Saturday, February 18, 2012

The famous pizza

 a miracle of rare device
Finally, I got around to making Nancy Silverton's legendary Mozza pizza. The crust, as promised, was a crispy, delicious miracle. A bit fussy -- you have to come back and check on the dough and do things to it at intervals -- but not at all hard. Contains yeast, water, salt, a little rye flour, mostly bread flour (though I didn't have any so I used all-purpose), barley malt (or honey), and wheat germ. I think this will become, to use cooking-speak, my "go-to" pizza crust recipe. Try it. You can find it here.

Two additional tips from Silverton: Sprinkle salt on the dough before you add the toppings, and heat the oven (with a pizza stone inside) to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.  The long heating helps despoil the planet, but the pizza cooked faster and crispier than others I've made. If you're going to do it, do it right.

The dough recipe makes six pizzas, which is more than four people could eat. We consumed three margherita pizzas, the most popular, basic, and best. (Silverton calls for 1/4 cup tomato sauce per pie, and 3 ounces of mozzarella.)

I put arugula and prosciutto on a fourth margherita pizza after it came out of the oven, per another Silverton recipe, but this was too hard to eat. You can't really cut it with a knife and when you pick it up the arugula falls off as you try to tear the prosciutto with your teeth.

Silverton's austere clam pizza was not a hit, nor was her potato-gorgonzola-rosemary pizza.

Isabel: What's on this pizza?

Tipsy: Potatoes, mozzarella . . . .

Isabel: What else?

Tipsy: Gorgonzola

Isabel: I knew there was a catch.

Here's my problem with making pizza at home, which I remember every time I make it: You can't relax. Every time one pizza comes out, you're putting another one in. Not restful. But we had such a good time last night, restfulness seems irrelevant. I like to say that living with our kids right now is like living with a young Gelsey Kirkland* and one of the Three Stooges. It's very weird! But for pizza, everyone was totally present and enthusiastic and harmonious and we all went to bed happy.

On another subject, my father, Isabel, and I are leaving for Hong Kong in a couple of hours. Owen doesn't have a winter break this year so he can't come, and my husband can't really bear to be parted from the goats. So it's just the three of us. I'm looking forward shopping with my girl and eating xiao long bao with my Dad. And egg custard tarts.

*minus the anorexia and substance abuse, at least so far


  1. I've yet to find a homemade pizza recipe that I'm happy with (I'm from Brooklyn. My standards are high.) I'll give this one a try. It sure does LOOK good!

    Have fun in Hong Kong!

  2. Seriously though, the pizza was good but it ain't easy, to judge from watching Tipsy do it, and to judge from the taste of the first pizza (nonpareil) to the ones that followed more haphazardly (pareil).
    I think the best approach is do one or two really well, and savor it/them, instead of running back and forth making four or five, and stuffing them down and then spending 20 minutes sweeping up cornmeal.

  3. Hong Kong! eat dim sum at Maxim's--get there early. Stanley Beach is another must see. I could go on and on...Where are you staying? All the walking will help defray the calories...

  4. @Ginny -- please go on! If you have any additional thoughts,

    Also, if you have any non-food ideas that might appeal to 15-year-old girls. We're staying in Causeway Bay.

  5. Hong Kong! Eat a XLB for me. I'm working on a story on them. I housesat on Lamma Island back in the day. The ferry boat ride is magnificent, because you pass by all the big shipping lines and get to see huge ships vie with little fishing boats. And the island gives a bit of reprieve from the city.

  6. Oh my gosh, Gelsey Kirkland. Haven't thought about the baby ballerina in years. Now I'm going to have to google her to see what she's up to.

    I've been using a crust from Everyday Food for a few years now, and I really like it. I'm sure it's not authentic, but it's easy, freezes well, and kid-friendly. All important things for me. FYI, I only use one cup whole wheat flour.

  7. Did you use less water than the recipe called for? I've read about problems with the dough being too sticky.

    I've been using Peter Reinhardt's recipe for Napoletana Pizza dough from "American Pie," but would like to try Silverton's.

    By the way, there is a Din Tai Fung in LA next time you're there... it's good, but apparently not as good as the ones in Taiwan (because of the difference flavor of the pork, according to one of the owners).

  8. Can Smoyer post a blog while you are gone? I'd love to read about what he and Owen eat! hahaha.
    BTW, there was 21 yrs of cornmeal ground into that kitchen floor and I used Chez Panisse's dough plus a Julia Child one. Can't wait to try Mozzas...Have a great trip.

  9. Can Smoyer post a blog while you are gone? I'd love to read about what he and Owen eat! hahaha.
    BTW, there was 21 yrs of cornmeal ground into that kitchen floor and I used Chez Panisse's dough plus a Julia Child one. Can't wait to try Mozzas...Have a great trip.

  10. Bon voyage! I'm quite envious. Enjoy!
    And a nice shout-out to you before you left, if you aren't a google self-searcher:

  11. Tipsy, if you're in Kowloon and feel like some Thai, I'd recommend a hole-in-the-wall called Thai BBQ 2 (17 Nam Kok Road)--not Thai BBQ, which is right beside it--a few minutes' walk south of Kowloon Walled City Park.

    Haven't seen much written about it online, save for this entry in Fodor's:

    Have a great trip!

  12. I loved the Silverton pizza too, and it will be my go-to, as well. I liked it even more than the various Peter Reinhardt variations from "American Pie" that I've been using exclusively for years. I was suspicious that a same-day dough could be as flavorful as an overnight proof, but it really was. There was only two of us, so instead of making 6 pizzas, which would have been too much and exhausting, instead I divided the dough into 4 pieces, of which I used two and stashed the other two into (separate) ziplock bags and froze before the one-hour final rise. So next time I want to make pizza, I'll only have to remove the dough from the freezer and let it rise for a few hours before shaping. Divided by 4, the recipe makes 12- to 14-inch, instead of 10-inch, pizzas.

    I agree that it was a bit more labor-intensive than most recipes. And as someone else mentioned, the dough is extremely sticky, although the wetness contributes to the nice open hole structure and the chewy lightness of the rim. I had to add a handful more of flour. Next time I think I'll use high-gluten flour (King Arthur Sir Lancelot) instead of bread flour, which, with its higher protein content, should absorb more of the water and make it easier to handle. Even so, the dough was wonderfully extensible, and stretched easily with no tearing.

    I also departed from her kneading technique, eschewing the KitchenAid for my hands to use Dan Lepard's brilliant technique for kneading yeast dough, as he describes in his new baking compendium, "Short and Sweet" (my favorite baking book of the last decade). Instead of a long initial kneading, you just mix the dough briefly in a bowl until it comes together, let it rest for a half hour or so, and then lightly knead the dough 8 to 10 turns by hand every 20 minutes, three or four times, and from that a very wet dough manages to firm up nicely as it rests and hydrates. I now use that technique for all my breads. You don't have to worry about burning out the motor of your mixer, and it's rather nice to actually use your hands, without having to do any arduous kneading.

  13. Beware: when my father went to visit his grandmother in New York and HIS father stayed home, his father drowned the cats.......

  14. @ Mary -- Mark has already been given permission to take one of our cats back to the humane society, though I think Owen would lie down in front of the car wheels before he let that happen. And I think it would be hard to drown a goat.

    @Steven & Anonymous -- the dough was sticky! I just added extra flour.

  15. I had to leave a comment to tell you that your book is fabulous. I love your writing and enjoyed reading all of it. Wasn't bored once.

    I had read some great reviews of your book here and there on different blogs and decided to go buy it. Wow! Thank you for writing it.

    I have made the granola, yogurt, chocolate cake with frosting, tortillas, and (one of my favorites) the bagels.

    I am wondering a couple of things. First, do you plan to write another recipe book? Second, can you substitute whole wheat flour for the white flour in things like the tortillas and the bagels? If so, do you put half w.w. and half white, or can you substitute it straight out, cup for cup?

    I keep recommending your book to anyone who will listen to me rave about it. Thanks!

  16. @anonymous -- thank you! I am so glad you liked my book. I don't know what I'm going to do next, so I can't answer the first question. As to your second, whole wheat flour makes everything heavier and you have to figure out just how heavy you want to go. In the bread recipe -- which has caused people problems -- I think I use 3/4 white flour to 1/4 whole wheat, though the ratio isn't at my fingertips right now. The original recipe was all white and it was better with some whole wheat, but a limited amount. Definitely less than 50%/.
    I'm sure the tortillas would work with some whole wheat -- they'd probably be great. The bagels probably would too, though I've never tried it. Let me know if you do.

  17. I am so glad you made the pizza! I know the dough is wet, but it needs to be very moist in order to achieve that beautiful open structure. If you use bread flour instead of AP, it will be more springy and less sticky, though AP works just fine if you fold the dough right. I have modified the Mozza recipe and it is now my favorite. I add about 5 oz. sourdough starter in addition to everything else, and since my starter is the consistency of batter it makes the dough even wetter. I knead the dough until it windowpanes, which is very important if you want the dough to stretch properly into a nice circle without tearing, and also helps ensure the dough is springy, not sticky. And finally, I do make the dough a day ahead, and fold it (in thirds like a business letter and then across in half) three times at intervals, then ball the dough into six and rest in the fridge overnight. The dough is very soft and supple, but not sticky. The two most important factors in a great pizza are 1) a wet dough and 2) a hot oven.

    One more thing--I add more salt than the Mozza recipe calls for. The recipe is not even accurate, in that is calls for half and ounce (or 1 Tbs.) kosher salt, but half an ounce of kosher salt is a lot more than a tablespoon if you use Morton's and about two tablespoons if you use Diamond Crystal. Sorry for the long post; I can't help being a nerd about pizza.

  18. P.S. Mary, he DROWNED THE CATS? I want to go back in time and punch his lights out.

  19. @kristin -- thank you for all that information. I'm going to make this again and will try some of your adjustments -- and top the pizza with your long-cooked broccoli!