What makes a pizza a pizza? Why, it’s all in the pizza crust. And that, of course, starts with flour.
I grew up in a town called Potomac, Maryland: A sleepy suburb of Washington, DC that’s better known for ostentatious mansions, collagen, and being home to “Mad Men” actor Ben Feldman, than it is for its scant restaurant selection. In 2013, however, Potomac also became home to Mix Bar and Grille, an upscale eatery that looks more like it belongs in San Francisco or New York, than in a small mid-Atlantic town. It also boasts, in this now New Yorker’s humble opinion, some of the best pizza in the DC metropolitan area, thanks to, it seems, one major factor. When I asked Mix co-owner Ramiro Paez what that might be, he simply replied, “We use 00 flour.”
So, that’s the secret to making the best pizza crust. I’ve spent years Googling ingredients, trying to figure out what I was missing. Was it my oven? Was it cornmeal? Was it the fact that my time was really better spent making potato latkes? No. It was the damn 00 flour, of which I was completely unaware, prior to my conversation with Ramiro. For a food writer, I sure did feel stupid.
“00,” I learned, is the code used to classify the roughness of the flour’s grind, ranging from 1 for the coarsest and 00 being the finest. A flour’s gluten content is also crucial; 00 flour, explains Pedro Matamoros, Mix’s executive chef, comes with an extremely low gluten content, making for “a light, tasty crust.”
It’s no wonder, then, that Organic Authority’s own CTO John Klein uses 00 flour. “It is really delicious,” Laura Klein, John’s wife and Organic Authority editor-in-chief, told me. (Oh, to be a guest in the Organic Authority household, where pizza dough flies swimmingly into to the air and back into the safe hands of its chef, as opposed to the Zantal-Wiener residence, where tossed pizza dough more often becomes a bready, floor-bound treat for the dog and an endless source of entertainment for the boyfriend.)
I share this information with Pedro, who reassures me that I’m not alone. “Don’t feel bad,” he says. “It’s not the same without a commercial oven. I make the dough here and I take some home.”
My research, combined with Pedro’s testimony, makes me feel slightly less inept. Even top food bloggers have, in the past, referred to 00 flour as “elusive,” and not just when it comes to making the best pizza. “Lady and Pups” writer Mandy Lee, for example, experienced her own difficult pursuit of 00 flour in the course of creating homemade pasta, squashing the notion (with which, until recently, you could’ve fooled me) that it’s “some mysterious Italian wheat.”
“Enough is enough,” I declared aloud, to the company of my laptop. “I will find 00 flour, and I will make non-comical pizza!”
It’s actually as simple as visiting Amazon, where Antimo Caputo brand 00 flour sells for an average of $9.38 for a 2.2 lb-bag. King Arthur Flour, of which I am a self-admitted fangirl, also makes its own take on 00 flour with an Italian-style variety, and rumor has it that a careful stalking of the baking aisle at Whole Foods will yield positive results.
I conclude that pizza-making is really all about the journey: One that includes an excuse (in the imaginary world where I need one) to peruse Amazon and Whole Foods, and where, however embarrassing, I can at least laugh at the trial-and-error that leads to a successful pizza crust. After all, I’ve always dreamed of having my very own test kitchen. All it takes, it turns out, is flour.
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