Mama Chloe's Pizza
Man oh man. I used to feel so sure of myself because I had like a WEBSITE that I updated with stories and things that I made, and I felt like I enjoyed writing. The primary reason I started even keeping a personal website really was because of the blogs of writers I admired, like Todd Levin and Leslie Harpold and Lance Arthur. It was so easy to write in high school because writing felt like an escape, but now it feels like an extension of myself and I feel like so embarrassed of everything all the time. Moments ago I told myself I am going to force myself to write even if it’s bad or inaccurate or pointless because at least it will be an exercise and maybe I will get comfortable with it again and regain all that I’ve lost in my 20’s. So today I am going to write about pizza.
I started making pizza in early 2012, mainly to emulate my two favorite pizzas in Portland: the margherita with truffle oil from Apizza Scholls and the salami pizza with provolone picante and honey from Oven & Shaker. (My third favorite pizza, the Cherry Jones from Paulie Gee’s in New York, is too baroque for my grocery habits, so I haven’t attempted it). I very quickly learned to mix my own dough because store-bought dough has this plastic taste even if it’s from Whole Foods. For the sauce, I divined this recipe using fresh campari tomatoes, oven-roasted garlic, salt, sugar, and a dried herb mix my dad brought me back from Italy. The pizzas were okay (really I was just amazed to have made pizza), but I’ve gotten more serious about it, making pizza every Sunday. As upgrades, I bought a baking stone and a pizza peel, which I screwed a screw eye into and installed an intimidating hook in my kitchen for. These improvements have helped the crust be less gummy. Sometimes I’ll substitutes half the bread flour with whole wheat flour in my crusts for calorie reasons, which is a sacrifice, as the crust doesn’t bake as authentically. I would never do this if I baked pizza for guests.
I’ve also abandoned my sauce recipe. The sauce at Apizza Scholls is very unique. It’s tangy and sharp, and at first I thought it must be the garlic or the tomatoes. I did some research, and unbelievably, I found a source that interviewed several pizzaiolos about their sauces, including not only the Spanglers of Apizza Scholls, but Paulie Gee of Paulie Gee’s as well. There are two fascinating aspects of the Scholls pizza construction: they layer the cheese on top of the crust and then add the sauce, so that the cheese adheres to the crust. I’ve found that with this method, it prevents the cheese from being pulled off like a molten sleeve when you take your first bite. Also surprisingly, they top their sauce with grana padano or pecorino romano before the pie goes into the oven, which is where the sauce gets its tanginess from. Incredible. I now adhere to the Scholl’s recipe. I top my margheritas with fresh basil from my balcony, and truffle oil that I brought back from Italy. It was seriously like zero euros.
One final word about pizza: When I am making pizza, referring to an episode where I made pizza, or referring to the pizza itself, I call myself Mama Chloe, and I call the pizza Mama Chloe’s Pizza. This isn’t just a moniker, it’s an identity. Mama Chloe has different priorities than I do. So if you want to come over for Sunday Night Pizza Club, you will get to meet her.