Category Archives: Pizza

Dough, sauce, neapolitan wood fired ovens, pizza making techniques

Template for the Temporary Brick Pizza Oven Arch, How to Determine the Radius of an Arch, and Removing the Jig

The temporary brick pizza oven I helped build got a lot of attention and a number of questions about the jig used to place the bricks into the arch. Here are the details and a rough blueprint:

-Legs: 2×4, approximately 12″ long (extending 9.25″ below the arch). Qty: 2
-Arch:  1/2″ plywood, 32.25″ wide, 5.25″ at its peak. Qty: 2
The legs extend below the bottom of the arch 9 1/4″ – however, the exact height was adjusted on-site (by cutting part of them off) by the instructor to match up with the size of the bricks he used. In order for the arched bricks to lock into place, you want the bottom edge of the arch to be just below the walls. On our oven, we did a stack of bricks on their side (about 9″) and one layer laying down (about 2″) . Measure your bricks and adjust the height of the arch accordingly.

The two legs are screwed in between the two sides of the arch

To draw the curve, you want to know the radius of the arch you’re building. After doing the weekend class, the instructor gave me the jig we used, but no specifics on the dimensions. Using an online circle calculator with the measurements of the arch height (5.25″) and the chord length (straight-line distance between the two ends of the arch; 32.25″), I was able to determine the radius of the arch to be 27.39″. With the radius, you just need to make a line at that length, one end fixed and one with a pencil attached to it,  and use that to draw the curvature.

If you don’t have internet access and need to figure out the radius, here’s the equation:
radius = (rise2 + (1/2 width)2) / 2 x rise

rise is the height of the arch
width is the length of the chord

Attach the two pieces of plywood with a few screws before cutting, and cut them as one piece to ensure that the curve matches. Use a jigsaw or a router set up to cut curves. Ultimately, the bricks will settle a bit so the curve doesn’t have to be cut perfectly, but try to get it close to make things easy.

Finally, I’m finished using my jig and am selling it cheap – anyone who is looking for one but doesn’t have the tools/time to make it (which would be weird, if you’re planning on building this oven), contact me via the link at the top of the page.

Good luck building!

Make a Perforated Pizza Peel for Improved Pizza Making

After getting to use Pizzahacker’s perforated pizza peel, I decided to make a DIY version for myself. The idea behind a perforated peel is that it reduces the amount of flour that gets underneath the dough when placing it in the oven (too much flour will brown up and taste bitter), and possibly helps keep things from sticking by reducing the amount of friction underneath the dough. Here are the steps I took to make mine; results of how well it works will be posted shortly.

Materials needed:
-Aluminum pizza peel (I’m using a 12″x14″ peel that works well for my oven and pizza size)
-Drill press
-Slightly larger drill bit (~3/16″)
-Larger drill bit (3/8″ or 1/2″) or countersink drill bit
-Flat piece of cardboard (I used a cereal box)
-Two printed pages of the perforation template (PDF)  (A grid I made that has the holes place every 1.5cm.)
-Flat piece of scrap wood to go underneath the peel when drilling
-Pencil, masking tape, ruler and scissors

Step one:
Trace the outline of your peel on the cardboard. Cut the coardboard to match the peel. Find the halfway point (left to right) on the cardboard and mark it with a line.

Step two:
Place the center dot of the template printout to match with the center line on the cardboard. The center dot is the seventh dot over.
I decided to leave a small gap in the front of the peel, so my placement had the printout taped to the cardboard portrait orientation, with the larger margin on the top edge.

The paper won’t be wide enough for the cardboard, so cut a strip from the second printout for the left and right side, and line it up with the dots on the first piece. Tape in place, cut around the the cardboard and tape the whole thing to the peel.

Mark which holes you don’t want to drill – I crossed them out with a pencil to leave a margin on the top and sides.

Step three:
Put the small bit into the drill press (if you don’t have a drill press, a hand drill will suffice but will add some tedium to the project). Place the scrap piece of wood underneath the peel to help minimize distortion. Slowly drill through each dot on the template.

With the 10″ drill press I was using, there was one small section in the center that I was unable to reach. I decided to leave this as-is, instead of doing it by hand. I don’t think it will make a big difference. Also, I used a small bucket as a riser for the handle of the peel, but make sure the level is pretty close – you want the surface to be as flat as possible so you don’t end up bending the aluminum.

Step four:
Using the middle sized drill bit, carefully enlarge each hole.
At this point I started to wonder if I was going to compromise too much of the peel’s strength so I opted for an alternating pattern of small holes and larger holes, with the front edge and both sides larger holes.

Step five:
Remove the cardboard template. The top holes will look pretty good, but you’ll have a fair amount of flanging coming off the drilled holes. Using the largest of the three drill bits (make sure it has a very slightly tapered head), VERY slowly drill the excess off the peel. Bevel the edges by pressing just part way beyond the surface of the peel. Do this for all the holes, flip and repeat on the back side – this will give you a nice smooth surface.

One thing not to do: wire brush on a grinder or drill. This won’t take the flanging off the drilled holes, but will leave a roughed-up, pitted area.

That’s it! Perforated pizza peel ready for action.

Wood Fired Pizza On the PizzaForge BBQ Oven with PizzaHacker

Jeff Krupman (aka PizzaHacker) is doing some very cool things in the pizza world. His oven, dubbed the PizzaForge (formerly called the FrankenWeber) is a true wood-fired pizza cooker that is ingeniously built onto a ubiquitous Weber 22.5″ grill. Even better than having designed a compact oven that can hang with the best of them, he’s sharing his creation by hitting the streets and selling his pies all over San Francisco. And, he’s fine-tuning the design and will be selling it commercially very soon. Totally awesome.

I first heard of Jeff in early 2010 when a few big blogs posted about his oven and pizzas (Make blog; Lifehacker). After exchanging emails and a quick meetup in LA a couple months ago, I got the chance to test Jeff’s pizza at an art event last Friday while visiting San Francisco. My excitement compounded when he asked if I’d like to be on oven duty for the night, as his regular helper was unavailable. Three hours of pizza making in San Francisco? A dream! I wish every Friday could be like that.

The pizzas cooked better than any I’ve ever made before, besting the one I made in the temporary oven last year. You just can’t beat the hot temperatures of burning wood and the convection of the shallow dome. 90 seconds per pizza, just like the best pizzerias do it. Jeff only uses top-grade ingredients as well, and the art gallery patrons were all quick to purchase and devour as many pies as he could make. The three hours passed by in a blink of an eye.

Jeff warned me that by the end of the night my mind would be swirling with thoughts, ideas, redesigns – he was right. He’s onto something phenomenal and his latest version of the oven shows some serious progress from the original version, and the next iteration should have some nice improvements that he described to me. I’ve got a list of ideas I’d like to see him add to it too.

One of my other discoveries was the excellence of the perforated pizza peel that Jeff uses to place the pizzas in the oven. Anodized aluminum construction, with slotted perforations that help the dough resist sticking (a problem that all pizza makers fear) and a knife-blade edge for ease of getting the dough on and off. The peels are expensive, and worth it. I’m going to be drilling my standard-issue metal peel to attempt a DIY version and will report back with results.

Quick and Easy Way To Clean Your Pizza Stone: Power Sander

Pizza stones tend to get dirty quickly – spill some sauce or cheese onto the 600ºF surface and it almost immediately turns into a burnt black mess. I usually clean my stone passively, scraping any excessive residue with a dough scraper and letting the high heat do the rest of the work for me.

At a certain point, a brown and black stone becomes unsightly and may even affect the moisture-absorb cooking aspect that a clean stone provides. When you reach that point, do NOT wash it in the sink or dishwasher. The material that stones are made from are porous and sand-like and will absorb and store the moisture inside, even after letting it dry for a period of time. That internal moisture will turn to steam and crack or break the stone as it expands.

When I bought my stone a few years ago (which I love, by the way – it’s outlasted all previous stones I’ve owned, and cooks great with the 5/8″ thickness), it came with a photocopied “Use and Care” sheet that suggested using a belt sander to clean the stone periodically. I decided to test this out with a palm sander.

The results were interesting: the surface returned to a smooth and clean feel, but it looked as if there may be a top veneer layer that gives an even appearance. Some of the spots that I sanded seemed to show a larger grain underneath as I sanded. I’m not concerned about this in any way at all. But I am going to keep my eye on a small crack that seems to be developing.

If You Can Cut and Fold Paper, You Can Make These Papercraft Pizza Toys

Another fun project to sneak in at the end of a slow day in the office: Pizza Papercraft

Print these pizza-based papercraft templates out (use the color laser printer to really make them sparkle), cut as indicated (an exacto knife and the metal ruler borrowed from the art department work well), fold in the right spots (I like to crease the straight lines with the back of the exacto blade to get a nice sharp corner) and ta-da! everyone at work will know that you love pizza when they see your adorable paper pizza toys on your desk.

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The first project is from a Tokyo-based Italian restaurant called Napule. The papercraft is an anime-esque pizza guy holding a pizza with a knowing wink. What does he know? That you love pizza. And that you just got paid for an hour of your time folding him together.

I found this on maurusso.com

(Interesting info: the pizzaiolo at Napule used to be Hisanori Yamamoto – winner of the 2007 World Cup Pizza Championships in Naples, Italy. He now runs Pizzeria Da Isa.)

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The second  project is a funny one: Papercraft McDonald’s Pizza in a pizza box.

This one folds together similar to the boxes that tormented any of us that worked their way through high school and college making pizzas. And if you’re halfway decent with Photoshop or Illustrator, you can tweak the image on the pizza box to be anything you want, instead of the disgusting failed attempt to make pizza by one of the worst food corporations ever.

I brought some vinyl records home from Italy once in a box I kept from a place in Naples – it had a great design on it, and if I can find the box I’ll scan it and post the image here for you to use.

I found this on Tektonten who also have a similar Pizza Hut Darth Maul papercraft project.

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Nothing overly complex about these projects – I’d like to see more pizza focused paper projects though. I’ve got a prize for whomever comes up with the best papercraft wood-fired pizza oven by the end of April. 🙂

Free LED Flashlight at Harbor Freight

UPDATE: You can find an active coupon for this deal on the Harbor Freight website. Good from April 15 to May 16, 2010.

Just saw this last night – print this coupon out, bring it to your nearest Harbor Freight tools and get a free nine-LED aluminum flashlight. A handy tool and good for dismantling and using for projects. Or use it as a bike light. I’ll be stopping by for mine later today. Offer good until Mar 24, or while supplies last.

If you’re looking for a good deals on name-brand tools, check out Amazon’s Tools & Home Improvement Value Center. A grab bag of discounts on quality goods. One example: Milwaukee 18v cordless circular saw w/o battery: List \$312, discounted price \$41.55.

Not a bad deal either: Thermo Tech infrared thermometer with a 12:1 distance to spot ratio and a top limit of 1022ºF – perfect for pizza ovens (my current IR thermometer craps out at 600º). 50% off today on Amazon. \$39.99 final price.

Pizza Photo Gallery: 36 Pizzas I’ve Made (and Sourdough Crust Info)

Hey pizzaphoto readers: If you like photos of pizza, make sure to follow me on twitter here.

Pizza: One of my favorite things to make. There are so many challenging variables in creating a perfect pizza, many that are nearly impossible to control completely. Oven temperatures, yeast activity, ambient humidity, protein content in the flour, etc. As hard as it is, even a failed pizza tastes pretty amazing. But when the variables all line up, it’s a truly magical experience.

I’ve worked in pizzerias in high school and college, taken pizza classes, and spent countless hours reading books and websites in search of the perfect pizza. And still, after many years of learning and experimenting and eating lots of great pies, I am still working to master many specific parts of the process. Currently, I’m working on using wild yeast for a rich flavorful sourdough. The first attempt worked out great–made the best batch of pizza I’ve ever made, but the second time the dough lacked the elasticity and strength to hold itself together well, and pulled apart easily while being shaped. Regardless, we cooked on the grill and the pies turned out very tasty.

Two resources that I’ve found that have been a good guide: the A16 Pizzeria cookbook (my favorite pizzeria in San Francisco), and S. John Ross’ Sourdough Bread: How To Begin website. And I just upgraded to a KitchenAid mixer finally, with 575 watts of dough-kneading power under the hood. I hope to have a solid grasp on the sourdough by the Spring. And then its back to the garden to grow those tomatoes…

Here’s a photo recap of four years of tasty pizzas I’ve cooked and enjoyed.

A Rundown of The Top DO IT Posts For Your Weekend DIY Inspiration

Jump into your weekend with some DIY projects. Here are a few of my favorite ones that I’ve posted here. Remember to take pics and send them to me too.

Near-Space DIY Aerial Photography for \$150

How to Make A Digital Pinhole Camera – Fast, Cheap and Easy

Arduino RC Controlled Lawnmower Project

Build a Six-Wheel-Drive ATV for Go Anywhere Fun

Build Your Own Camera Gyro-Stabilizer With a Spare Hard Drive

DIY Electronic Drum Pads for Less Than \$30

What My NY Pizzeria Safari Taught Me About Making Pizza

As a pizza making fanatic, I love visiting well-regarded pizzerias to observe and sample their handiwork, learn some tips, and gather inspiration. During my recent travels to New York City, I set out on a pilgrimage to eat at some of the top pizza on this side of the Atlantic.

My pizza safari focused primarily on Neapolitan pizza, a style that I absolutely fell in love with during a visit to Naples in 2003. A blazing hot wood fired oven cooks the pizza in 2-3 minutes (sometimes faster), leaving a slightly charred edge and bottom, but springy and chewy in the middle of the crust. For ease of comparison (and personal preference), I stuck to the basic and classic “marinara” style: sauce, basil, garlic.

In seven days I visited six pizzerias. There are many NY spots still on my list, including Di Fara, Luzzo, Lucali, Totonnos (Coney Island, closed for renovation – I unknowingly tried to go there), Roberta’s, Salvatore’s (Staten Island), among others.

The most surprising discovery on my trip is that while the wood-fired oven is a staple for good pizza, it is not the only fuel found. Some of the top rated spots in NY use coal burning, oil burning, or even electric ovens. Secondly, the reputation of the location’s oven doesn’t always correspond with the outcome of the pizza. You’ll see this in my notes below. And, the locations that touted their use of fresh, organic ingredients stood out for the richness of their pies.

I made a quick video for each spot, to preserve the memory, show the ambiance, and take a good look at the all-so-important pizza oven. Here are the six place I visited and some of my notes. Enjoy!

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