It’s become a Sunday night tradition to bake a pizza using Peter Reinhart’s whole grain pizza dough recipe from his whole grain bread book. Yesterday I bought his 2003 book on pizza. I don’t know that I’ll be giving up the whole grain dough for a more traditional white flour crust, but this evening’s pizza will feature one of the sauces from the book. We had been using a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but Reinhart says that the two tricks to a great pizza sauce are a bit of acidity (vinegar or lemon juice), and not overcooking the tomatoes. Since we’re using canned crushed tomatoes, which are already cooked during canning, he claims cooking them a second time is unnecessary and will dull the flavor and brightness of the sauce. We’ll find out.
The book starts with his hunt for the best pizza in the world, which takes him to Italy, New Haven, Philadelphia, Providence, New York, Arizona (where the best pizza was, believe it or not), and several other cities. His conclusions at the end are that the are great pizza places that are great because of their context (the neighborhood, local traditions, your memories of the restaurant, etc.) and those that are great because they have a dedicated pizzaiolo that makes every pizza in the place. That sort of pizza parlor is rare, and so most good pizza is contextually good but not great. Regardless, next time I visit any of the cities in the book, I’ll have to check out some of the places he reviews.
The rest of the book discusses what it takes to make good pizza at home, including setting up your oven, and making the dough, sauce, and toppings. He also has a detailed section about grilling pizza using techniques he learned from George Germon in Providence, who invented the style. There are a wide range of interesting recipes after this section. My only complaint with the second part is that the dough recipe ingredients are given only in volumes, not weights. He probably did this to make the recipes seem easier for a more general audience, but weights would have been helpful for those of us who regularly bake bread.
But that’s my only complaint. The first section is entertaining and is a great introduction to the variety of styles of pizza being made around the world, the instructions are solid and easy to follow and there are a lot of recipes to choose from. Finally, the publisher (Ten Speed Press) spent the money for a sewn binding, which means the book should last a lifetime and will lie flat without breaking.