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Pizza Making Progress Report - June 2011!

With a few special guest product appearances, too!

It's been awhile since we've written about our own at-home pizza making experiences.  The time is right, and the pizza we made last Sunday was ... well, we'll tell you about it.  

Disclaimer: the week before, we'd tried doing some different things: two different dough recipes, neither of which we'd tried before, and a lot of guessing and chance.  It was really terrible. Let's not talk about it.

This time was about focus and keeping it simple. Nothing fancy. Everything kinda just came together, and we got to try a new tool and some very special new tomatoes!


Not too long ago, we received an inquiry from Larry Melberg at Accent A Peel, asking if we'd try out one of his custom-made pizza peels. We agreed to try one, and Larry shipped a peel out to us right away.  Cary tends to get really excited when presented with a new pizza tool (or any package for that matter). He tore open the box, revealing a really fine looking basswood peel. We thought about the last wooden peel we'd purchased (at Target), and believe us, this was a much better product, made with obvious care.

As directed we seasoned it with mineral oil, and the peel was ready to go in a day.

Pizza Peel from Accent A Peel
Pizza peel by Accent A Peel

bianco-dinapoli tomatoes

At around the same time, we'd learned that Chris Bianco (still don't know Chris Bianco? Read our interview with the 'zen master of pizza' here) and Rob DiNapoli were now producing Bianco DiNapoli organic California tomatoes! We asked Chris about them and he sent us some. Can you imagine how excited we were to be able to taste this new brand and use them on a pizza or three?

Big can of Bianco DiNapoli

Making the Pizza

We made our dough on Saturday morning, to be turned into pizzas on Sunday night. By the way, if you don't have a copy of our favorite pizza dough recipe, it's free when you subscribe to our monthly newsletter (just use the short form on the left border of this page).

Taking it easy, we made exactly half the dough our recipe calls for, and decided to make three 12-oz doughballs instead of the 10-oz doughballs in the recipe, because we wanted to stretch the dough bigger and get a little closer to a New York pizza size. The day was humid and we could have used less water, but we decided to use a sticky dough, work through it and see how it turned out.

After mixing the dough ingredients by hand, resting, mixing a little more and only a little kneading, we weighed out our dough, shaped the doughballs, coated them with a little olive oil, put them in individual ziplocs and refrigerated them.

We ended up, as expected, with three 12-ouncers and a little 4-ounce 'pizzette.'

It was still nice and early on Saturday, so we made the sauce (click here for a basic pizza sauce recipe). Cary opened the can of Bianco DiNapoli and almost swooned from the delectable tomato aroma. He spooned a tomato out of the can, took a bite, and momentarily considered just crushing the tomatoes and putting that right on the pizza. We're sure it would have been fine.  Lil took a bite, fell in love with the tomatoes too, and we knew that this was gonna be some sauce.


We just added a little salt and pepper (Bianco DiNapoli adds a touch of sea salt in their process so we didn't need to add much), a few more leaves of basil (the tomatoes are packed with four leaves of basil per #10 can), and a couple of cloves of garlic and let the flavors blend until the next day.

Pizza Night

We lit the oven about 5pm on Sunday, with two stones - one on the center shelf and one about six inches above. That setup had worked well in the past, and we were still keeping it simple.

The stone above was, of course, to create a 'heat mass' between the stones, an oven within the oven. Great in theory, still needs work in our practice. Our goal is still to get the top to cook at the same rate as the bottom.

At 5:30 we took the doughballs (which had grown some) out of the refrigerator to lose their chill and grow a bit more.

By 6:30, we placed the peel we'd gotten from Accent A Peel on top of our breadboard (actually, Lillian's grandma Antoinette's breadboard) and started stretching the dough.

peel dusted with flour

It was still a little sticky and wet, but worked easily with floured hands.  Using the bigger doughballs, we were able to stretch three nice round 12" pies. The little 'pizzette' ball gave us about a 5" pizza with a very thin crust.

Here's the first pizza: sauce made with those superb Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes (cooked only on the pizza), part-skim mozzarella (not Cary's first choice, but Lillian's trying to keep us healthy), basil, olive oil, and a bit of grated parmesan on top.

first pizza of the evening

The cornicione (the end-crust) is pretty puffy. Part of that comes from using a wet dough, part of it is the way we've been stretching the dough. We'd like to get that down a little more, so the toppings don't get pushed to the middle, but it makes for a good 'hole structure' and tasty bread!

The second pizza, made with the same toppings, stayed in the oven a bit longer. We won't show you the bottom. Cary says 'charred', Lillian says 'burned'. Probably right on the border, and emininently edible.

second pizza

On both pizzas, the sauce balanced with the cheese and crust very well. We probably used too much cheese, but the rich, bright taste of the tomatoes came through just fine. Can't help but hope that Bianco DiNapoli comes out with a home-size can next year!

Oh, yes, the peel: very smooth indeed. We built the pies on it and used it to place them in the oven.  We noticed that the peel didn't need much bench flour and the pizzas slid off easily, as they should. Accent A Peel makes peels for home pizzaiolos as well as the professional trade, and the next time we want to buy a good peel or two, we'll be calling Larry Melberg! Oh, and if you contact the folks up there, be sure to tell them you read about them on passion-4-pizza.com!

As much as we love the tomatoes, we had to do a white pie too. Dressing white pizza is becoming one of Lillian's specialties at our house.  We were going to do one with broccoli rabe; unfortunately the green stuff had been in the refrigerator a little too long, so Lil decided against it.  Using the usual suspects (mozzarella, basil, ricotta, black pepper and parmesan), Lil crafted a fine pizza:

white pizza!

It was just one of those pizza nights where everything came together well. Chris Bianco once told us that we don't make pizza - we're in a relationship with it. Well, we had a really good date with these pizzas, and we'll be getting together again soon!

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