Learning to Make the Best Pizza in the World

Adam Platt wrote . . . . .

All great teachers have their own strange quirks. Why should master pizza professors be any different? This thought occurs to me as Enzo Coccia, who runs a world-renowned pizza academy and two of the finest pizza restaurants in Naples, shouts, “Attack! Attack!” just inches from my ear. He’s demonstrating the proper way to work the oxygen bubbles from a mass of sticky, fast-rising dough.

His chief lieutenant, Davide Bruno, has the stocky build of a drill sergeant and, during the course of the morning’s instruction, makes a sensitive pizza novice from Honolulu leak quiet tears in front of the wood-burning oven.

There’s also Michele Triunfo, the diminutive 81-year-old master baker who’s worked in pizza joints across this ancient Italian city since he was 12. He remembers when the Yankee GIs liberated the city during the war—“they brought with them the finest flour”—and the last time the famous volcano Vesuvius erupted, in the winter of 1944. He appears, Yoda-like, when Coccia summons him, dressed in natty chef’s whites, to offer runic bits of wisdom to the fretful students. “The finest dough, it should be soft, like a baby’s bottom,” Triunfo says. When events overwhelm, as they invariably do, he throws his hands in the air and laughs.

Don Triunfo is laughing now. I’m attempting, after slamming at the dough like a wheezing prizefighter, to master what Coccia likes to call “the delicate dance” of proper Neapolitan pizza making, which includes shaping fresh dough into little panetti balls, as smooth and round as plums. They’re then molded into pie shapes, which is accomplished with a practiced sideways flip.

To Triunfo’s amusement, the balls I produce are lumpy, like sticky chunks of volcanic rock. “Don’t worry. It’s your first time,” he reassures me. When my pies are shaped like teardrops and elongated water balloons, his voice is more urgent: “Don’t rush. It will turn into chewing gum!” As we move one of the pies toward a roaring oven, he throws up his hands again, and he’s laughing so hard, I think he’s about to cry.

“This is a disaster,” the old baker says. “Now you are sweating too much! A good pizzaiolo does not sweat into his dough!”

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Read more at Bloomberg . . . . .

Cooking Class: Remove Seeds from Chillies

1. Remove the stalks from chillies.

Cut each chili in half lengthwise.

Using a small sharp knife, scrape out the seeds and fleshy white ribs from each half.

Cooking Class: How to Make Red Pepper Garnish

Procedures

Use scissors or a sharp knife to diagonally cut off a piece about 2/3-inch from the tip of the red chili pepper.

Or cut straight across the red pepper to remove a 2/3-inch piece from the tip.

Make long, uniform cuts from the cut tip in toward the stem end. Continue to cut around the pepper.

Place the garnish in water and soak about 1 hour or until the petals open.

Cooking Class: Homemade Barbecue Sauce

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Sauce vs. Marinade

It’s important not to confuse a marinade with a sauce. A marinade is a vinegary, acidic mixture used to treat meat before it’s cooked; the vinegar’s acid breaks down the fibers in the meat, tenderizing it and adding flavor. A marinade should never be used as a basting sauce at the end of cooking or as a table condiment. Unless you’ve boiled the marinade, bacteria from the raw meat could still be active.

Barbecue sauce, on the other hand, contains a naturally high level of sugar from the tomatoes (and, in most cases, additional sugar on top of that) and should be applied only to meat that’s been almost fully cooked. If sweet sauces are used to baste meat before or during the cooking process, they will caramelize and burn it.

Cooking Class: How to Make Chinese-style Tomato Garnish

Procedure:

Cut a tomato in half lengthwise. Turn the tomato cut side down. Make a diagonal cut toward the center and about 1/8 inch from the middle of the tomato half. On the other side, 1/4 inch from the first cut, make another diagonal cut down toward the center of the tomato. Both cuts should meet and form a wedge.

Make several diagonal cuts in the same manner at 1/4-inch intervals. The final cuts will produce two wedges.

Remove the two wedges. Starting at the pointed end, cut the skin, and attached meat, down to two-thirds of the length of the tomato wedge. Gently bend back the skin from the rest of the wedge to form a petal. Repeat this procedure with the other wedge. Return the wedges to their original place.

Gently move each tomato slice, as illustrated, to form a “tiers’ (layers)


Plated Dish