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    Poco Pizza Blog — Wood Fired Frozen Pizza

    Why Italian Pizza Crust Tastes So Damn Good

    Why Italian Pizza Crust Tastes So Damn Good

    First, let me say one thing...

    Wisconsin cheese is better than Italian cheese.

    You heard me.

    And I can say with confidence that my garden-fresh toppings, my meats (mmm sausage), and my tomatoes are as good or better than any I had in Italy. But for all that is holy in this world, I had a heck of a time finding an Italian-style crust made in the U.S. that could compete with Italy. Which you heard about here.

     I wanted to know why.

    Flour Power

    It all comes down to the ingredients; specifically flour.

    The composition of wheat grown in Italy is different from much of the wheat grown in the U.S. because their soil is different. The mountainous limestone regions have fostered a more alkaline soil for the soft wheat varieties. The U.S. tends to grow a hard red wheat with a higher protein content, while Italy grows the soft wheat types. But not all Italian flours are low in protein.

    In Italy, flour is graded by how finely it’s ground and how much of the wheat bran and germ have been removed. “00” is the most finely ground and refined. It’s a velvety powder with varying levels of protein, but generally it’s middle of the road around 12.5% protein.

    The refinement of soft wheat 00 flour removes trace shards of the wheat bran. In pizza dough, bran in flour can tear the strands of gluten which destroys elasticity. And in the pizza world we require elasticity like a pregnant woman shopping for maternity pants.

    In Wisconsin, and most of the US, we grade our flours on protein content. More protein = more gluten. Bread flour has around 15-16% protein, and cake flour has about 8%.

    Germany and France grade their flour by ash content. This has no relevance here, but if you’re actually reading this you’re probably the type of person who’d find that interesting.

    Why Italian Pizza Crust Tastes So Damn Good

    The superfine texture of 00 flour, combined with the mid-level protein content, creates the ideal environment for a pizza crust that is toothsome, crisp, tender, and able to produce the bubbles and delicious blisters common with wood-fired pizza

    Because of the extreme fineness of the Italian 00 flour, it doesn’t require as much water to begin kneading. And because of the decent amount of protein it doesn’t take long to create the gluten structure required for that characteristic Italian crust.

    You need a decent amount of protein so that when kneaded, the proteins bind to one another making this interconnected web of gluten. A little salt, oil, and yeast work with this web to create a flavor and aroma that we just can’t beat.

    Some small millers throughout the U.S. are attempting to produce their own ultra-fine pizza flours. Eventually someone here will figure it out. What a wonderful day that will be.

    - Shawn

    My hunt for the perfect pizza crust

    My hunt for the perfect pizza crust

    I’m so full right now

    In the past 60 days I’ve had to taste test over 200 pizzas to get my recipes right (there are worse jobs). I discovered it’s true what they say about pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s good. But I wanted mine to be great, and to follow a few rules, so it took some time. My crusts and toppings have to be as local as possible, and more than anything, this little project has to be about connecting real food, grown by real people, with customers who want something better.

    My first problem was the crust. I hated every one I tried. The bar is set pretty low when it comes to thin pizza crust. They were either too doughy, or so thin they’d get soggy, and they all came in one flavor. Cardboard.

    Finally I found an ultra thin crust made by Quaker Bakery in Appleton. It was crisp but held up to my heavy toppings. It didn’t get soggy while I was making my pizzas, and it tasted rich, satisfying, and buttery when baked. Winner winner!

    However, I still wanted to find a crust that had only 5 ingredients and tasted like the pizza in Italy.

     My First Pizza in ItalyI had every intention of taking a picture of my first pizza in Italy. I don't know what happened. It was all a blur. I did better the rest of the trip...

    Santa Margherita Italy PizzaParma Italy Pizza

    Pizza in Italy vs Pizza in the US

    Italians do things differently when it comes to their most famous export. Less is more. Poco preparation. The crust is king. It is given the most care, and generally cooked in a blazing wood-fired oven. Italian pizzas have very little cheese compared to those stateside, the sauce is usually just crushed tomatoes. The real key, though, is that the toppings aren't fussed with; left alone to co-star with that crust. 

    Don’t get me wrong, when I’ve been drinking I want foods that are designed in laboratories to trick me into eating every crumb. Doritos, Mountain Dew, Tombstone, Jacks, Bagel Bites, Totino’s Pizza Rolls! I love it all. But I eat pizza sober, too. And I'm an adult. So after getting a taste of how unfathomably delicious the real stuff is, I was on the hunt for a local crust with real Italian flavor.

    How most frozen pizzas are made in the U.S. - Start video around 1:35 to get to the good stuff.

    Real Italian Pizza Crust In Wisconsin

    I finally found the perfect Italian crust!

    In Italy. :-|

    It broke my rule. It’s not locally made, and it doesn’t support local farmers the way my other local ingredients do. So to offset this fact, my Italian Crust pizzas are almost exclusively topped with ingredients from our farm, or nearby organic farms.

     Wood Fired Italian Crust Poco PizzaOur Wood-Fired Frozen Pizza Crust. Naked. With all it's beautiful bumps and blisters.

     

    Each of my Italian crusts is hand made in Modena Italy, put in an 800 degree oak-fired stone oven and par baked, then flash frozen and shipped to me. It tastes like Italy. It’s not cheap. But it’s the best there is.

    It’s just 5 ingredients: soft 00 flour, water, olive oil, salt, and yeast. It has the essence and character of every pizza I ate in Italy; irregular bubbles and blisters and charred spots from the oak fire. The essence of the smoke is there in every bite. It’s crisp but tender. I couldn’t be more happy with it. And it’s not doughy, like eating a loaf of bread. It’s still thin and almost the same weight as our die-cut thin crust.

    I ate 200 pizzas to settle on a crust. I hope you’ll give our Italian Crust Frozen Pizzas a try.

    - Shawn
    shawn@pocopizza.com

     

    I put together my findings on Why Italian Pizza Crust Tastes So Damn Good. If you’re into it, feel free to take a look!