• #381 by pftaylor on 10 Feb 2006
  • foodblogger,
    Your pizza making skills seem to serve you well with a variety of recipes. Kindly post a little about where you are headed with your home pizza making and let's collaborate on achieving it. It helps to know the destination so I can put your comments in the proper context. For instance, is there a high hydration type commercial pie you are trying to replicate?
  • #382 by foodblogger on 10 Feb 2006
  • Pftaylor,
    I'm getting some film developed.  I'm going to make a new thread sometime early next week with what I have been working on.  It uses your dough protocol with a few minor modifications to make it work in my kitchen.  Hopefully people can make it even better.
  • #383 by myxsix on 03 Mar 2006
  • It just occurs to me that having grown up in NY, I took all the pizza I ate for granted. I remember reading somewhere in this thread about the dangers of Patsy's location in addition to it going downhill a little. Well, I just remembered something that may be of interest to some of you. In Port Washington, NY on Long Island (about 40 min from NYC) there is a pizzeria called Salvatore's - he is a newphew or some close relation of the Patsy's guy. The pizza there is very, very good and may be of interest to all of you.
  • #384 by snowdy on 13 Mar 2006
  • FYI, i havent read back on this post much but i thought i should add that my Brother and his wife moved to NYC about 6 months ago to 107th street and went to Patsy's. They went on a Friday night around 7 and said there was only 2 other people in the joint.

    We live in Southern California so i would think Patsy's would be amazing to him after reading so much about it. He said it wasnt that much better than our favorite joint here at home and that it good, but not great. He ranks Lombardi's (his favorite) and di fara in a class of their own, and even said Sal & Carmine's on Broadway better.

    Also of note, his wife did not care for it AT ALL, and even said it made her sick for a day.

    I dont know if its gone down hill or what, but knowing how pizza is here where we live and for them to say it wasnt any better to me means it must have gone down hill. Their favorite joints in order are 1) Lombardi's (my bro says its the freshest ingredients he's had, no grease and nice smokey flavor to crust)... 2) di fara (his wife puts di fara as #1... and 3) sal & carmines (mostly because of the locality factor, its right by their house and a lot better than ray's)...... they havent been to john's, grimaldi's, totonno's yet, una pizza napoletana... yet .. im trying to get them to go :)

    but my bro is a pizza man like me and he says he has no desire to go back to patsy's... maybe the grimaldi's clan took what was good with them and ran.  ::)
  • #385 by itsinthesauce on 13 Mar 2006
  • That's unreal. My brother was there last week and he got sick as well.
  • #386 by pftaylor on 13 Mar 2006
  • snowdy,
    I glad you are back. I have missed your pizza passion.

    Regarding Patsy's, pizza really is a hit or miss cycle isn't it? On a single visit to a pizzeria, anything can happen. I have had the best commercial pie I have ever eaten there and then again I have had pedestrian pie as well.

    I'm not sure I agree with the Lombardi's comparison very much though. On average, Patsy's outshines Lombardi's by a few city blocks. The last time I went to Lombardi's my group didn't want finish our pies due to its poor taste. They all tasted like recycled cardboard. It was really an awful experience. Over the years, I have had better pies than that at Lombardi's but never great pies. Lombardi's, to me, is really a tourist trap much like Tavern on The Green. All name and nothing to back it up. In my opinion, Lombardi's has the cheapest ingredients, a bready crust and absolutely no flavor to speak of - other than what the coal-fired oven imparts. It does however, have a manufactured atmosphere which is something Patsy's has none of. So for tourists, I see the attraction. Patsy's can be somewhat scary in terms of location but it is original and true to its heritage.

    Moving to Brooklyn, Domenic has the worst tasting crust of any elite pizzeria. Pizza Hut's is better and I really mean that statement. Dom spends virtually no effort on dough. It is no more than an afterthought in his world. His toppings though, more than make up for his apparent lack of interest in flavorful crust. He spares no expense when it comes to the best of the best toppings wise. So I guess if one is a crust-man than Patsy's is a clear favorite. If you are a toppings-man than Di Fara would be the pizzeria of choice. Lombardi's has neither good crust or good toppings so I cannot put it in this group. The other restaurant you mentioned, I've not eaten at.

    I am planning on taking a spring break and will go the city for a few days of eating pizza and will report back my findings. If Patsy's has gone downhill since my last visit of a couple of months ago, I will unhappily report the facts.
  • #387 by pizzanapoletana on 13 Mar 2006
  • In my opinion Patsy's was the worst pizza That I ever had, and I include Pizza hut in Glasgow-Scotland in 2000  in the comparison...

    I believe to be in the position to judge if there was something that did not work (that is what i get paid for),  as I can recognise a misfermentation, bad cooking etc... There was not a real issue with those, just a poor recipe/process/sourcing of ingredients.

    Please read more on my chitchat post.

    If you really would like to send someone to a good pizzeria, aske them to check Luzzo's (the crust and the cooking may still needs improvement for my standards, but it is way better then any Neo-Napolitan joint), which I also believe surpass the Una Pizza Napoletana effort even without a Wood fired oven (the word around is that they will open a new restaurant somewhere with a Neapolitan Oven...)

  • #388 by pftaylor on 14 Mar 2006
  • Wow. Three or four well respected members all chime in with the same negative feedback. I'm not sure I want to risk going back this weekend if half of what was reported is true.

    I will check out Luzzo's though which is a joint I have heard of but never have eaten at. It looks like it is close to UPN so I might be able to kill two pies at once. I will have a full report upon my return next week.
  • #389 by varasano on 15 Mar 2006
  •  Hey pft,

    Sad to hear about Patsy's. I had 2 pies there in September. The first pie was great - shades of the old patsy's. The   next pie, 10 minutes later was just TERRIBLE. I don't get it. You'd never know it came from the same place. Peter, your photo's of patsy's basement and your story were really great to read!

    I haven't posted in a long time. I've been out of it for a while. I have done a few experiments in the last 6 months and have a few things to report:

    First off, I'm going to brag a bit. Some of my latest pies have been amazing. Light, springy, sweet sauce, perfect char, depth of flavor. I really feel like I've hit the big time with some of these pies. I've had about 8 or 9 pies from brick oven places around the country, including at least 3 VPN places and the new No 28 on Carmine Street. Frankly, I beat them all right here in my electric oven. I'm still not up to the old patsy's and some of the top NYC places, but when my pies are on, they are right up there.

    Second: I've had some luck using Marco's very little yeast, no cold rise strategy. I've gotten some very good pies out of this, but not my best. Two minor problems. First, the sourdough flavor it a bit too strong and tangy. Not much of a difference, but a bit too much. Second, the dough is hard too control. It could be ready in 16 hours or 21 hours. It's hard to regulate unless you kind of watch it and move it from hot to cold spots. This is fine if you are staring at dough all day running a pizza place, but for home use, it's a pain. I'd do it if the pies came out better, but they really don't.

    I'm going to get technical here. I'm also going to make up some numbers to give some meaningful and clear examples. So don't quote me on exact times and values, I'm trying to give the theory here.  Here's what I realize:

    The amount of starter you use is not that relevant, because it doubles fast and permeates the dough anyway. It makes a difference, but not much. Assume all these recipes have the same small amount of culture.

    Here are some concepts.
    - A sourdough culture consists of 2 agents:
        - Yeast: a leavening agent
        - Lactobacilli: a fermentation and flavoring agent For the sake of example, let's say that a pie is perfect when each agent has performed 100% of it's job.  If one is at 100% and the other at 130%, then something is off, by definition.

    - The yeast slows down a lot when it's cold. The lactobacilli slows down less when it's cold.
    - You cannot vary the relative starting quantities of the sourdough yeast and lactobacilli. They are bound together.
    - Baker's yeast is a leavening agent which can rises faster than sourdough yeast, but adds little flavor.

    These are the inputs. Now, the idea is to find a formula that creates 100% leavening and 100% flavoring. From here it's a bit of algebra. There are several ways reaching balance, but let me focus on just 2 variables:
    - The Cold/Warm rise times, which vary the relative speed for the 2 sourdough agents
    - The amount of baker's yeast.

    Look at this chart for a moment:

    Cold Rise    Warm Rise    Baker's Yeast            Flavor
    None          20 hrs               0 g                        Too Tangy
    1 Day         6 hrs                 1 g                        Pretty Tangy
    2 Days        3 hrs                 2 g                        Excellent
    3 Days        1 hr                  4 g                        Excellent

    This is a bit hard to explain. The sourdough yeast and the Lactobacilli are both working, but their RELATIVE speeds vary depending on temperature. By definition, you want a pie when both have done 100% of their job: The yeast has added 100% of the puff and the lactobacilli has added 100% of the flavor. But by cooling the dough, the lactobacilli will slow less and begin to outpace the yeast.  You bake when the yeast has added 100% of the rise you need. But where is the lactobacilli in it's job at that time? During a pure warm rise (row 1 in chart at 72 F),  with the yeast culture I'm using, the lactobacilli has probably done 130% of it's job. So it's too tangy.

    If I put the dough in the fridge (still no baker's yeast) and let it sit a day, it's even worse. The lactobacilli are still going and get a head start on the cold-stunted yeast. Let's say that the yeast has done only 10% of it's job in the cold, while the Lactobacilli has already done 50% of it's job.  So, now the rise takes 10% less time - it takes 18 hours to hit 100%. Where is the lactobacilli? After 18 hours It's at 180%.  It's out of balance and terrible.  So it's way too sour.

    So what can I do?  I calculate that since my lactobacilli is 50% there, it will take it only another 6 hours to get to 100% of the flavoring. I can now add just enough baker's yeast (a flavorless leavening booster) so that so that the leavening will take the same 6 hours. Let's say that's 1g.

    If I do a 2 day cold rise, the lactobacilli is at 75% of the flavoring right out of the fridge, while the yeast is at 20% of leavening. I need just 3 hours to get all the flavor. But I'd need 16 hours without a boost. No good.  I have to add enough baker's yeast to rise from 20% to 100% in just 3 hours. So I double the amount of baker's yeast to 2 g.

    If I do a 3 day cold rise, the lactobacilli is at 95% of the flavoring right out of the fridge, while the yeast is at 30% of leavening. I need just 1 hour to get all the flavor. But I'd need 14 hours without a boost. No good.  I have to add enough baker's yeast to rise from 30% to 100% in just 1 hours. So I double the amount of baker's yeast again to 4 g.

    Get it? The longer the cold rise, the more the flavor outpaces the yeast, so the more baker's yeast booster I need to bring things into balance.

    Once you understand this, it give you more control and options. For example. I see that with a warm rise and 0g baker's yeast, my dough is out of balance, with the yeast at 100% and the lactobacilli at 130%. How can I fix this? Well understanding the theory gives me at least 2 possibilities: I could add some baker's yeast to bring the rise down from 20 hrs to 15 hrs, thus stopping the lactobacilli at just the right time. Or I could raise the temperature to a heated rise (maybe 85F) to speed up the yeast so it goes as fast as the lactobacilli.

    I hope this is not too confusing. It took me a long time to see all this. But once you get this, believe me it really helps a lot.

    The problem now is to work out the formulas in exact detail. In real life, these formulas vary by hours and that's pretty hard to take when a 15 hour rise is dinner time and a 20 hour rise is 1 AM.  Guests don't like to wait for that extra 5 hours to get the dough just right.  In a pizza parlor, I'm sure they use a gut feel and move the dough from warm to cool places based on experience. But with this new understanding I hope to tighten formula. Unfortunately, I have little time for experimentation.

    Also, let me note that my 100% leavening is much less than ever before.  I now run much wetter and less leavened than I have in the past. Maybe 30-40% increase in volume. Maybe one day I'll do a displacement test to see for sure.

    The bottom line of these formulas is that the easiest and most reliable method is the 2 or 3 day cold rise.  The flavoring happens in the background and you can pop the dough out of the fridge a few hours before baking. My pies last week were a dream. I used these techniques to do a 3 day rise. The dough came out of the fridge as the oven went on and my dough management couldn't have been easier.  In an hour it was ready and the pies were awesome.
  • #390 by varasano on 15 Mar 2006
  • The Brick Oven,

    I've met up with a member of this site who lives near me and has a brick oven. So we've struck up a barter. I'm coaching in technique and in turn I'm getting some practice with the oven.  The first round was just OK. When I go there the oven was up to 1000F, but the wood embers were spread all over the baking surface. As soon as they were swept to one side the temp began to drop. The first pie went it at 800F but by the time it came out about 3 min later, the underlying brick was just 650F. The stone continued to fall in temp all the way down to 400F and after hours of stoking we never got it much above 600. All but the first pie were 6-8 minutes.

    Here's what I learned: A 7 min pie in a brick oven is way better than a 7 min pie in my electric. It has a nice flavor, but of course is still no match for a 2 min pie. So my electric still made the better pie. But once we get the heat problems worked out, I'm optimistic that the brick oven will win.

    What I'm not sure of still is the whole wood vs coal thing. I've NEVER had a great wood slice. All the top NY places are coal and all the non-NY wood places I've had are mediocre or just bad. So I'm not sure what's going on. The embers themselves never got much about 1000F, which seems low to maintain 800F throughout the oven. But we'll see. I'm hunting down some coal and looking into techniques to manage the oven better. It was just a first attempt.

  • #391 by Bill/CDMX on 15 Mar 2006
  • When I go there the oven was up to 1000F, but the wood embers were spread all over the baking surface. As soon as they were swept to one side the temp began to drop. The first pie went it at 800F but by the time it came out about 3 min later, the underlying brick was just 650F. The stone continued to fall in temp all the way down to 400F and after hours of stoking we never got it much above 600. All but the first pie were 6-8 minutes.
    In my experience, which is limited solely to my own oven, a live fire is important to keep the deck up to temp. With lots of practice, I've become better at maintaining a fairly even deck temp between pies. I toss in small pieces of wood to keep the fire just right, not too big, not too small. The deck under the pizza is somewhat cooler immediately after removing a pie, but recovers fairly quickly. I've never seen such a sharp drop as you've observed. Perhaps your friend's oven has a much smaller thermal mass or doesn't have as much insulation.

  • #392 by varasano on 15 Mar 2006
  • It was a very, very small oven. Maybe 2 - 3 pies could fit in there, but I can't see cooking more than 2 at a clip. I think that may be part of it. I'll look into the insulation issue with her.

    When you say, not to big or small, what do you mean. Is it too hot if the fire is too big? 

    I was under the impression that the real heat came after the flames died because the embers are hotter than the flame. But now I'm not so sure of this.

    I instinctively tried to move the pie to new hot spots as it baked because I know that the stone cools under the pie. But at such low temps it only helped a little bit.

    How long does it take to get up to temp. pft says patsy's starts the fire at 9AM and it's 5PM till its all the way there.   Ugh.

    Have you found that positioning the wood makes a difference. Is there a lot of indraft of fresh air that can cool the deck if the fire is in the wrong spot?  Do you have a door?  All the NY coal places have iron doors, but none of the wood ovens I've seen have them.
  • #393 by Bill/CDMX on 16 Mar 2006
  • Jeff,

    My oven is also very small. The fire/coals consume maybe 1/3 of the area and there is room for maybe 2-3 small pies, but I can really only manage one at a time. If I add too much wood, the temperature can be too hot. My Neapolitan-style dough using only natural starter seems to prefer an 850F-900F deck. I start the fire 4-5 hours before the meal.

    Not sure about embers being hotter than the flame, but adding more wood not only restores heat lost during baking, but the flames arc up the dome and down onto the pie so the toppings are done when the crust is done.   

    Positioning the wood does seem to make a difference in keeping the deck hot. Lately I have been pushing the coals to both sides & maintaining two smaller live fires rather than one larger one although it is hard to tell how much of difference this makes - perhaps just less rotating is all.  There is a door, but I only use it when baking bread (at much lower temps). The door would prevent air from feeding the coals and fire and also, I couldn't see what is happening. These pies cook up in a minute.

    I still need a lot more practice to get consistent results. At this point I suspect my dough management skills are more of a factor than fire management, although both are clearly critical. 

  • #394 by varasano on 16 Mar 2006
  • Thanks Bill. This gives me some direction for the next practice run
  • #395 by scott r on 16 Mar 2006
  • Bill, sorry if you have already posted this somewhere, but is your oven a commercially available model?  I have a friend who wants to put one in his back yard.  He is in the San Fran area.  Any Idea what I should recommend to him, and a rough idea on the price?

    I was under the impression that all of the commercially available US made ovens had too high a dome to cook a pizza properly in one minute.
  • #396 by Bill/CDMX on 16 Mar 2006
  • Scott:

    I built mine from a kit from JP's company: As I've mentioned before, if I had it to over again, I would have purchased the larger 110 model.

    The statement that
    all of the commercially available US made ovens had too high a dome to cook a pizza properly in one minute
    is pretty sweeping. I think there are 2 considerations:

    1) An expert should have no problem baking "proper" pizzas in one minute. I am far from an expert so I am still very inconsistent. The pies are always very good, but some are much better than others. And with experience they are getting better. I have had this oven for about 5 years, but, thanks to this forum, I recently made some radical changes to my dough (using Marco's starter, eliminating commercial yeast, and getting a Santos mixer) and those have greatly improved my pies but have put my dough management techniques back to square one.  I'm still doing a lot of tweaking and my goal is to be able to get consistent "wow!" results by the end of this year. Perhaps there is also a problem that my criteria for "wow!" are also evolving.

    2) I think there is a big difference between an oven for home use and business use. I have no idea how my oven would perform in a restaurant environment where you need to pump out pies one after another all day long. I know JP will tell you that his ovens are in use in pizzerias around the world. There is one in town here, but they don't run the oven as hot as I do and their style is definitely "American".  I've been firing up my oven ~2 times week and cooking 3-4 pies per session. I would guess that an expert should have no problem using the larger version of my oven in a demanding professional environment, but that is pure speculation.

    I would recommend that your friend contact JP to get all of the specs and pricing. You can get a kit or also a preassembled model which profoundly affects price and the amount of effort required. I would also look very closely at the preassembled model Marco is associated with:,1118.msg22942.html#msg22942  .

  • #397 by Randy on 16 Mar 2006
  • Bill,
    Have you tried adding natural charcoal after the fire burns down to control temperature.  I don't have a pizza oven but on my converted Lazy Q I add natural charcoal from the bag to the fire.  Seems like it would reduce spikes giving you a little more control.

  • #398 by PizzaBrasil on 16 Mar 2006
  • The annexed chart shows the brick oven temperature in a normal baking day.
    The temperatures in this chart were measured when the dome oven was without isolation (just bricks on her side and half inch cladding).
    Today it is a 42 rounded oven with 3 inches of vermiculite isolation.
    So, you could consider than an almost constant higher hearth temperature (800, 850F) could be maintained during the baking time.
    I am a weekend pizza baker, and I do not like to spend a lot of time waiting by the highest temperature than the oven could be reach. I normally start the fire 1   hours before the first pie is going to bake and 800F is good enough to me.
    During the baking time there is always a flaming firewood (firewood and coals on oven side).
    May be in a future I charge the oven with a lot of firewood and wait the necessary time to know the highest temperature that this oven could reach  ???
    The yellow and blue lines (centro 2 cm piso center hearth 1 inch of surface and atras 2 cm piso rear hearth 1 inch of surface measure -) shows the hearth temperatures during the complete cycle. The baking time is about 3 hours.
    The pies are ready in 2, 21/2 minutes and they are excellent (in my Wow measure ;-)) (Thanks, Varasano for teaching us how to be there!)

  • #399 by Bill/CDMX on 16 Mar 2006
  • Randy,

    Thanks. I think I've got a pretty good handle on maintaining oven temps by tossing in a few small pieces of wood between pies. I don't think lump charcoal would produce flames to help bake the top of the pie.

  • #400 by pizzanapoletana on 16 Mar 2006
  • Few imputs:

    When cooking pizza in a wood oven you need both ember and flames, a lot of flames...

    You can control the lactobacilli/yeast ratios in a starter by the refreshing technique and starter consistency.  If the starter is too acid, no matter how little you add of it, the final dough will still be too acid/sour.

    Yeast types (Saccaromyces, Candidas etc) and bacterias (including lactobacilli) are very similar vegetable organisms that work better by increasing temperatures and slow down by lowering temperature, and there are lot of studies on microfloras applied to dough that disagree with Jeff conclusions.... It is very hard to work with sourdough at room temperatures and that is where the best products come from... I have made some 36 hours rustic bread here in US that has blown away anyone who tried it. With the proper PH ratio and starter consistency, the yeast work much faster then the bacterias...