Meet Freddie Wehba - @theculinaryadvisor
Meet Freddie Wehba aka @theculinaryadisor He lives in Los Angeles and makes pizza in a standard home oven using a variety of inserts and tools. In these photos, you’ll see his (now retired) Pizza Dome, which allowed him to achieve temps over 700°F. The Dome was too much for Freddie’s oven, so now he’s using a custom cut stone from California Pizza Stones with bake temps around 525°F. Check out his story and give him a follow!
How often do you make pizza?
I'd make it everyday if I could, but once a week is all my wife and kids will allow.
How long have you been making pizza?
Around 15 years total, but really seriously for 7 years.
What style(s) do you like to make?
I make most styles of pizza except neapolitan since I don't have a wood fired oven. I have been using a 75% hydration, semi-enriched dough that is very versatile. I also have a unique mixing style that is a cross between a Hypermix and an Improved mix with a couple of rests in between. I cold bulk ferment for at least 48 hours, ball the dough with no flour and refrigerate the dough balls for an additional 24 hours. I then let them rest out of the fridge for around 4 hours. The resulting dough is very slack and extensible and very light, airy and has a thin crispy outside micro-crust with a pillowy interior. It also micro-blisters on the bottom.
What’s one piece of gear you can't live without?
Definitely my Nutri-Mill Mixer. My pizza improved dramatically once I started using it.
Who or what inspires your pizza making?
I grew up in Texas in the 80's, so by today's standards there really wasn't a lot of great pizza. I learned bread making from my Lebanese grandmother. She would make this puffy pita she called Kamoz or Kamoj. She would tell me as a kid that this would make a great pizza dough. I was like Yeah Right. I was a dumb kid. Well, she was right! My dough is basically her dough with a slightly higher hydration. I still use a little dry milk powder in my dough as an homage to her. She is my biggest culinary influence.
Any advice for new pizza makers?
Weigh everything and learn baker's percentages. Also learn how to correctly handle dough and be gentle with it to preserve the gas in the dough. Learn how to tailor your dough to your oven. You don't need to cook it at 700 degrees to get a good pizza. Sometimes a lower temp and longer bake will get better results than blasting it and it doesn't cook properly. The biggest difference between a bread baking oven environment and pizza is steam. With bread you want steam to create that oven spring. Pizza is different. You want a dry oven environment. Use convection if you have it. One of the goals in pizza is to try to dry out the exterior of the pizza and the toppings while keeping the insides light and airy.
I also would like to encourage new pizza makers to forge their own path and don't listen to all these rules the pros swear by. A lot of people will tell you that using a rolling pin is a sin in the pizza world, but my dough is pretty slack and delicate so I lightly roll it out with a rolling pin after hand shaping it. Another helpful hint for new pizza makers is to use parchment paper to help launch the dough from the peel and remove the parchment mid way through the bake. I still use parchment paper primarily because I want to keep my oven clean and bench flour makes a mess and will burn if making several pizzas, plus you get a clean bottom.