"All right, everybody ready to get their hands dirty?" asked Burton Koelliker, executive chef at Osteria Marco, as he and his crew rolled a few dozen balls of dough so that we could attempt to make pizza crusts.
After much spilled laughter and flour, the students at Saturday's "The Art of Pizza Making" class eventually managed to roll out some handsome, flat crusts. In the process, we proved Kolliker's point: "So many people are intimidated, because they don't want to make something that's bad. They don't want to make something that's disappointing, so they just opt to not to try," he said. "But hopefully, people can go home and make pizza." See also: - Chef and Tell with Frank Bonanno of Mizuna, Luca d'Italia, Osteria Marco and Bones - Osteria Marco: Make a pig of yourself at Frank Bonanno's new place - Frank Bonanno admits he's a "dick" when it comes to court battles with the health department
Although this was Kolliker's first cooking class, Bonanno Concepts regularly hosts classes with chefs from Frank Bonanno's family of restaurants -- and Bonanno himself will teach students "All About Antipasti" on September 29.
And what better place to learn the ins and outs of pizza-making than at Osteria Marco, which earned honors in the Best of Denver 2012 for Best Specialty Pizza?
Koelliker's goal was to demystify the pizza-making process, and he walked the class through every step from ingredients (he recommends cake yeast for the dough) to baking (a hot oven is a must). The chef shared the surprisingly simple recipes for both Osteria Marco's dough and pizza sauce, the foundation of OM's decadent pies.
Simplicity and freshness are key, he advised. "We spent all day prepping the same things over and over again," Koelliker told us. "We don't make one batch of sauce for the week, we make it fresh every day. And I think that really speaks on the plate and on the table."
Koelliker also served up the "secret" to good béchamel sauce, the base for the Osteria's raved-about mushroom pizza: don't forget to salt your onions.
Koelliker sent the participants home with a box of dough, cheese and sauce, to encourage them to make a pizza for their families instead of calling for delivery. "I feel much, much better when there are fresh ingredients, things that I made and I know what's in them," he said. "People get so stuck in the pepperoni, sauce, cheese mentality that they forget there's so many other options, so many things you can do with a pizza."