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Why is New York-style pizza so difficult

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 24, 2008

Why is New York-style pizza so difficult to replicate in other areas of the world? Perhaps the answer lies with NYC’s legendary tap water.

“Water,” Batali says. “Water is huge. It’s probably one of California’s biggest problems with pizza.” Water binds the dough’s few ingredients. Nearly every chemical reaction that produces flavor occurs in water, says Chris Loss, a food scientist with the Culinary Institute of America. “So, naturally, the minerals and chemicals in it will affect every aspect of the way something tastes.”

Update: That legendary tap water was supposedly responsible for NYC-style bagels as well until Finagle A Bagel founder Larry Smith drove some Boston tap water to NYC and compared bagels made with the water from the two cities.

“There was absolutely no difference between them,” Smith reported. “What makes the difference is equipment, process and ingredients.”

Well, ingredients except water. (thx, darrin)

Update: Jeffrey Steingarten, among others, believes that temperature is the key to great pizza and that coal is the key to great temperatures. (thx, hillel)

Update: I knew we’d eventually end up on Slice…the web’s premiere pizza site hosts an account of Jeff Varasano’s attempt to reverse engineer a NYC pizza, specifically from the 117th St. Patsy’s. Among his findings:

There are a lot of variables for such a simple food. But these 3 FAR outweigh the others:

1. High Heat
2. Kneading Technique
3. The kind of yeast culture or “starter” used along with proper fermentation technique

All other factors pale in comparison to these 3. I know that people fuss over the brand of flour, the kind of sauce, etc. I discuss all of these things, but if you don’t have the 3 fundamentals above handled, you will be limited.

(thx, ian)

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