Unleashing New York pizza in the Mountain West, fear of failure, and the otherworldly magnetism of The Homemade Pizza Effect
It’s Sunday afternoon. Why is your “Saturday Afternoon Pizza Post” coming out on a Sunday?
Because your pizza geek was overwhelmed this week. There’s also a takeaway from the result of that overwhelm that was unanticipated—and underscores the unique, otherworldly magnetism of Homemade Pizza Effect.
Saturday night was a run at New York-style pizza for a party of 10. The people at the party didn’t know there was a New-York angle. They just knew that Free The Pizza was in Utah, and they were getting an evening of pizza slinging.
There was high potential for failure. They also knew nothing about that. But this was a trial by fire for yours truly. These pizzas could crash and burn, leaving garbage and disappointment in their wake.
Your faithful pizza geek has been making New York-style pizza for many months. Working at sea level in a high-humidity environment, we’ve been testing various aspects of making a legit New York-style pizza in a home oven. We’re making all kinds of mistakes here so you don’t have to.
It was time to go public, even if on the down low. We had an unrelated business trip here to the Mountain West, and decided to experiment on an unsuspecting crowd—all of whom are either from or have lived in the nation’s fabled Northeast Pizza Corridor where NY-style pizza is the reigning monarch. So I decided we’d do this New York pizza night, which required lots of planning and procurement hot on the heels of flying in, hence the overwhelm.
The effort was madness. The air here in Utah is desert dry. A perfectly functional dough recipe was untried at elevation. Baking at elevation also requires halving the yeast—which changes things about the final product.
Additionally, the kitchen was not my own. The host’s Wolf range was brand new. In no way had I dialed in my methods for this particular stainless-steel beast of baking. (The differences in oven performance can be wide-ranging—especially between less-expensive consumer ovens and high-end luxury appliances.) The tools were all brand new and unused. There were pizzas on the menu that I’d never tried ever. (Call me a glutton for punishment covered in pizza sauce.)
There was no comfort zone. But on the night of the event, after 90 minutes of cocktails, canapes and conversation, it was time to begin slinging the pies.
The pizzas coming out of that oven did not resemble those which came before at sea level. These high-mountain NY-style pies were different than their low-country cousins. They were softer. They were darker. They weren’t always demonstrating quite enough oven spring. (The latter was operator error, no doubt. With so many people to feed, the pizzaiolo was making too many pizzas too quickly. The steel was not having time to recover its heat between pizzas.)
Nonetheless, the guests were enthralled. They were loving every minute and every bite and every single aspect of the show. This pizza was a revelation! The expression, “Oh, my god!” was heard more than once.
It was a raging success. I say this as the guy who grades his overall pizza performance that night at a B-minus. I was nowhere near 100% happy with the result. But this was clearly not about me, a guy who is his own worst critic.
We were witnessing the Homemade Pizza Effect in action. Homemade pizza creates an ecstatic charge. People love it. It doesn’t matter if the New York-style pizza paradigm was apparent in full force. It was still hot, fresh crust with bright, flavorful homemade sauce, melted cheese, and surprising, salty and savory toppings presented in an environment of joy and camaraderie.
People love pizza. It is the ultimate addictive food. It stimulates all of the taste and food-related pleasure zones. It elevates mood and maybe should even be considered a controlled substance.
Perhaps pizza should come with a warning label: "May cause joy and delight." One of the guests, a professional singer of some note, was effusive with her declarations of love. She speculated about why.
I said, “It’s easy. It’s essentially fresh bread, which is powerful. It’s very symbolic for people. The pie is round. It’s a communal food. Pizza is a big deal. And when it’s good, it changes everything in a room.”
Technically speaking, my New York pizza night was only marginal and full of errors. But for the audience, the effect was still glorious. Pizza—hot, fresh and fantastic.
The Homemade Pizza Effect is real. Friends love it when you make good pizza for them. Embrace it. Do it. Enjoy it.
It has ranked as a #1 Bestseller at Amazon in the Pizza Making category. That silly little homemade pizza guide, Free The Pizza! (A Simple System For Making Great Pizza Whenever You Want With The Oven You Already Have), is ready and waiting for you when you're ready to enjoy a Homemade Pizza Effect of your own.
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the bestselling, unusual and amusing how-to pizza book, Free The Pizza. Also known as The Pizza Geek and "Hey, Pizza Man!", Blaine is fanatical about the idea that true, pro-quality pizza can be made at home. His home. Your home. Anyone's home. After 20 years of honing his craft and making pizza in standard consumer ovens across the nation, he's sharing what he's learned with home cooks like you. Are you ready to pizza?
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