What a fun assignment! I interviewed three of Kansas City’s finest pizza makers–Jake Imperiale, Quillan Glynn and James Landis–to get their take on translating the art of pizza making to a home kitchen. I also got to try my hand at shaping crusts, spreading the sauce and toppings and using a peel to rotate the pizza while it cooked in one of those red-hot wood-burning ovens.
If you missed it in last Wednesday’s paper, here’s a link to the story. Because the newspaper doesn’t archive its stories, I’ve also reprinted it below for future reference.
DIY Pizza | Making the perfect pie at home
Pizza pros offer pointer on how to make a savory pies at home
Pros offer pointers on achieving a satisfyingly chewy crust.
BY MARY BLOCH
Special to The Star
Kansas City has its share of artisan pizza parlors, but you really don’t have to venture out to enjoy restaurant-quality pizza. With a modicum of patience, it’s possible to make chewy and crusty pizza in the comfort of your own home. And no, you don’t have to own a commercial-grade, Neopolitan-made wood-burning oven.
A few of Kansas City’s finest local pizzaioli reveal tips that the casual cook can emulate to create a savory pie.
Just how did these guys learn their craft?
Jake Imperiale didn’t start making pizza until six years ago, when he journeyed to Naples, his mother’s birthplace. This Italian-American visited Sorbillo’s restaurant there and struck up a conversation with owner Gigi Sorbillo.
Sorbillo taught Imperiale on the spot how to make pizza dough and then emailed him the recipe once he returned home. After a month of experimentation, Imperiale perfected the recipe, and he has been making authentic pizza pies ever since at Jake’s Bella Napoli in Brookside.
James Landis, a relative novice when it comes to pizza-making, acquired his skill from an Italian flour distributor after taking the reins of Blue Grotto’s kitchen a couple of years ago. The trendy restaurant is also in Brookside.
Owner/chef Quillan Glynn of PizzaBella learned the art of pizza-making from his mother when he was only 8 years old, and he continues to use her recipe when making pizza at home. At his restaurant in the Crossroads, Glynn uses a more sophisticated formula, which includes beer and a longer fermentation process.
Basic pizza dough is simple to turn out, even for the unaccomplished bread-maker. All you need is yeast, water, flour and salt. Some recipes also call for a splash of olive oil, but it’s not essential. Using anything beyond the four basic ingredients is “a sin,” according to Imperiale.
“We’re all about tradition,” he says. “No sugar in the sauce, the finest tomatoes and flour. They’ve been doing it this way in Naples for generations, so why mess with it? You can’t improve on perfection.”
Choosing a flour
Many pizza dough recipes call for bread flour, which has a higher gluten content. When flour and water are mixed and kneaded, an elastic dough is produced called “gluten.” The more protein in flour, the more gluten, and the higher the percentage of gluten, the chewier the pizza will be.
Glynn prefers all-purpose flour. “Just look. We’re obviously doing something right,” he says pointing to the pizzas emerging from his red-hot wood-burning oven.
Imperiale and Landis swear by 00 flour (double-zero flour) from San Felice, Italy. “It’s the only flour they use in Naples, so why would I use anything else?” Imperiale says.
00 flour is finely ground, and much of the germ and bran have been removed. The amount of protein in 00 flour ranges from 10 percent to 12 percent, the same as in all-purpose flour, but it absorbs less water than all-purpose or traditional bread flours do.
00 gives bigger bubbles and a lighter spring because of greater elasticity than all-purpose flour, but 00 flour dough also is less forgiving of unskilled handling, so bread flour or all-purpose is fine for the casual pizza-maker. In addition, when using 00 in an oven with a temperature under 750 degrees, the crust is not likely to brown.
Where to find 00 flour? Bella Napoli, 6229 Brookside Blvd.; Carollo Gourmet Grocery, 9 E. Third St.; Dean and DeLuca 4700 W. 119th St., Leawood.
Take time to rise
When making pizza dough, time is important; the longer the dough rises, the better the results, regardless of whether in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter. The number of rises also affects the quality of the crust. “Slow and low” is the preferred way to go, giving the crust complexity, character and those professional-looking air holes.
Landis allows for a 24-hour rise; four at room temperature and the rest in the refrigerator to add fermentation.
“It’s better to add less yeast and then let it rise longer,” he says. “With more yeast it rises really fast, but it also goes down fast. Wherever it sits, cover your dough while it’s resting; otherwise it will dry out within five minutes.”
When it comes to tomato sauce, San Marzano tomatoes are Imperiale’s choice, but Landis finds Alta Cucina tomatoes the most desirable. Look for San Marzano tomatoes at Dean and DeLuca, Carollo Gourmet Grocery and Marco Polo Italian Market, 1201 W. 103rd St.
“If you have quality tomatoes, the balance of sweetness and acidity is already there — no need to add anything else,” Landis says.
Cookbook recipes often suggest sautéing onions, a bit of garlic and canned tomatoes in a pan to cook down and make tomato sauce. But most professionals prefer to puree uncooked canned tomatoes or run them through a food mill.
Simply puree one 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes and a pinch of salt to taste. Spread sauce on an uncooked pizza.
Glynn adds dried oregano, dried basil, roasted garlic and sugar to his tomatoes.
Forming a round
Home cooks generally roll out the dough or push it out with their fingers until stretched to the desired size. But Glynn says that to avoid a flat pizza, never use a rolling pin. Instead, he advises tapping the center of the dough to flatten it slightly, while leaving the outer edge untouched. He considers this step to be crucial in creating a bubbly and airy rim á la the upscale pizza bistro.
Landis adds, “if you put the pizza toppings in the middle, that part of the crust stays down and the rim is lighter and tends to bubble up.”
Before transferring the pizza to your oven, preferably with a floured wooden or metal peel (a large, flat paddle), place a pizza stone on the floor of the oven or on the lowest rack for an electric oven and preheat to 500 degrees, or as high as your oven controls will go. A pizza stone distributes heat evenly, helping to achieve a crisp crust. If you don’t own one, the underside of a thick baking sheet is an adequate substitute. Keep an eye on the oven, but resist the temptation to open the door until the pizza is dark brown and the toppings are cooked through.
On the grill
More free-form and certainly less traditional, cooking pizza on the grill gives a char and adds a smoky quality that is hard to beat.
Before trying this method, keep in mind that meat toppings need to be precooked, and you should have all ingredients at the ready for quick assembly.
Shape the dough on an olive-oiled cookie sheet or pizza pan. Take it to the grill and, as delicately as possible, lift and place it on the grates. The pizza will taste the same regardless of whether the round shape is retained. In fact, an oblong or asymmetrical design brings creativity to the table.
Within 1 minute, as the bottom starts to char, monitor it carefully. As soon as the dough appears cooked on that side, flip it and add your toppings. Cook until the cheese is melted and the other side is crisp and charred the way you like it. Take the pie off the grill and slice for sharing or serve it whole.
Mary Bloch is a freelance writer who lives in Kansas City. Her blog is aroundtheblockkc.com.
Nancy Silverton’s Pizza Dough
If you’re looking for detailed instructions on how to roll out pizza dough, Nancy Silverton of the highly acclaimed Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles offers this recipe in “The Mozza Cookbook.” She makes a “sponge” first, using bread flour and a bit of rye flour. After she combines them with yeast and water, the mixture ferments for several hours to make the dough more pliable and thus easier to shape. When baked, the crust develops pockets of air that give it fabulous texture, similar to yeast bread.
Makes enough dough for 6 pizzas; each pizza serves one
22 ounces warm tap water (2 cups, 6 ounces)
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) compressed yeast or 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
26 ounces (5 1/2 cups) unbleached bread flour, plus more as needed
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) dark rye flour or medium rye flour
1 1/2 teaspoons wheat germ
1 1/2 teaspoons barley malt or mild-flavored honey, such as clover or wildflower
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) kosher salt
Olive oil, grapeseed oil or another neutral-flavored oil, such as canola oil, for greasing the bowl
To make the sponge: Put a scant 2 cups water and the yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer and let it sit for a few minutes to dissolve the yeast. Add 2 3/4 cups bread flour, the rye flour and the wheat germ. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients. Wrap the bowl tightly in plastic wrap and tightly wrap the perimeter of the bowl with kitchen twine or another piece of plastic wrap to further seal the bowl. Set the dough aside at room temperature (ideally 68 to 79 degrees) for 11/2 hours.
Uncover the bowl and add remaining scant 1 cup of water, the remaining 2 3/4 cups bread flour, and the barley malt or honey. Fit the mixer with the dough hook, place bowl on the mixer stand and mix the dough on low speed for 2 minutes.
Add salt and mix on medium speed for 6 to 8 minutes, until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Note that the dough will not pull so much that it completely cleans the bowl, but if the dough is too sticky and is not pulling away from the sides at all, throw a small handful of flour into the bowl to make it less sticky.
While the dough is mixing, lightly grease with olive oil a bowl large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size. Turn the dough out of the mixer into the oiled bowl. Wrap the bowl as before. Set dough aside at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Dust your work surface. Acting as if the round has four sides, fold the edges of the dough toward the center. Turn the dough over and return it, folded side down, to the bowl. Cover the bowl again with plastic wrap and set it aside for 45 minutes.
Dust your work surface again lightly with flour and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Divide the dough into six equal segments. Gently tuck the edges of each round of dough under itself. Cover the dough rounds with a clean dishtowel and let them rise for 5 minutes.
Lightly flour your hands and use both hands to gather each round of dough into a taut ball. Dust a baking sheet generously with flour and place dough rounds on the baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with the dishtowel and set them again at room temperature for 1 hour to proof the dough. (Or leave the dough on the counter to proof instead.)
To assemble and bake your pizzas: Prepare your topping ingredients.
Remove oven racks from the oven and place a pizza stone on the floor of the oven if it’s gas; place on the bottom rack of an electric oven.
Preheat oven and the stone to 500 degrees, or as hot as your oven will go, for at least 1 hour. Create a pizza station that includes bowls full of olive oil, kosher salt and other necessary ingredients. Have a bowl of flour ready for dusting your countertop. Have a bowl of semolina ready for dusting your pizza peel.
When your dough is ready, generously flour your work surface and place one round of dough in the center of the floured surface. Dust the dough lightly with flour.
Using your fingertips as if you were tapping on piano keys, gently tap on the center of the dough to flatten it slightly, leaving a 1-inch rim untouched. Pick up the dough, ball both of your fists, and with your fists facing your body, place the top edge of the dough on your fists so the round stretches downward against the backs of your hands, away from them. Move the circle of dough around your fists like the hands of a clock so the dough continues to stretch downward into a circle. When the dough has stretched to about 10 inches diameter, lay it down on the flour-dusted surface.
Brush the rim of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle kosher salt over the surface of the dough. Dress the pizza how you have chosen, making sure to leave a 1-inch rim with no sauce or toppings around the edge.
Dust a pizza peel with semolina and slide the pizza peel under the pizza with one decisive push. You are less likely to tear or misshape the dough with one good push of the peel than several tentative pushes. Reshape the pizza on the peel if it has lost its shape. Shake the peel gently to determine whether the dough will release easily in the oven. If it is sticking to the peel, carefully lift one side of the dough and throw some more semolina under it. Do this from a few different angles until there is semolina under the entire crust.
Open the oven door and slide the dough onto the preheated stone. Again moving decisively, pull the peel toward you to leave the pizza on the stone. Bake the pizza until it is golden brown and the rim is crisp and blistered, 8 to 12 minutes. Cooking times vary depending on the power of your oven. When the pizza is done, slide the peel under the crust, remove it from the oven, and place it on a cutting board or round. Use a rolling pizza cutter to cut the pizza.
Per crust: 486 calories (8 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 93 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein, 895 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Mary Lou Glynn’s Pizza Dough
Most restaurants guard their pizza recipes, but even if they shared, the quantity would be too much for the home cook to handle. This recipe is from Quillan Glynn’s mom, Mary Lou Glynn, and is the one he uses to make pizza at home. The recipe can be doubled.
Makes 2 (9-inch) pizza crusts
1 tablespoon dry yeast, add 3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Your choice of toppings
Combine yeast and warm water; allow to sit 5 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble.
Add oil, sugar or honey and salt and stir. Continue to stir, adding 1 cup of flour at a time until a dough forms. You may need to add a bit more flour so dough isn’t tacky. It should be smooth. Work with hands and make a ball and place in lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in volume.
Roll and pat dough into a lightly oiled pizza pan. Paint lightly with pureed tomato sauce and add desired toppings. Bake in 450-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until crust is done.
Per pizza crust: 537 calories (14 percent from fat), 8 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 99 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, 1,071 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.
No-Knead Pizza Dough
Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery supplies bread to New York City’s finest restaurants. But it was his no-knead bread dough recipe, printed in the New York Times in 2006, that propelled him into the spotlight. He also owns a pizzeria, called Co., which produces bubbly and chewy pies based on the same simple concept.
Makes 4 (12-inch) pizza crusts
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature
In a large bowl, mix the flour with the yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended (the dough will be very sticky) and forms a ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 12 to 24 hours in a warm spot, about 70 degrees.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and lightly sprinkle the top with flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Generously sprinkle a clean cotton towel with flour and cover the dough balls with it. Let the dough rise for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, placing a pizza stone on a rack in the oven.
Stretch or toss the dough into the desired shape, and cover with sauce and toppings. Transfer to oven and bake on top of a very hot pizza stone 25 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is brown and the cheese is bubbly.
Per pizza crust: 342 calories (2 percent from fat), 1 gram total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 72 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams protein, 801 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.