The Food Issue 2016
THE LAST TIME I "made" a pizza, a couple of years ago, it was an inexpensive and easy endeavor: I went to Trader Joe's and bought sauce, cheese, and premade dough for under $10. I don't cook a ton, and this type of ritual is pretty much the height of my culinary adventurousness (though I do love watching people cook on my programs).
With the help of one enormously kind and patient friend, I attempted to make the prosciutto and bufala pie from master pizza maker Ken Forkish's new cookbook, The Elements of Pizza. First lesson: This is not a recipe you can start and finish in one evening.
But my deadline loomed, so we went to QFC to buy ingredients. There were a few initial hiccups: I never figured out what 00 flour is. [Editor's note: It's a very specialized pizza flour that costs a lot.] Then we couldn't find prosciutto or this mozzarella di bufala stuff.
Naturally, we tried New Seasons. But when I asked the nice cheese man if they had it, I learned they'd just run out. At this point it was getting close to 5 pm—we had to get home to start making this goddamn pizza soon. We very seriously conferred for a few minutes to determine an adequate substitute for buffalo milk cheese. We settled on burrata, which I read is made from cow's milk mozzarella and cream. Not sure if this was an okay substitute, but it was super tasty and I ate a lot of it raw.
As soon as we got home and opened the cookbook, our hearts sank: We needed a digital scale and something called a probe thermometer. The high-techiest cooking thing I have is a microwave, and I don't even know how to use all the settings. I'm not going to lie to you, we just winged it.
Making the dough was interminably fussy. First we mixed all our poorly measured ingredients (1/10 of 1/4 teaspoon of yeast is pretty hard to guesstimate) and folded/cut it with Ken's intense pincer method. We let it sit for 20 minutes, then did some quick kneading. Then it was time to let the dough sit for TWO HOURS at room temperature in an oily container.
Instead of fantasizing about all the ways we could get premade pizza in less than two hours, we went to Trader Joe's and got a lot of wine. Outside the store we saw a really cool dog with a floppy tongue, which was honestly the highlight of this entire pizza-making process.
The rest of the night is a little blurry. I know we didn't let the dough sit for the entirety of its first two hours. I also know that we didn't let the dough sit for FOUR TO SIX MORE HOURS for its second fermentation. It definitely didn't rise to its full potential (hehe).
Around 11 pm we were fed up. We used an empty wine bottle to roll the dough out and stretched it into a shape resembling the US of freaking A and loaded it up with sauce (easy to make but pretty salty TBQH), burrata, and prosciutto. It cooked really fast, and in a blaze of smoky (oops) glory we pulled it from the oven. Everything tasted pretty good, despite our stumbles. My only complaint is that the prosciutto and sauce together made for one super salty pizza.
Pizza is a simple beauty: an elegant marriage of tangy tomato sauce and luxurious cheese that makes a home on crunchy crust. But this experience nearly made us hate something we've unconditionally loved for years. I'm sure with a stupendous amount of time and resources I'd be able to "unlock the secrets to world-class pies at home," as the cookbook's cover boasts, but sadly, that's just not what happened.
The Elements of Pizza: Unlocking the Secrets to World-Class Pies at Home
by Ken Forkish