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Peter’s Blog, August 8th — Alright, Controversy!!

Written By Peter Reinhart
Thursday, 09 August 2012 Peter's Blog

I’m packing and getting ready for the big book launch over the next two weeks in SF and the Bay Area, so will keep this short.  The schedule is listed below in my previous Peter’s Blog, if any of you can make it to any of the classes or book signings. There are still a few seats left for the classes but you’ll have to call the venues for more info.

But this week I think we’re going to have to address the controversy that emerged in the Comments section of my last posting, thanks to someone named Scott007 and a few other voices, including another Scott — Scott123. It’s actually kind of exciting — apparently, I’ve pissed a few people off and am not sure why but would sure like to find out what I did (if you aren’t up to speed, please check out the Comments thread in the recent Peter’s Blog — last time I checked there were 14 comments).  So, what I’d like to do is open up the discussion here on this posting, via a new Comments section, the one on this posting, and ask any and all of you to chime in.  If I’ve trashed NY pizza culture, as Scott123 accuses, or passed on misinformation about pizza methodology or dough science, let’s get it all on the table so we can clear it up.  Scott(s), how about getting specific and make your case — I hear that 123 is a well respected pizza authority so maybe I have something to learn from you. None of us have a monopoly on the whole truth and Pizza Quest was created to be a forum for the sharing of our mutual pizza journeys and celebration of artisanship. I’m open to learn from you but also would like to know the actual specifics of where you think I went wrong, rather than generalized attacks.  The only rule for this discussion is civility — I reserve the right to edit out ad hominum attacks, unnecessary language, and nasty language.  But differences of opinion — sure, I’m okay with that. So, for those who want to play along, go ahead and express yourselves — but let’s do it respectfully, please.

I won’t be posting another Peter’s Blog till I return at the end of the month, but will try to join in the Comments section from the road if my i-Pad and local WiFi will allow it. In the meantime, let’s get to the heart of it — we’re on a search for the truth (or, perhaps, truths). Let the discussion begin….




This information is not just an American Pie thing. Thanks to the impact of the chains, I don’t think I’ve ever met a non New Yorker that didn’t have a warped view relating to thickness factor, but this blessing from your treatise certainly didn’t help.

Some of these missteps produce quality issues (such as fermentation time and water in the sauce) while others broach authenticity, while some do both. Quality can be a serious issue for home pizza makers. Many people are happy with recipes that produce less than perfect results, but for those looking for, say, the pizza of their youth, if they find your recipe, get excited, and end up disappointed, they can easily become disillusioned and stop trying for a while. I spent 15 years in this purgatory, and, while it wasn’t your particular recipe that condemned me to my misery, the other authors had good intentions as well.


Bake Time

You state in the book that 80% of the pizza is the crust. I agree. Not only is 80% of the pizza crust, 80% of the crust is bake time. Every single pizza that you did back flips over in American Pie was baked for 5 minutes or less. This includes:

Da Michele


When you extend the bake clock, the magic doesn’t happen. Without an intense rush of heat, the dough isn’t sent soaring and you don’t get the kind of puffiness that haunts you in your dreams. No one understands this better than the Neapolitans. Bake a pizza longer than 2 minutes, and, for them (and those serious about Neapolitan here) it’s no longer Neapolitan pizza. There’s no close enough. No horse shoes or hand grenades. Either you break that barrier and you get Neapolitan or you don’t and it’s something else. NY kow tows to the same physics, but the barrier draws a different line in the sand. It’s less about authentic and inauthentic and more about life altering and mediocre. 5 minutes is that cutoff. Above 5- bob’s your uncle. 5 and 10 minutes is like the difference between a water bagel and a non water bagel. Both bagels, one good, one not. You didn’t spell this out in AP, but you clearly revealed your preference in the list of pizzerias that impacted you the most.


In the section for ovens, you talk briefly about commercial ovens being run between 650 degrees and 1200, talking, again, with a perceived Neapolitan/brick oven slant. You also delve into multiple workarounds for the home oven. But the NY recipe… oh, the humanity! 12 whopping minutes in the recipe. That’s a knife in the heart of NY pizza culture. The five ‘baking situations’ were a valiant attempt, but the recipe… ouch. That’s hundreds of thousands of readers under the misconception that a 12 minute pizza can be “wonderful”, hundreds of thousands of readers using this abomination as a baseline for this national treasure.


Now, back in 2003, there weren’t a whole lot of options for faster bakes for the home cook. Soapstone was in use, but very few people knew about it. Thick cordierite kiln shelves had made some headway, but were still in their infancy. There wasn’t much you could offer in the way of better options than the ones you listed. I couldn’t have expected you to have had a crystal ball in terms of predicting what workarounds the home baker was destined to witness. That said, the recipe based implication that 12 minutes, for NY, could somehow be good enough and that home bakers shouldn’t be actively striving for something faster- that set back home pizza making 20 years.

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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.

Peter’s Books

American Pie
Artisan Breads Every Day
The Bread Bakers Apprentice
Brother Junipers Bread Book
Crust and Crumb
Whole Grain Breads

...and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on