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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gifts for the Pizza Lover, 2012 Edition

It's that time of the year again, so here are some suggestions for the pizza lover in your life, or to put on your own wish list.
Full disclosure: I think I get some small compensation if you click on the links or buy a product through them. I'm not sure, frankly, exactly how it works. But these are my honest suggestions, and if you want to shop around, by all means do so.
(1) a pizza stone -anybody who bakes pizza at home should have some sort of pizza stone. You'll get a much better crust with a stone than with a pan. (There are exceptions, but for basic pizza, a stone is the way to go.)
I mostly use cheap quarry tiles that I get from a local tile store, but a box of what look like thin, square red bricks doesn't make the greatest looking gift. I do also use a genuine pizza stone, which was given to me as a gift, and it works very well. I prefer rectangular stones over round ones, because I think they give you a little more room for error when you're sliding the pizza onto the stone, which you will do with a
(2) pizza peel, which makes another great gift. I have two, a wooden peel for sliding the pizza into the oven and an aluminum peel for getting it out. Why both? The raw dough seems to slide better on a wooden peel, while the thin edge of a metal peel is better for getting underneath the finished product.
(3) for a stocking stuffer, a bench scraper or a bowl scraper. Whether you're baking pizza or bread, these are very handy implements. Even if you only do a little kneading or shaping on a board, a bench scraper is great for moving around mounds of flour and stuck dough, and for cleaning off your board. A flexible bowl scraper is much better than a spatula at scraping down the sides of a mixing bowl. 
(4) a pizza cutter. These are useful not just for homemade pizzas, but even for takeout, which is sometimes not cut cleanly through. A wheel cutter works well, and is versatile. I used mine the other day to cut pieces of dough for a gingerbread house. But for simplicity and a nice straight edge, it's hard to beat a rocking cutter.
(5) A chef's hat (or "toque") and apron. These are great for getting in the spirit of things when you're making pizza, especially with guests. And they serve useful purposes. If you make pizza without an apron, you will end up with flour on your clothes, guaranteed. And the hat? Well, finding a hair in your pizza is a real turnoff for most people. A baseball cap will do, but I love my chef's hat.
(6) an insulated pizza bag. Useful for takeout, especially if the pizzeria is some distance from your home. Every pizza lover should keep one in the trunk, right next to the jack and the jumper cables.
(7) a pizza cookbook. There are countless free recipes online, but I still like a genuine, authoritative book to have as a reference. There's a plethora of good books on the subject, but I've yet to find one better than American Pie by Peter Reinhart. This dean of America's bread bakers provides sound advice about techniques, as well as recipes for everything from traditional Neapolitan pizza to New York style to generic American pizza, and thick-crust Sicilian and Chicago pizzas as well.
(8) and of course, a gift certificate from your or your giftee's favorite pizzeria. Many local pizzerias now offer gift cards or certificates. You can't go wrong with that.

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