Review of The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish

The Elements of PizzaKen Forkish's new book, The Elements of Pizza, is the new definitive book on the art of pizza. Following the wild success of his first book, Flour Water Salt Yeast, the owner of three Portland, Oregon eating establishments is sharing his secrets for perfecting pizza. Based on his knowledge, you would assume Forkish was a baker by birth, but that is not the case. After spending two decades in the tech field, he left Silicon Valley, followed his dream and moved to Oregon to bake.

In The Elements of Pizza: Unlocking the Secrets to World-Class Pies at Home, Forkish concentrates on the fundamentals of pizza in the first hundred pages before even hitting on the dough recipes. The first five chapters are devoted to The Soul of Pizza, Pizza Styles, Eight Details for Great Pizza Crust, Ingredients and Equipment, and Methods. These chapters are necessary to provide a full understanding of the bones of pizza making before undertaking the recipes. Forkish includes many photographs that guide us through stretching the dough, forming dough balls and more.

More than a dozen different types of dough are outlined from a quick "I Slept In But I Want Pizza Tonight" Dough to the 48- to 72- Hour New York Pizza Dough. A tutorial on wild yeast (levain) culture is provided and seems to be similar to making your own sourdough starter. Fermentation, shaping, refrigeration times are given for each recipe as well as a "sample schedule". Forkish outlines it all and makes it seem easy.

I challenged myself and made the 48 to 72 Hour New York Pizza Dough. We're NewKen Forkish pizza slice Yorkers, or were, and good pizza is hard to find here in Colorado. I make pizza frequently for my pizza loving family but I have a confession to make - I'm not a fan. I will eat a slice if I make it myself, but it's not my favorite choice for lunch or dinner. While I love to cook and bake and do try to challenge myself, I wasn't keen on starting a dough that would take days. Really, does it make that much of a difference?

I have to admit, I haphazardly followed the procedure and I am a convert. I bow to Forkish's methods because that dough was spectacular. I had some pepperoni sauce that I made for a pasta dish earlier in the week which I added to some sausage and mozzarella cheese and easy peasy - New York style pizza. The reason I mention haphazardly is to hit home the fact that the author's instructions are so spot on and organized that I was successful without total and complete concentration. The dough was easy to work with and I was able to simply stretch it out and make the thin crust that that my family loves.

The Elements of Pizza is for anyone who truly wishes to discover and learn the art of making great pizza from scratch. There are recipes for Meatballs, Vodka Sauce and Sausage Pizza, Oregon Basil Pesto and Burrata Flatbread and more. However, the book's greatest value is in the teaching of the basics for great crust that can open a whole world of creativity for the cook.

Jenny Hartin is an enthusiastic home cook who lives in Colorado, owns the website The Cookbook Junkies and runs the Facebook group also called The Cookbook Junkies. The Facebook group is a closed group of 30,000 cookbook fans - new members are welcome.

48- to 72- Hour New York Pizza Dough

Pizza ingredients

This dough uses a long refrigeration period - a standard practice in good New York pizzerias (though it's rare in Naples). The long, cold fermentation in the fridge lets flavors and mild acidity build and allows the proteins in the dough to break down just enough. This nets a more delicate and more flavorful pizza crust.

Because the dough is not as actively fermented, the crust is not as poofy-rimmed as a Neapolitan pizza; it's flatter. The toppings also stay put close to the edge of the pizza rather than being pushed toward the middle by the puffy rim.

New York pizzas usually bake at a lower temperature for many minutes longer than Neapolitan pizzas do, resulting in more moisture loss in the crust. This means a crisper pizza. When you slice a pizza made with this dough, the tips of the slices won't sag very much. For more detail on the relationship between oven temperature and dough hydration, see page 52.

Because of the stiffer dough in this recipe, I recommend using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook rather than mixing it by hand. It's just easier with a machine.

If you don't have a stand mixer but you do have a food processor, you can use that with the metal blade to briefly mix the dough (it works!). (While you're at it, put the plastic dough blade in the recycling. Gluten develops best when it's cut, not torn by blunt plastic.)

If you want to convert other pizza doughs in this book, such as my Saturday Pizza Dough (page 108), to a New York-style dough, substitute high-protein bread flour for 00 flour and use the same amount of water in the dough as in this recipe.

MAKES 3 regular dough balls
SAMPLE SCHEDULE Mix dough at 7 p.m., shape into dough balls at 9 p.m., and make pizza two days later (optimal) or on the third day (still pretty good).

1. Measure and Combine the Ingredients. Using your digital scale, measure 320 grams of 90°F (32°C) water into the bowl of your stand mixer. Measure 14 grams of fine sea salt, add it to the water, and stir until it's dissolved. Measure 1.2 grams (1⁄4 plus 1⁄16 teaspoon) of instant dried yeast. Add the yeast to the water, let it rest there for a minute to hydrate, then swish it around until it's dissolved. Add 500 grams of high-protein bread flour to the mixing bowl.

2. Mix the Dough. Using the dough hook, mix for about 90 seconds on the slowest speed. Do not overmix or the dough will be too elastic and tough once baked. The target dough temperature at the end of the mix is 78° to 80°F (26° to 27°C). With a wet or floured hand, remove the dough from the mixer, lifting it from the bottom so you don't tear it. Place in a lightly oiled 6-quart dough tub and cover it with a tight-fitting lid. Alternatively, use a food processor fitted with the metal blade: add the ingredients in the same order and pulse only until the dough has come together. Or you can mix this dough by hand, with one adjustment: add 400 grams of flour and mix until you have thoroughly integrated the flour and water, then add the remaining 100 grams of flour in stages until it's all blended in and no dry flour remains. Use the pincer method (see page 86) to cut the dough in sections with your hand, alternating with folding the dough to develop it into a unified mass. It's a bit of work, but it's doable. Add a few drops of water if you have to.

3. Rise. A rise of 2 hours after mixing the dough is all you need for this recipe. The rest of the fermentation will happen in the dough balls. This dough will expand about 40 to 50 percent of its original volume in this 2-hour period.

4. Shape. After the first rise, divide the dough and shape it into balls. Moderately flour a work surface about 2 feet wide. With floured hands, gently ease the dough out of the tub. With your hands still floured, pick up the dough and ease it back down onto the work surface in a somewhat even shape. Dust the entire top of the dough with flour, then cut it into 3 equal-sized pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a medium-tight round following the instructions on pages 88 to 91, working gently and being careful not to tear the dough.

5. Second Fermentation. Put the dough balls on one or two lightly floured dinner plates, leaving space between them to allow for expansion. Lightly flour the tops, cover with plastic wrap, then put them into the refrigerator. These dough balls will hold for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. They should be best at 2 days.

6. Make Pizza. Give your dough balls 90 minutes or so out of the refrigerator before making pizza to let their gluten relax.

Special thanks to 10 Speed Press for sharing Forkish's recipe for the 48- to 72- Hour New York Pizza Dough recipe with Eat Your Books' members.

1 Comment

  • Laura.Chicago  on  8/3/2016 at 10:48 PM

    The extra fermentation steps really result in complex flavors.

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