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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

DeFazio’s Pizza Class


I was able to attend DeFazio’s last schedule cooking class Sunday afternoon. This isn’t to say that they are stopping it – they’ll start it up again later. Perhaps in the fall. You might be able to schedule a private class… they mentioned they had done a class with a Girl Scout troop earlier in the day. And Siena College seniors have a class scheduled for next week. Talk about busy!

I entered the shop to find that only a handful of people were there (yes! I wasn’t late!). On one of the tables was a platter with food for us to nibble on – two types of salami; I think some provolone; and marinated olives. There was also a jug of sangria made by Rocco’s wife. People asked for the recipe, but both Rocco and his daughter kept saying they didn’t know it. By the time everyone had arrived, two types of focaccia (whole wheat and multi grain, both organic) came out of the oven and ready for everyone to try. I had the multigrain with some herbed olive oil. Really good… much better than other focaccias I’ve tried in the past.

To start the class Rocco talked a little about the pizzeria and what makes them stand out from other places. The fact they make several types of dough sets them apart from the rest. They will be adding a new dough to their lineup – a rye that they’ve used in their ruben stromboli.

Focacia was the first topic he covered, and how to make it. He strongly suggested you use a deep dish pan and non-stick cooking spray (they use Pam). I’m guessing it was an 8 x 2 inch round pan that he used. Add a 1 1/4 pound portion of dough into the pan (here my notes might be a little wonky), cover,and let it rise in a warm spot for 45-60 minutes. After rising, use your fingers to poke holes in the dough and brush with olive oil before baking in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

Next was the deep dish tomato pie. It’s not on the menu, but it’s something he grew up eating. He quickly went over the tomatoes and olive oil ( they use, both American made. Unlike the sauce they use on their pizzas, the sauce for tomato pie is uncooked. The sauce is incredibly simple – a mix of two types of tomatoes (diced and crushed?), spices (basil, oregano, parsley, and garlic powder), and olive oil. The same amount of dough used in the focaccia is also used in this pie. Same sized pan as well, but the dough is pressed into the bottom of the pan and worked up along the sides of the pan to the top. The addition of the other ingredients are as follows:
  • Cheese - a mix of provolone and mozzarella slices and a generous sprinkling of pecorino (it’s added to everything pretty much)
  • Meat – in this pie he used raw sausage, roughly chopped up
  • Vegetables – for the vegetarian pie he used sautéed spinach (boiled & strained before cooked in a pan with same herbs used in the sauce, minus the oregano) and raw mushrooms
  • Sauce – no skimping here! Not all the way to the top, but close
Bake 25 minutes in a 425 degree oven. The pies were brought over to the import shop to cook while we moved on to stromboli.

According to Rocco, strombolis are the the easiest to make, but also the easiest to screw up. To prevent them from “exploding,” you just have to cut back on the filling. For 1 1/4 pound portion of dough, you should no more than a pound of filling. Roll the dough out into a long rectangle, 1/4 inch thick. Don’t put the filling all the way to the edges of the dough, there should be a border (1/4 inch? 1/2 inch?). Layers:  Meat/Veggie – Cheese – Meat/Veggie staggered on the dough. I don’t remember the ratios he used, but hey… you’re making it, so your call. A vegetable option he mentioned was cooking blanched broccoli with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes in a frying pan and mashing into a paste. The cheese mix they use is provolone and American (he swears by Land O’ Lakes). And of course pecorino.

Two other reasons for the explosion of filling is a) the stromboli is rolled too many times or b) rolled too tight. All you need is to fold it over three times and seal the ends. If you can tri-fold a piece of paper, you can roll a stromboli. Brush the top with olive oil and cut three holes on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.

Finally we had some hands on instruction. Here I am writing about everything we did and for some of you that’s fine. But I can’t just read about it… I need to do it myself – which is why a class like this makes it easier to understand. While he didn’t give out an actual recipe for the dough, he did mention what goes into it and the tricks that he uses.

After all the dough was portioned out, we were given a dough ball to shape and prepare for our take home box. Basically, you take the dough into your hands and pinch it in; place on the table and with the palm of your hand roll it around into a nice round shape before your smack it. Definitely see myself using this for releasing some aggravation! Brush on some oil and wrap in cling. For a better tasting crust, you have to wait at least a day before you use the dough. Also, dough should be at room temperature.

While we still had two more topics to go over, we ran out of time and finished the day off with pizza. Before we started the class, a couple had asked me what my favorite pizza was from DeFazio’s. Without really thinking about it, I said “buffalo chicken pizza.” And it’s true – that is a really good pizza. It’s what finally won them the AOA Pizza Tournament.
We (and by we I really mean Rocco and the rest of us were around the perimeter) made four different pizzas:
  • Roasted Red Pepper Pesto w/ Four Cheeses - roasted red pepper pesto (made in house) is the base, and topped with four cheeses which I'm not too sure about. I'm guessing provolone, mozzarella, pecorino, and... gorgonzola? Tasty, but the texture was unusal. Maybe too much cheese for me.
  • Buffalo Chicken - a generous dousing of Frank's on the dough, followed by shredded mozzarella, and then topped with diced chicken tossed in more hot sauce and gorgonzola. All the aspects of the chicken wing without the bone.
  • Margherita - while the buffalo chicken is my favorite at DeFazio's, this is my favorite pizza style. It's simple and classic... reminds me of what I ate when I visited Italy. The pizza goes into the oven with just the sauce and slices of fresh mozzarella. It is only after it's done when the pizza is topped with whole fresh basil leaves. Wish I could have had a larger slice!
  • Apple Butter w/ Banana & Honey - apple butter topped with sliced ripe bananas, cinnamon sugar, and a generous drizzle of honey. While the pizza was in the oven Rocco mixed together ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and regular sugar. Creamy and surprisingly not overly sweet, this was dolloped on each pizza slice. To be honest, I was going to skip out on this one - with all the food before it, I just didn't have the space. But went up anyways and I am glad that I did. Before I knew it, the slice on my plate was gone and I was seriously considering grabbing that last slice. Definitely going to try this at home.
If you get the chance, sign up for one of these classes. And if it's a pasta class, I'll see you there!

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