The Pizza Chef: What’s your style?
Diana ClineFeatures Business and Operations In the Kitchen Ingredients Trends
You could say that every pizza ever made has a style, and every pizzeria has a signature style. From the crust to the sauce and chosen cheese blends. How did you develop yours? Do you tell that origin story in your marketing? Many old-school Italians I know say that their recipes came from their nonna.
Some pizza styles are regional, like New York, Chicago deep dish, Chicago stuffed crust, Chicago cracker thin crust, Detroit Pan, hand-tossed, pan, California, Roman, Neapolitan, Sicilian, Grandma, and gosh, more than I can mention.
Some styles of pizzas are indicative of the type of oven that’s used to bake them, such as wood-fired, brick oven and coal-fired. Wood- and coal-fired pizzas are lightly sauced and topped. They also have distinctive charred spots on the crust. You can’t bake a traditional North American style pizza, loaded up with sauce, cheese and toppings in a 900 F degree wood-fired or 600 F degree coal-fired oven.
Some say the water is extremely important to the style of pizza. New York-style pizzerias swear by it, and, if you’ve read any of the Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto’s research on water, you realize there could definitely be something to it.
Many pizza dough recipes call for a set hydration and a definitive fermentation period. Recipes like poolish, tiga and biga call for the recipe to be completed over a few days, rather than hours. Some dough recipes develop their flavours from beer, wine, or sourdough, or a signature starter that has been fed for as long as the pizzeria has been operating. These all make great origin stories.
Some pizza dough recipes call for special flours: high protein, 00, spelt, whole wheat, flaxseed, sesame seed, barley or a combination of them. You name it, there’s a recipe for pizza dough using them. And then there’s a whole variety of new style of pizza crusts made with rice flours, cauliflower, coconut and/or almond flours. Many of the latter cater to a gluten-free market, which has seen exponential growth since 2015.
Coming back to your style for your pizzeria, how would you define it? I’ve always said that at Diana’s, we specialize in great-tasting, gourmet pizzas, and I classify our style as a “North American style” of pizza: loaded with sauce, cheeses and toppings, on a hand-tossed crust. We currently make seven kinds of dough from scratch: original, 100 per cent whole wheat, Moosehead beer, crispy thin, dill pickle, cauliflower, and gluten-free, and the first three we offer in thin, medium and thick options for desired thicknesses. Years ago, we also offered a deep-dish style pizza, but when I reopened we didn’t bring it on the new menu.
Some independent pizzerias have brought in a new style of pizza in the last two years, adding a new dimension to their menus. From what I hear, Detroit pan style seems to be the new Grandma. As long as you have a standard type of pizza oven, meaning, one that can consistently hold a 500 F degree temperature, the main things you need for Detroit pan are the actual pans (8-1/2” x 12-1/4”), a sauce warmer, or a way to warm your sauce for this application, and a warm prep spot to allow the dough to rise, twice, in the pans.
I reached out to fellow independent pizzeria owner Thomas Schneider of Tommy’s Pizzeria in Winnipeg, who specializes in this style of pizza, to ask a few questions.
What attracted you to bring this style of pizza on your menu?
“I love the taste of it, the hardened cheddar around the crust – it’s delicious. I like that it’s cut into square slices, and you can load it up with a lot of different toppings because it holds up better. And I like that the sauce is on top.”
What kind of equipment considerations do you need for Detroit pan?
“A lot of pans, and they’re not cheap. I get them from LloydPans. Also, a sauce warmer, or a way to warm your sauce.”
What key ingredients do you stock specifically for Detroit pan?
“Lard, to line the pans. We put lard in the pans, then stretch out the dough in the pans, and let it rest at room temperature for a minimum of 18-24 hours. We only do 12 medium and 12 large every day, and when they sell out, they sell out. “
Tell me about the bake process for this style?
“Each one takes 30 minutes to make and bake. When we get an order for one, we start by parbaking the crust in the pan, then pull it out, top and cheese it, making sure the cheese is topped all the way into the edges and corners, then bake it some more. Finally, we ladle warm pizza sauce on top. The sauce has to be a certain temperature. You don’t want it to be cold, or room temperature.”
What would you tell other independent operators who may be thinking of adding this style of pizza to their menus?
“Make sure you do research and know how to do it properly. We use the same flour as we do for our other dough, a top-quality high-protein flour. We also use the same pizza sauce that we use for our other style of pizza, keep it simple.” | CP
Diana Cline is an award-winning pizza chef, a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating operational systems and marketing to help operators grow their business strategically. Contact her at email@example.com.
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