Best of the Web for home pizza makers
November 10, 2014 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Pizza making questions come up on Ask Mefi and the Blue semi-regularly. But I was surprised to find that (before it was a pricey book) ENCYCLOPIZZA was a web site that has apparently never been mentioned here. It went officially offline at the end of 2011, but thanks to the Wayback Machine, the online ENCYCLOPIZZA can still be yours. If you are serious about learning and hanging out with other serious pizzamakers of all stripes, you should also get thee to the forums. (Previously: A Layman's Guide to Regional Styles, and The Ridiculously Thorough Guide to Making Your Own Pizza )
posted by spock (30 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
Oooh, I found this last year -- and was sharply disappointed when I realized that the free PDF version was gone, replaced by a high-buck edition meant for people running a commercial pizzeria.

I have worked in a couple of pizza places, and we make a lot of pizza at home, so I wanted to check my habits/customs/recipes against the collected wisdom of ENCYCLOPIZZA…but the paywall made it impossible.

Has anyone succeeded in synthesizing a PDF from the old web pages?
posted by wenestvedt at 8:13 PM on November 10, 2014

Just about everyone loves pizza, and what is great about pizza making is that you can make it as simple or as "complicated" as you want. You can try to model yours off of a regional style or just find something that you like for yourself. I won't go so far as to say that there isn't a "right way" or a "wrong way" to do some things, but as with any art, breaking rules can lead to some interesting discoveries. For example, want a quick pizza dough (with no yeast even)? Two ingredients: Self-rising Flour and Greek Yogurt (otherwise known as flatbread).

As just a sample of the knowledge you'll find at the forums here is an epic amount of information in one thread about one "pizza scientist's" no cook red sauce recipe. The MAE method of herb/seasoning flavor extraction by low power microwave is a REVELATION.

A couple of things you should know when talking recipes: "Cups" of flour is not as precise as a WEIGHT of flour. The same goes for other ingredients. You can get some good digital scales for not much money . Also, if you don't have a pizza stone, you can go to a local hardware store and get unglazed "quarry tiles" (terra cotta). I got 6"x6"x1/2" tiles for 39 cents each this past weekend. Enough to make an 18"x24" "stone" on the floor of my gas oven for less than $5.
posted by spock at 8:41 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

You need:
* english muffins
* pizza sauce
* shredded cheese
* toppings (pepperoni, ham and pineapple, et cetera. things that are already cooked)

Step 1: Turn the oven on. 350 probably? Doesn't matter too much.
Step 2: Open the english muffins.
Step 3: Spread pizza sauce on muffin halves.
Step 4: Put some shredded cheese on the muffins.
Step 5: Put some toppings on the muffins.
Step 6: Maybe put a little more cheese on top?
Step 7: Stick them in the oven until the cheese has melted. Probably 10 minutes.

result: MINI-PIZZA
posted by curious nu at 8:58 PM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sorry, forgot one other tip I've learned from perusing these sources. You'll find a lot of general cooking sites that give you red sauce recipes that use tomato paste to thicken up the sauce. This might be OK for some school cafeteria pizza or the like, but that paste can mess up your flavor profile. I've discovered that a better solution is Escalon "6 in 1" tomatoes (I believe it was used in the Red November sauce recipe I linked to, above). "6 in 1" contains tomatoes and extra tomato puree for a thicker start to your sauce. You probably won't find it in your local grocers, but check the restaurant supply places. They had to look it up in their computer inventory, but at their "cash and carry" store and I got a case of six No. 10 cans for $32. (That's over 5 gallons of tomatoes.) Get some quart freezer bags and freeze the remainder of that big can in 2 cup per quart bag. You'll save a ton of money over buying the small cans in the grocery store.
posted by spock at 9:00 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you can't get 6 in 1 tomatoes locally, you can order them from Amazon (in the USA.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:08 PM on November 10, 2014

I am so totally over sauce. The pre-made ones you get here in the supermarkets in my region of the U.S. always have sugar added to them for some reason, blech. If I have the time to make a sauce it's great but most of the time these days I just dump a little tomato puree on, a bit of extra virgin olive oil and minced garlic, maybe minced onion, and a bit of salt, fresh-ground peppercorns, and other seasonings. Straight onto the crust, mixed and spread evenly, whatever comingling of flavors it gets during baking is enough. Custom-made meat sauce with fresh peppers and onions and all the other goodies is wonderful, just not that much more wonderful.
posted by XMLicious at 9:20 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I always like this guy's page, a very scientific approach to making excellent pizza. I've never tried any of his tips, but it seems legit. My favorite, if not a little crazy, tip : cut the cleaning mode latch off your at home oven so you use your oven in cleaning mode to cook Pizza at 925 degrees.
posted by ill3 at 9:32 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

No post like this is complete without Varasano's old school web 1.0 pizza page. His earnestness and singleminded determination are something that just make me feel all fuzzy and warm inside. Plus, those pizzas look amaaaaaazing.
posted by Literaryhero at 9:32 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

My pizza games is getting better, and I'm getting more serious about it (but still lazy).

But you can have incredible pizzas and still be pretty lazy.

I still use Classico (of whatever flavor I want) for sauce. I still make my dough in a bread machine (on 'pizza dough' setting. A good pizza stone (allowing me to crank the temp up pretty darn high) increased my pizza quality a ton with no more effort.

I was literally watching the video on this page at pizzamaking earlier today to hone my dough-pushing-out skills. This improved my pizza size and thinness immensly.

And I'm still at the point where it takes me less time to put together a pizza (from dough that's in the fridge) than it does for the oven to pre-heat. My pizza is out of the oven in about the time most delivery places take to deliver. At a fraction of the cost, and ten times the quality.

It's a hobby your household will probably be very supportive of as well.

But yeah, you can spend as much energy and time learning and getting better as you want to.
posted by el io at 9:33 PM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Everyone who is about to decide to modify their home ovens to ignore safety measures and bake at 900F...please be careful.
posted by trackofalljades at 9:56 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

No need to dangerously modify your oven, or indeed use a pizza stone, if you have a BBQ.

Max it out, get it good and hot. Roll or spin out your dough on a decent bed of cornmeal, and make sure your dough gets nicely oiled with olive oil. Pop onto the grill, close the lid, leave for 2-3 minutes (depends on precisely how hot your grill gets). Remove, flip back onto your oily and cornmealy board, put toppings on the cooked side. Turn off middle burners (or 1/2 burners if you have a 4- or 8-burner grill; or push charcoal to one side) and turn the others to medium. Slide topped pizza onto cool side of burner, close lid, wait 4-5 minutes or until you reach your desired doneness. Consume.

Closest you can get, at home, to the wood-fired oven ideal.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:02 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have made thousands of pizzas at three different not chain pizza places and of course you get fed and share each others creations so I've also tasted thousands, if not more from not Dominoes or a Hut or a Papa etc. Brace youself for a travesty.

My favorite is a pizza made with a crispy thin crust with white sauce and mozzarella cooked till the cheese is just slightly browned - and nothing else.
posted by vapidave at 10:14 PM on November 10, 2014

Does that yogurt and self-raising flour thing thing work for real? Because I'm imagining it coming out like those Chef Boyardee "pizza" kits, about which I feel only fond feelings but which are objectively repulsive. People in this thread are advocating for cracker-crust midwestern pizza, and they are clearly delusional, so it's hard to know.

I run in circles where allergies and "sensitivities" and bougie sensibilities are common, so I've worked really hard to come up with a palatable vegan pizza. I like a half-and-half rye/white four crust for extra flavour (I draw a line at gluten-free; sorry my celiacs, though I am curious about those paleoceliac cauliflower-and-egg things I see on Pinterest, just not curious enough to actually try them), and I put in the half-teaspoon of lemon juice that the flour-bag recommends; whether it does anything for rise or not idk.

Because a pizza without cheese is inherently nonsense, I use vegan "mayonnaise"/"sour cream" as a base for protein/mouthfeel etc. A tetrapack of silken tofu, a tablespoon each of lemon juice and your preferred vinegar, a half teaspoon each of salt, sugar, and prepared or dry mustard, blended. After baking it's reminiscent of cream cheese (which I do still eat; it's not just another vegan lie). Thinly-sliced onions, red cabbage, and cooked potatoes; a light sprinkling of vegan cheddarlike substance (Daiya is fine in small quantities, but stuff is gross and everybody knows it), actual cheddar, or a mix of cheddar and mozzarella (depending on your audience). I call it "the bohunk" because I am insensitive to the discrimination faced by central/southern European migrant labourers and because I adapted it from a pizza I had in Prague, randomly, and it is actually kind of my favourite pizza among all possible pizzas, even though I acknowledge that it's super weird.
posted by wreckingball at 10:26 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I was very young I put some ketchup and a Kraft single on a Stoned Wheat Thin and then microwaved it for like five minutes thinking it would come out pizza, and what did come out is what I imagine most pizza west of the Mississippi River to be like, which I realize is likely both inaccurate and unkind.
posted by wreckingball at 10:30 PM on November 10, 2014

Curious nu, have you ever tried using your oven's broiler setting for that recipe? It only takes a minute or two (once preheated, which also takes much less time than preheating to 350). BONUS: using the broiler gets that nice golden brown, toasted cheese look (if you're not getting it, try drizzling a bit of olive oil on top of cheese to expedite the process) WARNING: keep a watchful eye or cheese will get black/burnt.

I used to make mini pizzas like this all the time as a kid, although I used bagels.
posted by Perko at 10:37 PM on November 10, 2014

My favorite memories of pizza are from early on in my first apartment. Me and my roommate had gotten a kitchen aid mixer as a move in present(along with tons of dishes/plates/etc). We also had a GIGANTIC oven for an apartment, and huge cookie sheets. He became obsessed with making home made pizza 100% from scratch. Homemade dough, sauce, everything. We'd buy huge ass bulk amounts of all the stuff and just make pizza 4 times a week. And make like 4-5 each time too, and they were like 20x8.

He got really really good at it. Yea, you can only make pizza so good on a cookie sheet in an electric oven... but seriously, i'd say at least half of the "real" pizza-oven pizza i've had wasn't as good as that.

We made every kind you can possibly imagine, with every kind of base/sauce, cheese, toppings. I think i made yakisoba pizza with noodles and everything at one point(with yakisoba sauce, of course).

I lived on almost nothing but amazing home made pizza, chicken yakisoba, black bean tostadas, raw vegetables, and miller high life with the occasional shitty take out mixed in for like at least a year. It was glorious.
posted by emptythought at 10:55 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ok, that was a great description emptythought of food and I'm coming over but pizza doesn't come in the 20x8 dimension any more than a wheel does. The corners will be worn down.

Pizza is round. It is 3.14159ish.

Brownies on the other hand, I want the corner.
posted by vapidave at 12:36 AM on November 11, 2014

wreckingball - pizza without cheese is inherently nonsense
vapidave - pizza doesn't come in the 20x8 dimension any more than a wheel does

Rome would like a word with you. Pizza section starts at about 52 seconds in.

One of my favourite things about Roma was that most pizza came per ingredient:
Potate - potato and rosemary
Funghi - mushroom and thyme
Tomate - tomato
Zucchini - courgette

All vegan, all fantastic!

But then pizza isn't treated as a meal, it is a snack.
posted by asok at 2:02 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

But then pizza isn't treated as a meal, it is a snack.

What a bunch of amateurs.

My perspective is that making pizza at home is fun, but it only really makes sense if you have kids (and even more if some of the kids are picky about certain things touching other things and/or have allergies) because you have absolute control over what toppings go onto what sections of the pizza(s).
posted by Dip Flash at 6:31 AM on November 11, 2014

Pizza is one of the few things I can make competently. It's so good made at home and fresh. For me the book that unlocked the secrets was American Pie.

But help me with cheese! It doesn't just melt, it dissolves, and I miss the delicious bite and chew of the American-style carpet of cheese. My theory is this is a problem with having to bake at 550° for 10 minutes instead of 800° for 4, but maybe it's the wrong product? I'm using Precious brand whole milk, low moisture mozzarella, a fairly good grocery store cheese. I've tried putting it on the pizza frozen, I've tried slicing instead of grating, nothing I do keeps the cheese from dissolving. The Encyclopizza cheese page doesn't seem to have any helpful advice.

(I edit to add: of course I'm not buying shredded cheese. That crap is coated with some starch to keep it from clumping.)
posted by Nelson at 8:15 AM on November 11, 2014

Have you tried fresh mozz, Nelson? I bake in a gas oven at 550, 2 oz of fresh mozz per personal-sized pie. Comes out like this. Which I think is decent coverage, and you get a bit of stringy pull. I could probably go 3 oz for the pie, but I try and keep 'em under 300 calories a serving.

But even with the drier style mozz, the only reason I can think of that you'd get it dissolving into the sauce is if there's not enough of it.
posted by Diablevert at 8:42 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Looks at very diminished waist. Looks at page title. Sheds tear, flips bird.
Departs, still slender.
posted by Goofyy at 9:45 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

The pre-made ones you get here in the supermarkets in my region of the U.S. always have sugar added to them for some reason, blech.

I try to keep a couple jars of the Stop and Shop house brand, Simply Enjoy, in the pantry. Made with real things, no sugar, better than the other jarred sauces I've tried.

True fact: I proposed to mrs ozzy by writing "marry me" in pepperoni on a homemade pizza.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:53 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

The cool thing about pizza is that you can experiment and refine each component (like the cheese on top). In most of the U.S we tend to think of only Mozzarella, but the truth is that most places use some sort of blend and there is no reason you shouldn't at home also. If you want it to still LOOK like mozz then you'll want to avoid cheeses that aren't white, but some people don't care or even like the mixture.

The most obvious cheeses to blend with mozz on pizza are provolone, monterey jack and fresh shredded parmesean. Other often mentioned options are fontina and fontinella, greyere, brick, asiago, munster, even white cheddar.

Weigh your cheeses so you can figure out the percentages in your blends and come up with your own signature "house blend". The challenge, for most people, is to find that balance between great taste and economics. The more "powerful" the flavor of the cheese the less of it you need to impact your overall flavor profile.

Regardless, mozz is not just mozz. You can get no-fat, low-fat, whole milk and even the same type will taste different from brand to brand.
posted by spock at 10:31 AM on November 11, 2014

Talleggio is also fantastic pizza cheese. Or Gorgonzola + rare steak + mushrooms. Or Camembert/Brie with chicken, sundried tomatoes, and asparagus.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:42 AM on November 11, 2014

Serious Eats recently posted a Bar-Style Pizza Recipe that uses a flour tortilla as the crust. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks pretty promising.
posted by Fig at 10:43 AM on November 11, 2014

I have tried that Serious Eats tortilla pizza, and it's a pretty nifty technique. I wouldn't try it without a cast iron skillet, though. It comes together really quick, too, so if you have the ingredients on hand it makes for a good quick pizza snack.

I also recently tried another Serious Eats recipe for pan pizza. It's a bit involved, since it's a no-knead dough that has to sit for about 24 hours, so it takes planning ahead, but it comes out really tasty.
posted by dnash at 11:34 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

trackofalljades: Everyone who is about to decide to modify their home ovens to ignore safety measures and bake at 900F...please be careful.
Jesus… yes, please don't do that. Use your grill as fffm suggests. Or use a Baking Steel on your grill or just in the oven. Or get a BakerStone Pizza Box for your grill. But for the love of God please don't modify your consumer grade oven to bypass the safety interlock.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:21 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Totally Baking Steel, it's a no-brainer.
posted by Dragonness at 1:50 PM on November 11, 2014

True fact: I proposed to mrs ozzy by writing "marry me" in pepperoni on a homemade pizza.

I am picturing her sitting on the other side of the table wondering WTF "ǝɯ ʎɹɹɐW" means and why you are looking at her so expectantly.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:09 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

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