Mr. President and I prefer staycations over vacations and homemade dinners over meals out. But, Philadelphia has such a wonderful food scene, so how can we make sure we’re not missing out? Buy the restaurant cookbooks, that’s how!
This summer, we’ve been working our way through two cookbooks that were born right here at Philly’s best restaurants. First, we have Michael Solomonov’s cookbook filled with the same Israeli fare he serves up at his famed restaurant, Zahav. Then we have Pizza Camp by Joe Beddia, proprietor and creator of what Bon Appetit Magazine has named the Best Pizza in America.
Simple ingredients and expert techniques
I have not visited Pizzeria Beddia because I’d have to schlep to the city and stand in line to get one of only 40 pizzas Joe Beddia personally makes each night. When Joe has transformed the 40 balls of dough into pizzas, he is done for the day. The restaurant has no phone and no place to sit – it’s takeout only which means I’d either have to sit on a city curb to stuff my face or take it home with me on the train. Sad to say, I probably won’t go. But, thanks to Pizza Camp, we are certainly having the best homemade pizza to ever come out of our oven.
Beddia’s pizza recipes call for the highest quality ingredients you can find combined with expert techniques to transform them into something greater than the sum of their parts. The formula for making and baking the pizza is the same each time, toppings are simple but perfectly balanced.
Mr. P. and I are no strangers to making pizza. We both agree that Beddia Pizza, will be our new “house” pizza.
Tips from Pizza Camp
If you love pizza, you need this book. Here I share some of the key techniques from Pizza Camp.
- Screaming hot oven – Bake this pizza at the highest setting your oven will go, probably 500°. Our oven maxes out at 550° and this is where we set it for pizza. This technique crisps the bottom crust, adds the right amount of char to it and gets the top golden brown.
- The right tools – You will need a pizza stone that fits your oven and a pizza peel to safely move your pizza into and out of the oven. Non-negotiable.
- Cheese, please – Use a blend of both fresh mozzarella and whole milk mozzarella. Do not use any low fat cheeses – ever.
- Bake and broil – Pizzas cook for about 10 minutes total starting on the regular bake setting. The last 4-5 minutes will be with the broiler setting to get that nice bubbly golden brown top that pizza dreams are made of.
- Simple sauces – No more cloyingly sweet red sauces. Beddia’s red sauce is nothing more than canned crushed tomatoes, salt, fresh garlic and olive oil. White sauces consist of heavy cream emulsified with fresh herbs or roasted garlic. Oh, and then there’s the pistachio pesto, the best pesto I’ve eaten.
- Know what toppings to bake on the pizza– At Pizza Camp, you add toppings like the best Prosciutto di Parma to the piping hot pizza immediately after it’s removed from the oven instead of being baked on it. The heat melts the fat just right. Other toppings like coins of fresh zucchini go on the pizza before baking.
- Finish it right – Finish all pizzas with a drizzle of high quality olive oil and a shower of finely grated hard cheese. Beddia uses a cheese called Old Gold from a small dairy in rural Pennsylvania. I’ve not been able to find it at any of my local stores, so I just use Parmigiano Reggiano.
The only thing I’ve tried in this book that has not worked for me is Joe Beddia’s homemade dough recipe. I tried it more than once and each time, the dough failed to rise significantly and the finished baked crust was dense and lifeless. I so wanted it to work because I love the idea of the slow ferment in the fridge overnight as I’m sure that adds a nice flavor. The recipe uses very little yeast for all that flour, and I don’t know if that’s why it didn’t work for me. Alas, I use this reliable dough recipe from Food Network. It makes enough for two pizzas and yes, you can freeze half for an easy meal later.
Easy as pie
We enjoy pizza at our place almost every week. Not only do we love it, but this budget meal is embarrassingly easy to pull together even on the busiest nights, especially if you have homemade dough in the freezer. When you have a garden or local farmer’s market Leo Vegas Casino, you’ll never run out of inspiration for toppings. I’m looking forward to fall arugula because it’s the topping for one of my favorite cool weather pizzas.
If you have ever been intimidated by making homemade pizza, if you have tried many times but would like to up your game, follow me to Pizza Camp!