Every weekend, I review a cookbook in an attempt to lend some guidance in a field that has become overrun. These days everyone is writing cookbooks and it is incredibly upsetting to buy a dud and have it sit on your shelf for years – staring at you, mocking your poor judgment.
Do you like pizza? I mean. Do you really like pizza? Do you dream about it and could you eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? If the answer is yes, then the book “Pizza” by Diane Morgan and Tony Gemignani is probably for you.
The subtitle on this book is “more than 60 recipes for delicious homemade pizza,” and that is really the backbone of this book. I mean, some cookbooks claim to have a lot of pizza recipes but they throw in a calzone recipe or something. Not Diane and Tony. This is 100% pizza and how to make it. The only other recipes they give (for stuff like pesto and meatball) is for stuff that goes on a pizza.
Ingredients, Tools, and Techniques
The first 16 pages are short but they cover a lot and are pretty important. They explain every ingredient that they will use throughout the book including 14 different cheeses! I liked reading the ingredients because it got me pumped for the recipes I knew I could find in the later chapters.
As far as tools go, they keep it pretty simple only listing a few tools that they consider important. To start, no need for bread machines or processors, they recommend the hands and I would agree. When making pizza dough, get used to using the old hands. It’s the best way to do it, no question. Some other essentials are basic things like rolling pins and tongs or relatively cheap items like a pizza stone or a pizza peel. I would guess that for under $50 you could have a really nice pizza set-up that could make quality pies.
Always remember that people were making pizza before most of the gadgets that are supposed to help you make pizza.
The only real technique they go into at the beginning of the book is the classic tossing of the pizza dough. First off, it isn’t really essential to know how to toss dough to make a pizza, but it is fun. I think dough tossing is one of those things that is really hard to learn unless you see someone do it, but then it is really easy. However, they do a decent job of describing the process.
Neapolitan and New York
These two thin crust style pizzas are the first to get discussed in the book. They each get their own chapter because they are slightly different. I was happy to see the authors’ attention to detail. These are by far some of my favorite pizzas. Everything from a traditional white pizza to pizza margherita to some really original variations such as a pizza with artichokes, tomatoes, mushrooms, and prosciutto.
My only beef about these chapters is they leave out my home of pizza: New Haven. Seriously, New Haven has some amazing pies. Definitely under-rated.
The Thick Stuff
Ok. So I really don’t love Chicago-style pizza. I don’t hate it, and I will eat it very happily. But if you put a thin crust pizza and a deep dish pizza next to me, I will almost always choose the thin crust. I also don’t pretend to be an expert on deep dish. I could probably count on my hands the times I’ve had it. But there is a large chapter in the book on this variety and it appears to have every trick you would need to reproduce some darn good deep dish!
The two other styles addressed in the book are a California style (think bbq chicken!) and grilled pizza. These pizzas are very different from the other chapters and I really liked them. Really inventive things like Thai Curry Chicken, and a grilled pizza with smoked salmon and creme fraiche!
There is also a chapter on quick and easy recipes that I could sort of take or leave. Most of the recipes use pre-made pizza crust which I’ve never been very happy with. Once you make it from scratch, it is hard to go back. If you are really short on time, then there are some good ideas here.
In high school, we used to have 45 minutes for lunch and there was a Pizza Hut about 7 minutes away (yes we timed it). Every Friday we would take advantage of their all you can eat pizza buffet and scarf as much pizza as possible in 30 minutes. No matter what, I would also save a few slices for the dessert pizzas they had.
I don’t even have a huge sweet tooth, but for some reason I really like sweet pizzas. Something about the crusty dough and the sweet toppings make me very hungry. This chapter includes some apple strudel pizza, a berry pizza with mascarpone, and a very inventive cannoli pizza.
So, at the end of the day, this book is exactly what it should be. It is all about pizza and nothing else. I would say if you are interesting in baking some pizza at home and need some solid guidance and creative ideas, this book just might be for you!