The Pizza Insider: 2013

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

New York-Style, Chicago-Style, Navajo-Style?

Navajo Pizza photo from Twin Rocks Cafe website.
Have you ever seen Navajo Pizza?

Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff, Utah, says it invented the Navajo Pizza using traditional Native American frybread topped with homemade sauce and traditional pizza toppings. It can be found in pizzerias throughout Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.

This pizza reminds me of the Italian Montanara, with its fried Neapolitan dough.

I haven't had the Navajo Pizza, but I've had frybread before, and can imagine how tasty it would be topped with some marinara and mozzarella.

What's your take? Could this be the next style to take off across the country?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

8 Recipes You Never Knew You Needed

Breaded Mozzarella Balls
I was looking through the PMQ Recipe Bank the other day and came across some recipes that I wanted to share with you.

Take a look at the list below and let me know if you've tried any of them or will be experimenting any time soon.

There are nearly 200 more recipes inside the Recipe Bank, so next time you need a little inspiration, take a look through the ideas submitted by both manufacturers and your peers.




Thursday, December 5, 2013

Make Your Own Pretzel Crust Pizza

Pizza meets pretzel. (photos by Renee Boeckman)
The pretzel bread trend is running rampant, and I personally love it! It seems like no matter where I go nowadays, from chains such as Wendy's, Sonic, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Chili's to local restaurants looking to catch the pretzel wave, everyone is trying to put a new "twist" on an old favorite.

So, being that we're in the pizza industry, I contacted the man who I felt could bring pretzels to pizza, Tom "The Dough Doctor" Lehmann. I asked if he'd be willing to humor me a little with a pretzel crust for pizza. To my surprise and delight, he said that he and Jeff Zeak had already been experimenting with pretzel pizza crusts over at the American Institute of Baking. It was only a matter of days before he sent me the following instructions and photos that outline how to make your very own pretzel pizza crust!

If you try this, please let me know and send photos to We would love to share them in the magazine. Plus, if you're close enough, I'd like to come over and try the pizza, preferably with a side of cheese sauce for dipping.

[[Please Note: The below is a shortened version of the full article that will appear in a future issue of PMQ Pizza Magazine. Subscribe for FREE here.]]

How to Make Pretzel Crust Pizza
By Tom "The Dough Doctor" Lehmann

For this experiment, we conducted trials using a standard pizza crust formula, changing it to a pretzel crust by brushing the edge of the formed skin with both sodium hydroxide (see warning about sodium hydroxide below) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) solutions immediately before baking. 

We made 2% sodium hydroxide solution and heated it to 190F/88C before brushing it onto the edge of the dressed pizza skin. The edge was then lightly sprinkled with kosher salt (this helps it taste like a pretzel) and the pizza was taken directly to the oven for baking. 

The pizza was baked in an air impingement oven the same way we bake our regular pizzas. (Note: If you value your baking screens, disks or pans, don’t use them in this highly caustic application, instead use an ovenable baking tray designed for take and bake pizzas or a piece of baking parchment paper). Whichever you opt to use, be sure to use a spray release oil on it before you place the dough onto it. Failure to do this will most likely result in the edge of the dough, where the alkali solution has been applied, sticking to the paper or tray. The resulting crusts had a deep, pretzel like mahogany color with recognized pretzel flavor.

We also tried the sodium hydroxide at 6% solution using cold water and applied the solution cold. This also gave a very acceptable crust color and flavor. I must caution you that both of these solutions are highly caustic and extreme care must be exercised in making the solutions and applying them onto the crust. At the very least, a respiration mask, eye protection (goggles) and plastic gloves should be worn when making or handling these solutions. 

As a safer alternative to the sodium hydroxide, we also used a 15% solution of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and applied it to the dough both hot (190F/88C) and cold (room temperature/ambient). These solutions are much safer to work with and handle, but we found that the color and flavor were not quite as good as that from the sodium hydroxide solutions. The color with the baking soda was more dark brown than mahogany in color, and the flavor, while good, was not as readily identified as that of a pretzel. We did not see any significant advantage to using this soda solution hot over the cold preparation, so we would recommend using it cold/ambient for safer handling. We thought that this might be a good approach to use if the crust were to be brushed with melted, clarified butter immediately after baking for something more of a gourmet pretzel presentation. 

Our testers found the salted crust to be very acceptable on all crusts regardless of which solution was used. 

Whatever you decide to use for the caustic solution, be sure to follow all precautionary measures. If you are looking for the best pretzel flavor, we think that a salt topping works best, but other toppings can be used. Be sure to use a sanitary, plastic bristle brush to apply the caustic as it can potentially destroy a natural bristle brush. Lastly, when forming your dough for the pretzel crust, we achieved the best appearance and presentation when we formed the dough with raised or beaded edge as opposed to a flat or non-raised edge.

WARNING: Historically, sodium hydroxide, commonly known as “lye” is used to make the alkali solution, but there are some very real risks associated with using a sodium hydroxide solution. It can cause caustic burns if you get it onto your skin, or it can cause severe eye injury or even blindness if one were to get it into their eyes. Use extreme caution. 

--Liz Barrett
Author, Pizza: A Slice of American History
Editor at Large, PMQ Pizza Magazine

Friday, November 29, 2013

Pizzeria Menu Labeling May Get a Break

A press release from the American Pizza Community announced last week that Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (I-ME) have introduced the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2013 (S.1756), a much needed bill that would amend current menu labeling requirements as they relate to pizzerias.

Pizzeria operators have been fighting a battle over menu labeling for the past couple of years. This new bill, if passed, will offer a welcome relief to 70,000 business owners.

According to the press release, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2013 would modify the existing menu-labeling statute in the following ways:
  • Pizza delivery stores and other restaurants that rely on orders that are primarily remotely placed – such as over the phone or online – could comply with the law using an online or other remote display of calorie counts.  The draft FDA regulations would require an in-store menu board, which would not capture the full variety of millions of menu options, could cost up to approximately $5,000 per store, per year and might only reach 10 percent of customers.   
  • Multi-serving menu items could be labeled by individual serving.  Pizza, for example, could be labeled by the slice rather than the whole pie, in keeping with consumer preferences.
  • Variable food items, such as pizza, could use a variety of means, including ranges, averages, individual component labeling of ingredients or labeling of standard menu offerings, rather than conform to a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Restaurants would be held to a reasonable standard in labeling.
Click here to view the full release.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

4 Tips to Help You Survive Gift-Giving Season

(photo: asenat29 on Flickr)

It’s that time of year again. 

We may not have put the turkeys in the oven yet, but the radio is already playing holiday music, lights have been strung in the streets, and you’re likely already planning your company holiday party.

As if running a pizzeria wasn’t stressful enough, now you have to figure out what to get for your Secret Santa! Whose idea was this anyway?

This year, put an end to the holiday gift-giving confusion by arming yourself with a few simple ground rules.

If you’re exchanging gifts with the entire team and you’ve been assigned to someone, get to know that person a little bit. Know which holiday they celebrate (not everyone celebrates Christmas) and make an effort to be more creative in your gift giving by trying the following:

  1. Listen for Clues: You’re around these people a lot at the pizzeria, so listen for things they like—a new restaurant they want to try (gift certificate), a band they like (a CD), favorite coffee, cookies, etc. Notice what their favorite color is, etc. It’s easy to personalize a gift once you pick up on some clues.
  2. Be Personal, But Don’t Offend: Don’t give a gift that may offend the receiver or make them feel uncomfortable. Keep your gifts light and fun. If you receive something you don’t like, just be polite in your acceptance. It’s never fun to embarrass one of your peers in the middle of a Secret Santa party.
  3. Do Not Overspend: If everyone has agreed on a set budget, do not exceed it. It can sometimes be difficult to stay under a $10 budget, but it can be done. Spending more than the person you are exchanging gifts with only makes the other person feel uncomfortable.
  4. Don’t Succumb to Holiday Pressure: If you start receiving gifts from a bunch of people, don’t feel the need to reciprocate with a gift. A hand-written thank you note can show your appreciation without breaking the bank.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

No Girls Allowed!

The restaurant industry has been buzzing about a recent article in TIME magazine, The Gods of Food. In it, TIME editor Howard Chua-Eoan runs down a list of influential chefs, but fails to mention any notable women.

As you can imagine, this has created quite a stir, with comments from both men and women chefs in the industry about the great women chefs who have had an impact on so many over the years.

After reading some of the comments, I, of course, have my own opinions on the topic, which I normally wouldn't share, but as a woman, I figured I might be able to shed some additional insights.

First of all, I completely agree that there are many wonderful female chefs that have had a huge impact on the restaurant industry. No one can deny that fact.

But, as a journalist, I know that no list can be all inclusive, nor should it try to be.

What if The Gods of Food list did in fact contain men and women, but failed to mention great African-American chefs, or Asian chefs, or Italian you see where I'm going with this?

A list loses its effectiveness--and its truth--when people start being added simply to meet a quota or ratio of one type of person to another.

So is it possible that there are no great women chefs influencing the restaurant industry right now? Of course not. Chua-Eoan has said that the chefs chosen were narrowed down from a list of 300. Undoubtedly, there were many women chefs on the larger list; the fact that they didn't make it onto the short list simply means that they haven't been in the spotlight as much as the others.

If anything, this is a wake up call for all women chefs who are interested in being acknowledged by the industry to start getting their noses out of the pots and pans and start letting the industry take notice of them for their skills, not because they are women.

Remember, if you want to be seen, people have to see you!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Winning Local Customers

Today I've invited Tom Feltenstein, a marketing expert from  The Pizza Insider blog advisory board to submit a guest post. 

Tom brings 30 years of marketing know how to the table, once serving as a senior-level marketing executive at McDonald's and now consulting for Fortune 500 companies and touring the world speaking on Four Walls Branding and Neighborhood Marketing. 

Today he talks about how to increase profits by focusing on the customer who is in your own backyard.

Win the Customers in your Backyard
By Tom Feltenstein 

In my work I travel constantly. I spend hundreds of nights in hotel rooms and eat thousands of meals in hotel restaurants. I’m worth about $500,000 in food, beverage, and room charges annually. But no hotel has ever called me and asked me for my business.  

I live a quarter mile from a chain grocery store. I’d estimate that I’m probably worth about $10,000 a year or so in grocery store food purchases. But no one has ever asked me to come in and do my shopping at that store, which is not just in my neighborhood but practically in my backyard. 

For the savvy, thinking neighborhood marketer, the customers to grow your business are right next door, just waiting to be asked to do business with you. All it takes is a little thought and effort.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

3 Lessons Everyone Can Learn from Robert De Niro

PHOTO: Athena LeTrelle
I know, I know, where is she going with this one? But trust me here, there are lessons to be learned from one of America's favorite actors.

Lesson 1: Be Tough, But Be Likeable. De Niro has played a lot of bad-guy roles (The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Untouchables, Cape Fear), but he also knows how to turn things around and show his nice side (The Big Wedding, Last Vegas). In the pizza business, you need to have a strong side to be able to run your business, but you also need to show your personable side when handling your customers.

Lesson 2: Keep Growing. While already a great actor, De Niro decided to try his hand at directing and producing. He has since produced more than 30 movies since the late '80s. You may already have a great pizza business, but there is always room to grow and try new things. Growth is something that benefits you, your business and your staff.

Lesson 3: Never Give Up. Robert De Niro has been starring in movies every year (sometimes several per year) since 1965. Whether the reviews were good or bad, he never gave up and is still going strong today at 70 years old. When times get tough at the pizzeria and you receive a bad online review, remember that tomorrow is another day and another chance to be your best.