Mini-Review: The Pizza Bible, Tony Gemignani (2014)

December 22nd, 2014 3:04 pm by mad mags

A Vegan Perspective

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

I went vegetarian in 1996, vegan in the mid-aughts, and have been allergic to milk my entire life. And I love pizza! (Yes, vegan pizza exists. And it is glorious!) Whether it’s a quick pita or French bread pizza, or a complicated, labor-intensive original gourmet dealio (mac & cheese pizza, anyone?), my husband and I enjoy pizza at least once a week. I have a tumblr dedicated to vegan pizza (along with my other favorite, vegan ice cream), and Vegan Pizza Day is a legit holiday in my house. Some of my coziest childhood memories involve making pizza from scratch with my mom, a routine we revisit every time I return home.

I picked up a copy of Tony Gemignani’s The Pizza Bible in hopes of upping my pizza game. While I didn’t have any illusions that the recipes would be vegan-friendly (although, in a book dubbed the Bible, I don’t think it’s altogether unreasonable to expect the author to at least mention alternative pizzas, whether they be vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or raw; “Bible” implies exhaustivity, no?), I thought that perhaps some of the dough recipes might be accidentally vegan. I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed on this front!

The Pizza Bible contains thirteen dough recipes, all of them either accidentally vegan or easily veganized: Master Dough; Chicago Deep Dish Dough; Chicago Stuffed Dough; Multigrain Dough; Sprouted Wheat Dough; Cracker Thin Dough; Sicilian Dough; Romana Dough; Napoletana Dough; Organic Dough; Einkorn Dough; Khorasan Dough; and Dough for Grilling. Apparently Gemignani and I belong to the same school of thought re: making anything into a pizza, because he also includes recipes for other carby potential pizza bases, like focaccia, ciabatta, and focaccina.

This isn’t the sort of cookbook you can just jump into, on a weeknight or when pressed for time, and expect wild and immediate success. I rarely read the introductory materials in a cookbook, but “The Master Class” chapter is a must. Nearly all of the dough recipes require a starter, which must be made a day in advance; factor in another day for the dough itself, and a pizza dinner quickly becomes a weekend project. Gemignani includes variations for the Master and Sicilian Doughs that don’t include a starter, but even these doughs must sit for a full day before use. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not so bad; but these pizzas do require some planning and foresight. (Unless you make the dough ahead of time and freeze it – and yes, Gemignani offers tips for this too!)

As far as ingredients go, the doughs almost all contain diastatic malt, which I had trouble finding in a brick and mortar store and eventually ordered online. It’s 1000% worth it, though – diastatic malt promotes a strong rise and results in a lovely brown crust with a slightly sweet taste. Furthermore, each recipes requires a specific flour, usually with a given protein content; Gemignani frequently includes recommended brands/products, so you know what to shop for. The “alternative” crusts – most notably Einkorn and Khorasan – require specialty flours that you may have to order online.

The required equipment is a little trickier. While many of these pizzas can be made in a regular old home oven, some are intended for use on a grill or in a wood-fired oven.

So far we’ve experimented with the Master Dough, With and Without the Starter. The results were rather astounding: the Master Dough Without the Starter resulted in a crust that was airier, fluffier, and lighter than our usual go-to crust. Additionally, the diastatic malt lent it a rich, layered taste.

2014-11-18 - Pizza Comparison - 0001 [flickr]

The slice with pepperoni is the Master Dough Without Starter from The Pizza Bible, while the one with all the veggies is Shane’s own Fluffy White Pizza Dough. It’s a little difficult to see here, but the Master Dough is lighter and airier – just as thick, but not as dense.

The Master Dough With the Starter kind of threw us for a loop; while it was every bit as light and airy as the Master Dough Without the Starter, it resulted in a pizza that was surprisingly thin.

2014-12-06 - TPB Master Dough with Starter - 0004 [flickr]

No comparison here – both slices are the Master Dough With the Stater.

Of course, this might have been a one-time anomaly. Baked goods are nothing if not temperamental, and pizza dough is no exception. I wish I had more time to play around with this cookbook before writing a review – but I’m already two months into my three-month deadline, and I’m afraid another month (during the holidays, no less) won’t make a huge difference. I can only eat so much pizza, no matter how hard I try!

While it’s true that I primarily requested The Pizza Bible for the dough recipes, Gemignani goes well beyond the dough, looking at various styles of pizza ’round the world: Regional American, Chicago, Sicilian, California Style, Napoletana, Regional Italian, Global (Barcelona, Muchen, Dubliner, Parisian, and Greco), Grilled, and Wrapped and Rolled. Some of these recipes are easily veganizable, while I may use others as a jumping-off point for creating my own vegan versions.

That said, some of the pictures (of which there are many) are likely to turn off fellow ethical vegans; the New Haven with Clams, which strongly resembles a clam graveyard, is especially gross. (Even younger, meat-eating me would have been repulsed, so.) And the recipes for meats, including sausages and casings, are particularly useless for vegans and vegetarians. But if you can overlook the animal parts and excretions, the crust recipes are worth a try.

(This review is also available on Blogging for Books, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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