I’ve been working recently to try to improve my homemade pizza skills, inspired in part by my friend Ian who still hasn’t started his food blog. Ahem. Ian does great grilled pizzas, which are tricky because you can’t add the toppings until the crust is already cooking. I am too lazy to start a fire and I don’t have a gas grill so I’m contending with my apartment’s electric oven. I still get decent results, but recently I made my first trip to Pizzeria Delfina and picked up a few tips on topping a pizza from watching the guys behind the counter. They might be obvious but I tend to get stuck in ruts and could use the reminder, so I’m writing them here.
Egg, Chickory and Anchovy Pizza from Pizzeria Delfina
Photo credit: misocrazy
1. Don’t grate the cheese. The guys behind the counter ripped good-sized chunks of cheese off and scattered them sparingly around, which allowed all the elements to stand out individually. There was enough of it to get a little in each bite if you wanted, but it wasn’t so much a gooey underlayer as a distinct and separate topping.
2. Three toppings is a good rule of thumb. There were some exceptions to the rule but three seems just about right for tasting all of them without crowding.
3. Just about anything can go on a pizza. It’s basically a chewy, crusty bit of bread with some flavorful things on top. Why limit yourself?
4. Many things are better added after it comes out of the oven. This includes but is not limited to: herbs, parmesan, marinated fresh tomatos, seafood. Try doing a pizza with all uncooked toppings. See tip #3.
5. Chunks are good. This is basically an echo of tip #1, but worth repeating. If you want to taste each topping and not just get an amalgam of flavors, add each thing in a chunk so it stands out. Parmesan was added after cooking in fat curls made with a vegetable peeler.
6. Olive oil is a topping. It was drizzled over the majority of pizzas just before serving. Why? Because it’s delicious.
7. Time and moisture are the enemy. Wet toppings like go on last, after the cheese (aka, moisture barrier) has been melted. Pizzas do not sit and wait, if your server isn’t in eyeshot the chef will hand it to you straight over the counter.
8. The toppings should be fresh, the dough should not. Those wonderful crisp bubbles in the crust are the result of a process called retardation, which is a fancy way of saying you should make the dough ahead and leave it in the fridge for a day or so. Mmm, retarded.