Here’s an informal write-up from my friend and fellow chowhound Mark Lattanzi. The featured title is My Pizza, by Jim Lahey–the same Lahey whose no-knead bread made such a splash a few years back. Mark and his wife Cindy are part of my own local food-wackjob community, and this foray was solidly in their tradition of beta-testing recipes most people either avoid or don’t have time to try more than once.
Incidentally the problematic broiler he mentions is the one we both have–ceramic infrared broilers built into our Blue Star ranges. I like mine and find it powerful enough, but I agree it’s too small.
Thanks for lending me the My Pizza book. I tried out Lahey’s technique twice (once with dough Cindy made, once with his no-knead dough). The technique has promise but frankly, I think Blue Star broilers suck – too small to get good coverage on the pie, and kind of wimpy to boot. So I can’t completely endorse the technique as I think our ovens are at a distinct disadvantage.
I also think that switching from oven to broil settings, while giving you a char on top, robs heat from the stone. The dough was never cooked enough on the bottom by the time the top was done. I could move the rack one setting lower and see if that helps, but I think with Blue Stars the way to go might be 500F + convection.
What failed to inspire was the dough. As Cindy said, “none of that no-knead dough has any flavor.” It did have a 21 hour rise, but was unremarkable. It’s not enough that it bubbled and charred; I want my pizza dough to contribute to the overall flavor. It might improve after a few days in the fridge, which he suggests.
I think absolute beginners would be unprepared for the serious challenge of taking a very wet, very slack lump of dough and shaping it. I got better by the 4th pie but Cindy says that was because the dough sat out on the counter and got another rise. I disagree – there was no second rise, as there was no punching down and no kneading. The dough sat there like a wet, untouched lump, silently challenging me to make something remotely circular without tearing holes in it.
I think the book has interesting topping ideas. I made the shaved asparagus pie and it was fantastic. Lots of the others look very tasty too.