Pizza Pairings

On a recent trip to Toronto, I happened to pick up some President’s Choice ‘OO’ grade Pizza flour.  According to the package, this is specialty flour that can be substituted for all-purpose flour for softer pizza doughs and pasta.  So I decided to get a few pounds to bring back and experiment.

For years, I have been a deep, loyal fan of Christopher Kimball (Milk Street) and his knowledge of cooking.  I was able to attend his Pie dough class in Austin years ago and that completely changed the way I make pie crust.  I have used his cracker crust pizza dough recipe for years that makes a very thin crust (rolled to ¼” thick).  It’s amazing in a wood fired oven but at the house in a 425F oven, it’s still works very well.  As you can see from the picture above, it made a silky, very soft elastic dough that had amazing properties.

One of my chef friends commented on my Instagram picture “So, What would I pair with this?”  So this led me to think about what would work.  Typically, I always pair the food to a wine since the wine generally is static in the bottle.  I have more flexibility to make small changes to the food (either in seasoning, ingredient selection or cooking techniques) to match the food to the wine.  So what would work with the new crust and toppings?

Let’s breakdown the components that may be found in food and wine.  There are 8 specific components that I look at when I breakdown a food or a beverage:

 

  1. Visual cues.
  2. Its specific aromas / flavors.
  3. The mouth feel.
  4.  Sweetness.
  5. Tannins (if any are present and how strong).
  6. Acid levels.
  7. Body (related to the weight on the palate).
  8. The length or finish (how long do you detect the food or beverage on the palate).

So let’s breakdown my pizza (based upon its ingredients) so I can show you how this works.  For my pizza, I’m using the cracker crust thin dough.  In addition, I’m using homemade canned pineapple (yes I’m one of those), homemade pizza sauce, a shredded Colby blend, and a shredded hot pepper cheese.  I finished with sliced pepperoni, and a mixture of onions, peppers and diced bacon that has been slightly sautéed to partially cook them.   Therefore, these ingredients combined would create the following profile based on the components above.  For this article, I’m not going to get into the visual cues.

 

Aromas / Flavors

Baking in a hot 425F oven produces aromas from the cracker crust of toasted bread and caramelized sugars.  In addition, aromas from the melted cheese, the bacon as it finishes cooking, along with roasted peppers and onions.  The sauce would dry out (I use a very thin layer) so you would get roasted tomatoes (almost sun dried).  The pineapple dried out would give both a citrus and tropical tone.

Mouthfeel

Picture the crunch and snap of the cracker crust breaking.  Chewing the crust would give some silk-like soft tones in the center.  The sauce, bacon and cheese would coat your mouth due to the fat.  You would get the softness of the dried pineapple and then the firm zesty bite of the pepperoni.

Sweetness

The sauce has a touch of sweetness (I do this to counter the tomato acid so both the acid and sweetness in the sauce is neutral).  Most, if any sweetness, would come from the pineapple that is processed in a 1 to 4 simple syrup (1 part sugar, four parts water).

Tannins

Tannins are an acid that is naturally found in grape skins and seeds.  You can also pick up tannins from wood exposure.  The only source would be from the smoked bacon.   

Acid levels

How strong are the acids in the pizza?  The only sources of acid would be from the cheese (mild levels), the pineapple (medium levels), the sauce from the tomatoes (mild levels) and pepperoni (fermented).

Body

The pizza all combined in your mouth will be filling but not heavy (medium body).

Finish / Length

How long does the flavor stay with you?  A nice long time as you chew, swallow and detect the flavors.

 

That is my procedure for pairing food with beverages.  I map out what each component is comprised of in detail so I can get an accurate picture of the finished dish.  For a really good component pairing, I try to match four of the eight components to give some really good in depth pairings.  Before I look at the wine, please note that what I listed above everyone can see/detect.  I’m not doing anything new here other than looking at these components in a different way.   There is an incredible pizza place about a mile from my house that I gladly order from when I don’t have the time or energy to make dinner.  When I pick up the pizza, my car smells incredible from all of the roasted ingredients and crust and this is amplified when I open the box.  At that point, I don’t care about the pairing, I’m just hungry so I grab a slice and tear into it.  However, if I’m going to pair it with a beverage of choice, the procedure above goes through my head.

 

So what wine would work with my pizza?  Honestly, I could think of 10 options (white, red and rose) off the top of my head that I would be happy with.  I keep coming back to this statement:

 

  • If you are happy with a pairing, then fantastic and don’t worry about trying to be fancy. Eat, drink and be merry!

If we decide to look at the pairing using components, my first wine choice is Chianti, based on the grape variety Sangiovese.  It may not be my final choice but I’ve always found it to be a good one to start. 

 

Components

Chianti (Sangiovese)

Aromas /Flavors

Aromas from sun dried tomatoes, dried citrus and earthy mushroom.  Flavors of roasted tomatoes, some dark fruit like cherries and currants, some spiciness from oregano, thyme and black pepper.

Mouthfeel

Zesty tones with a bit of chewiness.

Sweetness

Slightly bitter but not unpleasant.

Tannins

Tea like from the grape with some bite.  Typically low wood exposure (used barrels) so little oak.

Acid levels

Medium to high acid levels which help to rinse the palate clean.

Body

Medium body, not heavy or cloying.

Finish / Length

Components stay with you for a good time due to the flavors, acid levels and mouth feel.

In this case, the aromas/flavors, mouth feel, body and finish / length match up together.  You also would get a bit of contrast from the sweetness provided by the pineapple against the slight bitterness of the wine.  Overall, four of the components are matched with one level of contrast resulting in an amazing pairing.  In my upcoming book, I will go into more detail about this technique of using components.  In the meantime, enjoy your pizza and beverages; write to me if you have pairing questions and enjoy this beautiful Fall weather.

@artofthepair