October 18, 2023
It looks like Gozney has a new pizza oven based off the original Dome (which I still need to write a review of some day. Spoiler: I love it). It's called "Dome S1"
From what I can tell, it's just like the gas Dome but without the airflow pocket for wood burning, and the pipes steamer attachment. It's also $500 USD cheaper. Looks like a nice savings if you wanted to grab the original Dome for a pizza truck or something where you'd be using gas only.
No news on the smaller "Arc" oven that's expected to come out next year.
October 18, 2023
Andrew Janjigian has an excellent interview Addie Roberts, author of 'Secrets of Open Crumb':
I also stopped comparing my doughs to other bakers’ doughs. I would do six hours bulk fermentation because I read somewhere that his or her bread took six hours to ferment. But then when I’d look at my dough after six hours, it didn’t look ready yet. And I would end up with under-fermented bread all the time. So I little by little I would push it 30 minutes more, 30 minutes more, 30 minutes more. And I noticed that the more advanced the fermentation was, the better fermented the bread was. To me “open crumb” [really] means well-fermented bread.
In the sourdough baking community, bakers talk all of the time about [the dangers of] over-fermentation, but nobody [really] talks about under-fermentation. I think that's why people end up with under-fermented bread—because they're afraid of over-fermentation.
You can also follow Addie on Instagram via @breadstalker_.
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
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:
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.
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).
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.
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):
Less burning, but still not 100% where I wanted it as there was just a bit too much char on the edges.
But I mean, it looked good! And it tasted good!
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).
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.
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.
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).
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°.
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.