Sunday, September 27, 2015

On the Joys of Making Pizza at Home

As a frequent traveler, I come across many people who believe the pizza originating from their hometown is always best. This goes for some of the more obvious destinations, such as New York, Chicago and Naples, but I have also encountered plenty of others who are willing to vehemently argue the fact that Portland or New Haven or some other surprising location has the best pizza.

Whenever the topic of “Best Pizza Anywhere” comes up, it is almost a certainty that the speaker will eventually mention how difficult it is to find good pizza outside of their home, with some going as far as to bring a box of pizza as their carry-on luggage for their returning flight. For transplants to other cities, this can result in a bit of a melancholic feeling with regard to local pizza, but David R. Gray Jr. believes he has a simple solution.

According to Gray -- and despite the protestations of New Yorkers everywhere -- the quality of the pizza has nothing to do with the local water supply or the specific weather conditions of a particular region. Instead, it has everything to do with style, and any style of pizza can be easily replicated in the home. Gray says the process may be a bit more complicated if the dough is made from scratch, but it is worth learning to really create a regionally accurate pizza.

I believe it is always best to control every aspect of the process, and that includes making the dough. If the dough is bought at a supermarket or a pizzeria, you have no say over whether the baker should use olive oil or sugar in the dough to add flavor, nor will you be able to control the consistency of the crust, since the amount of yeast added at the time of mixing has an influence on how the pizza will bake in the oven.

As for creating the actual pizza, pounding the dough is often where people encounter the greatest difficulty. Gray suggests that first-time pizza makers invest in several pounds of dough (one pound typically makes a single large pizza) on which to practice. After adding enough flour to cover the dough ball, most pizza makers work from the edge of the ball to the center. Once the dough has been pounded out and stretched, adding the sauce, cheese and toppings is all that remains.

By making pizza at home, transplanted New Yorkers will be able to make a traditional thin-crusted pie that is perfect for folding, and Chicagoans can make a deep-dish pie that tastes every bit as good as the pizza they would find at home.

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