Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pink’s Pizza / How to Resurrect a Pizza and How to Make Your Own

The Chronicle pretty much took all the wind out of my sails on Pink's. I had been working on a Pink’s post for over a week now, but that’s what I get for taking too long (the reason for my delay should be evident in the size of this post). I think most of my post is still valid, so without delay, here goes!

We ordered the Deuce, which includes goat cheese, spinach, portabella, sliced tomatoes, garlic and pesto. Pink’s consistently violates my number of toppings rule (1 meat, 4 total TOPS), but the Deuce gets a pass because the pesto, tomatoes, and garlic are sauce-like ingredients.

I like the fact that Pink’s has more gourmet ingredients on their pizzas (goat cheese, prosciutto), but they just skimped on the most important one: the crust. I just can’t take any pizza place seriously that uses one of those conveyer pizza ovens. It’s like a burger joint using preformed frozen patties. It’s just wrong. Predictably, the pizzas come out singed on the top, sorta cooked on the bottom, and nowhere near done in the middle.

How to Resurrect a Pinks Pizza

Alas, there is hope. We took the rest of the pizza home, placed a pizza stone in the oven and cranked the temperature to 500 degrees. Once preheated, leave it be for 10 minutes so the stone gets hot, then place directly on the stone and cook for 3 minutes. The cheese should be talking to you (sizzle sizzle) and the crust should have a slight crisp to it. Perfecto! If you’re dealing with a refrigerated Pink’s Pizza, lower the temperature to 400 and cook on the stone for 8 minutes. It won’t be as good as the lukewarm to 500 degree version, but it will be an improvement over the “fresh” Pink’s Pizza version.

As you can tell, I’m not too enamored with Pink’s. Asking the home cook to rescue a dish is a big no-no in my book. I see great promise with Pink’s, but they have to get rid of that cheater oven and the plastic shiatsu massage rollers before I take them seriously.

How to Make Your Own

I decided to post the recipe and technique I use to make a decent pizza at home. It takes a bit of work and requires lots of gadgets, but I think the results are well worth it. I use a modified dough recipe from the Dean and Deluca cookbook.

You will need the following cookware: stand mixer, pizza stone, flour sifter, digital food scale, and thermometer.

For the ingredients, you’re going to have to get out of the heights and head to Central Market (Westheimer and Wesleyan) for the flour. CM is the only place in town that I’ve been able to find Tipo 00 flour. Apparently in Italy, they grade flour on grind, not on gluten content, and Tipo 00 is a very fine grind, but with high gluten. The only substitution that works is cake flour, but that is a compromise due to cake flour’s low gluten content. You can mix AP flour to bring the gluten content up, but that won’t have the fine grind or the optimum gluten level. I’m not a trained baker, so I’ll leave it to others to comment on a good cake flour/AP ratio that might work.

About ten years ago I was able to find live active yeast in a number of grocery stores, but no more. They have it in CM, but it’s too expensive at $2.19 per block (you would need three!). I just use the jar yeast and get decent results.

Sift into a bowl:

  • 350 grams of sifted Tipo 00 flour
  • 25 grams of sifted AP flour
  • ¾ tsp of fine sea salt

Heat in microwave for 60 seconds (that’s what mine takes), or until reaches 105-115 degrees:

  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup water

Stir in 2 tbsp dry yeast. Wait for 5-10 minutes for the yeast to foam.

Combine dry with wet ingredients in stand mixer (with dough hook) and turn it on to medium. Add spoonfuls of Tipo 00 flour every 30 seconds until the dough no longer sticks to the bottom of the mixing bowl. The dough will be extremely sticky. Form the dough into a rough ball and add 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and leave in a corner for two hours minimum. The dough should double in size.

Preheat the oven (with pizza stone) to 500 degrees. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and divide into four quarters. Form each dough quarter into a 10 inch circle by flipping the dough (flouring each time with AP) and pushing the dough from the center to the edges. Do not use a rolling pin! Transfer to a pizza peel/cutting board that has been coated with a layer of corn meal. Let rest to rise for at least 10 minutes, covered with a kitchen towel.

For those that want a doughy soft crust (like my 8 year old stepson), you’re ready to go once the oven is preheated. You really get best results when the stone has been heated for at least 30 minutes (one hour would be better). Jiggle the pizza crust on the peel to make sure it isn’t stuck then quickly apply toppings. Slide onto the stone and cook for ~8 minutes or until the cheese on the top is a bubbly.

This technique does a fair job of producing a good crust, but it won’t be crispy. The problem is that the stone doesn’t get hot enough to cook the dough at the same speed as the toppings and cheese. The stone really needs to be blazing hot, and a 500 degree oven won’t get hot enough.

For those that want a true New Haven style crust experience, I’ve had great results cooking the dough before I apply the toppings. Make sure you have your toppings ready, cook the crust for 3 minutes, take the crust out of the oven and QUICKLY apply the toppings, cook for another 5 minutes or until the toppings are bubbly.

Topping Recommendations

I’m picky with my toppings (see topping rule above). For the crispy crust, I generally only apply mozzarella cheese, gorgonzola cheese (just a small smear every three square inches) and basil strips. I always salt and pepper the pizzas before they get cooked and apply a tsp of olive oil after they come out.

I steer clear of the following toppings/condiments: pre-sliced pepperoni, hamburger, Canadian bacon, chicken, green peppers, raw onion, and ranch dressing. I generally only use fresh tomatoes (chopped or sliced), roasted garlic, cremini mushroom slices, and basil.

Happy pizza eating!

10 comments:

  1. Great crust recipe...can't wait to try it!
    Your choices for toppings are very similar to mine...besides the fact that I just don't "do" meat on my pizza anyhow

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  2. You can get live active yeast at places other than Central - I got some at the Kroger on West Gray. I did have to ask an employee to help me find it, and it was sort of hidden behind some Laughing Cow cheese bits, but it was there.

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  3. I'll check out the yeast at the W Gray Kroger. Hope it's not too much money. Thanks for the tip.

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  4. No pictures of the finished pizza? What a tease!

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  5. I'm sorry if you don't like their pizzas, but I think they far surpass any other pizza in this city.

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  6. Anonymous, we'll agree to disagree on this one. Although Pink's is far from horrible, the following is a list of places that I consider to be much better:

    Russo's
    Romano's
    Grimaldi's
    Heck, even Candelari's and NY Pizzeria are better

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  7. Just moved to the heights in March; and I actually think Pink's is good pizza. I would rather have Pink's than NY Pizzeria.

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  8. Your opinion is valid, yet weak at best. Why do people like you cling on to pseudo-knowledge and profess to know right from wrong? Naturally you would choose Grimaldi's and Russo's - that's what you learned from someone else. As far as a conveyor, sure wood is better (such as with grilling), but a good pizza is a good pizza despite the equipment used. Candelari's and New York Pizza? That's where you showed us all your true worth. A joke.

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  9. Romano's? You're kidding, right?

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  10. I just don't like the suace they use at pinks. Nor do I like the crust. My favorite is Brothers Pizza. The crust is the best and so are the toppings. I'm sure we all have different tastes and many people may not like Brothers and I can understand that. I use to be a big fan of Pizza Hut and there deep dish until I went up north to New Jersey and New York. Ohh man Brothers is the closet I've come to that taste. I've eaten pizza from Romano's (tasted like it came out of a frozen pizza box), NY Pizzeria crust is pretty good it's just the toppings I don't like. There just too damn big. I have the same problem with Fuzzy's pizza. They just load them up too much and overpowers the pizza. So I guess let me give you my list of great pizza's from best to worst.

    1. Brother's Pizza
    2. Pappa Johns
    3. Pizza Hut
    4. Fuzzy's
    5. NY Pizza
    6. Pinks
    7. Star Pizza
    8. Domino's
    9. Baron's Frozen Pizza
    10.Digorno
    11.Romano's Frozen Pizza

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