Maybe Pizza?
Gus's experiments in making pizza with very hot ovens. And pizza reviews, why not?
February 2, 2016

A good read from King Arthur- Choosing the Best Type (of Yeast) for Any Recipe.

Their pick has been my favorite for years- SAF instant yeast. I buy a 1lb bag of this, and replace it every 6 months. KA has a nice little set which includes the yeast, as well as a container for it (which I also use). Put that in your fridge and you'll be set for a long while.

January 22, 2016

Digital Trends:

"But now you too can own an oven hot enough to make Satan sweat. GE’s elite FirstBuild team just unveiled the Monogram Pizza Oven, which can not only hit the same temperatures as the scorcher your local pizzeria uses, it’s a lot smarter, too.

"This isn’t another one of those backyard, wood-fired pizza ovens that have been gaining popularity over the past few years as home pizza making takes off. The Monogram Pizza Oven installs right in your kitchen and uses a standard 240-volt outlet, with no special venting required, unlike a commercial unit. But you won’t mistake it for an ordinary kitchen oven. The short height and conspicuous lack of a door are a dead giveaway you’re dealing with a culinary dragon."

I don't understand how an oven like this gets made. The reason why traditional wood fired ovens don't have a door is because you need a steady flow of oxygen to feed the fire. You put a door on an electric oven to keep the heat and moisture in.

"The Monogram can blast to 800 degrees within a half hour of preheating, and 14 heating elements in the dome can rocket the top up to a blistering 1,200 degrees. Those conditions, it turns out, are exactly what you need to bake a perfect Neapolitan-style pizza … in two minutes flat."

If you're taking two minutes to bake a Neapolitan pizza in an oven that goes to 1.2k, then something is seriously wrong with your oven. I've baked at 1.2k before, and it's insanely difficult. Your pizza is going to cook in about 45 seconds and unless you have everything dialed you're going to have a pizza that's burnt on the outside with raw dough on the inside.

From another page on Digital Trends where they try out pizzas made in the oven:

"Each slice was crispy on the outside, still chewy inside, with just a hint of crumbly black char around the edges — an effect I’ve never been able to replicate in my home oven."

Neapolitan pizza is supposed to be soft, not crispy. Crispy is what happens when you bake too long and use the wrong flour. Looking at the pizzas made in the GE oven and the burnt edges where there should be leoparding, I'm guessing these were 2-3 minute pies.

Here's what a proper neo pizza should look like:


(Photo from @pizzicletta's Instagram page)

From the previous page:

"But can anything top the satisfaction of making your own pizza at home? Or more importantly, watching your personal chef make it for you?"

At $10,000 USD, I guess this is for people with more money than sense. If you're going to get an electric oven for baking neapolitan at home, you're probably better off getting a Cuppone Tiziano or a Effeuno P134H if you live in Europe (you lucky jerks).

Found via (Pizza Making)[http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=41271.0;topicseen].

May 7, 2015

Bloomberg: The King of the Pizza Nerds Is Opening His Own Restaurant

"This week, Kuban told me, he’d sold out of tickets to the pop-up within 60 seconds of sending out an e-mail. When Kuban explains things like this, he manages to be completely un-braggy about it. If you find this hard to believe, keep in mind that he often signs off his e-mails and comments with a cheery 'hasta la pizza!'"

Kuban is a well respected writer (and maker) in the Greater Pizza Community. Best of luck to him.

April 12, 2015

Brooklyn Bros. Pizza (which has a couple of locations but the one I'm talking about today is in Mukilteo) makes a pretty good pizza.

14 inch black olive, half pepperoni and mushroom.  Purchased and consumed April 12th, 2015
14 inch black olive, half pepperoni and mushroom. Purchased and consumed April 12th, 2015

Madeline and myself have been here a number of occasions, and we've always had a good time. The staff is friendly, and I like the general atmosphere of the place. It really reminds me of my favorite pizza place in the world, Shakespeare's Pizza, back in Columbia, MO.

What you see when you enter the front door.
What you see when you enter the front door.


Slices on display for lunch, and where they'll take your order.
Slices on display for lunch, and where they'll take your order.

Brooklyn Bros. has a reputation for being one of the best pizza places in the area. Does it live up to that reputation? I think so. The toppings taste good, as does the sauce, the pie is cooked evenly and correctly, and the dough is decent as well. I usually end up wanting more when I'm done with it, and Madeline has no hesitation digging right in.

There are two things I think they could do better with:

1) The pizzas could use thicker pepperoni. I'm not a fan of the small diameter and thin slices Brooklyn Bros. uses.

2) The crust could be a little better. It's good crust, but it's also a bit too dense, like the dough could use some more time raising.

So this particular pie from Brooklyn Bros.'s score on the mp scale is 0.91. Since this is the first place I'm reviewing, that makes it officially the best pizza I've had around here.

And in truth, it is the best pizza I've had in the area, which is why I'm reviewing it first. I think Brooklyn Bros. is pretty much the gold standard of good pizza for Mukilteo and the surrounding area.

Madeline and her many toys in the background.
Madeline and her many toys in the background.
April 12, 2015

Father and 3 year old daughter enter kitchen, stage right.

Father: What do you want for dinner tonight?

Daughter gives a slight pause before answering.

Daughter: Maybe pizza?

So the kid really likes pizza. That's no surprise, since pizza is amazing, and … well, she is my daughter. She's said "Maybe pizza?" enough times that myself and Kirstin thought it was pretty funny, and I even thought it'd be a good domain name.

I've been wondering what to do with this site for a while since I haven't been doing much experimentation lately, and I've really settled down into a couple of pretty good pizza routines. I feel like I've got both neo and ny / CoMo style down exactly to how I like it, though I do still change things up now and again (more on that later! I really need to tell you about some absolutely amazing flour I've discovered).

Reviews?

Kirstin suggested I start doing pizza reviews. And I thought that was a great idea. It would be something different for this site, yet pretty much on topic. Though I'd need a new name, because "Mueller Pizza Lab" doesn't really fit into that. And so maybepizza.com was purchased. The old posts are still here of course, and there will be more of the usual posts- I'll just be adding reviews in the future.

I've also come up with what I think will be an interesting way to score pizzas. Two categories for my reviews: "pizza", and "neapolitan pizza". I'm a big fan of both, but I don't think it's really fare to lump neo pizza ratings in with your regular, standard pizza. I imagine the majority of pizza places will be judged on the regular scale, and if a pizza restaurant claims to serve neapolitan pizza… well, I'm going to assume they really mean it and it will be judged as such. I will be harsh, since I'm such a fan of neo pizza.

On Scoring

Since pizza is so subjective, the Maybe Pizza Grading Scale ("mp scale" for short) is going to be a little different. At first I thought I'd do a 0-10 star scale, which is what folks are probably used to. Then I remembered I'm a graphics programmer and it'd be way better to do something on a scale of 0-255 because computer bits! And then I realized that's actually pretty low fidelity for an image channel, and maybe I should go wide gamut and use 16 bits, and then I realized you skate to where the puck is going to be so f-it, let's do a single 32 bit channel represented by a float for grading.

So a score on the mp scale is going to be represented between -1.0 to +3.0. Maybe I'll even put this all in a little database so it'll do nice sorting and create a histogram and you can scale up those values evenly if you really think it should be a 0-10 star scale, etc.

Of course, I'll need a baseline / standard for scoring pizza. So I've decided the gold standard with a score of 1.0 for normal pizza is Shakespeare's Pizza, on a good day in 1998. I have very fond memories of their pizza, and while it could be hit and miss, when it was a hit it was amazing.

And the standard for neo pizza at a score of 1.0 is Del Popolo, which makes the best neapolitan pizza I've ever had.

"But wait" you say, "I thought you said the ratings went up to 3.0?!". Yes. I did say that. While those two places are my gold standards, I can't believe that they are the best pizza places in the world. But they are my favorites, so they get to set the standard.

February 9, 2015

Daniel Raffel has a nice series of pics and videos taken at Una Pizza Napoletana, showing famous pizza guy Anthony Mangieri making a pie.

Of interest to me, these were taken using Anthony's old SF oven. Which looks a lot nicer than the one replaced it with this past summer (IMHO). I wonder what he did with it?

February 9, 2015

J. Kenji López-Alt: In Defense of St. Louis-Style Pizza:

"Then we get to the St. Louis-style pizza made popular by their local chain, Imo's , which seems to buck both of these statements. Of the myriad styles of pizza we've got in this country, it's got to be the most maligned.* Its thin, unleavened cracker crust bears no resemblance to the real dough that great pizza is built on. It gets loaded high with toppings that span all the way from edge to edge. It's so unbalanced that it has to be cut into squares just to be able to support its own weight. And let's not get started on that Provel cheese—if it can even be called cheese, am I right?"

Every time I'm back in St. Louis (my home town), I'll have pizza at a couple of places. My favorite is always Cecil Whittaker’s, because the crust seems better and you can choose to substitute real cheese for Provel. Which I always do. And the prices are good.

Imo's is OK. It's not great. Some people think so (because of local pride I guess) but I generally disagree with them.

I can live with Imo's, but… it's all the other places that try and copy Imo's. Your local bar, the various pizza places from south county and over into Illinois. It's an affliction. It needs to stop. Let Imo's be Imo's, and everyone else can learn how to make real pizza. Stop with your mish-mash of Provel and your cheap ass "crust". Learn to make dough, and sell it at a fair price.

Except Cecil Whittaker’s. Because it's really the good version of Imo's.

August 16, 2014

I've been working on my GF thin crust. 69% hydration + Bob's Red Mill GF Pizza Flour + tiny bit o' yeast + 2 days. Other tricks are involved of course, and this was cooked in Rocket #02.

June 29, 2014

A few months ago we bought a new house and I had to leave Dante, my wood fired oven, behind. It was too big and heavy, and moving it would probably destroy it. Sad times.

However, when we moved it was decided that this would be a great opportunity to get another WFO. But that's been put off for a while until we get some major yard work done. No problem of course, I still have Marvin and that will hold me over until then. I've even modified him a bit by lowering the ceiling, and I'm getting 45 second bakes occasionally. There's just one problem… it's been super windy at the new place, which can suck all the heat right out of an oven.

sigh

So I decided it was time to try an idea that I've had in the back of my mind for a couple of years (inspired by the folks on the PM forums and Wild Rise). How hard would it be to make a little electric neapolitan oven, and could it actually bake to my satisfaction?

A: Not very hard, and hell yes.

These are all 45-50 second bakes, and the floor of the oven temps at 1k°. The pizza is amazing- they are the very best I've ever made. I can even get a little bit of that smokey flavor by putting a small piece of apple wood in the oven.

Say hello to Rocket.
Say hello to Rocket.

I've mentioned my new oven (which I've named Rocket) to a few friends, and even posted about it on the PM forums (though I've made many modifications since then). I've also promised a post on how I made it (which you are currently reading). However, I've decided that giving detailed instructions on how to make your own Rocket is a bad idea for the following reason:

PLAYING AROUND WITH ELECTRICITY IS DANGEROUS AND CAN POTENTIALLY KILL YOU OR YOUR LOVED ONES. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO THIS AT HOME, BECAUSE YOU WILL LIKELY BURN IT DOWN

I'm serious. If you screw up, you could die.

So what I'm going to do to keep my promise, is provide a parts list and a couple of pictures. And if you can't look at these images and instantly realize what's going on, you shouldn't even attempt to try this under any circumstances.

Parts:
2 Weber Smokey Joes
1 13" cordierite pizza stone
1 1/2" ceramic insulation blanket
2 1100-watt burners
1 High temperature wire
1 Bag of porcelain wire nuts
A little bit of stainless steel wire to secure the burners to the lid, stainless steel bolts, nuts, and screws to connect the lids together, various tools, metal piercing drill bits, and a lack of common sense.

Note - there is a layer of ceramic insulation sandwiched between the two lids.
Note - there is a layer of ceramic insulation sandwiched between the two lids.

Once more, this is very dangerous (and should only be done by a professional electrician (who probably wouldn't even make it on principle)).

I'm also trying to come up with more ways to make this safer - I've played with a couple of voltage regulators with varying success, and I'm also tempted to add another layer of insulation. Adding a contraption like the folks at Wild Rise did to raise and lower the lid would be a good idea as well. If you have suggestions, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.

January 12, 2014

Let's say you made enough dough for six pizzas, but only used three of them. What do you do with the rest?

What I usually do is take the dough and re-ball them so they are tight for a third raise, and then I place then them back in my proofing box.

dough that's not actually re-balled yet.
dough that's not actually re-balled yet.

Another 12 to 24 hours later and you'll find that the dough has raised again and looks and smells pretty awesome.

At this point, you can make more pizza. Duh.

mmm more pizza
mmm more pizza

Or you could do what I did today, and make bread.

pizza bread
pizza bread

The process is simple. Heat up the oven as hot as you can get it[^1] for at least a half hour, plop your dough down on a dough mat and use a pizza cutter to slice it up into strips, and then throw those guys on your pizza stones. Then wait till the top is nice and brown. That's what I did with the larger loafs in the back.

However, the shorter guys in the front I cooked differently- I actually fried those in a small pot filled with 1/4" of olive oil. You get that as hot as you can (but not so hot that the oil is burning), and then drop in one small strip of dough. If it's nice and hot, it will balloon up right away. You can then swish the pan around so olive oil gets all over the dough and once the bottom of the bread starts to brown, you'll flip it over (don't use your fingers obviously) and let the other side puff up and brown and then you pull it out and place it on a paper towl.

The result is a nice super puffy piece of bread that tastes like some of the best pizza crust you've ever had. You can even put a tiny bit of agave nectar on it to sweeten it up even more. It's pretty amazing, though I'm certain it'll kill you in large quantities.

[^1]: As hot as you can get your oven without any hacks that is. 550° is what my oven was set at.