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Pizza Vespa

I kind of want a pizza vespa now. The Pizza Pilgrims got a have very nice setup there.

September 2, 2023

The Washington Post has a trio of articles on pizza:

First up is The Best Pizza in America, Region by Region.

We set out to find the country’s best pizzas, from slice shops in New York City to fancy California-inspired pizzas, gathering favorites from experts, historians and pros around the country. For a more populist view, Washington Post data columnist Andrew Van Dam analyzed 7.5 million Yelp reviews of pizzerias to see which regional-style restaurants attract the most and highest ratings. But who has the best? Well, that’s for you to argue.

The article goes on to list the top five pizza shops in the US for five different styles (NY, Chicago, Detroit, New Haven, and Neapolitan(ish)):

We set out to find the country’s best pizzas, from slice shops in New York City to fancy California-inspired pizzas, gathering favorites from experts, historians and pros around the country.

Next up is an article slicing and dicing a ton of Yelp reviews to try and map the popularity of styles across the US:

Department of Data: The most popular pizza style in every state, mapped

At the other end of the scale, our maps emphatically paint the American South, especially the Deep South, as a pizza desert — though we’ll point out again that we’re ignoring Pizza Hut, Domino’s and other huge, national chains. It’s possible that Alabamians love pizza as much as Pennsylvanians — they just prefer it standardized, homogenized and delivered in 30 minutes or less.

There's a ton of gems in there, and the page provides plenty of maps detailing all kinds of pizza related things in the US. And it of course touches on the "pineapple controversy". (My stance on pineapple - if you like it, go for it. Who am I to judge? It's not like you're putting Swiss cheese or anchovies on a pizza).

And finally, the Washington Post has a map to find the best pizza in your state, by style.

I'm delighted to see that My Friend Derek’s shows up as the #1 Detroit style pizza for Washington State, and as second place overall. (Derek is a former Omni engineer and I'm super jealous of what he's got going on these days). His pizza is top-notch.

However I'm slightly annoyed that The Carlson Block didn't make a showing for Washington. This only goes to show that the method they've used for determining the best pizza can't be completely accurate. These lists are always meaningless when it comes to actual quality, but it does provide a great resource for places to check out.

July 12, 2023

Andrew Janjigian, writing on Wordloaf: Stiffed.

There's a ton of great stuff about starters in here that I wasn't aware of.

More importantly, stiff starters also favor yeast growth over bacterial growth, which means breads made with a stiff starter (particularly one maintained regularly that way) should be milder in flavor/tang than ones made with a liquid one. They can also gain greater lift and/or proof more quickly/reliably, since their yeast populations can be so much more robust.

And later on:

Liquid starters have higher enzymatic activity than stiff ones, which means they can confer greater extensibility to a dough. This makes them the better choice for breads that require extensive manipulation during shaping, like baguettes, bagels, or pizza.

I generally use a stiff starter at around 80% hydration because I've found it's easier to maintain. Maybe I should bump up that hydration a bit to see if my dough does get a bit more extensible.

June 21, 2023

First up is an interview with Anthony Mangieri (of Una Pizza Napoletana) on Special Sauce: Anthony Mangieri & Brian Koppelman Redux. This is a classic Anthony interview, and like all his other interviews, I always pick out some interesting little tidbits or inspiration.

For instance; in the interview Anthony mentioned a new pizza on his menu called "Cosacca". It bakes with tomato sauce, salt, basil and olive oil. And out of the oven it is topped with pecorino romano. I've never tried one of these, but it's now on the list.

Next up is an interview with Sergio Porras of Panned (aka, @PannedFresno on Instagram): Build A Local Following & Sell Out Your First (or Next) Pop Up on the What's Good Dough? podcast.

Sergio Porras is nuts. He's making up to 40 panned pizzas in an Ooni oven, by parbaking them first. I admire the tenacity he's thrown at his business.

June 14, 2023

Here's a a couple of quick pizza reviews since I have them on my mind.

First up, the Margherita from District in San Jose, CA. The pizzas are described as "Made to order using a blend of 00 Caputo and locally milled flours with house-made ingredients".

I believe the part about locally milled flours, but whatever amount of Caputo was in there, you couldn't really find it. The crust was uninspiring, pale, and suffered from large amounts of cornmeal on the bottom. The toppings had no magic and were exceptionally bland. It was one of the worst pizzas I've ever had.

I give the Margherita from District a 1 out of 10.

Next up, and thankfully better, is the Prateria from Vivi Pizzeria in Woodenville, WA.

The Prateria from Vivi
The Prateria from Vivi

While the crust was better than what I had in San Jose, it still wasn't amazing. It certainly could have been cooked longer. And again, the dough was uninspiring, a bit too thick, and nothing to write home about.

The toppings were OK, but too much, and weighed down the pizza in the middle causing it to turn into a bit of a soggy mess. Had the amount of cheese been lighter, and the artichokes cut thinner, I think it would have made a better pizza. Though Vivi doesn't claim the pizza to be Neapolitan style, I got the feeling they were going for it. I feel like it's almost a mass-market style of Neapolitan pizza.

The pizza didn't make me angry or disappointed. It just left me with a complete lack of interest to ever come back.

I give the Prateria from Vivi a 6 out of 10.

June 13, 2023

This hacked together neapolitan oven came across my Instagram feed from (@lilla_napoli) and it instantly made me happy. There's so many choices in ovens these days and they are all mostly great - but there's a special place in my heart for DIY high temp pizza ovens.

May 11, 2023

NYT: New York’s Most Inventive Pizzas Are Cooked Up at Pop-Ups

In a sense, pop-up pizzerias are a byproduct of new technology. The ovens they use, including the electric Breville Pizzaiolo and several models made by Ooni that run on propane or wood pellets, were designed for home use and introduced during the past decade, at prices under $1,000. (Most commercial deck ovens cost many times as much.) These devices have allowed a batch of self-taught pizza makers to storm a tradition-bound business that hasn’t always been easy for outsiders to break into. Two of the most avidly followed pop-ups in the city are run by women, which is still unusual at brick-and-mortar pizzerias.

Kind of weird not to see Gozney ovens like the Roccbox or Dome mentioned, since I see their pizza peels in the photographs and my instagram feed is full of popups using Gozney products. But, maybe it's not a New York thing?

Dominos and Dark Patterns

Dominos (and Pizza Hut) use dark patterns, UX tricks and design psychology to overcharge customers.

Forget 'Big Pharma', I'll demonstrate how (and why) 'Big Pizza' do the following:

From Wikipedia:

A dark pattern (also known as a "deceptive design pattern") is "a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying overpriced insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills".

April 23, 2023

I've never made Detroit style pizza before, up until yesterday that is. I'm not sure why I haven't before or why I decided now was the time, but it finally happened, and it was good! Also, very filling.

For the dough I used Cairnspring Mill's Trailblazer at 72% hydration, 2.5% starter, and 2.5% salt. Made the dough 24 hours before, and let it rise in a couple of pans about 4 hours before I cooked it.

Detroit Style Pizza

The oven was at 550° when I cooked the first pizza, and it came out a bit burnt (I used a 8"x4" pan. No, it wasn't a Lloyd's pan. Yes, I know all about them).

Detroit Style Pizza

But even a little burnt, it was super tasty. The edges were amazing, as they were supposed to be. I added a bit of cheddar around the rim so that the extra fat would go down and give it … well the Detroit taste.

Detroit Style Pizza

A bit too much dough in this size pan though (290g).

I lowered the temp of the oven to 525° waited a little bit and threw the second one in (290g in an 8"x8" pan):

Detroit Style Pizza

Less burning, but still not 100% where I wanted it as there was just a bit too much char on the edges.

Detroit Style Pizza

But I mean, it looked good! And it tasted good!

Detroit Style Pizza

I only had two pans to pre-make the dough for, but I still had some dough balls for my usual neo-style pizzas, so I took one of those and threw it in the 8"x8" pan and stretched it as well as I could. I also lowered the oven temp down to 510°. I threw on some basil, a little bit of salami, and then mushrooms. This one came out almost where I wanted the pizzas to be. Honestly I was a bit surprised they all turned out as well as they did considering this was the first time I've tried it (and I was basically winging everything).

Detroit Style Pizza

The only thing that felt off about it was the corners. Since the dough didn't have time to proof any in the pan, it didn't get to spread out enough IMO. But - after having the first bite, it was my favorite of the night.

Detroit Style Pizza

Do I prefer it over Neapolitan style pizza? No, but it was still pretty awesome and I'll try it again. I'm also curious if I could bake it in my toaster oven and have it come out just as good? That'll be a test for another time.

Devoured Pop-Up

Kansas City, small communities, a couple of Rocbox, and pizza. Chef Jhy makes it happen.

March 15, 2023

We've got a yellow Playdate, a yellow Rivian, a new yellow iPhone, and now a limited edition yellow Roccbox:

I'm sensing a trend.

February 15, 2023

I made a couple of amazing loafs yesterdy inspired by Maurizio Leo's Dark Chocolate-Cherry Sourdough Bread recipie (inspired, because I was too lazy to follow his instructions).

Dark chocolate cherry sourdough

It's mostly whole wheat, I've already forgotten what hydration was (maybe about 85%?), and mostly Cairnspring Mills flour. I say mostly, because I dumped a whole bunch of leftover flours together and … tada! Bread.

I'm already planning on my next bake with dark chocolate chips + cherries. It was sooo good.

February 9, 2023

Last Saturday the WSU Bread Lab had a Pop-Up Bakery sale up in Burlington, WA, and as luck would have it I was going to be around the corner with a friend to pickup some flour I had ordered from Cairnspring Mills. The area is like a little bread complex - there's the King Arthur baking school (which is connected to the Bread Lab), there's the Water Tank Bakery, and of course Cairnspring Mills, all within two blocks of each other.

I've always wanted to see the Bread Lab and their cool pizza oven and wow I can get some bread too? Sign me up.

Of course, I wasn't the only one, and when I showed up they had just recently sold out of everything. Boo!

But Dr. Stephen Jones*, the director of the Bread Lab, was outside talking to folks and took pity on me and said "Are you a baker? Would you like some flour?". Of course I would. Jones took us into the lab, chatted with us a bit, I got to ask about a nifty oven they had, and he gave me 4lbs of their flour "Doris", which is named after Doris Grant. It's a 100% whole wheat variety they've been making specifically for growing in the Pacific North West.

So that's what today's pizzas were made with - 100% Doris whole wheat at just a little over 70% hydration. Baked in my Gozney Dome, at around 900°.

Pizza Pizza Undercarriage

The crust tasted god damn amazing. I wonder if that's because it was so fresh (it was pulled right out of a giant tub sitting in the lab), or is it the grain, or both?

The flour was a little hard to shape and probably isn't best suited to neapolitan style pizza - but I made it work. I have a little over 2lbs left of the flour, and I think I'll make some loaves with it next. (I bet with a lower hydration, it would make a great NY style pizza as well).

Happy National Pizza Day everyone!

* I'm 95% sure I was talking with Dr. Stephen Jones. I never actually verified. We'll just go with it.

November 29, 2022

The Everett Hearld has a nice article on The Cottage, a local bakery:

O’Neill can smell when the bread is ready to pull. One by one he takes the loaves out — this first round is The Cottage’s traditional country sourdough — inspecting each before loading them on a rack to cool.

Twelve loaves down. Three hundred and thirty-eight to go.

It also has a bit about Cairnspring Mills, whose's flour I've been using more and more of lately:

Cairnspring Mills is surrounded by Skagit Valley farmland amid a backdrop of Mount Baker. Every day Morse drives to his mill, he sees swaths of forested wetlands he helped to permanently protect as The Nature Conservancy’s former lands program director.

When he turned 50, Morse left that job to go into the flour business. People thought he was crazy. They tried to reason with him, saying things like, “It’s a ubiquitous commodity product with no profit margin and no differentiating qualities.”

October 12, 2022
Lots of whole wheat in these.

I wanted to try a higher hydration (84%) and at the same time bump up the amout of whole wheat (80%). I also wanted to try cooking three loaves at once, all without the combo cooker, in my smaller oven.

So that's what I did. I preheat the oven to 540°,convection fan off, threw the loaves in there (on baking stones), and then added about 6 ice cubes underneath it all. After about ~13 minutes of baking, it didn't look so good in there. The amount of rise that I was expecting didn't quite happen and it wasn't browning.

I opened the door to feel how humid it was in there and also to use a laser thermometer on the stones. The temperature was around 440°, but it was quite humid. So I turned on the convection fan and bumped the temp up to 550°. Things started cooking a bit better but I think it was also a bit too late. I usually cook at 505° with the combo cooker + convection. I was hoping the higher temp would offet the ice and extra loaves. Maybe next time I'll just start everything at 550° with the convection fan and see what happens.

80% whole wheat (Hi-Pro of some sort) and then 20% Expresso from Cairnspring. 82% hydration. Here's the recipe on my dough calculator.

October 10, 2022
Some rosemary bread with a new starter.

Madeline wanted to make a starter a couple of weeks ago (after hearing me complain loudly about how my friend George's starter was superior to mine). So we made one and used some rosemary in the garden as a little catalyst to get it going (assuming there was good local wild yeast on it). It was pretty uneventful and the easiest starter I've ever made.

And these are the first loaves made with it.

60% whole wheat (Shepherd's Grain that I've had frozen) and then 40% Grain Craft Neapolitan Pizzeria 00 flour. 82% hydration. Here's the recipe on my dough calculator.

I decided to cook the loaves in the bigger chamber oven (I have a 48" Wolf range with two ovens - 18" and 30"). I'll usually use the smaller oven and bake the bread in a combo cooker, but this time around I wanted to use the bigger oven and cook two loaves at once.

The first loaf I cooked used the combo cooker (and I throw in two ice cubes) at 15 minutes covered, 8 uncovered. That's the loaf on top. The second two I threw on my pizza stones at the same time and baked for a total of about 20 minutes. I also added four ice cubes below the stones to give the dough more time to expand, which I think helped, but not as much as I was hoping. Maybe I'll add more ice next time?

At any rate, the second two cooked better than I expected but not quite what I'm going for. Eventually I'd like to be able to cook 4-8 at a time, but I'm not sure this is the right oven for that.

I'm taking two loafs to the climbing gym tonight for the employees there. Might as well bring a bread knife with me, because they otherwise end up using a dirty pocket knife to slice it.

October 8, 2022
"Madinara" with green onions. Currently Madeline's favorite.

Pepperoni with green onions for Aiden. Less cheese than usual becauese I was almost out.

Salami and mushroom for myself. Again, with minimal cheese.

Dough recipe, 85% Cairnspring Trailblazer Select, 15% Expresso blend.

Unlike what I had planned to do when I wrote my last notes, the hydration on this was only 70%, not 72%. But - I think that's kind of good. Again, the dough was much more elastic than I was expecting. I think pushing the hydration any higher might have been bad (though, I'm certainly going to try it anyway).

For Madeline's and Aiden's pizzas, I turned the flame down in the oven a little bit, since Madeline likes her's cooked a little bit longer than traditional neapolitan, and I did Aiden's the same. Mine I cooked on full flame + the help of some extra wood in the oven too. It felt like it cooked under a minute, but I wasn't timing it.

I always throw a little bit of sea salt on top of the pizza, this time I used some which had some dried rosemary in it. When I was eating the crust I could really taste it, and it was just delightful.

I give my pizza an 8.9 (out of 100).

October 7, 2022

Toppings: Absinth salami, little bit of pepperoni, artichoke hearts, fresh(ish) mozzarella, fresh basil. Recipe for the dough

Last weekend I drove up to Burlington to pick up 104lbs of Cairnspring Mills flour (and a hat). I purchased 50lbs each of their Trailblazer and Expresso blends, and then a little rye and whole grain Expresso.

This pizza was made with 100% Trailblazer. It was pretty good! It stretched a bit more than I thought it would (a good thing) and takes lots of water (this was a 68% hydration, I’m going to go for 72% next time). Next time I’m going to try mixing in a little Expresso to see what happens. The flavor of the dough was pretty awesome.

When I went to pick up the flour, I noticed that they had a Gozney Dome in their warehouse. I chatted with the worker there a little bit about it and they really seem to like it. I love mine as well, and this pizza came out of my Dome at home.

September 12, 2022

The Seattle Times: The best pizza in Washington state is in a former coal town 20 miles from Mount Rainier.

I’ve eaten hundreds of pizza slices around the Seattle area in the last year in search of pizza excellence. I’ve had tavern pies, Neapolitan, Detroit-style and pizzas that seem to defy definition. My verdict: The pizza that comes out of this oven in a small town nestled close to the base of Mount Rainier might be the best pizza I’ve had in the state of Washington.

This article about The Carlson Block came out last year, and I finally got a chance to try out the pizza this past weekend. I took an hour long detour on my way to climb at Tieton to try this pizza, and it was worth it. The owner, Ian Galbraith, makes very, very good pizza and it absolutely deserves the reputation it gets. (I had the fennel and sausage, it was amazing.)

After eating, I poked my head back into the kitchen to chat with Ian for a few minutes (it wasn't busy at the moment so I had no guilt in doing this). We talked mostly about flour and he happily told me what blends he uses from Cairnspring Mills. I've been using Cairnspring flour for years now when making bread or NY style pizza, but I haven't made any Neapolitan style pizza with it. That's going to change soon*.

I really don't know what else to say about this pizza, other than it was amazing and I'm completely jealous of what he has going on here. It's an awesome little restaurant, he seems completely stoked about what he does, and I can't wait to go back again. He's like the Pacific North West's version of Anthony Mangieri .

If you haven't already read the Seattle Times article, you should. It goes into the history of the town, as well as the building Ian and his wife own. There are also some great photos there.

Or if video is your thing, you can watch a short video about The Carlson Block on YouTube. And their Instagram page is on point.

* The flour I normally use for neo style is Shepherd's Grain High Gluten, which is also amazing. But their main mill just burnt down and it's super hard to get any now.

May 18, 2021

Shepherd's Grain, one of my favorite flour producers, has a new flour geared towards pizza makers: Napoletana “00” Pizza Flour. I've been using it for a couple of weeks now, and it's pretty amazing.

Here's the TLDR on this flour for the impatient: If you're using Caputo Pizzeria 00 or any other 00 flour, you really should try Shepherd's Grain Napoletana 00. It's local to the Pacific North West, which means (for me at least) it's fresher which makes for better tasting pizzas. It browns way better in a home oven than other 00 flours, and you can use it for bread making as well! And if that's not enough, it's also much more affordable than Caputo or shipping another 00 flour from across the country.

Now read on for story time, the longer review, and eventually more pictures.

Pizza dough

66% hydration, 2.6% salt, 2% starter. recipe

I've been using Shepherd's Grain high gluten flour for at least 5 years, possibly longer. I came across it in a local restaurant supply store and picked up a 50lb bag for a little over $20. It was cheap, so why not? And I needed some high gluten flour for New York style pizzas which I was making in my home oven.

My main flours for Neapolitan style pizzas in my wood fired oven at the time were either Caputo 00 Pizzeria (which I could pick up down in Seattle for $45 for 50lbs) or Central Milling's Reinforced 00, which I could have shipped to me.

If you look online you’ll find a lot of people consider Caputo Pizzeria the king of 00 pizza flours. It certainly has the mind share when people refer to "00" flour at any rate. But my experience with Caputo was a bit spotty. It was sometimes good, but I'd occasionally get a bag that was just… off. It wouldn't raise, or no matter how much I kneaded the dough it was always sticky. I assume the bags just went bad. Who knows how long it took to be shipped over to the US? And how long was it sitting in storage before I bought it? And now what am I supposed to do with 50lbs of unusable flour?

I also bought a number of bags of Central Milling's Reinforced 00, which was way more consistent than Caputo at least. But shipping large bags of flour via FedEx wasn't exactly cheap. Total cost was around $75 for 50lbs shipped to Mukilteo, WA from California.

So you can see why Shepherd's Grain high gluten was attractive to me. It wasn't 00, but I had the aforementioned flours to use in my various WFO or other high temp ovens. Plus the SG high gluten would brown way better than the 00 flours in my home ovens.

So pricy inconsistent flour for the high temp ovens, and then Shepherd's Grain high gluten for NY style in the home oven and making bread.

And then one day, after doing some reading on the pizza scene in Tokyo and being a bit inspired by what was going on there, I decided I was going to see if I could do some really high hydration pizzas (around 70%). Since the 00 flour was expensive and this whole idea was likely to fail, I figured I would use the Shepherd's Grain HG flour. Sure, it might burn because it's not 00, but let's see what'll happen in my Roccbox anyway.

What happened is that I made some damn amazing pizzas.

I was blown away. The Shepherd's Grain wasn't "00", how the heck did it just survive 900° temperatures and come out of the oven amazing?

And so after that, I never ordered another bag of 00 flour, used up what I had, and it's been Shepherd's Grain High Gluten for my pizza making since then.

I guess, until a couple of weeks ago.

And now we finally get to the new flour.

Shepherd's Grain new Napoletana 00 is like the High Gluten, but turned up a couple of notches.

The texture of the two flours are a little different, the 00 is softer and has less ash in it. The 00 is also finer (hence the 00 designation) which I presume comes from the new partnership Shepherd's Grain has with Grain Craft, which is milling the flour now.

But as far as working with the dough, it's pretty much the same. The 00 took the same hydration that I'd usually use with the high gluten flour, and shaping and putting toppings on the pizzas was the same. I could shape my pizzas without any problem after a 16 hour rise for the first batch (I was impatient!), 24 hours on another bake, and then even a week later after sitting in the fridge. I was expecting the 8 day old dough to be a bit weaker after being in the fridge for 7 days, but it felt just like it had the week before.

How does it taste though? As good as the best pizzas I’ve made. Soft on the outside for the Neapolitan style bakes in the Roccbox, and perfect texture for NY style with the home oven. It's a 00 flour that cooks correctly in a home oven! How amazing is that?

Since I'm using my sourdough starter, the taste was a little bit different (and better) the longer the raise, but it was always good. Madeline gave it two thumbs up (which she doesn't always. She's more picky about pizza than me).

OK, time for pictures, and some more words after that.

Made in the Roccbox

Chicken sausage, mushroom, fresh moz baked in the Roccbox ~1.5-2m.

Made in the home oven

NY style, absinth salami, red onion, moz in my home oven under the broiler. ~3.5-4m.

Cooking in the Roccbox

Cooking in the Roccbox with gas and cherry wood behind the burner. ~1.5-2m.

Another out of the Roccbox

Absinth salami, jalapeño, moz in the Roccbox. ~1.5-2m.

00 and whole wheat flour

00 with 30% whole wheat, chicken sausage, mushroom, garlic olive oil, moz in the Roccbox. ~1.5-2m.

Technically, how does it compare to Caputo, or other 00 flours?

On paper, the flours are pretty much the same. The ash and protein numbers are almost identical (0.46% and 12.3% respectively). But if you're living in the Pacific Northwest you're probably going to want to use SG's Napoletana 00 since it is local, and that means it's going to be way fresher. And fresh flour makes for better bakes. And it's cheaper!

Is it just for pizza?

No! When I bought the SG 00 I also picked up 50lbs of SG Whole Wheat. I made bread with it, and it was also awesome.


A couple of loaves mixing 00 with whole wheat.

How do I get some?

This is the tricky part. It’s brand new, but I was able to buy some because I live close to a marketing person from Shepherd's Grain. Merlino Foods in Seattle is probably carrying it, but with Covid I think things are a bit shut down for them right now (but maybe not in the future!). If you call up your local restraunt supply store and start asking for it, maybe they’ll start carrying it? I will certainly update this post with availablity once I find out more.