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The Art of Pi: Making pizza at Carriage House Cooking School

by Dec 22, 2019New York

I’ve always loved making pizza. I remember my first attempt at age 10 to create a pizza without parental assistance. It was no small miracle that my mum managed to consume what I proudly served her without deflating my junior chef’s ego … or throwing up – what’s wrong with kippers, chocolate sprinkles, Velveeta and pepperoni toppings I ask? It was not until I took a “boy’s cooking class” my senior year in high school that I truly appreciated the art of making pizza.

Fast forward 40 odd years or so, and there I was, taking a cooking class at the Carriage House Cooking School on, here we go again, the art of making pizza, specifically, “Art of Pi – Making Artisan Style Pizza At Home.” I was joined in the kitchen by four other travel writers as part of an Adventure Travel Trade Association media tour of the Adirondacks in New York state.

Our guide for this artisan pizza-making journey was none other than Chef Curtiss Hemm, the former dean of the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont and former instructor at Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Science in New York. He is now head of his own kitchen and cooking school, built with his own hands (out of timber he milled and shaped himself) at his family home near the town of Peru, New York. Like many of his compatriots, Chef Hemm commands a room with both his size and jovial manner, plus he is unassuming, delightfully humorous, and always encouraging, always teaching.

Carriage House Cooking School Chef Curtiss Hemm Mixing Flour Sal

Over the course of three hours, under Chef Hemm’s expert tutelage, we each learned to make our own delicious pizza from scratch without trashing his oven (you’ll have to watch the video below to understand that part). And then, of course, we ate a lot of pizza and drank locally brewed beer. All-in-all, a perfectly delicious evening in so many ways.

While the recipe I am sharing below is for Pizza Margherita, in the Art of Pi class at Carriage House Cooking School you learn to make all sorts of artisan pizza too. Check out the current school program to find a cooking class or even a unique dinner experience prepared just for you by Chef Hemm (oh you’ll get your hands into the food preparation too). It will make for a perfect and memorable Adirondack night out, I promise.

Carriage House Cooking School Pizza Margherita – Art of Pi

I encourage you to watch the short companion video below, to watch Chef Hemm work his magic with dough, the making of the sauce, and then explaining how to best make pizza margherita in his Art of Pi class.

Artisan Pizza Dough

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups water (105°F to 110°F)

  1. In a large bowl combine the flour, salt and yeast and mix together to evenly disperse the ingredients.
  2. Add the water to the flour mixture and mix well to combine. Be sure not to leave dry patches of flour, but do not feel you have to really work the dough.
  3. Keep it in the bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to sit on the counter for 2 to 4 hours.
  4. Dust the dough with flour and gently form a loaf by folding the dough onto itself from the top to the bottom, turning often to make sure the dough is shaped properly.
  5. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and, using the same top to bottom turning technique, form balls and place them on a floured counter. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rest 20 to 30 minutes.

Fresh tomato sauce with basil and garlic

2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and coarsely diced or one 1 28-ounce can of no-salt added diced tomatoes
2 large basil leaves, chopped
1 pinch kosher salt
1 pinch black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced paper thin

  1. Combine the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse three or four times until the mixture is a coarse puree with tomato pieces about a 1/4 inch in size. Place the mixture in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a sauce pot combine the olive oil and garlic. Heat gently until the garlic begins to become translucent and aromatic. Remove the oil from the heat and pour directly over the tomato mixture. Mix well to combine.

Making one 10-inch Pizza Margherita

1 6-inch dough ball (prepared as above)
1/2 cup fresh tomato sauce
1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, shredded or torn into pieces
6 large basil leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  1. Preheat your oven to 500ºF or as high as it can go.
  2. Generously flour a countertop, keeping extra flour on hand, and place a dough ball in the center of the flour. Dust the top of the dough ball generously and begin to gently punch down the center. Using your fingers and knuckles, gently flatten the dough ball into a disk. Shape it into an 8- to 10-inch crust. The dough should be well-coated in flour at this point. Fold it in half and shake off the excess flour. Tear off a piece of parchment paper slightly larger than the crust and sprinkle it with semolina or a dusting of flour. Place the pizza crust on the paper and gently unfold it to lay flat.
  3. Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza and sprinkle the Pecorino Romano cheese over the top.
HITT Tip: Pecorino describes any firm, salty cheese that is made from sheep’s milk, thus Pecorino Romano is Romano from sheep’s milk, just as for example Pecorino Toscano.
  1. Place the pizza in the oven and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the pizza 180° and continue cooking until the crust is a light golden brown and the pecorino cheese is fully melted and lightly browned. Remove from the oven, and top the pizza with the mozzarella cheese and a light drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Return the pizza to the oven and cook an additional 4 minutes to melt but not brown the mozzarella.
  3. Remove the pizza from the oven and top with fresh basil. Slice and serve.

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You may also find the following articles on Albany and another cooking experience interesting: Charbroiled Oysters Recipe from the Louisiana Oyster Trail and 24 hours in Albany – fascinating walk through time.

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