Deep Thoughts

A great philosopher (me) once asked (right now): can pizza every truly be disappointing?

The girlfriend and I hosted a couple of friends on Friday night. This is something we’ve gotten in the habit of doing because she wants to show off all the changes we’ve made to the house and I get the opportunity to practice my pizza skills. Oh, and friends and beer are cool, too, I guess. If you’re into that sort of thing.

The problem with friends and beer – from a pizza-making perspective – is that they can be very distracting. Case in point, I had spent a good deal of time getting everything prepped so that the pizza-making would be minimally intrusive on my hosting duties. But I managed to forget to take the dough out of the fridge to warm it to room temperature.

I did my best to get it up to room temp quickly, but alas the results were less than stellar. The pizza ended up being very thin in the center and had a hard time supporting the toppings. There were also some issues with ingredient sourcing; my local supermarket was out of fresh mozzarella.

Pepperoni and pineapple with shredded basil.

We also used different tomatoes for the sauce this time. Last time I’d used Muir Glen Fire Roasted Organic San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes and they were pretty good but had a very strong and distinct flavor. I liked it, but it was also markedly different than the jarred pizza sauce we’d been using. This time we opted for Cento whole peeled tomatoes, because that’s what Trader Joe’s had. I liked the more subtle flavor of the Cento tomatoes, but I had a harder time getting the sauce consistency and may have over-pureed them slightly, adding to a floppier, less stable crust.

Not my best work

Taste-wise the pizza actually came out pretty good. Not great, but not bad either. I definitely want to revisit the Cento-based sauce and do my pizza business with more focus.

Other assorted thoughts:

  • Next time I make pizza with pineapple, I intend to cook the pineapple slightly. Both to give it a slight char, but also to remove some of the moisture. This became a very soggy slice very quickly.
  • Something about switching between Bake and Broil on my oven affected the heat of the pizza steel. So did cooking two pies in close succession. The char and crispiness I wanted wasn’t present on this crust. Might be time to invest in an infrared thermometer.

Welp, that’s why we practice.

I’ll have some other updates coming this week related to beer; I’m currently dry hopping the red IPA and will be kegging that and entering it into a competition this week. I also (finally) got back into the boxing gym today after being out for two months with a bad back. So things are looking up…


Pizza, Party of One

Today was a day of cutting. This morning I got my haircut; this afternoon I help my friends cut down a bunch of trees; and tonight I cut into my first FROM SCRATCH homemade pizza.

So my friend Larry lives out in the sticks, and he had twenty-fucking-six trees fall during one of Nor’Easters in the past two weeks. Larry’s been awesome about helping me schlep appliances around, so I drove down with The Bean to help him toss logs around. I was late (there was a long wait for haircuts) so I tried to make up for it by going ham on some logs. I was – rightly – kept away from the chainsaws so I mostly just picked up tree parts and tossed them into piles.

But Larry also gave me a stash of beer from The Alchemist, which I brought home to drink with my pizza.

Ah, the pizza. So I’ve been reading Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish and it has been making me horngry. I finally got the chance to try my hand at some of the recipes in the book. I started with a batch of the “24-to-48 hour dough” with a sauce based on Muir Glen San Maranzo tomatoes.

This was my first time making pizza dough from scratch, and I fucked it up. Mixed the ingredients in the wrong order and probably over kneaded it. But it was still dough. The sauce I kind of nailed. So the dough didn’t expand as much as expected so I only got enough in the dough ball I selected for a 12″ pie. The sauce was pretty tasty; WAY different from what I usually do. The crust came out pretty good, but didn’t get the charring I was expecting.

Overall, a decent pie. I ate the whole 12 inches (hehe), so I clearly didn’t hate it. It does have the distinction of being probably the prettiest pie I’ve ever made.

Overall, a good first effort.

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Brew Day: Red(ish) IPA

Well, shit. Today was a productive Friday. In addition to my usual full workday (which on Fridays is not too strenuous) I managed to slip in a full brew day. I also tried out my first pizza dough recipe from Elements of Pizza, more about which at a later date.

Outside of missing the post-boil gravity due to a lot wind giving me a sub-optimal boil*, I hit my numbers throughout the day.

Today’s brew was my take on Troegs’ Nugget Nectar, one of my favorite easy-drinking beers. Generally speaking I find most “red IPAs” taste like hoppy cough medicine so I tend to avoid them, but Nugget Nectar tastes like a solid IPA that just happens to be higher on the SRM scale. Anyway, this beer – tentatively titled Ambrosia after the “nectar of the gods” – isn’t supposed to be an exact clone of NN, so much as a riff on it.

Here’s the recipe:

There’s more details on the BrewToad page for those who might be interested. Like I said above, the final OG came in a few points low so I dumped a cup of table sugar into the wort. It’ll probably dry out the beer a little bit, which would be pretty nice for the style. I’ve been drinking a lot of non-New England IPAs recently, and it’s a welcome change to not have a juice-bomb every once in a while.

* Regarding the shitty boil: I dropped some money on a pair of Anvil burners and basically set up a nice two-tier system with them. Problem is – especially with the shorter one – any time it’s windy it kills the intensity of the flame. I don’t think I screwed anything up while putting them together but I’ve noticed this issue multiple times. I’ve started keeping a partial lid on my brew kettle to keep the heat going, but I’ve missed my target OG a lot recently.

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This is only my second brew of 2018, but I’m definitely feeling a lot more confident with my brews this year than with some of my efforts from late last year. I’m hoping to have this batch ready in time for an upcoming competition.

I placed a stout and my shitty maibock (with a great name: Necro Romancer) into a different competition, so I’ll check back in with my scores/feedback.

Until then, time to drink some beers…

Last Night’s Pizza

Pepperoni and pineapple, with chopped red onions.

Pepperoni and pineapple with chopped red onions
Girlfriend’s side: pineapples, onions, sliced buffalo mozzarella, no pepperonis

Last night’s pizza was just alright. I used store-bought, defrosted pizza dough and I rolled it out too far in advance of the oven heating up. This made the crust a little chewy and a tad bland. I also just used the leftover canned sauce we had in the fridge. I’ll usually liven that up with some Italian Seasoning blend, garlic powder, crushed red peppers, and/or oregano, but I was feeling kind of lazy.

We’d just come home from a lackluster food festival and I was craving a decent pie. This was better than takeout, but not up to our usual standards.

I’m currently reading Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish (which is a great food-writing name), so it has made me hyper-critical of our pizza operations here at The Disco.

I’m planning to dive into making my own dough and sauce this week, so check back for that.

Step 1: Reboot Your Machine

Here we are again.

I’m a prolific blog-starter, not so much a prolific blog-writer. I realized the other day that I’d neglected writing for a while, specifically all non-journal writing but especially blog-writing. I was caught in a pendulum between having nothing to say and not being able to condense what I wanted to say into coherent thought.

So I hit the reset button.

All of the old posts are gone, and frankly that’s probably a good thing. I don’t know that the world needed any more dime-store philosophy or high school poetry. Like a lot of first (and second) drafts, I tossed all the old stuff in the virtual trash bin. I want to commit to something that doesn’t have the baggage of what came before; a blogula rasa.

This will be short-form. Most posts will be under 500 words. A welcome change for me from the whiskey-fueled epics that gave this blog its name, and hopefully a welcome change for you – the slacker trying to get through it at all at work. It will also be more focused (I hope); less diatribes about the futility of existence and more about fun shit like beer and pizza and punching stuff.

At least that’s the plan. We’ll see what the whiskey says…