WHY THIS BOOK AND WHY NOW?
This book is a celebration of pizzas made in pans, perennial classics that are now being reinvented by those who know how to evoke their full flavor potential. Pizza, I would risk saying, is the most popular food in the world. There are many forms and variations of pizza, but in the end pizza is simply dough with something on it. And yet, in its simplicity, it is amazingly delicious. Something magical happens when dough is combined with a topping; making pizza the perfect flavor-delivery system. Dough with something on it just works.
In the United States and in a number of other countries, many pizza permutations have come and gone. There are, however, some styles that have earned perennial popularity, like the Neapolitan-inspired round pizza with sauce and cheese, which has come to be regarded, by many (but not all), as the prototype on which all other pizzas are based. Other configurations with different names have, from time to time, attempted to capture some of that doughwith-something-on-it caché, such as focaccia, schiacciata
, flatbreads, quesadillas, tostadas, and even grilled cheese sandwiches (albeit, a sandwich is more of a dough with something in it). All of these are spokes of the same wheel, all of them simply variations on a theme but one dominated by the word pizza. For example, some of the best-tasting pizzas at this moment are actually, in the strictest sense of the word, focaccia, but are marketed as pizza because the public (outside of Genoa) loves and trusts the term pizza
more than it does focaccia
Some of the types of pizza that fall within this pan-pizza subcategory include focaccia (the pizza of Northern Italy, most notably associated with Genoa in Liguria), schiacciata
(the Tuscan version of focaccia), Sicilian-style (perhaps inspired by, though different from, the original sfingiuni
of Sicily but now a designated style of its own), and the two currently hottest subcategories of them all, Roman-style al taglio (“baked in a pan”) and Detroit-style deep-pan pizza, revered for its crispy, cheesy frico edge (more on this later) and its crackly, buttery undercrust. Detroit-style deep-pan pizza is not a new idea or style, having been “invented” almost eighty years ago by former autoworker Gus Guerra. Now you can find it under other names in many cities other than Detroit. What is surprising is that it has taken so long for it to become so popular. We’ll get into the specifics in chapter 4.
Until recently, few knew about Detroit’s unique square pizza, and even those who were from Detroit didn’t call it Detroit-style. Then, after sixty years of regional obscurity and cultish secrecy, this newly named Detroit-style, long in Chicago’s shadow, finally became an idea whose time had come, and now to our great benefit it’s popping up everywhere.
We have arrived at a unique, paradigm-changing moment in which artisan pizza masters are turning out the best versions of these styles that have ever been produced. As a result, the hidden gems, not just the sexy wood-fired and coal-fired classics but the more homey pan-style versions— the deep square-pan and sheet-pan styles (the focaccia, Sicilian, and Grandma pies) and now even the newly emerging Roman-style al taglio
cut-with-a-scissors pizzas—are transcending their old neighborhood standbys and are being given newer expression. Today’s artisans are pushing the envelope and redefining the realm of the possible in this paradoxically simple-yet-complex perfect flavor-delivery system called pizza.
Culinary artisanship is meeting global archetype, and we, the public, are the beneficiaries of a new golden age of pizza expression. The purpose of this book is to show you, the home cook, how to replicate the artisan techniques that have brought about this pan-pizza renaissance and thereby create pizzas equal to anything you will find at a pan-style pizzeria. This is not a tribute book about the many landmark pan-pizza establishments doing great work, though many of them, like Buddy’s in Detroit, Brown Dog in Telluride, Liguria Bakery in San Francisco, Pizzarium in Rome and Chicago, Triple Beam in Los Angeles, and many others, have provided inspiration. It is a book about how you can make your own pan pizzas with the same explosive flavor perfection as the pies from those iconic places. To help you achieve that goal, I have included techniques that I’ve discovered or developed during my thirty years as an artisan baker, pizza maker, and educator. Happily, I’ve been able to combine them all in an easy method so that whether you are an experienced or a novice cook, you will soon be making not just good but truly memorable pizzas for your friends and family.
As I discuss the different styles, I’ll explain more about the methodology and supplemental ingredients and provide recipes not only for the dough but also for the toppings. I’ve met many pizza masters through my research and my ongoing website PizzaQuest.com, and based on the information they have shared with me, I have been able to distill the essential secrets of their successes and methods. The pizza world is a generous community, so there are very few secrets. This is because the truly great pizzaioli know that the real secret is in the craft itself, which is acquired only through relentless practice. As the great American pizza master Chris Bianco told me, “I can teach people my techniques, but I can’t teach them to care as much as I care.” This observation is probably the most important takeaway from all my research and inquiry into what separates good from great: it boils down to how much you care.
As you achieve success through these very accessible formulas and pan-pizza recipes, I hope you will be inspired to care as much as those artisans who bring honor to their craft. Even if you never become a professional pizza maker (only a very few will ever choose to work that hard), I believe that by tapping into a level of greatness through these pan pizzas, you will experience the sought-after, memorable sound of crust and all that comes with it. When you experience greatness in anything, even pizza, it spills over into the rest of your life and changes you forever.
In the following chapters, you will find recipes for sauces, condiments, and over thirty variations of pan pizzas. Although this is not an exhaustive list of recipes, it will provide a foundation and inspiration from which you can create an infinite number of variations of your own. These recipes also include commentaries and options for ingredient substitutions and tweaks. There is also a Resources section (page 175) with suggestions for finding ingredients, tools, books, and more information.
Yes, I’m promising you a lot here, so let’s get started!
Copyright © 2019 by Peter Reinhart. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.