four burner stove on top that came with the apartment. I have other things like spatuals, measuring cups, pots, pans, bowls, etc, but nothing fancy.




Online Pete-zza

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Re: What is the best way to begin?
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2006, 03:57:06 PM »
UGAChemDawg,

Starting out as you are, and based on what you have said, I would recommend that you go with the deep-dish style and the American style, which is basically a Papa John’s style. For now, I would limit myself to maybe a 9-inch deep-dish and a 12-inch American style. For both styles you will want to do the kneading by hand. The appliances you now have won’t do. I personally like hand kneading of dough, and I think you will too.

For the deep-dish style, you will need a deep-dish pan with a depth of about 2 inches. A simple cake pan can also be used but you should look for one that is dark in color. If you go to this site and look at about the middle of the page, you can see what the pan should look like:
http://www.abestkitchen.com/store/pizzapans.html. You will note that a 9-inch pan with a depth of 2 inches is around $10. If you think you would like a larger size, that’s OK too. You should get the size you want for your particular circumstances and budget. I might mention that sometimes you can find deep-dish pans on eBay. They may be like the one at the above link or they may be commercial well-seasoned metal pans that can be used just like the dark, coated pans. You might want to keep your eyes peeled.

For the American style pizza, I recommend that you get a pizza screen. That is what the recipe for that style uses. As I indicated above, I suggest starting out with a 12-inch American style. You could go to 14 inches if you want. That’s up to you. Either way, a 12-inch or 14-inch pizza screen will cost around $3. To see what such a screen looks like, go to the above abestkitchen link and type "pizza screens" in the search box.

If you live in a major metropolitan area, you may be able to get both of the above items at a local restaurant supply store and avoid shipping charges that you would incur buying the items from an online source.

As for recipes to use, I suggest that you consider the following:

Deep-Dish: I recommend the deep-dish dough recipe developed by member buzz and stated at Reply #6 at this thread: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2314.0.html. When I have used an earlier and slightly different version of that recipe, I baked the dressed pizza on the middle oven rack position of a 450-degrees F preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes (for a 9-inch pie). If the exposed crust browns too quickly (as it always seems to do in my oven), I simply cover the top of the pie with a sheet of aluminum foil. If you’d like to get an idea of what the finished pizza should look like, go to this thread and look at Reply #31 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1585.20.html. You might also want to take a look at the first few posts here: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1585.0.html. The dough and pizza shown there is my attempt at an even earlier version of buzz’s recipe.

American Style: I am going to give you a little homework on this one. As a student, I think you will understand. I recommend that you go to this board and look at everything that has the name “Randy”, a member who, in my opinion, has developed one of the best recipes on this forum: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/board,36.0.html  You might even look at the thread I started to detail my efforts to make a thinner version of Randy’s American style pizza, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1707.0.html  Whatever version you decide you’d like to try, thick or thin, you will want to use either bread flour or all-purpose flour rather than high-gluten flour since you should be able to locate bread flour and all-purpose flour, or at least all-purpose flour, at your local supermarket (you won’t find high-gluten flour there). If there isn’t a recipe for the size or thickness you would like to make, let me know and I believe I should be able to devise one for the size and thickness you’d like to make. For an interesting discussion on hand kneading Randy’s American style dough, you may also want to check out this thread: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2280.0.html.

I hope that this gets you going in the right direction and tells you whether you should keep your New Years resolution. If you need help or want further consultation before you proceed, feel free to come back. In the meantime, I invite others to offer their best suggestions to UGAChemDawg also.

Peter
« Last Edit: January 14, 2006, 04:00:55 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline UGAChemDawg

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Re: What is the best way to begin?
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2006, 04:18:59 PM »
Many thanks! I think I'm going to try the deep dish first. Probably this weekend actually since I either already have most of the supplies or can get them locally. I'm going to document the process and will post pics here so that people can see what happens when someone tries to make a pizza for the first time.

I have noticed that my oven runs hot. When I bake cookies, I have to turn it down about 25 degrees from the temperature listed in the recipe for them to come out right. So I guess I should run my oven at about 425 degress for a recipe that calls for 450?

Offline UGAChemDawg

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Re: What is the best way to begin?
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2006, 04:44:53 PM »
Also, what do the terms "proof the yeast with a little sugar in water" and "after the rise, punch and let the dough relax" mean in buzz's recipe for the deep dish dough?

Punch isn't in the glossary and proof doesn't have an explanation as to how to actually go about doing it.

Thanks

Online Pete-zza

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Re: What is the best way to begin?
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2006, 05:23:53 PM »
UGAChemDawg,

It shouldn't be a big problem if you lower the oven temperature a bit to compensate for your particular situation. It may take longer for the pizza to bake, but that should be the only effect. Just watch the pie as it bakes to make sure that the crust doesn't brown too quickly.

"Proof" is a technical baking term used to describe the activation of yeast, especially active dry yeast (ADY). To "proof" yeast, all you have to do is stir the yeast in a small amount of water (say, one-quarter cup) at about 105-115 degrees F. That temperature is essentially warm to the touch. If you have a kitchen thermometer, that is what you should use to be sure that the temperature of the water isn't above around 140 degrees F, since that will kill the yeast. The recommended proof time is about 10 to 15 minutes.

The term "punch", as I use it, is literally to punch, that is, to punch the dough down with your fist. If the dough has risen significantly--for example, double or more--you will usually hear a squishing sound as the gases (mainly carbon dioxide) escape from the dough as you punch it down.

Peter

Offline enob

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Re: What is the best way to begin?
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2006, 07:31:12 PM »
I had the same  New Year's resolution..... 

Offline buzz

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Re: What is the best way to begin?
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2006, 11:26:42 AM »
UGA--

If you make a batch of my deep dish dough, you can also roll it out to several thicknesses and experiment with the resulting different crusts. Then if you find, for example, that you like a thin crust, you can start to experiment from there.

I'm a big fan of hand kneading, so you don't need any fancy equipment, but you can also invest in better tools as you go on.


 

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