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American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza Hardcover – November 4, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 169 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Baking bread is mysterious enough. But creating truly great pizza--the transformation of next to nothing into something extraordinary--is downright alchemical. It is for no small reason that there are distinct words in Italian for those disciples of these mystic arts who bake pizza and focaccia, pizzaiolo and focacciaiolo. Peter Reinhart, he who gave us Brother Juniper's Bread Book and the multi-award winning The Bread Baker's Apprentice, takes the reader of American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza right into the heart of the matter.

Reinhart begins his inquiry into pizza with his baseline palate memory for what a great pizza should be. As a teenager he had worked in a pizzeria, Mama's, and instinctively knew this pie to be the best. Returning as an adult years later, he discovered otherwise. Had he changed, or had the pizza changed? Both, it happened, were true.

So what is the nature of perfection, and where do you go to find it? In the case of Peter Reinhart, this journey includes travels through Italy and across the US. This is Part One of the book, called The Hunt. It's not the most enlivening travel writing, which would have helped elevate the insights into the nature of great pizza and the people who make it happen. But it's only a third of the entire package. The best is yet to come. In Part Two: The Recipes, Reinhart comes entirely into his own. Here is the master at work. Chapters include "The Family of Doughs", "Sauces and Specialty Toppings," and "The Pizzas." Reinhart gives you the building blocks, no matter what your kitchen, tools, and oven might be like. And then he unfolds the roadmap--pizzas from the strictly classical to the strictly whimsical.

Work diligently with American Pie and in time you will be able to call yourself, without hesitation or rising color, pizzaiolo and focacciaiolo. --Schuyler Ingle

From the Publisher

A fascinating look into the great pizzas and pizzerias of Italy and America.

Includes in-depth pizza-making techniques; more than 40 classic pizza recipes; and an engaging narrative of Reinhart’s pizza hunts with such food luminaries as Rick Bayless, Jeffrey Steingarten, and Joanne Weir.

Peter Reinhart’s last book, THE BREAD BAKER’S APPRENTICE, was named Cookbook of the Year by both the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press; Later prt. edition (November 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580084222
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580084222
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matt Morgan TOP 100 REVIEWER on December 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book, having never seen it before, because of my appreciation for author Peter Reinhart's other excellent works, as well as a desire to make good pizza of my own. I have Bread Baker's Apprentice and Crust & Crumb, and because these books are specifically about bread, I assumed that American Pie would be all about the crust. This was a gross misconception on my part; this book is much more than a tome on pizza crust.

The book has two sections. The first is a fascinating account of all Reinhart went through to find what he regards as the perfect pizza. This includes details of a trip to Italy as well as places within the United States where he found excellent pizza on his pilgrimage. The second, larger section deals with the recipes (formulas) he has created, and this section is broken down further into three sections -- dough, toppings and sauces, and finally complete pizzas.

Do yourself a favor -- do not skip the first section and plow right into the recipes and formulas. While you may be more interested in getting down to business, you learn a tremendous amount about what the author regards as a great pizza, and more importantly, you learn just how serious the author was when he set out to find what he calls the perfect pizza. As is typical of his other works, Reinhart writes with unwavering passion, pouring everything he's got into the writing. Finally, many of the pizzas he mentions in the first section are recreated in recipe form in the second section, and it's really fascinating to recreate one of the pies in your own kitchen.

The dough section is a collection of approximately a dozen excellent formulas for crust. Each recipe sticks to Reinhart's trademark method -- slow rise, usually an overnight rising.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My search for making good pizza at home began with THE ART OF MAKING PIZZA by Dominick DeAngelis. I gave the book a good review, but since reading Reinhart's AMERICAN PIE, I have to say, unless you just don't have the extra money for this book, skip THE ART and get AMERICAN PIE. You may find that AMERICAN PIE is the only pizza book you need.

Comparisons against THE ART are difficult for me to avoid. DeAngelis basically instructs on making one style of pizza - what Reinhart would call a New York style or Americana. Reinhart teaches you to make Napoletana pizza, New York style pizza, Americana pizza, Roman style (thin crust) pizza, grilled pizza (Yes! It's what it sounds like!), Chicago deep dish pizza and a few breads that you may not consider pizza at all, like pita, carta di musica and focaccia. DeAngelis INSISTS that you need to use high-gluten flour (good luck finding it locally) and complains of the inadequacy of the home oven. Reinhart uses (mostly) available ingredients and writes the book knowing that it's going to be used within the limitations of a home kitchen.

But until recently, I've had problems with the recipes. I've tried the Napoletana crust, the Americana crust, the focaccia, the carta di musica, and the prebaked crusts. Despite following his recipes (nearly) to a "T," the dough just did not act as described in the book. It was not as elastic as described, and could tear apart from its own weight. Despite this, if I could get the dough formed into a crust at all, the results were still pretty good! There are two pages on "Ten Tips for Making Pizza Dough." These may be the two most valuable pages in the book, and should be expanded and not relegated to the reduced type size. The recipes call for "instant yeast.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm sure there are other books devoted to the pizza, but this is the one which all true foodies will want. For starters, it's written by Peter Reinhart, a major American authority and writer on bread baking. Then, there are connections in the story to culinary luminaries such as Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Paul Bertolli, and David Rosengarten.
The first half of the book is a quest to find the best American pizza, after an incident in Reinhart's home town of Philadelphia when he has a pie from a fondly remembered local restaurant, and it simply does not come up to his fond memories of the pizza of days gone by. As one would expect, the quest begins by a visit to sample the pizzas of Italy in Genoa, Florence, Rome, and Naples, the legendary home of the pizza archetype.
Upon returning home, the author and his wife visit famous pizza locations in New York City, New Haven, San Francisco, Los Angles, Chicago, and Phoenix. In case the Food Network has not caught onto this fact yet, some of the very best pizza is made at Pizzeria Bianco by Chris Bianco, a James Beard Best Chef of the Southwest award winner.
The author is not so gauche as to make a pronouncement on the best pizza in the country, but comes to the conclusion that a local `best' is the conjunction of a perception of what the best pizza should be and a very good pizzaioli who can produce a pie to meet those expectations. One of the most difficult problems for maintaining a good pizza in the U.S. is keeping a dedicated pizzaioli at work at that position and not to treat the job as just another station for a chef to master and move on. Even food meccas like Chez Panisse have problems keeping up the quality of their crusts in the face of staff rotation.
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