I figured I might take a moment to answer the most common questions people have about the pizza I make.
🚨 Before We Begin
Pizza isn’t a monolith, just like Italian culture.
I’m sharing what works for me, and what I enjoy. My approach—much like my worldview—continues to evolve and grow.
What is your dough recipe?
I oscillate between 2 dough recipes that work best based upon my current kitchen situation:
- Vetri Dough: Al taglio dough at 80% hydration with a 72-hour cold ferment, from Marc Vetri’s Mastering Pizza: The Art and Practice of Handmade Italian Pizza, Focaccia, and Calzone.
- Beddia Dough: Basic pizza dough recipe with a 24-hour cold ferment, from Joe Beddia’s Pizza Camp: Recipes from Pizzeria Beddia, as made available over at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Lots of things determine which dough I use. What’s the weather like? How much free time do I have on my hands? And most importantly, when do I want to eat pizza?
I find I use the Vetri dough more often in the winter. Something about the coldness and dryness of wintertime that lends itself to a longer ferment with higher hydration. The Vetri dough is also an excellent choice if you don’t feel like using any appliances or want to avoid getting your hands mucked up with flour. (Yes, PQ is lazy like that sometimes.)
Vetri dough requires 3 rounds of mixing the dough by hand, all separate by a resting period. During this stage, I’ll leave the dough on the counter, covered in saran wrap. Once the mixing is completed, it goes in the fridge for fermentation.
Now that it’s summer and Philly is approaching High Gross Season, the Beddia dough is in rotation. I don’t know what it is about this season that makes me want to throw the oven on at broil with no air conditioning, but that’s just who I am.
For Beddia dough, I’ll mix the ingredients, cover in saran, let it rest on the counter for about 30 minutes to an hour, then store in the fridge to start the fermentation process.
What flour do you use?
Regardless of dough, 50% of my flour is store bought all-purpose flour (AP). Whatever’s on hand at HMart or Aldi. I’m not picky. My goal is to get some nice bubbly action happening, and AP helps facilitate that.
The remaining half consists of one of the following:
- Off-White Bolted Bread Flour from Lost Bread Company.
- Castelveltrano Flour from Molini del Ponte (Castelveltrano, Sicily), available through Gustiamo.
Lost Bread Company is an amazing local bakery and sells flour for home use. Their wheat is supplied by a farm in Upstate NY. They also spearhead Project Tamale, which supports Philly’s community of Latino cooks and chefs during the pandemic.
Molini del Ponte (MdP) is located in the Trapani province, and dedicates its work to preserving the ancient grains of Sicily (such as Tumminia, Russello, Maiorca, and Perciasacchi), and works with regional growers to ensure these grains do not go extinct.
The Castelveltrano is a blend—30% Tumminia, 70% a mix of other Sicilian varieties—which makes it a little easier on my wallet than trying to buy bags of individual varieties. This is a dense, high protein whole grain semola flour that’s great for bread making of all kinds.
I also recommend Four Worlds Bakery out here in West Philly—not just an excellent source of flour, but all sorts of baking supplies!
What’s with all the tray pies?
I regret to inform you that Pizza Queen does not live in a Pizza Castle. Unfortunately our kitchen range ranks among the worst I’ve ever had in an apartment rental, barely coming in at 450°F on broil (which is what I use for cooking pizza).
My dad (remember, he owned a pizzeria!) made both rounds and squares, so I am quite good at slinging round pies, but I lack sufficient countertop space for it. So tray it is!
Sicilian food traditions employ the “square” format for sfincione and its regional variations, and can be found across Italy in countless iterations. If you’ve ever been to Pizzarium Bonci in Rome, you’ll understand why a good tray pie is a unique joy.
For me, I particularly enjoy tray pies that don’t have a greasy bottom and do have maximum fluff—what I like to call Pizza Clouds.
To accomplish this, my objectives are:
- Handle the pizza as little as possible.
- Evenly space out the bubbles formed in the fermentation process.
First, I take my dough out of the fridge and while it is cold, scrape directly into an oiled tray. Drizzle with olive oil and let it come to room temperature, which usually takes 1-3 hours, depending on the weather.
Next, I gently press out the dough from the center. I mean it—be gentle. Though it’s mainly designed for working on a floured surface, this video on YouTube is a good overview of the process. I don’t worry too much about it getting to the end of the tray. I think mostly about getting the dough evenly distributed across the tray.
Last, I’ll crank up the oven and wait for an hour, just to give it a little bit more rising action before putting on tomato sauce and whatnot.
What goes on top of your pies?
I’m a minimalist at heart, so for the most part it’s just tomato sauce, salt, and pepper, with a light dusting of dried chili flake, and zata’ar. If there’s a veggie in the fridge needing to be cooked, we’ll do that.
The tomato sauce is made by me, every week, with whatever tomatoes are available. Winter means tiny cherry tomatoes, as they’re typically sweeter; warm weather means I can rely upon the great tomatoes available in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The doldrums of winter means a touch of estrattu is added, as opposed to its summer counterpart. (This summer I hope to preserve my own.)
Mr. PizzaQueen is vegan, so we typically forgo the cheese on the pie, but I’ll add a dusting of grated cheese to mine or whatever formaggio is on hand.