Hi folks. I'm afraid that my sauce is a perfect companion to my dough/crust. It is very much on the process intensive side of the scale. However, it works very well, and I feel like I am finally starting to steer the boat instead of visa-versa. Here is what I wrote up and how I came up with it. Actually, more like "why" I think it works. Bake to bake guess work is out of the equation for the first time. And finally, of course it goes without saying that this all is just what ended up working well for me.
One of my biggest ongoing challenges has been sauce flavor development. When it was on, it was on. Even early on. The sauce/cheese boil was of great importance to me pretty much right away. When it was off, however, who knows what would happen. Some bakes would off balance just a little, but others would be way off. Anything from too strong of a flavor of some ingredient or some huge effect on one of the big 4 flavor categories. Still other times, it would taste outright undeveloped. If it was a thicker sauce, it would seem somewhat pasty. A thin-set sauce undercooked might end up just bland.
There has been much talk about home verses professional gear. I love the challenge of making a pizzeria quality pie in a home oven. It is great fun. To have something this involved as a hobby reward me with something that is incredibly good to eat is darned near a perfect combination. I view the challenges to be two things. One is overcoming the unforgiving nature of our mixers and ovens verses the forgiving nature of a professional's set-up. The other, of course, is professional know-how. I do not have, nor lay any claim to any level of expertise. In essence, this is partially an exercise to overcome my own limitations. In other words, to grow.
So how to make a more forgiving sauce?
It all came to me in an instant, at the oddest moment. A whole slew of thoughts converged on me from out of no-where. These ideas came from quite a few learning experiences I had. These were:
#1: The MAE method.
#2: My own frustration using oil in my sauce. (might be good one day, but often picked one element out and blasted it through and sending the pie way out of balance.)
#3: A late-October failure when trying to saute some paste and other ingredients in oil, which ended up being the base for a gastrointestinal cleansing pie that was off the charts awful and impossible to put down and stop eating.
#4: Ryan recently talking about perhaps pre-cooking sauce by a very small amount.
#5: The great cheese melt discussion.
#6: The subsequent discussion about sauce viscosity.
#7: My own failures about using Anchovy paste in sauce. (In short, it less than ideal, the bitter raw paste flavor would come through instead of that "5th flavor" element.
The MAE method is really impressive. It's just that it's not what I wanted. This is a personal preference, of course. Not an insult to anyone or anything. I like mine different. However, one can learn from something they do not agree with 100%. The MAE method talks about how oils are able to penetrate ingredients' tough exteriors to allow flavors to come out. Indeed, it performs as advertised. I just prefer a fresher taste.
I also do not like to put my sauce into a fridge. Tomatoes, yes, for a few days at the most. Not the sauce. Mine is made fresh from tomatoes a couple hours before the bake. There is a difference. Even simply salting 2 hours before and 2 days before.
Alas, My preference towards making fresh every time is probably not the most forgiving of the two options, which in turn would seem counter-productive to my home kitchen efforts.
There were three different ways, in the list above, that oil affected the sauces. MAE, the Gut-Bomb and the random flavor bursts I had at bakes with oil in the sauce. Could I use oil's effects in a way that was fresher? It has been said that the first time tomatoes release flavor is different than the rest. You only get the one shot at the fresher, first heat event flavors.
Then the thought hit me to try to replace the Microwave with the pizza baking itself. Do the MAE method while it bakes. Of course, there would be no microwave involved. The microwave would get replaced by the on-pie boil/bake. Perhaps I could mix a few ingredients into a small amount of oil and then build the rest of the sauce on top of that after it sets for a few minutes.
My idea's first iteration was to soak a small amount of paste and herbs(eg Oregano, Italian seasonings, etc) in a small amount of oil before mixing the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients in. As soon as the tomato paste entered into the equation, so did anchovy paste. They live side by side behind the butter.
So into the kitchen I went. I mixed a very small amount of oil, tomato paste, anchovy paste and Italian seasonings together and let it sit for about two minutes. I followed it up with the rest of my tomatoes and then other ingredients. Two hours later, I was biting into my pizza and tasted a very successful flavor development. My flavor development. My ingredients pretty much remained the same. Score!!!
I adjusted my ingredients list and am still adjusting it. This as a month ago, yesterday. Every single pie I have baked has come out to within my desired balance range with the exception of one. That one, I believe I added salt twice. (grrrr) Assuming 3.5 pies a week, I have made 16 to 18 pies. One was too salty. One erred in a direction I sent it to. That was today's bake. I increased both pastes Oregano and pepper in edition to making it both thicker and making sure it cooked stronger by removing some of the cheese. The sauce came out stronger. Everything else, including today's, I guess, was on target.
I have taken additional water out almost entirely, I have made thicker pies, changed stones two weeks ago and I have over-loaded to what would have surely been and undeveloped flavor result. No undeveloped sauce flavor. Just one un-intentional "too much salt" pie and the one too strong flavored pie.
Enough blabbering. Here it is. Remember, it is not about the ingredients as much as it is the method. I am still dialing in ingredients. Apply the method you your ingredient list for your preferred pie. Having said that, use the "*" items from the first ingredient list to start as well as 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of your recipe's herbs in place of mine. Anchovy paste is optional, but why not if it's going to come out right every time?
For 130g of sauce, enough for a 14" pie.
Ingredients Part #1
*1/4 tsp Tomato Paste (dble concentrate from the tube, but I bet others will work)
* 1/8th tsp Anchovy Paste (I do not know if optional yet)
1/8th tsp Italian Seasonings
* Scant 1/8th tsp of Oregano (I have 1/16th spoons and use that.)
* 1 tsp Olive Oil
Combine all ingredients listed above and so far, and whisk together very well. Get as much of the bits and pieces of the pastes liquified as you can within a reasonable amount of time. In the very least, no big globs.)
Ingredients Part #2
115g Tomatoes (whatever tomatoes you use)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
scant 1/8th tsp pepper (I use 1/16th tsp)
1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic (reserved)
- Add the tomatoes to the mixture and stir or whisk thoroughly again. This time to incorporate the oil mixture into the tomatoes.
- Add the spices/herbs to the tomato mixture and combine.
- Add any water or tomatoes you need to add a little bit at a time to get to the viscosity you desire and/or normally have and to reach weight goals.
- Let set out until it's time to make the pizza. I make my sauce about 2 hours pre-launch. I never send it to the fridge. I assume that If you normally send yours to the fridge that you still can. I am not sure yet. I may never find out.
- Everyone has their own recipe. Use what you like. My recipe is largely unimportant. What matters more than anything is the process. The method makes this work.
- I have not added salt or pepper to the oil/paste mixture at the beginning, but will try sometime. If someone tries, please report back. I'd love to hear how it goes.
- Secret ingredient not listed - 5 non-pareil capers very, very well drained and "minced" in with the tomato and anchovy paste and oil mixture. I do this once a week at least. Adds sort of a peppery, 5th flavor element. Maybe builds on the anchovy thing?
- Speaking of the pastes, I have no clue if either or both of the pastes are optional or not. If you try without, please report back to this space. I'm betting that the tomato paste is not optional.