Pizzember 2021

pizza pizza

Welcome to Pizzember 2021, Wordloaf’s annual month of pizza-related content. Someday I will find the bandwidth to get more pizza recipes and lore into our regularly-scheduled programming, but for now making sure I shoehorn it into one month a year will have to do.

This week’s newsletter is going to serve as a bit of a preview of what is to come, since most of the things that are in the works are, well, still in the works. (I do have one important recipe for you below, which will be useful for many of those to follow.)

Here’s some what you have to look forward to:

  1. A recipe for a sourdough (and yeast-only) pizza al taglio dough, along with some topping combinations and tips. I taught this one in an online workshop back in the spring, and a bunch of folks who took it have been using it since.

  2. A recipe for a sourdough pizza dough specifically formulated for high-temperature outdoor pizza ovens such as the Ooni Koda I got over the summer. This one will complement the series of recipes and how-to posts for these styles of ovens that will drop on Serious Eats later this month too.

  3. A copycat recipe of the amazing Sicilian-style pizza from Slab, in Portland, Maine, one of my favorite pizza spots. Not only is this ginormous square slice delicious, it uses one of the rare same-day doughs I make, so it’s perfect for satisfying a last-minute hankering for pizza. (Relatively last-minute, that is—it does take about 3 hours start to finish.)

  4. A Zoom class! Taking a break from teaching at the end of the summer off plus the recent demise of Airsubs caused my regularly scheduled classes to fall by the wayside. I’m going to finally reboot them later this month over at Ribbon, starting with a Friday Night Pizza Party on 11/26 (Thanksgiving weekend), where we will make that Slab pizza together. Stay tuned for details and a sign-up link. (As always, Wordloaf subscribers get a 25% discount on the cost of online classes.)

  5. And then there is the recipe I’ve included below, for a DIY nonstick oil, something I consider essential for all of my pan pizza recipes.

Coming Unstuck

As some of you may already know, I am a big proponent of using a coating of nonstick oil (or “pan release” as it is known to professional bakers and chefs) on sheet and loaf pans, even when the food in question—like pan pizza or focaccia—is getting a slick of oil on its underside. That’s because the nonstick coating doesn’t just provide fat to keep the bread from sticking, it helps to get the oil you add to the pan to bond to the pan, so it forms a continuous barrier from stickage.

You may or may not have noticed that if you add oil to a pan by itself, it tends to pool up into slicks rather than forming an even layer. That’s because most metal is oleophobic, meaning it doesn’t want oil to bond to it. The lecithin that is in nonstick oil forms a “bridge” between the oil and the pan so that it stays in place where you apply it.

Here’s a more scientific explanation, from the World Conference on Edible Fats and Oils Processing: Basic Principles and Modern Practices (Nov. 1990):

A major area of lecithin use involves the blending of various lecithin products with oil to form release agents. This type of product is widely used in the baking industry. Blends of 2-15% lecithin in a liquid or partially solid vegetable oil base provide an effective anti-stick barrier for breads, cakes, and cookies. Oil and lecithin have complementary functions in a release agent. The oil provides a low viscosity carrier system for the lecithin and also establishes a mechanical barrier between the raw baked good and the baking surface. The lecithin provides the blend with more even coating properties. Additionally, the charged phospholipids seem to bond to the baking surface, providing a transient chemical barrier. The behavior is responsible for the multiple releases possible from a single application of lecithin.

To translate: The oil in the mix helps disperse the lecithin to the pan surface, while the lecithin helps to spread the oil around the pan, and both serve to prevent the food from sticking to it. All that is why I am a fan of nonstick coatings and recommend them with every pan bread or pizza.

What I am not a fan of is canned nonstick spray, because of the waste, the not-nice propellants, and the cost. Which is why I now use homemade nonstick oil instead of the canned stuff, which works just as well, if a little more of a hassle to use since it must be brushed on rather than sprayed. It is dead simple to make, once you have the necessary bottle of liquid lecithin, which, though a little hard to come by, can be found in health food stores or online. (You need liquid lecithin here, not the powdered stuff that is more generally available.)

It barely requires a recipe, but here you go:

DIY Nonstick Oil

Makes 3/4 cup

  • Liquid lecithin is thick and sticky like molasses. It is easiest to dispense and measure by weighing it directly into the mixing bowl.

  • The lecithin here can polymerize and turn brown if exposed to high heat. The residue is not harmful, but it can be unsightly and difficult to clean from the pan. If you’d like to avoid it, try to apply the coating only where it will be in contact with the bread.

3/4 cup (165g) vegetable oil

1 1/2 teaspoons (7g) liquid lecithin

Place the lecithin in a medium bowl. Add oil in a steady stream while whisking. Transfer to a jar or squeeze bottle and refrigerate until needed. (Foaming will subside after a few hours.)

To use: Drizzle 1 to 2 teaspoons on the pan, then brush evenly over pan surface.