Monday, December 8, 2014

Why you can't find most of those unbelievably helpful posts anymore

Update (12/18/14): I've chosen not to be pissed off about something that once pissed me off. Consequently, I have decided to return all of the content that was here until recently. Might take a minute.

(12/20/14: OK, I think everything is back how it used to be. Also, I might start working on cloning Joseppi's from southwest Franklin County, Ohio. Which means there might be a Joseppi's post here soon.)



There are at least a few people making good money off my pizza knowledge (which took me many years to learn on my own, in addition to tons of hard work). Yet I'm not seeing any of that money, nor have I received any new opportunities from the knowledge I've shared freely with people who own pizzerias that coincidentally now receive raving reviews about their pizza. Consequently, I have unpublished the most useful posts on this blog.

I hate to do this, but I've finally realized people have used me, and that's just not cool. I have essentially nothing in life except useful knowledge, and I'm probably never going to have anything except useful knowledge, because I've allowed people to use me by naively thinking there is good in most people.

To all the people who haven't taken advantage of my willingness to share, I'm sorry.

Ryan

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mighty Pizza Oven grill insert

Below you'll find a bunch of pictures of pizzas I baked in the Mighty Pizza Oven grill insert (or MPO), and here's a thread I started on pizzamaking.com to highlight pizzas I've baked in the MPO. I think the MPO thread shows all these same pictures, except I've also said a lot about most of these pizzas on pizzamaking.com, and I've also shared many (or most) of the dough formulas and dough management strategies I used to create the pictured pizzas. The thread also contains a lot of input from Bert, the inventor of the MPO, which I think is definitely worth reading.

This is the only pic I've taken of the Mighty Pizza Oven in place on my grill. See note at the very end of this post.

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The most useful pizzamaking lesson you'll ever learn.

From 4/18/14: This is probably my favorite pic of any NY style pizza I've made and photographed.

"MPO can be used at any temperature, so far I had best success at temperatures below 800s. Neapolitan is MPO last challenge, once I figure that out, MPO can be used for anything you want. No other pizza oven or pizza oven insert can do what I have been able to do with MPO."

That quote is from Bert, to me, in this post on pizzamaking.com. It may come off as a little arrogant at first, but it's not. Having had many conversations with Bert over the last two or three years, I can assure you there is almost nothing arrogant about him. He was just being straight with me when he said that. And from what I can see, based on my own use of the MPO, the entire quote above is simply a matter of fact. I've written many hundreds of words below, but my hundreds of words cannot communicate the message within Bert's three sentences above.

WHAT IS THE MPO FOR?

Without saying much, it's for making pizza of any style, outside and on the grill. It is capable of producing basically every style of pizza, including at least two styles that simply cannot be made in most home ovens.

I think Bert's primary goal was to create a tool capable of producing Neapolitan style pizza, for people who don't have a wood-fired oven (which is almost everyone). Neapolitan pizza requires temperatures of around 1,000 degrees, but the heat needs to be both above and below the pizza, which is an impossible thermal environment to create in basically every baking vessel other than well-crafted wood-fired ovens.

Real Neapolitan pizza bakes in about a minute. That can only be done in wood-fired ovens, by someone who really knows what they're doing. (In the case of Neapolitan, that person is not me.) I believe Bert has broken the 2-minute barrier with the MPO, and he has posted at least one video proving it. As far as I know, only one other "pizza gadget" has done that, and that pizza gadget costs about twice as much as the MPO. Furthermore, if you have the other pizza gadget (Blackstone), it's like having a second grill taking up space on your patio. The MPO doesn't take up any extra space and is easy to carry back and forth between the patio and the house, where it should be stored.

Video: Demonstration of how to set up and use the Mighty Pizza Oven.



Video: Pizza in less than 90 seconds with Mighty Pizza Oven.


[Bert's YouTube video library]

The MPO is not just for people who want to make Neapolitan style pizza without building or buying a wood-fired oven. Rather, it's for people who would like to make any style (or all styles) of pizza; some of which (particularly NY style) simply cannot be done very well in most home ovens. Furthermore, the MPO doesn't heat up your house and force you to crank up the AC.

Here are the basics of why the Mighty Pizza Oven can help you make infinitely better pizzas than the pizzas you bake in an unmodified grill (which will almost always blacken the bottom of the pizza before the top of the pizza is even close to being done):
  • The MPO has two stones; one that functions as an oven floor and one that functions as an oven ceiling.
  • You place one stone on the grill grates. This stone has the same function as the stone you use in your oven.
  • The second stone is held in place about 1" to 2" above the pizza (it's adjustable), where it absorbs and stores several hundred degrees of heat, then radiates the heat back down to your pizza, thus providing top heat that normally does not exist when you bake pizza in a grill. This is why the pizzas pictured below have fully melted cheese, as well as nice browning of the crust, while the pizzas in my NY style post have white crusts and the cheese/toppings aren't really done.

I feel I should reveal right away that I did not pay for my MPO. Rather, Bert offered me one, for reasons I have probably figured out (but have not confirmed). Basically, Bert respects my pizzamaking skills and he knew I was unlikely to ever buy an MPO, mostly because I'm always broke and because I prefer to bake pizzas that are bigger than the MPO's 13" stone. I assume he gave me the MPO partly in hopes that I would make some exceptions, then share my results here and on pizzamaking.com. But this much is true: Bert did not ask me to say anything anywhere.

After Bert sent me the MPO (in March 2014, I believe), I quickly figured out that there is a very easy way around the small stone issue, which changed everything for me because it allowed me to make the same size pizzas I normally make. All I had to do was swap the MPO's 13" stone with my 15.75" stone, which just fits inside the MPO. Before I tried it, neither Bert nor myself thought the MPO would work very well with such a large stone blocking air flow and keeping hot air from rising to above pizza level. But you know what? It worked just fine. Which means there is plenty of bottom heat and top heat when I use my 15.75" stone in the MPO.

After seeing my good results with the bigger stone, Bert also did some experimenting with a larger stone, and I believe he said it worked just as well for him as when he uses a smaller stone. So maybe future versions of the MPO will come with a bigger bottom stone. As long as the results with the larger stone match the results with the smaller stone, I think it would be a good idea to make a larger stone standard with the MPO. However, to me the MPO did seem to take a little longer to heat up with a bigger stone inside it. I'm not sure if that's what Bert experienced when he tried the bigger stone. Regardless, it doesn't take very long for the MPO's stones to reach baking temperatures.

MODIFICATIONS I'VE MADE WITH THE MIGHTY PIZZA OVEN

As I've already said, I took the MPO's 13" stone out of the grill and replaced it with my 15.75" stone. Also, because I pretty much never want my bottom stone to be hotter than 600 degrees, I covered the bottom of the stone with aluminum foil. This reflects heat very effectively, which helps keep the stone from getting a couple hundred degrees hotter than I want it. After receiving some advice from Bert, I moved my MPO to the far left side of the grill so the MPO is above both burner #1 and burner #3 (straight behind the first and third knobs on the grill, from left to right). Every part of the grill that's not directly below the MPO is covered with aluminum foil, to nudge hot air into the MPO instead of letting the hot air escape into the sky (where there are no pizzas). You do not close the grill's lid when using the MPO.

The MPO in action after taking Bert's advice to move it to where it is above both burner #1 and burner #3. The MPO's handle does not get hot at all. (Thanks to Susi Q, a German couchsurfing guest, for taking this picture).

You may wonder why I cover the bottom of the stone with foil instead of just turning the gas lower. Well I have a good answer: If I turn the gas lower, it keeps the bottom stone from getting too hot, but it also keeps the top stone from getting hot enough, which I don't want to happen. The most difficult part of baking great pizza on a grill, even with an MPO, is rooted in the fact that there is not enough heat above the pizza, in relation to the heat below the pizza. By using foil to limit the temperature of the bottom stone (instead of limiting the temperature by turning down the heat), the grill is still able to fully heat the top stone.

As far as I know, Bert does not line his bottom stone with foil when he bakes in the MPO. Which I suppose is the main reason why the pizzas on Bert's MPO heat management page don't look as done on top as my pictures in this post. This happens because even though Bert and I both reach about the same degree of top heat during our bakes, Bert's bottom stone probably gets at least 200 degrees hotter than my bottom stone. Which means Bert's crust finishes a couple minutes faster than my crust finishes (which is exactly what he wants). However, the conditions that make his crust finish faster do not make the top finish any faster. So if Bert was to leave his pizzas in the MPO for as long as I do (to make sure the top of his pizzas bake fully), he'd most certainly end up with black (badly burned) bottom crust. The biggest reason why Bert chooses to continue baking on such a hot stone is because Bert's primary objective is to figure out how to perfect Neapolitan style in the MPO (which should bake in 60-90 seconds), while I generally do NY style in my MPO (which should bake in 4-5 minutes.)

None of what I just said means Bert is doing anything wrong. Rather, he's just trying to figure out a way to do Neapolitan right, which is not easy, even with expensive wood-fired ovens. I'm sure he'll keep trying until he finally does it. And that's one of many reasons why I think Bert is cool as hell. It's also the only reason why I've started considering trying to do Neapolitan style myself, even though Neapolitan has never interested me before. Because, like I said, all other pizza styles can already be done very well in the MPO.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

To be clear, I did not create this post because I felt any kind of obligation to provide MPO exposure for Bert. Rather, I decided to create this post because: 1) The MPO is a really good piece of equipment (probably better than every similar pizzamaking device on the market); 2) The MPO has helped me create NY style pizzas of a quality that I simply have not been able to duplicate using any other consumer-quality oven or grill; 3) I like how Bert operates and I want to see him rewarded for all the good things he does to improve the MPO and help its owners best understand how they can make modifications for their unique style of pizzamaking; and 4) (I forgot 4, but it'll come to me eventually).

Also, Bert shares a ton of tips and other helpful information on the Mighty Pizza Oven web site. One cool thing about reading how both of us use the MPO is that Bert and I don't use it the same way. That doesn't make either of us wrong; it just gives you more than one perspective and a lot more opportunities to learn how to make the MPO create incredible pizzas that you may not be able to produce without an MPO.

I want to add that the MPO is not manufactured by a big company with big company resources. Rather, this is all Bert. He used his own money to have a certain amount of MPOs manufactured, and he's done everything on his own. Shortly before I published this post, I believe Bert said he had sold all the MPOs from the first batch, and that the MPO2 is now in production. So if you're looking to buy one shortly after I published this post, there may not be any available right away. If so, all I can say is be patient. I think Bert has earned a break from trying to make a career out of his hobby, and you'll probably be very satisfied if you wait for the MPO2 to become available.

The first bunch of pics below are NY style, followed by several deep dish pics and several Donatos style pics. I will probably eventually have more to say in this post. So if you like it, check back.

In the following pics, if a picture has no link in its caption, it means I already shared the appropriate link in one of the previous few pics of the same pizza. The only exception is the first Donatos style pizza, which I apparently did not share on pizzamaking.com. Also, there is lots of additional information about many of these pizzas in the pizzamaking.com posts immediately following the posts in which I shared pictures. Particularly there is a lot of interaction between Bert and myself. Very helpful stuff.

Pic 1 (3/26/14): First pizza I ever baked in the MPO (on the 13" stone, which is why there is so much black around the outside). From what I remember, this one was even blacker on the bottom (because I did not cover the bottom of the stone with foil).
Pic 2 (4/2/14): Not a great-looking whole pizza, but the next few pics are the same pizza, and I really like those pics.
Pic 3 (4/2/14)
Pic 4 (4/2/14): I think this is a very good crumb shot.
Pic 5 (4/2/14): To me this is a beautiful upskirt shot.
Pic 6 (4/3/14): This is not a very good looking pizza, but I like the pic because it demonstrates what a NY style pizza made of slightly overfermented dough looks like. (It's pale and it has a "flap" from where there was a large bubble in the dough.)
Pic 7 (4/3/14): Same overfermented pizza as just above. Note how pale it is compared to most of the others.
Pic 8 (4/9/14)
Pic 9 (4/9/14)
Pic 10 (4/9/14)
Pic 11 (4/9/14)
Pic 12 (4/9/14)
Pic 13 (4/9/14)
Pic 14 (4/11/14)
Pic 15 (4/11/14)
Pic 16 (4/11/14)
Pic 17 (4/11/14): I'd call this the proper NY style droop.
Pic 18 (4/13/14)
Pic 19 (4/13/14)
Pic 20 (4/14/14)
Pic 21 (4/14/14)
Pic 22 (4/19/14):Very nice.
Pic 23 (4/19/14): This is probably my favorite pic of any NY style pizza I've made and photographed.
Pic 24 (4/19/14)
Pic 25 (4/19/14)


Deep Dish
Pic 26 (4/15/14): This pic would be great if I had used enough cheese on this pizza.
Pic 27 (4/15/14)
Pic 28 (4/15/14)
Pic 29 (4/16/14): This one doesn't look particularly great because I put too much sauce on it, but I remember this pizza being excellent.
Pic 30 (4/16/14)
Pic 31: (4/16/14)

Donatos style, sorta
Pic 32 (5/3/14): Apparently I did not share this one on pizzamaking.com. Not sure why.
Pic 33 (5/3/14)
Pic 34 (5/3/14)
Pic 35 (5/3/14)
Pic 36 (5/3/14)
Pic 37 (5/3/14)
Pic 38 (5/7/14)
Pic 39 (5/7/14)
Note at the very end of this post: I think it's worth noting that the grill in the very first pic was being thrown away by my parents' neighbors when my mom noticed it at the end of their driveway and asked if she could have it, to give it to me. In other words, all the pizzas in this post were baked in a grill that its original owner considered trash. Also, note the yellow device on the right side of the grill (in the first pic). The yellow thing is Bert's old IR thermometer. I had never used an IR thermometer before I had this one, but I quickly realized an IR thermometer is one of the most important and most useful pizzamaking tools you can own. This one helped me realize the temperature settings on ovens are pretty meaningless, as are the thermometer displays on grill lids. For example, with my old oven set at its max temp (500, calibrated +35), my stone wouldn't get any hotter than 520 degrees, while with my new oven set at its max temp (550, calibrated +35), my stone reaches at least 635 degrees on the bottom rack and at least 750 on the oven floor. I didn't mention the temp of the stone when the stone is on my previous oven's floor because it is not possible to put the stone on the floor of my old oven (due to the presence of electric heating elements).

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My first stuffed pizza

This was not just the first stuffed pizza I've ever made; it was also the first stuffed pizza I've ever seen (in person). There seems to be no clear, detailed, reliable information on the internet regarding how to make this kind of pizza, so I had to create my own dough formula from scratch, based almost entirely on looking at pictures of Giordano's pizza. I think I did pretty damn well.

Since originally publishing this post, I've made a lot of progress with this style of pizza, which I've documented thoroughly on pizzamaking.com. It starts to get good on page 4.

Update: This pic is of my second attempt at stuffed pizza.
Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a few more pics of my second attempt.


This one's from the first attempt.

Dough formula (for my first attempt):

100% Gold Medal all-purpose flour
45% Water
1% ADY
1.08% Salt
9.38% Corn oil
2% Sugar

I baked at 450 for 35 minutes. The excess browning is most likely due to the high percentage of sugar in the dough. I made the pizza only six hours after I mixed the dough because I didn't plan to make this pizza until six hours before I made it. Had I made the same dough a day earlier, the excess browning likely would not have been an issue.

I read on Slice that Giordano's uses hi gluten flour, but I seriously doubt that.

Here's a video that unintentionally gave me some hints regarding how to make this pizza, such as how thick to make the dough, how to do certain procedures, and other things that may seem pretty unimportant (like the fact that Giordano's uses pans with sloped sides).

Dough after rising for 5 hours, then being punched down, then rising again
for another hour (and agitated with a dough scraper).

13 oz of mozzarella and some Ezzo GiAntonio pepperoni.
In the linked video, Giordano's dough seems to have a pinkish beige color that you don't
see here. I don't think that color comes from oil, but I can't think of what else might
create that color. One Chicago joint uses food coloring, but I think that's Gino's.
(Update; I think the color is an indication that they use unbleached flour.)

After getting the top layer of dough into place, be sure to
make several holes in the dough to give air an escape route.

About 12 oz of sauce. My sauce was made of 28 oz of Stanislaus 7/11, with about 1 tsp each
of dried oregano, dried basil, and red pepper flakes. It was probably too much oregano.
Red pepper was just about right. Probably should have used a few more oz of sauce.

After baking for 10 minutes.

After baking for 20 minutes.

After baking for 30 minutes.

After baking for 35 minutes.

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Here is a cross-section of a slice I cut in half after the pizza cooled down.
You can tell by looking at the bottom of the crust that this was a same-day dough.

Update (8/15/13)
I made another batch of this dough last night (Wednesday), for Saturday. There is one huge difference with this formula (0% sugar instead of 2% sugar), but the other changes are pretty minor. I probably should have gone a little higher with the hydration, but I think it'll be fine.

100% Pillsbury AP flour
46% Water
0.6% ADY
1.5% Salt
8% Oil

To make 60 oz of this dough, use:

38.44 oz Flour (1090 g)
17.68 oz Water (501 g)
2.31 tsp ADY (7 g)
3.35 tsp Salt (16 g)
3.07 oz Oil (87 g)

On Wednesday night, I mixed this dough for three minutes (I think) with a spiral dough hook on a KitchenAid mixer, then transferred the dough to another bowl about the same size as the mixer bowl, covered it with some of that filmy plastic wrap-type stuff that's sticky on one side, and put the dough in the refrigerator immediately, where it will remain until Saturday morning. After giving the dough some time to warm up Saturday morning, I will scale into two 20 oz dough balls (for main crust) and two 10 oz dough balls (for top crust). This is to make two 10" pizzas in a 2" deep pan.

If everything goes right, I will end up using:

13.35 oz main skin
13 oz mozzarella
[Other toppings maybe]
4.96 oz top skin
14 oz sauce



Update (8/18/13): My second stuffed pizza. I made this dough Wednesday night (for Saturday).

I couldn't take many pics (because I was so busy making pizzas for a party), but these four pics should tell you quite a bit. The dough for this pizza used the formula in the previous update (just above here).

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This one browned much better because there was no sugar in the dough.

Yeah, you'll want to open this one in a new window to see it up close.

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