MASTERING PIZZA: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pizza, Focaccia, and Calzone

Marc Vetri, Dave Joachim

Ten Speed Press
August 28, 2018
$29.99/Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0399579226

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Trained in Bergamo, Italy, by some of the region’s most noted chefs, MARC VETRI is the chef/owner of Pizzeria Vetri, Vetri Ristorante, Osteria, Amis, and Alla Spina, all located in Philadelphia. He has also opened a series of restaurants in partnership with Terrain, with locations in California and Texas. Vetri was named one of Food & Wine‘s Ten Best New Chefs; he also won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic. Vetri has been profiled in GourmetBon Appétit, and the New York Times, and is the author of Mastering PastaIl Viaggio di Vetri, and Rustic Italian Food. Dave Joachim is the author of the New York Times best seller A Man A Can A Plan and a co-writer on numerous cookbooks.

Pizza remains America’s favorite food, but one that many people hesitate to make at home. In MASTERING PIZZA, award-winning chef Marc Vetri tackles the topic with his trademark precision, making perfect pizza available to anyone. The recipes—gleaned from years spent researching recipes in Italy and perfecting them in America—have a variety of base doughs of different hydration levels, which allow home cooks to achieve the same results with a regular kitchen oven as they would with a professional pizza oven. The book covers popular standards like Margherita and Carbonara while also featuring unexpected toppings such as mussels and truffles—and even a dessert pizza made with Nutella. With transporting imagery from Italy and hardworking step-by-step photos to demystify the process, Mastering Pizza will help you make pizza as delicious as you find in Italy.

PIZZA FRITTA

MAKES 1 ROUND 10- TO 11-INCH FRIED PIZZA

When I visited Pepe in Grani—Franco Pepe’s hilltop shrine to Naples-style pizza—this is the first pizza he served. The dough was light, airy, crisp, and topped simply with paper-thin mortadella, buffalo ricotta, and lemon zest. It was perfect. The frying method couldn’t be easier. Instead of baking the pressed-out dough in an oven, you fry it on the stovetop in a frying pan. If you prefer, you can use the Roman dough with this method. It just won’t puff up quite as much. This pizza has its own special toppings because you add the toppings after the dough is completely cooked.

  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 dough ball, preferably Naples Dough at 60% Hydration (page 61), about 250 grams/8.8 ounces
  • Toppings of your choice (see “Options”)
  • Flour, for dusting

Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok (at least 12-inch/30 cm diameter) so that the oil is at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep. Heat the oil to 350°F (177°C).

Let the dough warm up at room temperature for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. As it warms up, the dough will relax and become easier to shape. Meanwhile, get your toppings prepped and ready to go (see “Options”).

TO SHAPE THE DOUGH: The goal is to stretch the dough to a 10- to 11-inch (25 to 28 cm) circle with an even thickness across the entire surface. There are lots of ways. Here’s how I usually do it. Lightly flour a work surface and a wooden pizza peel. Use a dough scraper to scrape the dough ball from the tray to the floured surface. Gently poke your fin- gers around the edge of the dough ball to begin forming a modest rim. The center should look thicker like a hat. Leave the rim alone and press your palm gently into the center of the hat, moving your fingers and thumb outward to begin stretching the dough away from the center (see the photos on page 95). At this point, you should have a disk of dough about 5 inches (12 cm) in diameter. Slip one hand under the disk and quickly flip it over. Repeat the poking and pressing process on the other side, poking your fingers around the edge first to make the rim and then stretching outward with your fingers and thumb to stretch the dough from the center outward. As you work, keep your thumb against the rim.

The dough should stretch easily on the work surface. If you need to stretch it more, transfer the dough from the work surface to the backs of your hands: just quickly grab the far edge of the rim and flip the dough onto the opposite hand, and then flip it again on the back of the other hand. Keep both hands loosely closed as fists under the dough near the center. With the dough on the backs of your hands, essentially repeat the process of stretching the dough from the center outward: move your hands gently away from the center while rotating the dough around the backs of your fists. It helps to angle the dough downward slightly so it’s not perfectly horizontal, which causes it to drape too quickly around the backs of your fists. Carefully and gently continue to stretch the dough until it is an evenly thin 10- to 11-inch (25 to 28 cm) circle with a modest rim. For the most even crust, I like to stretch both sides of the dough in my hands. To do that, flip the dough over on the backs of your hands by flipping it over much the same way you did when flipping it from the work surface to your hands. Of course, there are other ways to stretch the dough. Some people twirl it up in the air. Use whatever method works best for you to create an evenly stretched circle with a modest rim. If the dough tears a hole, patch it by pulling a little dough from one side of the hole and pressing it over the hole with your thumb.

Lay the stretched dough onto the floured peel. The easiest way is to simply drape it over the peel and then remove your hands from beneath the dough. Reshape the dough round as necessary and then give the peel a quick shake to make sure the dough can slide easily.

TO FRY THE PIZZA: Slide and shake the pizza from the peel into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on each side, 2 to 3 minutes per side, and turn with tongs. It will puff up. Use the tongs to lift the edges and make sure it cooks evenly. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady oil temperature of 350°F (177°C). When the dough is browned and firm, transfer the fried pizza shell to paper towels to drain briefly. Trans- fer again to a cutting board and cut into 6 pieces. Quickly divide the toppings among the pieces and serve.

OPTIONS

  • MORTADELLA RICOTTA: On each slice, place some thinly sliced mortadella (about 6 oz total), a dollop of ricotta, some finely grated lemon zest, chopped fresh parsley, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • MELON AND SPECK: On each slice, layer on thinly sliced speck (about 6 oz total), finely chopped cantaloupe, shaved red onion, and olive oil.
  • CAPRESE: On each slice, layer on a few pieces of fresh hand-torn buffalo mozzarella (about 2 oz total), a slice   of fresh tomato, a fresh basil leaf, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • CAESAR: Make a bagna cauda dressing by steeping 2 large garlic cloves and 5 oil-packed anchovy fillets in a small saucepan with 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, and 3/4 cup grapeseed oil. Let it steep over medium-low heat until the garlic begins to brown lightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool slightly. Discard 1 garlic clove and then pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. With the blender running, gradually stream in 3/4 cup whole milk. Then blend in 1 egg yolk until the mixture thickens slightly. Season with about 1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, some sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Top each slice of fried pizza with juli- enned strips of fresh romaine lettuce, a drizzle of the bagna cauda dressing, an oil-packed anchovy fillet, a quarter of a soft-boiled egg, and some freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano. Delicious! You’ll have some bagna cauda dress- ing left over. Use it as a warm dip for croutons or crudités. It keeps for several days in the fridge. Just warm it up a little before using.

KAMADO-GRILLED NEAPOLITAN PIZZA

MAKES ONE 10- TO 12-INCH ROUND PIZZA

The Big Green Egg and other kamado-style grills get superhot, up to 800°F (427°C). They’re typically made of ceramic, which is similar to the firebricks in a wood oven, so all in all, they make great pizza. Just be careful not to get them too hot or your crust will burn, especially on the bottom. With the high temperature and short bake time, Naples-style dough at 60% hydration works well, but I like the extra puff you get from a little more water in the dough, so I use Naples-style dough at 70% hydration.

  • 1 dough ball, preferably Naples Dough at 70% Hydration (page 64), about 270 grams/9.5 ounces
  • Toppings of your choice
  • Flour, for dusting

Let the dough warm up at room temperature for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. As it warms up, the dough will relax and become easier to shape.

Light the charcoal until it starts to glow red. Everyone has their favorite method. The fastest way is to use two chimney starters, each filled with 2 1/2 pounds (1.1 kg) of charcoal. Place wadded-up newspaper in the bottom, charcoal in the top, and then light the paper and the perforated cans will feed the fire with oxygen so the charcoal lights quickly.

Dump the glowing coals onto the coal grate of the cooker. Place the heat diffuser over the coals, then place the grill grate and/or upper rack in the cooker and a baking stone on the upper rack. A baking stone is preferred here over a baking steel. Steel tends to burn the bottom of the pizza due to the grill’s high heat and the steel’s ability to transfer heat so quickly. Close the lid and preheat the grill with the top and bottom vents open for 50 to 60 minutes. The ambient temperature (on the grill’s thermometer) should be 650° to 750°F (343° to 399°C). The cooking surface tem- perature should be about 600°F (316°C) when checked with an infrared thermometer through the top vent (to avoid opening the grill and losing heat).

Have your toppings ready to go.

TO SHAPE THE DOUGH: The goal is to stretch the dough to a 10- to 12-inch (25 to 30 cm) circle with an even thickness across the middle and a thicker rim around the edge. There are lots of ways. For 70% hydration dough, you’ll need a bit more flour and a gentler hand, since the dough is softer.

It’s best to shape it completely on your work surface. The dough should be soft enough to stretch while it’s flat. If you try to pick it up, it may tear a hole. Generously flour a work surface and a wooden pizza peel. Use a dough scraper to scrape the dough ball from the tray to the floured surface. Gently poke your fingers about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) from the edge of the dough ball all around it to begin forming the rim. The center should look thicker like a hat. Leave the rim alone and press your fingers and palm gently into the center of the hat, moving your fingers and thumb outward to begin stretching the dough away from the center (see the photos on page 95). At this point, you should have a disk of dough about 5 inches (12 cm) in diameter. Slip one hand under the disk and quickly flip it over. Repeat the poking and pressing process on the other side, poking your fingers around the edge first to make the rim and then placing your palm on the center and gently stretching your fingers and thumb outward to stretch the dough from the center out- ward. As you work, gradually rotate the dough on the flour and keep your thumb against the rim to make the rim thick and round. The dough should be soft enough to continue this process until it is stretched to a 10- to 12-inch (25 to 30 cm) circle with an even thickness across the middle and a rim about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) thick. If the dough tears a hole, patch it by pulling a little dough from one side of the hole and pressing it over the hole with your thumb.

Lay the stretched dough onto the floured peel. The easiest way is to simply drape it over the peel and then remove your hands from beneath the dough. Reshape the dough round as necessary, keeping the rim thick. Give the peel a quick shake to make sure the dough can slide easily.

Add your toppings. Give the peel another quick shake to make sure the dough slides easily.

TO GRILL THE PIZZA: Open the grill and quickly brush or blow off any ash from the cooking surface. Quickly shake and load the pizza onto the cooking surface and close the lid. Close the top vents to trap heat and send it to the top of the pizza. Keep the bottom vents fully open to feed the fire oxygen and keep it burning hot. Cook until the rim is puffed, the dough blisters and chars in spots, and the bot- tom is crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. The pizza should cook evenly so there is no need to rotate it. Check the doneness by shining a light (a cell phone light works well) through the top vent to avoid opening the grill during cooking.

Remove the pizza from the grill to a wire rack to cool for a minute or so, just to keep the steam from making the crust soggy. If you will be baking another pizza, quickly close the lid, reopen the top vents, and let the cooking surface recover its heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pizza to a pizza pan or cutting board, slice, and add any finishing ingredients. I like 6 slices for this size pizza.


Reprinted with permission from Mastering Pizza, copyright © 2018. Photography by Ed Anderson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Contact: Kristin Casemore
kristin.casemore@tenspeed.com


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