Author Topic: Article in Cooks Illustrated  (Read 7796 times)

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Offline gschwim

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Article in Cooks Illustrated
« on: June 19, 2006, 10:23:07 PM »
In the article, "Pizza Margherita at Home" in the current Cook's Illustrated magazine, the author experimented extensively with to come up with the "best" dough recipe for making Neopolitan crusts in a home oven.  The author contends that oven temperature was irrelevant to making a good Neopolitan pizza; the essential factor was the dough recipe.  What I found especially interesting was that the author's dough came out badly in a commercial oven and (here's the interesting part), the pizzeria's recipe did not work in the author's oven.  Apparently, the reason people have trouble making a good Neopolitan pizza in a home oven is because they are using a "high temperature" recipe and that by changing the recipe, one can make a pizzeria-quality pizza in a home oven.  For example, the author says that one should not use bread flour in home recipes and instead reccomends a combination of all-purpose flour and pastry (cake) flour, to create what I would think is an approximation of 00 flour.  I find this interesting because, on other threads, people have cited the difficulty of working with 00 flour for home-oven pizzas and said that they are better suited to high-temperature commercial-oven pizzas, while this author is claiming the opposite:  that 00 (that is, AP-plus-cake flour) is better for home ovens and bread (high gluten) flour is better for commercial ovens (which could be why some Italian pizzerias do, in fact, add high-gluten flour to their 00 flour).   Would any of the more experienced members care to read and comment on the article?
« Last Edit: June 26, 2006, 07:44:18 AM by Steve »


Offline Lydia

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2006, 10:47:26 PM »
I have tried many formulations with AP and pastry flour as well as AP and cake flour. With the cake flour turn out less like pizza than the pastry flour version. I have not come across a good formulation yet. But there are many mixing and handling techniques within this board that I have not applied to these formulations.

At best, the results have been similar to a crumpet or english muffin. I don't think thats quite the texture you look for in a Neopolitan.

So, I'm very interested in what the author has done differently. By chance do you know if the article is available online?
The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference.They say he acquired his size from eating too much pi.

Offline gschwim

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2006, 10:59:29 PM »
Oops!  I should have provided a link:  http://www.cooksillustrated.com/byissue.asp

As you can see here... http://www.cooksillustrated.com/login.asp?did=930&LoginForm=article ... the answer to your question is, yes -- and no.  The article is available online, but you must subscribe to the magazine (which, by the way, is excellent).  I read the article at Barnes & Noble.

Offline Lydia

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2006, 11:07:33 PM »
Thank you.
The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference.They say he acquired his size from eating too much pi.

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2006, 11:39:30 PM »
I really do enjoy CI and have learned a great deal over the years by reading it and following the recipes, but when it comes something as nuanced and controversial and misunderstood as pizza, especially Neapolitan pizza, I've stopped listening to anyone and anything but my own taste buds.

These pies are extremely sensitive to very minor adjustments in flour type, hydration, kneading regimen, leavening, fermenting/proofing time and temperature, dough forming, baking temp/time, etc. As much regard as I have their test kitchen and tasting panel, I think they have deluded themselves when they state:

Quote
just an hour and a half from start to finish was quite reasonable, especially for pizza that tasted like it came all the way from Naples.

 I wish it were that simple.

Bill/SFNM

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2006, 12:51:41 AM »
I think the first question one needs to ask is what quality of Neapolitan-style pizza one is seeking to make. If, for example, one wants to replicate a truly authentic Neapolitan pizza as made in Naples, one would need to use 00 flour and a high-temperature Neapolitan wood-fired oven capable of temperatures in excess of 900 degrees F and be able to bake the pizza within a minute or two. However, with experience and proper oven management, it is possible to use a different design of a high-temperature wood-fired oven, as Bill/SFNM and other members have, and achieve highly satisfactory results. Some members have even been able to use the clean cycle features of their standard home ovens, or very high-temperature grills, to achieve some, but not all, of the crust characteristics normally associated with Neapolitan pizzas. Low man on the totem pole is the (unmodified) standard home oven. Some 00 flours do better in a home oven than others, but the Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour is not especially well adapted to the standard home oven. Attempts to modify standard 00 dough formulations, as by adding sugar and/or oil to the dough formulation and adjusting hydration ratios, may lead to a tasty pizza but it will bear only superficial resemblance to the authentic Neapolitan pizza. The two products are markedly different.

The idea of combining different flours to simulate a 00 flour is not new. I have posted on this subject many times, including at Reply 4 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,819.msg7693.html#msg7693. I have also tried many combinations of flours intended to simulate 00 flour. My experience is that they are well suited to the home oven and, in many respects, seem to do a pretty good job simulating some 00 flours, such as the BelAria 00 flour, but not the stronger 00 flours such as the Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour. The pizzas will be tasty and pleasing but the crusts will not be the same as an authentic Neapolitan crust. To view a photo of a typical “simulated” crust, see the opening post at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,702.msg6358.html#msg6358. There are also several photos on the forum of pizzas made using combinations of high-gluten flour and 00 flour as used, for example, by Dom DeMarco of DiFara’s in Brooklyn.

As far as what other flours are well adapted to the home oven is concerned, I would say that one can confidently use just about any flour or flour combination, subject to the limitations mentioned above with respect to 00 flours such as the Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour. I don’t think the type of oven used, home or commercial, is the gating factor. Commercial pizza ovens are designed to bake pizzas better than one can bake in a standard home oven, but the temperatures used are essentially the same. Consequently, a 00 dough formulation used in a home oven is not likely to do any better in a commercial deck oven or conveyor oven. However, the lines are getting blurred here. As I mentioned recently in this post, http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3193.msg27281.html#msg27281, some traditional pizza operators are starting to experiment with 00 dough formulations to bake pizzas in their deck and conveyor ovens, without modifying the operating parameters of such ovens and often using the same dough formulations but for the 00 flour. And, apparently some of the operators are pleased with the preliminary results. But it is extremely doubtful that the pizzas coming out of such ovens will replicate an authentic Neapolitan pizza.

Peter

Offline gschwim

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2006, 05:06:05 AM »
Thanks for the detailed reply, Pete, which echoes what I've read on this site, and which view I shared -- until I read the article to which I referred, which is why I am hoping that someone experienced (as the article's author seems to be) could read the actual article and comment on the author's specific points and, even better, try the recipe.  (I will try the recipe myself, of course, but having never been to Italy, I will not know how close to authentic it is.)  Even better than that would be to contact the author with one's comments and invite the author to do a back-and-forth on his findings in a thread on this site, so that all of us can be enlightened.  And, of course, even better would be to also get permission to reprint the article on this site, for all to see.

I believe I was not clear and/or detailed enough in my question.  I am familiar with the Bel Aria 00 flour, but not the Caputo 00, which I understand, is fine grade, but high protein or gluten or whatever.  I'll have to reread the article when I can get back to Barnes & Noble, but my recollection is that that that type of flour -- and bread flour -- is inappropriate for home ovens.  He specifically says that bread flour, for example, is incompatible with longer cooking times.

But the essential, basic point, as I recall, is that the author, who seems knowledgeable about pizza, and to have been genuinely surprised by his results, says, based on the experiments he details in the article, that (within reason, of course), temperature is irrelevant, that it is the recipe that matters.

Basically, it's the old "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" question -- or, in this case, which came first, the dough recipe or the oven temperature.  The author maintains that it was the dough that came first and then the right temperature was found for baking it.  It is conceivable that, had the original baker, by chance, started with a different recipe, he would have determined a different ideal baking temperature yielding the identical result and today, the experienced hands on this site would be insisting that true Neopolitan pizza must be baked at, say, 400 degrees.

From visiting this site, I already know the "conventional thinking."  I share it, myself -- or did, until I read this article, which inspires me to do some re-thinking.  Basically, I want to see if it causes any of the more experienced hands to re-think any of their prior beliefs as well.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2006, 05:12:36 AM by gschwim »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2006, 08:26:09 AM »
gschwim,

I tried to cover all the bases since I wasn't sure that you, as a new member, had read much on the forum about the 00 flours in relation to other flours and ovens. There's more here on this forum on that subject than anywhere on the planet, as best I have been able to determine. It wasn't until recently, with the publication of the Morgan'Gemignani pizza cookbook (Pizza...more than 60 recipes..) that 00 flour was even mentioned in a dough recipe in a pizza cookbook.

I plan to see if I can locate a copy of the magazine to see the article. On past occasions I was unable to find Cook's Illustrated in magazine sections anywhere but I didn't check the big bookstores or the library.

Peter

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2006, 08:59:47 AM »
which came first, the dough recipe or the oven temperature.  The author maintains that it was the dough that came first and then the right temperature was found for baking it. 

I don't see this as a matter of dough recipe vs. temperature. In my mind, temperature is just one of the many interdependent factors - not necessarily more important than any of the others. Slight changes to any of these factors can dramatically affect the final result.

I've baked pies of all kinds of different formulations in a wide range of temps in grills, conventional and wood-burning ovens - certainly not as many as a pro and others on this forum, but probably many more than the author of the CI article. His job was to come up with a "no-brainer" recipe to please the tastes of the CI testers for the standard American kitchen.   This forum is more about baking the best possible pies by people who are truly dedicated to the art and science of the different species of pizzas. I think I have read every post here at least once and many several times. The CI piece may be a good starting point for the novice, but there is sooooo much more involved in the process that can be learned by hanging out here. I can;t believe how much I've learned in the past year.

Bill/SFNM

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2006, 09:59:00 AM »
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that no where in the CI article does the author mention anything about the taste of the crust - just the texture. How can you talk about Neapolitan pies without examining the flavor of the crust?

Bill/SFNM


Offline gschwim

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2006, 12:45:53 PM »
Good point, Bill, that's the kind of feedback I'm looking for.

I just emailed Cooks Illustrated, asking them for permission to post or link to the article.  I also asked them if they could alert the article's author -- and to provide a link -- to this thread in case the author might want to read and, I hope, join the discussion.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2006, 01:43:54 PM »
While I was out doing errands this morning, I checked the Barnes & Noble at the local mall, only to discover that they did not have the latest issue of CI in stock. I was told that they order only 9 copies a month, and they come in on the 6th of the month. My local library doesn't carry CI. I will keep looking as I am out and about to see if I can find a copy. I might add that I am always a bit suspicious of people who write about fairly complex topics as though they really know what they are talking about. I'm prepared to keep an open mind, but in Texas we have an expression for such people: All hat and no cattle ;D.

Peter

Offline gschwim

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2006, 01:59:51 PM »
Pete,

They may indeed not be experts, but if not, then they are not in the same sense that the testers at Consumer Reports are not experts.  Cooks Illustrated is, essentially, a culinary version of Consumer Reports.  In the same way that Consumer Reports tests SUVs, TVs, ice cream, hairspray, etc., to determine which product is best, Cooks Illustrated tests recipes, cooking methods and equipment, etc.  And, like Consumer Reports, Cooks Illustrated accepts no advertising in order to avoid even the appearance of non-objectivity.  So, just as it's possible that the people who test, say, digital cameras at Consumer Reports may not be as expert as someone at a dedicated photography site, such as http://www.dpreview.com, they are expert enough that their reviews and ratings are credible and people can confidentally rely on them.  I get the same impression from the articles and authors in Cooks Illustrated; otherwise, I would not have mentioned the article.

Offline youonlylivetwice

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2006, 02:52:14 PM »
Without intending to incite any emotions here, and I do mean this as a compliment, I think you have to consider the source and intended audience.  Of those that read cooking literature, what percent are even interested in making a 'really good' pizza at home, much less try to meticulously recreate a style?  And what tools and ingredients do they have readily available?  You all are among the truly elite in terms of your passion and pursuits.  Even in this forum there are folks trying to accomplish many different goals, from replicating truly excellent pies to trying to figure out what is in Little Caesar's sauce or Papa John's crust.  I think a greater disappointment by far is the lack of commentary in (every) book I have read about using baker's percents, finding the right ingredients (such as 00 flour), etc.  I don't think Peter Reinhart or Pamela Sheldon Johns, two of the books I have, even mention 00 flour or recipes in %'s.   This is a publication that speaks to a broader audience, and this article, if you could quantify it, probably did much more to inspire interest in some than it did a disservice to those aspiring to create something more authentic.  who knows, maybe a few new people will pop up here in the near future as a result!
thanks for listening....

Offline bdcbbq

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2006, 04:19:43 PM »
Without intending to incite any emotions here, and I do mean this as a compliment, I think you have to consider the source and intended audience. Of those that read cooking literature, what percent are even interested in making a 'really good' pizza at home, much less try to meticulously recreate a style? And what tools and ingredients do they have readily available? You all are among the truly elite in terms of your passion and pursuits.

Absolutely right. I cringe when I read some of the techniques CI does when the subject is BBQ. I'm much less picky about pizza and many other things. Cook's Illustrated is good for the average or above cook who wants to learn about cooking and "tweaks" to make a recipe better.
Bruce
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Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list

Offline youonlylivetwice

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2006, 04:23:49 PM »
Bruce, you have no idea how profound your post is.... I just bought the Cooks Illustrated Guide to BBQ and Grilling as well as a Big Green Egg... for me I saw the CI book as a huge step up from being an absolute novice at bbq. 
If you have any tips for a good bbq resource I'd love to look into it!

thanks!

Offline bdcbbq

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2006, 04:41:02 PM »
Bruce, you have no idea how profound your post is.... I just bought the Cooks Illustrated Guide to BBQ and Grilling as well as a Big Green Egg... for me I saw the CI book as a huge step up from being an absolute novice at bbq.
If you have any tips for a good bbq resource I'd love to look into it!

thanks!



Tips. When Bill/SFNM writes I read.

http://www.thesmokering.com

http://www.biggreenegg.com/

These should get you started.

Bruce
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Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2006, 06:51:46 PM »
I got lucky this afternoon and was able to locate and read the CI article at a different Barnes & Noble. Better yet, one of our members was kind enough to forward a copy of an abridged version of the article that contains the “meaty” and controversial part of the article as well as the recipe for the dough used. I have read the article several times and have the following comments to offer for those who have the article.

To begin, there is nothing particularly unique about the dough recipe set forth in the CI article. It is quite similar to those recommended over the years--particularly before 00 flours became more widely available--by Pamela Sheldon Johns, Carol Fields, and many others. As part of my ritual when I see new dough recipes, I converted the CI recipe to baker’s percents so that I could analyze it better. I also calculated the total dough weight and thickness factor (discussed more fully below). My analysis indicates the use of a high amount of instant dry yeast (the highest percent recommended for pizza dough) and a rather high hydration for an all-purpose/cake flour blend (almost 63%). Using a food processor, along with the large quantity of yeast and the warm water, will indeed speed up the dough making process and allow one to make the pizzas within 1 1/2 hours, as mentioned in the article. However, making pizzas fast and using a food processor to assist in that goal is also not new. I have used essentially the same approach described in the CI article many times before to make really speedy Neapolitan-style pizzas, which I call “Last-Minute” pizzas because they can be made entirely within an hour. I have described the processes I used, including the use of a proofing box to speed things up even faster, at Reply 12 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2250.msg19793.html#msg19793.

I calculated that the recipe recited in the CI article makes two dough balls of almost 11 ounces each, for a 12-inch pizza. That translates into a thickness factor of around 0.095. That suggests a somewhat thicker crust than produced by the bulk of the Neapolitan style dough formulations on the forum but well within the range of thickness factors used in a collective sense by our members, from 0.07-0.11. What the author has come up with is a fast Neapolitan-style dough using cake flour and all-purpose flour to simulate 00 flour. Useful perhaps, and maybe worthy of making, but not particularly unique.

I think where the disconnect comes is in the author’s over reliance on the effect of the type of flour used and, in particular, in its relationship to bake time and crust texture. I also sense that the author does not fully comprehend that two different doughs/pizzas baked in two different types of ovens at two different temperatures can have significantly different heat transfer rates through the pizzas such that one pizza will take longer to bake than the other and have different finished crust characteristics. The type of flour used is indeed material and can’t be ignored because a higher protein flour will usually result in a more developed gluten structure that will be able to retain the gases of fermentation better and longer. That can result in a more risen and gassy dough that can resist heat transfer through it such that it takes longer to properly bake the pizza. But flour is only one component of the equation. By controlling the hydration, the amount of salt, the amount of yeast, and even the amount of sugar and oil (if used), it is possible to materially alter the heat transfer rate through the dough and thereby affect the bake time and finished crust characteristics (i.e., whether the crust is crispy, chewy, light, soft, tender, etc.).

Even apart from the dough formulation itself, the thickness selected for the dough, whether the dough is proofed or docked before being dressed, the size of the pizza, and the amount and types of cheeses and toppings will also influence the heat transfer rates and bake time in the oven. Finally, the oven itself introduces many aspects of thermodynamics of its own that also have to be taken into account. These include the design, size, volume and type of oven (e.g., home oven, commercial oven, convection or non-convection), stone/rack positioning, the availability of the broiler, pre-heat times, heat retentivity, etc.

Since the author does not recite the dough formulation that the pizza operator used (I assume it was the standard high-gluten dough formulation used by the operator) or the parameters of the operator’s pizzas, we can only speculate as to what factors might have influenced the results of the pizzas produced by that operator—if baked in either oven. That makes trying to compare the two different doughs baked in two different types of ovens at two different temperatures fraught with peril. To do a proper comparison, one has to know the two dough formulations and their related parameters (size, thickness, etc.) and then relate them to the particular ovens used. You can’t just take any dough and expect any given oven to bake it perfectly. And, I don’t view it as a chicken or egg sort of thing. Given a particular dough formulation, it is usually possible to determine what kind of oven is best to use with that formulation. Likewise, given a particular oven, it is usually possible to determine what kind of dough formulation will work best with that oven. It is the disconnect between the two that often leads to new oven designs or new dough formulations. But, either way, the dough formulation and the oven have to be compatible if you hope to achieve high quality results.

Peter

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2006, 08:21:30 PM »
Bravo, Peter! A tour-de-force, as usual!

Bill/SFNM

Offline gschwim

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Re: Article in Cooks Illustrated
« Reply #19 on: June 21, 2006, 12:57:11 AM »
Pete,

Thanks for your analysis.  May I suggest that you send either an email or hard copy of your comments to Cooks Illustrated?  I bet they would print it, or at least parts of it.

I assume you are saying that the recipe in the article will not taste like a true Neopolitan pizza, so my only remaining questions are:  How close a similarity will the article's recipe yield?  Should I bother with it, or do you know another, better one, I should try?  Which recipe will get me the closest in a home oven?  Could you print (or reprint) it here?

Finally, come to think of it, on the subject of recipes, commenters on the site often refer to recipes on this site and often (and, unfortunately, often don't) provide a link to a particular thread.  However, the links take me not directly to the recipe, but to the top of the thread and then I must scroll through the thread to find the recipe.  Would it be possible to create a stand-alone thread or containing all the recipes?  And if it were possible for "recipe-links" to take one directly to a recipe, that would be great.  And if none of that is possible, I'm sure it would be appreciated by us newcomers if people referring to a recipe could copy-and-paste it somewhere into their comments, perhaps at the end   Perhaps people who have been on this site awhile are familiar with everything on it and their location, but as a new arrival, I am having great difficulty finding recipes and any help would be appreciated.  Thanks.


 

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