Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish

If you're looking for a serious pizza cookbook, look no further. Ken Forkish's The Elements of Pizza: Unlocking the Secrets to World-Class Pies at Home is what you need.

But mind the fact that I note "serious." This is not, at least for me, a good cookbook for the average home cook looking to make quick weeknight pizzas without much fuss. The dough recipes provided take six hours or more and the author suggests purchasing and using specific pizza implements (a pizza stone, which I do have; a pizza paddle, which I definitely don't have space for; and even special tubs to allow your dough to rise and ferment). If you're not planning or prepared to put that kind of effort into your pizza, this is NOT the book for you.

I tend to fall somewhere in between. The amount of time required for a traditional dough, even the one Forkish titles the "I Slept in But I Want Pizza Tonight" dough is still usually an overwhelming amount of time for me to plan for a pizza night. Typically when I want pizza, I want it now. And even if I plan ahead and buy toppings and such, I haven't put that much planning into the dough. Using Forkish's book required a definite adjustment for me in that regard and does leave me a bit undecided on how I'd rate the book overall as a general cookbook. It's not a general cookbook, I know. And I guess I'm not enough of a hardcore pizza eater for it to really be considered a regular use cookbook either. But for special occasions or for someone with more drive than me, it's a great one to have on hand for sure.

Forkish spends a good stretch of time speaking to the philosophy and tradition of what has become an American favorite. The history of pizza's origins, the differences between regional pizza (including American regional pizza), etc are all covered and pizzerias famous for different kinds of pies are highlighted as well. There are even recipes from some (the Vodka Sauce and Sausage Pizza the author references as resembling Rubirosa's was my first attempt).

I do love the variety of pizzas covered - from the various topping combinations to sauces, types of dough, and methods of cooking. But I did have one significant issue beyond even the time requirements of the dough and the constraints of my somewhat limited pizza making tools - my oven. I was under the assumption that I had a fairly good oven. And it's a fairly new one as well. What I discovered, though, is that my own oven did not particularly like the required temperatures for making the above mentioned Vodka Sauce and Sausage Pizza. At least not while both ovens were running!

That's my own personal issue to troubleshoot, however, and I do appreciate that oven particulars are something the author draws attention to in the book. All in all, if you are a pizza aficionado willing and able to devote the time and effort to a really great pizzeria style home made pies, Forkish truly does cover it all. If, like me, you tend to make your pizza decisions on the fly, you can either make extra dough (most of the recipes are for more than one and include instructions for saving them for later use), take your chances with store or pizzeria purchased crust, or continue to order in.

Per Blogging for Books requirements: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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