Tuesday, March 13, 2007

american pie in europe

Although one of Switzerland's official languages is Italian, the pizzas in Zurich are nothing like Italian ones. In fact, most are pretty horrible. So like everything else here (except cheese, bread and pastries), I have to make it myself. I finally got a copy of "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza" by Peter Reinhart and proper pizza making has finally begun in my kitchen. I tried the Margherita pizza with Neapolitan dough and it was great, although it must be enjoyed within minutes of exiting the oven before it was hardened into something else entirely. The dough is finally exactly what I've been looking for. It stays super crisp, it's flavorful, and it's thin - almost too thin. As I started to shape it, it quickly got paper thin and I had to handle it more carefully. My oven goes to about 280C and the pizzas cooked in 7 mins (with pizza stone). I tried a pesto pizza and it burned to a literal crisp after 4 mins - not sure why. I have a lot to learn and a lot of experimentation to do. But with this crust, I'm inspired. If only I could recreate my favorites from Pizzetta 211 in San Francisco...

Now for the book itself. Although the recipes are good so far, the pizza "hunt" story was disappointing. I prefer the more obsessive research style of a Jeffrey Steingarten, a man who tasted 35 ketchups on 10 large orders of fries in his "Festival of Ketchups, a grand competitive tasting." So the sparse tasting research done, or at least documented in the book, by Mr. Reinhart was pretty lame. His trip to Italy included only a couple tastings in select cities at the most recommended restaurants. When the "best" place was closed, he just tried another down the street since he was only in town for a day. Yes, this is probably a more efficient method but completely doable by any average pizza lover. I'd much rather read about a manic foodie devouring numerous samples all over the map, camping out for days if necessary, actually discovering something rather than just confirming the general consensus. He claims to have tasted many pizzas in New York, but text focuses on an uninteresting account of various "Ray's" pizza joints (which in his own admission, is already better documented in an independent film). To his credit, he does dedicate three whole pages to Pizzetta 211, my fave pizza place in my old San Francisco neighborhood. So clearly he has good taste (wink, wink). The problem is: where is the info? I could forgive everything above, if he eventually boiled his experience down into a detailed account of what makes each pizza style different and how these styles have evolved. Some of that is embedded in the rambling story but I had to work too hard, for too little. However, it still services as a cookbook and that's why I bought it. Enough said.

3 comments:

Margaret said...

Peter has just gone through a pizza-making frenzy phase. They started out good, but got more and more esoteric, until finally the kids refused to eat them. Are there any cheeses that work for you other than mozzarella?

tanya said...

Hi Margaret. I've just started my own pizza frenzy so I don't have a lot of suggestions quite yet. I've used goat cheese with roasted veggies, which I like because the tang of the cheese complements the sweetness of the onions and peppers. I also like the blue cheese with walnuts and carmelized onions. A couple recipes in the book suggest Gruyere or Fontina, so I'd like to try those too.

inga said...

Hi Tanya-
I've never tried or heard of (gasp!) Pizzetta 211 in S.F. - definitely will check it out upon our return....

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