Peter's Blog
Peter's Blog: Are these the Best in America?
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

I plan to write more about my recent trip through Texas, and we have some new postings to add this week, but my friend Steve Steingard, with whom I've shared many pizzas (and cheese steaks) while growing up together in Philly, just sent me this link and I wanted to share it with you, asap, because it highlights some very spectacular pizzas, both traditional and innovative.  No list is totally exhaustive and all are subject to argumentation, but this one doesn't just stop at 25 or even 50 but lists over 100 of the finest pizzas in America, with great photos.  Enjoy, and feel free to lodge your comments here, both pro and con, especially if you think one of your own "worthies" was omitted. As for me, it gave me a whole new batch of places to add to our never-ending quest. Thanks Grubstreet!

http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2013/02/the-best-pizza-in-america.html

 
News Flash!
Peter Reinhart

Great news. --  the Craftsy mini-pizza course launched yesterday and we already have 2,200 subscribers! To get the free video course, "Perfect Pizza at Home" go to www.craftsy.com/pizza and sign up. Did I mention that it's FREE!!  I just watched the whole series from my hotel room (yes, I'm still in Texas) and I have to say, I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Now, on to Houston....

 
Peter's Blog, January 21st, 2013
Peter Reinhart

I'm headed out soon for Austin, TX where my teaching tour of Texas begins (see my previous Peter's Blog for dates and cities). Not sure if there are still spaces available, so call the store near you if you want to attend.  In the meantime, till I get back, I wanted to share this e-mail from Pizza Quest follower, David Maxwell, in response to my WFO 4-minute rib eye steak technique. Here's what he sent, another great idea that I can't wait to try:

"By far the best steaks I've ever cooked were  boneless rib eyes we served at Christmas.  Try this method, an oven-based version of sous vide:
1 - Season with salt and pepper.  Place steaks on a cooling rack set into a rimmed cookie sheet.
2 - Place into a 250F degree oven.  Depending on the thickness and starting temp of the steak it will take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes to bring the internal temperature up to 100.  Use a meat thermometer and don't be afraid to poke into the meat.  It isn't a water balloon - you won't lose a ton of juice even with multiple pokes.  Go in from the side.
3 - Remove from oven and pat dry.
4 - Put steaks on an insanely hot cast iron pan - no oil needed.  Let them sit undisturbed for about a minute, flip and go another minute.
5 - Let them rest for 5 minutes
You should have a steak that's beautifully pink all the way through with a wonderful dark sear.  You shouldn't have any of the tan/gray layer that's so common in home seared or grilled steak.  100 degrees pre-sear should bring you up to the rare side of medium rare.  105 should be enough to satisfy any Red-Phobic types.
It also works for tuna steak."

Thank you, David!  He mentioned sous vide, and his timing is perfect, as we will be posting the next in our Basta websiode series later this week. In this segment, Kelly Whitaker will show us how he makes his famous 48-hour sous vide/oven charred short ribs, one of my all time favorite bites.

Hope to see some of you in Texas. I will try to blog from the road, but no promises -- lots to do in the Lonestar State!


 
2013, Here We Come!
Peter Reinhart

Welcome to 2013! As we start a new year and also begin our third year here on Pizza Quest, I wanted to give you all a quick glimpse of what's coming up.

But first, a hearty thank you to all our contributors, partners, and supporters. This is  especially so for Forno Bravo, who partnered with us from Day One in creating this site and continues supporting us in so many ways. Also, our sponsors, Central Milling, The Fire Within, and DiNapoli Tomato Products, as well as our founding sponsor, Bel Gioioso Cheese.  Also, a special thank you to John Arena, our most frequent Guest Columnist, and to all others who contributed columns.

And, finally, I'd like to thank Brad English and Jeff Michael, who came up with the original idea for Pizza Quest and invited me to join with them in making it happen. Brad, as you already know, is our regular "If I can do it so can you" columnist, and he's come up with some incredible pizza concepts as well as lots of fun journal entries and pictorials about his never-ending quest for the perfect pizza. As Calvin Trillin phrased it, he's "…just a big hungry boy looking for a good meal."  And thanks also to our webisode Director and fellow Quester, David Wilson, and our editor Annette Aryanpour, who make all our webisodes sizzle.

Thank you all and now onward, to a great 2013!

Upcoming: For those in the Texas area, I'll be doing a short tour of seven Central Market Cooking

 
Peter's Blog, Dec. 22nd, 2012
Peter Reinhart

I'll be back in a day or so with the steps for making that amazing 4-minute rib eye in a wood fired oven (as promised), but wanted to get this up asap to let you know that Craftsy just opened their final sale of the year on all courses, including mine on Artisan Bread, but it ends Monday night, so it's just a two day affair.  The pizza course that I wrote about last week is almost ready but, as you already know, it will be a freebie (!!), so I'll let you know when it launches in January.  But for bargain prices on all their other courses, follow this link: www.craftsy.com/ext/PeterReinhart_holiday

Now, back to final Christmas shopping, baking, and wrapping.  I'll return in a day or so, right here on this same blog post, with the steak method. See you then.


Okay, I'm back and here's the steak technique. I'm sure this can be done in a regular oven, but not sure yet how to get one as hot a WFO. I'm thinking of trying this with my new Baking Steel, on the top shelf in my oven, just under the broiler, but that will be for another day and another posting. Here's how I do it in my Primavera 60 (sorry, no photos this round, but the next time I make these steaks I'll shoot the sequence and post them):

Fire up the oven so that it is as hot as I can get it -- at least 1,000 degrees everywhere.  I put a cast iron skillet in the oven at least  10 minutes before cooking the steaks, and let the pan get white hot -- yes, white. Meanwhile, I season 2"-thick rib eye steaks (I usually can fit two medium size or three small steaks in the pan, but they cook so fast that's it's okay to cook them one at a time if you prefer using a large piece). Use a liberal amount of freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt, and sprinkle both sides. After the salt and pepper goes on, mist both sides of the steak with olive oil spray (or brush the steaks with olive oil), and leave them on a plate, covered, for about 30 minutes to take off the chill.

When the time comes to cook, be sure to have thick oven mitts or pads on hand, a metal table to land the pan on (you can also use the oven ledge), tongs, and a timer set to two minutes. Pull the pan out of the oven to the ledge and drop in the steaks so that they lay flat and do not overlap each other.  Slide the pan back into the oven and turn on the timer. After two minutes, pull out the pan to the ledge, turn the steaks over with the tongs (they will be sizzling and already caramelizing) and return the pan to the oven. Re-set the timer for another 2 minutes, and put the pan back into the oven.  After these 2 minutes the steaks will be a perfect medium rare in the center so, if you want them more done that add an extra 30 seconds on each side (2 1/2 minutes per side instead of 2). Remove the steaks from the pan and place on serving plates. Let them sit for 8 to 10 minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute. In the meantime, you can use the same pan, even with the steak fat from the previous round, to cook another round.

By the way, you can cook burgers in the same manner -- but just one minute per side -- yes, one minute!

The steaks and burgers I've cooked in this manner are, without question, the best I've ever made or had --like buddder.  I'd love to hear from you if you've ever tried this or, perhaps, have a method you prefer. It will take some convincing to move me off of this method but I'm sure some of you have a few magical techniques of your own. When the weather gets nicer here, I'll fire up the Primavera and shoot some photos, but I have a feeling you can already visualize what these sizzling steaks will look like.

 
Peter's Blog, December 14th, 2012
Peter Reinhart

I  just got back from Denver where I had the great joy and privilege to film a mini pizza course for Craftsy called, "Perfect Pizza at Home."  As I mentioned in a previous post, this is going to be offered in January, by Craftsy, to the world for free!! (My bread course, on the other hand, sells for $39.95 -- or $19.95 if you sign up via the special link they gave me for our PQ followers: www.craftsy.com/artisanbread -- so the pizza course giveaway is quite a deal, a steal actually; steal, or steel, is today's motif, as you will soon see.)  Anyway, I'll have a lot more on the pizza course and on Craftsy next month, when I get the word that it's available.

At the wrap party afterwards, we gathered at Basta, in Boulder, for a nice reunion with Kelly Whitaker and his whole team of pizzaiolos and talented cooks. As you you have seen, and will continue to see over the next few months in the Basta webisodes, this is a very special place and I was pleased to be able to to bring my new friends from Craftsy over to meet Kelly, as well as to meet Joseph Pergolizzi (founder of The Fire Within, whose mobile wood fired ovens you've seen featured on many of our instructional videos), and my friend and artisan bread baker extraordinaire, Andy Clark, of Udi's Breads, who joined us for the celebration. (I will post some photos as soon as I gather them.)

But, as I said, I'm home again and I promised to comment on the new Baking Steel, which arrived just before I left for Denver and which I tested with a dough ball from my freezer stash a few hours before I flew out. As you may recall, Adam A. wrote in a "comment" to a previous Peter's Blog, raving about his Baking Steel, so I called the foundry where it's made, Stoughton Steel, and spoke with Andris Lagsdin's dad (and the owner of the steel mill and the proud papa of the inventor of this new, innovative tool). He said, "What can I tell you, I'm no cook but my son is and ever since he came up with this they're selling like crazy!"  An hour later, Andris, the inventor himself, called me and we had a great chat about the Steel, which was inspired by his love of cooking, both professional and at home, and his interest in the new "modernist cuisine" as described in the recent amazing books by Nathan Myhrvold as well as all the molecular gastronomy chefs like Ferran Adria, Jose Andres, Grant Achatz, and others. He combined his food and his steel knowledge and fabricated this simple, but beautiful, slab of steel that is now destined to be the next big thing among pizza freaks as well as serious cooks of all types.

My oven typically takes about seven minutes to bake a pizza, using a one-inch thick ceramic baking stone. With the steel, the pizza was ready in five minutes and, just like Adam A. reported, perfectly baked, top and bottom, with superb caramelization. The faster bake time allowed the dough to be both crisp and moist, just the way I (and most of us) like it. I have to admit, I was totally impressed and the Steel now sits proudly in my oven, waiting for me to test it out on other foods. I'm particularly curious to see how it will do with a rib eye steak, ever since the benchmark of my "four minute steak," cooked in my Primavera 60 wood-fired oven (yes, a shameless plug for our friends at Forno Bravo) -- the best steak I ever made. I posted about this last year -- it's somewhere in the Peter's Blog archives but, if anyone wants me to repeat the method I'll post it again over the holidays -- just let me know in the Comments section below.  If the Steel can get me close to that in a home oven I'll do back flips, so stay tuned.

When mine arrived, it came with a very cool carrying case, which I suggest you also purchase, for both it's functionality and its sweet design. (Ever since I read Walter Isaacson's bio on Steve Jobs I've become obsessed with Job's brilliant insight and execution of the merging of these two aspects, form and function; the Baking Steel and it's case is kind of like the I-Pad of baking platforms -- very Apple-like.) Here's an excerpt from an e-mail I received from Andris for those of you who want to check this out.

Currently, our website has the Baking Steel listed at $72 and you can purchase the case and steel together for $102. These are both introductory prices.  After the first of the year the price may tweak up a little bit.  Likely to $79 & $109. This price includes delivery anywhere in the U.S. We charge a flat rate of $15.00 to Canada.  Anywhere else in the world we are charging freight.  Our website is www.bakingsteel.com and orders can be placed online. 

The material used to make the Steel is A36 low carbon.  This is the same material you see your local diners use on their griddles for eggs, pancakes etc.  So yes, the options are plentiful.  Likely a nice searing steel for outdoor grills as well.  We also sell a cleaning brick for the Baking Steel -- it is a nice way to keep the steel clean.

 

I'll try to get some photos up soon -- after all, I just got home but wanted to get this news out asap. If any of you already have a Baking Steel and want to send us your own reviews, that would be wonderful.  Congratulations to Andris Lagsdin (and his dad!) for coming up with what may be a game-changing tool for many of us. Hey, it may not be too late for some of you to get one, or give one, for Christmas!!

More soon....

Peter

PS I nearly forgot to mention that when you receive your Steel, it comes with a recipe for NY-Style Pizza Dough by noted food blogger Kenji Lopez-Alt.  I thought the recipe looked familiar so I was pleased to discover that on his blog, Kenji was generous in sharing the credit (he also dd a nice job of tweaking the original, to make it his own, as I advise you all to do as you zero in on your own recipes). Thanks Kenji!  Here's what he wrote: Luckily for me, there's already a pretty fantastic recipe for New York style pizza dough out there in Peter Reinhart's American Pie, a new classic on pizza, which if you don't already own, you should. His method is to mix together the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, olive oil, and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer, knead it slowly for a couple minutes, then allow it to rest for a few minutes in a step called an autolyse.  Autolysis allows time for flour to absorb water, and for the gluten-forming proteins to shorten themselves through enzymatic action, allowing them to be more easily aligned and stretched with subsequent mixing.

 

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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

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