Paprika-Infused Mozzarella

Infused mozzarella paprika pizza.

We contend that it’s fun to make mozzarella; it lets you experience the ingredient on a whole new level. Plus, once you do start making your own cheese, you gain an opportunity to make something that you can’t buy, like our infused mozzarellas, which are not only beautiful but also delicious. We developed a handful of flavored mozzarellas during a series of experiments, including ones infused with spices, fresh herbs, and flavored oils, before using them as a jumping-off point for creating different flavor profiles.

Combining creamy mozzarella with the bold, smoky essence of paprika, this recipe for homemade paprika-infused fior di latte mozzarella is a great entry point for learning to make your own cheese. While this mozzarella is great on its own, it will also take your pizzas to a whole new level. For example, our paprika-infused mozzarella pizza is topped with mascarpone cheese, paprika-infused fior di latte mozzarella cheese, fingerling potatoes, Spanish chorizo, and parsley while our basil-infused mozzarella pizza features classic Neapolitan pizza tomato sauce, basil-infused fior di latte mozzarella cheese, ricotta, heirloom tomato, basil, and olive oil. You can use these mozzarellas with just about any style of pizza, but we like them best on Neapolitan pizzas because the style showcases fresh mozzarella so well.

This recipe for paprika-infused fior di latte mozzarella incorporates our process for making uncultured homemade mozzarella, which, like ricotta (see page 338 in volume 2 of Modernist Pizza) is relatively simple to make. In all, this recipe takes around 2 hours to make, with about 20–25 min of active time. No special tools are required, although you will need a fine mesh sieve and cheesecloth to drain the curds as well as a kitchen thermometer and timer, which you’ll use throughout the cheese-making process. As far as ingredients go, make sure you have citric acid and liquid animal rennet on hand as well as calcium lactate to make a storage bath. The mozzarella is amazing fresh but can be stored for up to one week in refrigeration.

The technique for infusing the cheese with paprika can be applied to other spices as well as herbs and oils. Or you can give it an additional Modernist twist by vacuum infusing the mozzarella with wine, ponzu, or your favorite hot sauce. For additional infusion recipes, including saffron, fresh basil, garlic confit oil, and more, turn to page 337 in volume 2 of Modernist Pizza. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a home cook, we encourage you to use these as a starting point to experiment and create new infused mozzarellas of your own.

Interested in the fundamentals of making mozzarella from scratch? Be sure to dive into our Making Mozzarella blog for a comprehensive guide.

As you embark on your own mozzarella experiments, we invite you to share your culinary adventures with us on social media. We’re thrilled to be part of your journey and eagerly anticipate your feedback and thoughts!

 

 

Deep-Dish Tomato Sauce

Pizzaioli making deep-dish and Detroit-style pizzas apply the sauce à la minute, just before it is served. Both of these pizzas take a long time to bake, and the sauce can significantly impact that process. That’s because sauce contains a lot of water, and when it covers a thick piece of pizza dough, the heat will radiate very poorly and very slowly toward the center of the crust. Taking the sauce out of the equation from the beginning significantly reduces baking time. For these types of pizzas, we keep the sauce hot and spoon or pipe it on top immediately after baking. You can make the sauce up to 4 days ahead of time and reheat it.

Want to customize your tomato sauce flavor profile even more? After trying out this recipe, take a look at our Improving Pizza Sauce blog post.

 

Mushroom Comté Pizza

The mushroom and comté pizza is hands down one of our absolute favorite recipes from Modernist Pizza. The flavors and textures of the finished pizza are simply the best expressions of mushrooms that we could produce. This pizza is bound to be a hit at your next dinner or pizza party.

One of the most important components of this pizza is the pressure-caramelized shiitake puree that we use as a sauce. Not only does it concentrate the flavor of the mushroom, but the caramelization is also deeply enhanced by the method we use to make it. When we combine the effectiveness of a pressure cooker with our recipe for pressure-caramelizing vegetables – in this case, shiitake mushrooms – we obtain particularly rich results. The resulting sauce intensifies the caramelization of sugars and concentrates the flavor through the alkalinity of the baking soda and the heat buildup in the pressure cooker, resulting in a delightfully unique pizza sauce.

Oh, and then there are the truffles to top it all off.

Direct Thin Crust Pizza Recipe

We encountered thin-crust pizzas of various stripes throughout our travels, from the U.S. Midwest to São Paulo, Brazil. Admittedly, we really love a good thin-crust pizza. When done right, they’re incredibly satisfying and a nice, light departure from their counterparts with thicker crusts. These pizzas go by different names but share some fundamental traits: thin-crust pizzas are shaped with a rolling pin or dough sheeter, are typically sauced and topped right up to the edge so that there’s minimal rim, have little interior crumb to speak of, and bake up with a firm base that doesn’t droop when folded.

When we went about creating our own thin-crust doughs, we aimed to create one that could easily be rolled out thin but that’s sturdy enough to handle the toppings and still yield a great crunch. The pizza has a little bit of rim that gets the crunchiest (we like having a handle to hold our pizza). Thin-crust pizza is also an excellent choice for outdoor grilling on a charcoal or gas grill. We also wanted a dough that can be used the same day you make it, if you choose to.

This direct thin-crust pizza dough is a variation of our master recipe. We developed this time-saving technique with busy schedules in mind—you can make this dough, from start to finish, in under 2 1/2 hours without compromising on quality. It yields a crust that is sturdy, crunchy, and has great flavor.

Because you are rolling this dough so thin, be sure to use fine-ground cornmeal in the dough – anything coarser and you run the risk of it ripping the dough as you roll. The other downside of very coarse cornmeal is that if it doesn’t absorb enough moisture from the dough, it can be too crunchy to chew easily. If all you have is coarse-ground cornmeal, run it through a food processor or spice grinder first.

Follow our recipe below to make your own thin-crust pizza. You’ll get three 50 cm / 20 in pizzas or four 40 cm / 16 in pizzas, so feel free to experiment with a variety of topping combinations.

A slice of thin crust pizza with many toppings.

Detroit-Style Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Pizza and Buffalo chicken wings? How we could not combine two of our favorite things. Based on the classic sports bar or brewery appetizer that is originally made with chicken wings, this pizza is made with boneless chicken thighs instead to make it easier to eat. It is difficult to overcook chicken thighs, allowing you to fry them very crispy without worrying about the meat drying out, which happens with leaner parts of the bird, such as the breast. You want them extra crispy so that they stay that way even after they have been tossed in sauce.

This recipe is for a Detroit-style pizza, but you can adapt the recipe to any style you want using the directions in Modernist Pizza. Prepare to be bowled over by this addictively-good pizza. It’s the perfect recipe to make for Super Bowl and March Madness parties or to simply celebrate a victory any day of the week.

Detroit-Style Pizza Dough

You can’t talk about Detroit-style pizza without talking about cheese. The crust has the light, airy crumb and crispy bottom characteristic of all the bread-like pizza crusts. What differentiates a Detroit-style pizza is that the edge of the dough is bordered with cheese, applied so that it comes right up against the sides of the baking pan. In the oven, the cheese melts and bakes into a golden-brown, crunchy crust. The best pieces to get are the corners since they have two crispy sides to them, but the center ones are still plenty delicious.

And not any cheese will do. For a traditional Detroit-style experience, it has to be Wisconsin brick cheese mixed in equal parts with pizza cheese or cheddar cheese. Wisconsin brick cheese has a rich flavor best described as being like melted butter. If you can’t find brick cheese, use a combination of white cheddar and mozzarella.

While the other bread-like pizza doughs require a preferment, our Detroit-style master dough can be made from start to finish on the day you want your pizza. After being mixed to nearly full gluten development, it gets two 15-minute bench rests separated by a four-edge fold. This allows the gluten strands to relax, making it easier to fit the dough into the pan. This is also the only one of our bread-like pizzas that is baked to order—all the others are baked ahead and then reheated—but this one can also be easily reheated with positive results.

Another distinguishing characteristic of Detroit-style pizza is the inclusion of semolina flour (about 15%) along with the bread flour, which adds flavor, gives the dough a nice color, and makes it a bit easier to handle since semolina contains less gluten-forming proteins. Because this is a “day of” or direct dough, with instant yeast the only leavener, we kick-start its fermentation in two ways: by adding a lot more yeast (0.9%) and by increasing the water temperature to 30–30.5°C / 85–87°F (versus the usual 21°C / 70°F). You typically sacrifice some flavor with a faster fermentation, but that is not the case with this dough.

Candied Fruit Vollkornbrot

In German, vollkornbrot means “whole-grain bread,” and the name is apt. One of the hallmark breads of Germany, vollkornbrot is a no-nonsense rye loaf. The rye is integrated into the dough in many forms: a rye levain, cooked rye berries, rye flour, and cracked rye (as a soaker and in the preferment). Under German rules, vollkornbrot must contain at least 90% rye flour, and levain should account for at least two-thirds of the preferment.

Vollkornbrot stands out as being a bread with a small percentage of flour relative to the rye grains added, the latter of which provide most of the bread’s structure—the proportion of flour in the recipe is just enough to help the wet dough coalesce. The result is a decidedly dense loaf that can be described as brick-like, but in a way we really enjoy. This creates an interesting opportunity to explore different types of inclusions that can offer similar structure but bring different flavor to the bread—think of this as a “bread pâté” with numerous possible inclusions that are suspended in every slice. Variations on our master recipe from Modernist Bread are riffs on the idea of dough as a binder, but instead of sunflower seeds and rye berries, we use other inclusions: dried fruit, toasted nuts, and even chocolate chunks and cocoa powder. Loaded with candied fruit, this particular variation will quickly become a winter staple that can easily double as a surprising (and deeply satisfying) twist on a traditional fruitcake during the holidays.

Sablée Brioche

Brioche is the granddaddy of sweet enriched breads; it’s rich and tender because it’s laden with butter—we’ve made delicious brioche with as much as 100% butter (in baker’s percentage). Generally speaking, fat can get in the way of gluten-bond formation, so although high-fat dough can take longer to mix, the lubricating quality of fat results in a more tender crumb.

In addition to having a wonderful texture, Brioche is versatile, forming the basis of many enriched breads. Brioche can be sweet or savory and handle a number of fats, such as flavorful infused butters. It can be divided into individual portions or baked into loaves; used to make sandwiches or laminated like a croissant; and baked, steamed, fried, or even microwaved.

The French sweetened pastry dough pâté sablée is the namesake of this relatively easy brioche recipe from Modernist Bread, and we borrow from it the traditional pastry-making technique of rubbing or cutting the fat into the flour. We recommend using a food processor to most efficiently accomplish that task. This technique will greatly reduce mixing time and reduce stress on the dough. The eggs and milk are blended in at the end, unlike with most other brioche recipes, which signal to add them early in the mix.

There’s a lot to understand about how to properly handle the dough so that you wind up with a well-executed brioche. Baking it is a balancing act that involves ensuring the crumb is strong enough to support the structure while not overbaking, which can create a thick crust. Careful baking results in a loaf of brioche that’s rich and satisfying. We love tearing off soft, delicate strands of freshly baked brioche—that’s something you could never do with a baguette. Those strands are long gluten chains made flexible by fat, but more to the point, they’re simply a pleasure to eat.

Challah

Soft, plaited, and with a shiny crust, challah is an easily recognized loaf that is often prominently displayed on bakery shelves during Jewish holidays and on Fridays for Shabbat. While the bread has a distinctive richness that’s reminiscent of brioche, it is traditionally pareve (it contains no meat or dairy), so it is made with oil rather than butter, as well as much less liquid. The whole eggs and egg yolks give the bread its lush flavor and golden color.

A typical challah is made by braiding ropes of dough. The process can be tricky at first, but it can become second nature with practice. Because challah is traditionally braided, proofing is key—if the dough is not properly proofed, it will tear in the oven. Challah isn’t as finicky as brioche because challah’s lower hydration level makes it less prone to collapsing. Challah dough typically gets an egg wash to make the crust shine, but take care not to let the wash drip down the sides, or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs in your braids. You can up the shine factor by opening the oven vent after the bread begins to brown.

Varieties of challah often involve creating different shapes or adding various flavorings. For Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, challah loaves are made in a circular or spiral shape for various symbolic reasons—depending on whom you ask, the round shape represents continuity, the wheel of the seasons, or a spiral of upward progress.

Traditional challah recipes generally limit additions to honey, raisins, or saffron and sometimes toppings like nigella, sesame, and poppy seeds. We’ve come up with our own variations on challah that feature vanilla, Earl Grey tea, and chocolate as well. When the bread begins to stale, it makes terrific French toast.

– Adapted from Modernist Bread

French Lean Bread

You need just four ingredients to make French lean breads: flour, water, salt, and yeast. Simple, right? That’s why we recommend lean breads as a good starting place for new bakers. The baguette is not only a loaf by which many bakers are measured, it is also the quintessential example of French lean bread. Although the word “baguette” has a number of meanings (including a stick or concertmaster’s baton), surly its most common meaning is this long, slender loaf. One of its distinctions is the crispy crust achieved by incorporating steam in the baking process.

The master French Lean Bread recipe from Modernist Bread is made with commercial yeast rather than levain. We use commercial yeast to make a preferment called a poolish, which imparts a slightly tangy flavor and a nice finished appearance to the bread. The dough is versatile enough to work when formed into boules, bâtards, baguettes, and other shapes. The best examples of French lean breads have a crusty exterior, a light yellow–beige crumb that yields to the teeth, a mild flavor that goes with nearly everything, and an aroma that will make you want to inhale deeply through your nose.

-Adapted from Modernist Bread