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!!
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.