Book Review: “My Pizza” by Jim Lahey (2012)

“The Easy No-Knead Way to Make Spectacular Pizza at Home”

Having recently gotten into a cookbook-reviewing phase, I have sort of fallen in love with the stories behind these books written by world-class chefs. My Pizza satisfies that love as Jim Lahey shares his culinary progress from being a novel baker who received world acclaim for an interesting no-knead baking method to using his baking skills in making unique, gorgeous pizza dishes echoing those he experienced during his travels in Italy. From the introduction, I knew that if I were to find his crust recipe simple enough for me to replicate, then I would be able to make the most use of this recipe book. And sure enough, I did and I have.

I suppose it would be timely to mention that for the past three years, I myself have been honing my own pizza-making skills and have become somewhat addicted to making homemade pizzas whenever my wife decides not to make her authentic Chinese meals. This book, then, became an immediate interest by title alone, and an immediate favorite once I discovered that Lahey’s crust technique is, indeed, ridiculously simple. The game changer for Lahey’s pizza-baking style goes beyond his no-knead crust, however, for he utilizes a very distinct preheating-pizza-stone method that truly affects how the pizza is going to taste, and he has also included two extremely simple yet delicious sauces that match any sort of toppings one might desire to use (if, in fact, a sauce is even necessary). I never knew that I could get beyond the basics and start producing gourmet-style pizzas with my own, cheap utensils, but I guess we all have to step up sooner or later.

While I absolutely loved his crust and sauces, I was a little thrown by Lahey’s toppings of choice, not that they would be gross, but that I probably could not afford many of them. Many of the toppings were a bit too high-end for my wallet (and brain, since I did not even know what some of the ingredients were), and I certainly could not find many of the specialty meats and cheeses in my local stores. But I suppose this is what differentiates a chef who can get a cookbook published from a guy like me who certainly could not. As I made my pizzas based off the recipes in this book, I was able to make due with fantastic Wisconsin cheeses, canned specialty olives, etc. And you know what? These pizzas were so much better than what I have ever made before, I never missed the Italian bacons and crazy white cheeses.

Sausage and Olives

Italian Olives with Candy Onions

Lahey has filled this excellent, easy-to-follow recipe book with plenty of beautiful photos of his pizza creations, as well as a great section on appetizers and sides that would make great additions to any pizza party one may want to throw. I am thinking of using his method for a “couple’s night in” where we make some pizzas one-by-one and each enjoy a new, unique style of pizza quarter-slice-by-quarter-slice. I am certain that we will have a great time doing so, and I encourage you to try the same.

©2011 E.T.

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