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Author Topic: the many paths to pizza paradise  (Read 558 times)

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Offline quietdesperation

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the many paths to pizza paradise
« on: February 07, 2019, 01:19:37 PM »
after three years on the forum, its finally dawned on me that there are a lot of diametrically opposed opinions on
best practices. For example:
- improved crust crispness:  low vs high hydration
- improved dough flavor: cold vs room temp fermentation
- best temp for ny pizza: long bake ~ 500 vs hot/fast bake
- protein level for ny pizza - ap vs high vs 00
- Use of pizza screen

While these debates are interesting and important from an academic standpoint, they often have a divisive effect on our discussions. For example, if I've baked 2000 beautiful, magazine-worthy NY pizzas with a four minute bake time at 650 degrees and someone states 475 degrees is the best temp, I'm going to feel my hard-won knowledge and experience is being discounted or ignored. That just may manifest itself in my next angry/sarcastic/divisive post.  Worse, there's absolutely no way for anyone to prove their point so threads often degenerate into "I have xyz years of experience so you're wrong"

The truth, for all practical purposes, is that there is no right or wrong because we've found what works best for our formulation,  workflow, equipment, and palate. A better response might be "that's not been my experience but hey, great if it works for you!" I'd also council keeping an open mind, some opposite practices have improved my results and might just work for you. As Hamlet said to Horatio:

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

best,
« Last Edit: February 07, 2019, 06:48:48 PM by quietdesperation »
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world" - the hobbit, jrr tolkien

Offline HansB

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Re: the many paths to pizza paradise
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2019, 02:34:18 PM »
Well said. Often if you ask three people a question here you'll get four very different answers!!  :-D
Hans

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: the many paths to pizza paradise
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2019, 03:25:28 PM »
QD,

That is an interesting post. What you posted is something that I have given a lot of thought to as we have experienced increasing debates between members that have led to bad feelings. I have sometimes tended to blame social media and increased societal divisiveness as possible causes since everyone has a voice and a platform from which to render opinions, whether they are harmful or not, and usually on an anonymous basis. You wouldn't think that such behavior would present itself on a forum directed to something as harmless as pizza, but one can't rule out the possibility. As one who has been on the forum for over 15 years, most of which as a Moderator who sees pretty much everything that transpires on the forum, I have noticed how relationships between members have increasingly become more strained. And a lot of the causes have been opinion-based.

In my own case, before I joined the forum, I had spent a lot of time reading and studying what Tom Lehmann, John Correll, "Big Dave" Ostrander and other savvy pizza people had posted at the PMQ Think Tank and at the now defunct Pizza Today bulletin board. I also read the articles that they had written at the PMQ and Pizza Today magazines and in John Correll's Encyclopizza tome (now archived at the Wayback Machine at https://web.archive.org/web/20040602213927/http://correllconcepts.com:80/Encyclopizza/_home_encyclopizza.htm). Admittedly, my focus tended to be more on the professional side of the business because the abovementioned people were all on that side. It wasn't until I joined this forum that I saw how much more complicated pizza making was on a forum almost exclusively populated by non-professionals.

I mention the above because the sources I mentioned were primarily focused on facts and evidence. So, that got me to think about pizza matters on a factual, evidence-based platform. Pretty much everything else fell into the opinion category. And my tendency was to place less weight on opinion. I still take opinion into account but unless it is bolstered by facts and evidence, I don't let it overtake facts and evidence. It also keeps me out of trouble because I don't use opinion alone to support a position or to antagonize anyone who has an opposing point of view. In my "opinion", arguments based solely on opinion are losing battles where no one wins and the participants are highly likely to retaliate in some way.

My pizza tastes are simple. No matter what pizza I taste, whether it is one of mine, or one made by a professional, or even a frozen pizza from the supermarket, I ask myself only one question. Do I like it? The answer is an opinion. I might still scrutinize even the smallest detail of the pizzas I eat but that is only to add to the facts and evidence parts of the equation that hopefully make me better informed on the subject of pizza.

I know that even "facts" are elusive at times, and that the laws of science can render previously reliable evidence less reliable or even completely wrong, but that has been true through the entirety of history. So, as things change, so will I.

Peter


Offline foreplease

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Re: the many paths to pizza paradise
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2019, 05:23:55 PM »
You wouldn't think that such behavior would present itself on a forum directed to something as harmless as pizza, but one can't rule out the possibility.

Good points, Peter. Really, anything people are passionate about - pizza certainly being one - can bring out the responses and behavior you mention. Anonymity contributes. Opinions are always worthy of respect or restraint, imo, except for egregiously provocative ones. Changing or evolving opinions should be accomodated and taken at face value by others. Much of the time we spend speaking or writing we attempt to be persuasive or convincing. We should anticipate that others may find it credible or agree to some extent. If none of us can be enlightened or affected by our own experiences, well that is a bad spot for thinking people to be in.

« Last Edit: February 07, 2019, 05:28:07 PM by foreplease »
-Tony

Offline quietdesperation

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Re: the many paths to pizza paradise
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2019, 09:10:41 PM »
Peter,

  not sure if you're agreeing, disagreeing or making a related set of observations  :) It would be so much easier if you could just nip on over for conversation over a glass of wine and a slice or two.

  I'm a trained computer scientist and as such, prefer to deal with facts. I spent a lot of my career solving challenges around low-latency (< 1millesecond) trading. If someone had an idea to reduce trade latency, they'd code it up, we'd run it on our evidenced-based simulation platform, measure end-to-end latency and declare success or failure.

An evidence-based platform for pizza where the final arbiter of success is "Do I like it?" seems fraught with pitfalls. For example, how would you resolve whether, as tim huff claims, high hydration dough results in a crispier crust?  One could probably spend a year just driving consensus on the term "crispy crust" but disregarding that hurdle, let's say you did a number of side-by-side experiments which proved that a 5% increase in hydration resulted in a crispier crust.

Is that a fact or an opinion?  From your point-of-view, it's a fact but to someone with a different palate, equipment, formulation, and workflow, whose experience is that a 5% decrease in hydration results in a crispier crust, it's going to sound an awful lot like an opinion.

best,

ps thank you for the encylopizza link, it's a fun read!
« Last Edit: February 07, 2019, 09:12:39 PM by quietdesperation »
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world" - the hobbit, jrr tolkien

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Offline amolapizza

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Re: the many paths to pizza paradise
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2019, 05:40:11 AM »
IMO it's all a question of it depends :)

A dough is something alive and the final results depends on quite a few parameters.

Flour: what kind of grain went into it, how was it milled, how much protein/starch does it contain, how refined is it, what water content does it have, how much water can it soak up, how old is it, what additives, etc.

Water: what temperature, what mineral content, hard or soft, etc.

Salt: sea salt, rock salt, humidity, etc.

Yeast: CY, ADY, IDY, how fresh, how has it been stored, etc.

Then the question of how was it mixed, treated after mixing, what temperatures, how it was balled, extended, etc.

Then we have the oven and cooking, with a myriad of parameters too.  What toppings, etc.  What kind of style of pizza is targeted.  It seems like a never ending list of parameters.

At first glance it appears something simple, but if one considers the topic a bit deeper, there are myriads of combinations possible!  Just like western music comes down to just 12 tones, and look at the variety that can be made from them.

I see it as an art/craft that will take many years to master!  Just notice how one can do everything exactly the same, and still come up with different results on two different occasions...

I think Craig's oft repeated advice of "just make pizza" is the right one.  It really is the only way to advance and gain personal experience.

And finally it's a question of taste, some will prefer a Neapolitan, others a NY style, etc.  No way we can agree on what is best, and most likely hard to even agree on what methods to use.

Personally I think the diversity is part of what makes it fun!

Still we seem to reach some agreement on some points, which IMO is already a good start :)
Jack

Effeuno P134H (1700W upper element), EGO 500C Thermostat (upper), Biscotto Fornace Saputo, Sunmix Sun6, Caputo Pizzeria, Caputo Sacorosso, Mutti Pelati Bio.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: the many paths to pizza paradise
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2019, 02:49:15 PM »
QD,

It is interesting that you mentioned the Tim Huff video because I recently had an exchange with member Rolls on the Huff video, and posted on the matter at Reply 29 at:

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=55451.msg558309;topicseen#msg558309

You will see that I quoted from a highly informative and relevant article that Tom Lehmann penned for PMQ at http://www.pmq.com/August-2008/In-Lehmanns-terms-creating-crispy-crusts/.

However, over the years, I have also posted on other things that Tom has said on the subject, including the following:

Reply 980 at https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=3944.msg70562;topicseen#msg70562,

Reply 96 at https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=8093.msg74667#msg74667, and

Reply 2 at https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=52888.msg532503;topicseen#msg532503

As you may know, Tom worked at the AIB for about 50 years. In fact, he is the longest tenured employee in the history of that organization. And while he was at the AIB he and his assistants had access to scientists and laboratories to run tests on just about anything related to pizza. So when Tom writes or speaks, I listen. If I had doubts about what Tom has said on the subject, I would run my own tests even though they may not be conclusive. But I tend to doubt that I would do much with a test that, say, increases the hydration by only 5% because I learned over the years that there were many aspects of hydration that could render such a test unreliable. I even posted on those aspects at Reply 3 at:

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=12211.msg115225#msg115225

Also, knowing how I think, I would perhaps take a gander at the list of oven spring issues such as given at Reply 515 at:

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=9908.msg104559#msg104559

I have not observed any problems with my "Do I like it?" test. However, there are subtle factors that can influence the answer. For example, if you and I were to have a nice wine and a few slices of pizzas and have a nice conversation, even one about high frequency trading and trying to get as close as possible to the exchange computers, it is quite likely that I would like the pizza better than if I were to have it alone, even with the wine. So, the companionship can matter. For me, food and drink almost always taste better when with friends and family.

Peter






Offline quietdesperation

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Re: the many paths to pizza paradise
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2019, 07:29:54 PM »
It is interesting that you mentioned the Tim Huff video because I recently had an exchange with member Rolls on the Huff video, and posted on the matter at Reply 29 at:
https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=55451.msg558309;topicseen#msg558309

You will see that I quoted from a highly informative and relevant article that Tom Lehmann penned for PMQ at http://www.pmq.com/August-2008/In-Lehmanns-terms-creating-crispy-crusts/.

I did indeed note that exchange as I was the one who started the thread.

As you may know, Tom worked at the AIB for about 50 years. In fact, he is the longest tenured employee in the history of that organization. And while he was at the AIB he and his assistants had access to scientists and laboratories to run tests on just about anything related to pizza. So when Tom writes or speaks, I listen.

As predicted in my op, Tom is your proxy for "I have xyz years of experience so you're wrong". As a scientist, to accept Tom's statement, I'd want to ask 100s of questions. But putting my science training aside, as a novice pizzamaker with an inquisitive mind, completely accepting tom's expertise, I'd still have a lot of questions: how did you define crispy? Is there a difference between crispy and crunchy? How did you measure crispiness? How did you conduct your experiment? how does bake time affect your findings? temp? use of oil? How do your findings relate to home bakers? baking surfaces? flours? Is 5% likely to be discernable?

and these questions would lead to other questions. So. basically, at the end of it all, Tom would want to shoot himself...or me...or probably both of us! But in what order?  :)

I have not observed any problems with my "Do I like it?" test.

we must be talking past each other: I like 40% cheddar, 60% mozz. That doesn't create a fact that 40% cheddar creates a superior pizza. It's just my personal preference.

But I'm afraid I've led us down the rabbit hole. The real point of my op was to help us recognize that there are widely divergent paths to making pizza and we shouldn't feel insulted when our knowledge/experience seems to be rejected. The impetus for this post came from the same thread in which you responded to Rolls. Member CIZ28, someone who has real-world experience in a commercial setting, disagrees with tom's finding but, more importantly, seemed to find his experience marginalized. In thinking about it, I realized this pattern (or anti-pattern if you will), has been repeated again and again:

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=55451.msg560281#msg560281

However, there are subtle factors that can influence the answer. For example, if you and I were to have a nice wine and a few slices of pizzas and have a nice conversation, even one about high frequency trading and trying to get as close as possible to the exchange computers, it is quite likely that I would like the pizza better than if I were to have it alone, even with the wine. So, the companionship can matter. For me, food and drink almost always taste better when with friends and family.

that is such an interesting thought Peter, I've recently started to think about the related idea that pizza, like wine, has a sense of place. And perhaps pizza, like wine, tastes better in the places where it was originally made?

People come from all over the world to try nyc pizza. Yet the technology and ingredients exist everywhere in the U.S. to produce great nyc style pizza. Why isn't there great nyc pizza in LA (for instance)? Could it be that it doesn't taste as good in a place where it's always sunny and the people are a little more laid back? Maybe people need to eat nyc pizza in nyc, where it's a little grimy, the servers are fast and surly and cars have the right of way over pedestrians in every situation.

Likewise, why hasn't ca pizza taken off in nyc? Maybe to  really appreciate ca pizza we need to sit outside, surrounded by blue skies, the warmth of the sun on our face while sipping a good a ca wine.

Best,
« Last Edit: February 10, 2019, 07:18:43 AM by quietdesperation »
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world" - the hobbit, jrr tolkien

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