Any way you slice it, pizza master scores as judge

If you opened a box of food ingredients and found a ball of pizza dough, what would you do with it? That was one of the ingredients the chef contestants on an upcoming episode of the Food Network’s Chopped were faced with. What they did not know was that the dough was made by one of the judges, champion pizza maker Bruno diFabio, owner of Pinnochio Pizza in Wilton Center.

Mr. diFabio, who has been on many food and talk television shows, makes his Chopped debut when the show airs on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2, at 9 p.m. Called Pizza Perfect, the episode features its usual collection of disparate ingredients for appetizers, entrées and desserts, except pizza dough is included in each round along with things like candied mushrooms and salted caramel sauce.

Although Mr. diFabio has competed successfully in pizza contests around the world, and he has been a judge as well, he found being on Chopped especially intimidating.

“It is one of the Food Network’s most-watched programs, it’s the greatest food competition show,” he said. “It is so pressure-packed. They award a champion each episode.”

Although he “wouldn’t take a backseat to anyone on pizza,” he said, he acknowledged his fellow judges — Alex Guarnaschelli and Amanda Freitag — “have such a vast knowledge of the culinary food scene and are so super eloquent in their responses.

“There were times I thought, I totally don’t belong here, but I did drop a lot of knowledge on them,” he said.

Mr. diFabio, who has dedicated the last decade to the study of pizza making and the raw materials used to make it — to the point of foraging for wild yeast in the Dolomite Mountains — is especially knowledgeable about dough.

“The dough is absolutely my life,” he told The Bulletin Tuesday. The dough he made for the appetizer round was what he termed a “super-mature dough” that went through a 48-hour, cold-rise fermentation. The second, for the entrée round, was a poolish dough that underwent a 24-hour room-temperature fermentation followed by a 36-hour, cold-rise fermentation “which allowed it to be light, airy, flavorful, and crisp as well as super-digestible,” he said, explaining that a long rising period allows starches to break down.

Although there was pizza dough in their box of ingredients, the chefs did not necessarily make pizza.

“They could have made pizza if they wanted, but they could have made something different,” he said, being careful not to give anything away.

“I took a lot of care in making this pizza dough for them. It was a super-special ingredient. You can imagine I spent all these hours, my pride and joy, and I would hope they would use it the right way,” he continued. “I was concerned they would use it the right way.”

Whether or not they did, he said it was “a fun, fun episode.”

He confirmed that the show is taped exactly as seen with the precise amount of time given for each round and no do-overs.

“The time is the time. If there was a failure it was going to be a failure,” he said. “It’s incredibly pressure-packed. I’ve competed for big prizes and big money before, but I would never put myself in that situation.”

To find out who conquered the pizza challenge, viewers may tune in on Sunday. If they miss that show, it will be repeated Feb. 3 at midnight, Feb. 4 at 9, Feb. 5 at midnight, and Feb. 9 at 6.