Sriracha Dough
Brad English

I have only experimented with this dough one time.  It's nothing earth shattering, though it sounds like it should be, but it's certainly interesting, so I think it's worthy of a post.

I was making up some pizzas recently and we were doing a Vietnamese inspired pizza. Since I make the doughs the day before, I noticed my Sriracha Salt just sitting there staring at me on the counter.  As I went to grab the Kosher Salt, the jar of Sriracha Salt shuddered a little, maybe beckoned.  It was just a little, but enough for me to notice.

 

Ok, just kidding of course, but I did notice it while grabbing the regular salt and a little light bulb went off.  "Why not?"  I was making Peter's Signature Bruery Beer Dough and thought I'd substitute the Sriracha Salt for the regular salt.  I didn't know if the dough would work because of the spices -- perhaps causing it to not rise, or explode or something.  But it did work.  The result was a subtle hint of spiciness throughout the dough.  As I took my first bite of the finished pizza, I didn't notice it right away.  There was so much going on with the Banh Mi Pizza (see that post from a few weeks ago), that the subtle flavor it added to the dough didn't show up immediately.

 

As I got to the crust, though, I could definitely sense the Sriracha flavor.  It was subtle and interesting.  Like I always say about making and eating pizza, it's always interesting.  There's a unique opportunity to experiment when making pizzas.  You can try little things while making the meal because you'll be making 3 or more pizzas at a time and each one can be an experiment with slight changes, or major changes help you figure out what you like most.  And, I believe that the excitement of trying to find that "Ah-Ha!" moment is almost as much fun as eating that perfect slice.  The quest is about the questing and also the time spent with friends and family eating the results of your madness!

So, the recipe for the Sriracha salt is already posted -- just use it instead of regular salt when making any dough and let us know the results. Sometimes it's just the little things that the difference....

For Peter's Signature Bruery Beer Dough recipe - click: *HERE

*Note:  This would work with any dough recipe.

 

Enjoy!

 
I'm Back
Peter Reinhart

This will be quick. Just wanted to say I'm back from Northern California where the book launch went exceedingly well ("The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking" is even being featured this week on SeriousEats.com in their "Cook the Book" section). But I'm still catching up, digging through a pile of mail and newspapers, and also getting ready for the new season at Johnson & Wales University during faculty orientation week. But I'll be posting a new Peter's Blog within the next few days on the highlights of the California trip, plus additional travel news updates, as well as some remarks on the fabulous "comments" thread in the posting below, which has surpassed 103 the last time I looked -- though I'd like to continue it on the entry posted just above it to allow others to join in with a fresh slate (thanks to Allen Cohn for becoming numbers 102, 103 and beyond, but your input is so good I hope you'll keep it coming on the newer posting where it won't get lost way down the queue) . We also have some new recipes coming from Brad, new webisodes in the editing studio at this very moment soon to appear, and more guest columns still to come.

Anyway, as soon as I catch up on my sleep and my mail, I'm jumping back in.....

 
Thank you!!
Peter Reinhart

Wow, what a response thread we've had to the "Peter is an idiot" quote from Scott123. There are about 100 comments in the thread, but mostly from about five people who needed consecutive posts to contain their thoughts. Thank you all for great, thought provoking comments. And thank you Scott123 for your full explanation (and for backing off the "idiot" line -- I totally get where you're coming from and love your passion and expect that you and I will become great friends when we can spend some time over a slice). Thank you also to Pappy, Tony, and Norma, as well as those others who jumped in to either defend my honor or add insight to the debate. There might be TMI for some of our readers regarding the fermentation and bromate issues but for those of us who live and breathe the subject all I can say is, Wow!  I learned some new things from all of this and I am so glad we could provide a forum to get it all out there.

I'm still on the road for the launch of the new book but I do plan to address some of the important points brought up by everyone, but not till I get home next week. However while I think of it, Scott is absolutely correct that 14 oz. of water is crazy -- maybe I was thinking of tomato paste and not tomato purée. But I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of "American Pie" while out here on the road so I still need to look at what I wrote and why. Scott brought up so many good points that I feel I owe him a proper response when I land, so give me some time. But, the short answer to his critiques is that Pizza Quest came into existence partially to keep the story I began in "American Pie" going, including to go deep as well as broad (that book was, of necessity, more broad than deep and thus vulnerable to the justifiable critiques that are now coming to the fore). I feel that this discussion is providing that missing depth and hope we can all continue to keep digging.

So, since 100 comments is a lot to ask everyone to follow, let's start a new thread right here for anyone who wants to still jump in. Meanwhile, I have to get back to the tour and will return here as soon as I can. Thank you all for your intense passion -- I love it!!!

 
Peter's Blog, August 8th -- Alright, Controversy!!
Peter Reinhart

I'm packing and getting ready for the big book launch over the next two weeks in SF and the Bay Area, so will keep this short.  The schedule is listed below in my previous Peter's Blog, if any of you can make it to any of the classes or book signings. There are still a few seats left for the classes but you'll have to call the venues for more info.

But this week I think we're going to have to address the controversy that emerged in the Comments section of my last posting, thanks to someone named Scott007 and a few other voices, including another Scott -- Scott123. It's actually kind of exciting -- apparently, I've pissed a few people off and am not sure why but would sure like to find out what I did (if you aren't up to speed, please check out the Comments thread in the recent Peter's Blog -- last time I checked there were 14 comments).  So, what I'd like to do is open up the discussion here on this posting, via a new Comments section, the one on this posting, and ask any and all of you to chime in.  If I've trashed NY pizza culture, as Scott123 accuses, or passed on misinformation about pizza methodology or dough science, let's get it all on the table so we can clear it up.  Scott(s), how about getting specific and make your case -- I hear that 123 is a well respected pizza authority so maybe I have something to learn from you. None of us have a monopoly on the whole truth and Pizza Quest was created to be a forum for the sharing of our mutual pizza journeys and celebration of artisanship. I'm open to learn from you but also would like to know the actual specifics of where you think I went wrong, rather than generalized attacks.  The only rule for this discussion is civility -- I reserve the right to edit out ad hominum attacks, unnecessary language, and nasty language.  But differences of opinion -- sure, I'm okay with that. So, for those who want to play along, go ahead and express yourselves -- but let's do it respectfully, please.

I won't be posting another Peter's Blog till I return at the end of the month, but will try to join in the Comments section from the road if my i-Pad and local WiFi will allow it. In the meantime, let's get to the heart of it -- we're on a search for the truth (or, perhaps, truths). Let the discussion begin....

 

 
Finding Your Inner Pizza Maker
John Arena


OK, let’s play fill in the blank: A pizza is supposed to________.
Take your time with the answer because this is not a simple question. In fact you can think of it as the fundamental jumping off point for your own personal pizza quest, a sort of Zen koan that can move you towards pizza enlightenment. The late great pizza maker, Ed Ladou, described his pizza crust as an edible plate and his insight opened the floodgates of creativity for hundreds of pizza makers, some inspired and some eh, perhaps not so much. But let’s take it a step further. If pizza crust is an edible plate, the pizza itself is much more. I believe that we should think of our pizza, how we construct it, and how we eat it as an edible Rorschach test. Most of us have heard of this test, a psychological tool used to evaluate a subject's personality by analyzing perceptions about ink blots. Well, I think it is just as useful and a lot more fun to learn about people through the pizzas that they like and the pizzas that they make.

So let’s get back to the original question. What was your first unfiltered response? Did you answer “A pizza is supposed to be cooked in a wood burning oven”? How about Dom DeMarco of DiFara’s? He uses a Bakers Pride gas oven cranked up to nearly 600 degrees. How about: “A pizza is supposed to be topped with San Marzano tomatoes” right? Chris Bianco, one of our nations best pizza makers uses delicious California Tomatoes packed by Rob DiNapoli. Certainly, “A Pizza is supposed be made with Italian 00 flour.”  Except that when I asked the fantastic pizza makers at Volpetti in Rome they spoke lovingly of North American High Gluten Manitoba as their flour of choice.  One thing we can all agree on is: “A pizza is supposed to be extended by hand.”  Well somebody forgot to tell Al Santillo and his family who, for 3 generations, have followed their bread baking tradition and made incredible pizza using an old dough sheeter.

So, I think it is safe to say that for just about every “supposed to” there is an equally valid alternative response. Perhaps that means that our answers reveal more about us than they do about pizza itself. Let’s compare our pizza quest with another popular obsession, automobiles.  Some car enthusiasts will spend countless hours and huge sums of money to restore a vintage auto to showroom perfection. In a similar way, you may be drawn to pizza makers like Anthony Mangieri who insists that the only true expression of his art can be found in the four pizzas that he calls “true Neapolitan pizza”.  Think of him as a preservationist.  Other auto enthusiasts enjoy taking the same vintage autos and modernizing them. They are hot-rodders, linked to the past but customizing each creation with new innovations. A pizza maker like Roberto Caporuscio is doing just that in New York City, where his pies are clearly Neapolitan but include creations such as Noci e Zucchini, a delicious pizza made with smoked mozzarella, zucchini and cream of walnut. Surely this is not a pie that would have been made in Naples 50 years ago or even in Anthony Mangieri’s pizzeria today. So what about those automobile fanatics that don’t give a hoot about tradition and are driven by a desire to innovate? Well pizza fans have a few of those types too. These folks may be informed by what has come before, but they refuse to be enslaved by any standards but their own. In Italy the foremost name in this movement is Gabriele Bonci, Rome’s rock star pizza maker. If you want to experience "No-Holds Barred" pizza making visit Pizzarium or at least check out Bonci’s new book Il Gioco Della Pizza.

Well then, are you a preservationist, a hot-rodder or an innovator?  My hope is that at various points in your quest you will step deeply into each role, exploring what every facet of our art has to offer and, eventually, transcend labels, dogma, and rules to simply be at peace with the creation  and sharing of your pizza with the people that you love. To do that it is important to shed the notion of what your pizza is “supposed to be” and open your heart to everything that your pizza can be.

 
Coos Bay Clam Pizza
Brad English

Kim's sister Loan (pronounced Lahn) came down from Coos Bay, Oregon where she lives, with a mission to get us together and make pizzas, cook some good food, and hang out with friends.  Knowing we all love seafood, she and Randy did a little digging (maybe a lot of digging) and personally dug up what seemed like a ton of Coos Bay Empire Clams!  I knew what we were going to do with those; I love Peter's take on White Clam Pizza from his book American Pie.  His recipe is a tribute to the one served at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, CT.  I've made it numerous times and it always comes out great.

Having all of these fresh clams, we not only made a pizza, but Loan also whipped up a terrific pasta dish as well.  It was clam-tastic (I know that's cheesy, but this is a blog and it's true).

As with all recipes, once you make them enough you start to leave the reservation a little.  Peter's herb oil is a perfect example.  I use it so often, I just add herbs that I have until it looks right and tastes right.  For this pizza I spiced up the oil with some chili flakes.

 

Coos Bay Clam Pizza

- Peter's Signature Bruery Beer Dough *Made with Sriracha Salt as a substitute *Link here

- Peter's Herb Oil with a little extra red pepper flakes *Link here

- A big pile of Coos Bay Empire Clams -- if you can get them *See Note below for options

- Teaspoon of Fresh squeezed Lemon Juice

- Grated Mozzarella Cheese

- Grated Parmigiano-Regianno

- Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley

 

*Note: From "American Pie" about selecting clams for this pizza...

"When making this pizza, look for freshly shucked medium-sized whole clams, such as manila, cherrystone, or littlenecks.  You can shuck them yourself or steam them open.  An easier method, however, is to use either canned whole baby clams or another canned product called cocktail clams… (With these canned products, just drain the clams well…)  I do not suggest using chopped clams, even fresh ones, unless that is all you can find, as they tend to toughen during the bake."

We ended up using these larger clams for this recipe, which had to be chopped.  They were hand picked, shucked, and frozen by Loan and her family and brought down to us for this feast.  I did notice that some of the meat was tough, as Peter mentioned, but how do you not use the hand dug clams that came packed with passion and love?  I continue to reap the benefits of Loan's generosity as she brings, and even ships down, fresh seafood that they caught up there.  One day, we'll make the trip to visit them and join in on a crabbing trip, or clam dig on the beautiful beaches there and I'll post the photos.

I have also used the canned baby clams for this pizza and it always comes out perfect.

 

Prep:

Make up the herb oil *See Link above for recipe.  Add the fresh squeezed lemon juice.

I also added a little extra chili flakes to spice this one up.

Add the clams to the herb oil and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

 

The Coos Bay Clam Pizza

Pre-heat your oven to the highest temperature (about 550 degrees) for at least 45 minutes to an hour prior to baking your pizzas to make sure your pizza stone comes up to temperature.

Spread your dough out on the pizza peel and add a little grated Mozzarella and Parmessan Cheeses.  Don't add too much cheese on this pizza.  You want it to be a background element.  This pizza is about the clams and the herbs.  The cheese holds it together.

Add the Clams.  As you do, it will bring enough of the herb oil along with them.  There is no need for more oil on this.

That's it.  Now it goes into the oven.

Right when it comes out of the oven hit it with some more fresh squeezed lemon and top with the chopped parsley.  Because we were using these large clams that were caught, shucked and frozen, they put off a lot of liquid after the bake.  I simply tipped the pizza and drained off that excess liquid.  *When you used the canned baby clams, you don't have this problem.

 

Cut and Serve...

 

This turned out great.  It's terrific when you get the opportunity to cook with food that you know comes fresh from the source.  The only other ingredient needed for an amazing food experience is, of course, the good friends who we were lucky enough to be with.

*Peter suggests in "American Pie" that you can also make variations of this with other fresh/raw seafood such as squid, shrimp, or scallops.  Sounds like a plan!

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 
The Farmer Across the Road
Bruce Vetter

Note from Peter:  I've been corresponding recently with a fascinating guy name Bruce Vetter, a retired motorcycle builder who is now a passionate whole grain bread baker. I asked him if he'd be willing to share some of his unique personal story with our viewers and he sent me this photo essay. I'm hoping he'll keep sending us contributions like this -- he represents a rare breed of good old fashioned non-conformists who make life interesting for everyone around them. Enjoy!

 

When I was 14 I began to lead my life with a process of continual learning.  I've always had great passion for whatever I may be learning and being 68 now I have a lifetime of learning under my belt.  These last 2-3 years I've turned my attention to learning to bake whole wheat bread, which is far more difficult than I expected.  I have 6 grand children and I want them to understand that processed food is not normal.  I want them to know there is a better way to eat.

My goal is to bake 100% whole wheat bread that would be the bread of choice of my entire family.  Using store bought whole wheat flour was a convenient option but I wanted more control over the type of wheat used, the methods of farming and processing, and the length of storage before I get it.

Initially I started ordering winter hard white and red wheat berries from Idaho, shipped in on pallets. The wheat was packaged for the long term in 6 gallon buckets.  I also needed to be able to grind my own grain in large volume while limiting the amount of heat imparted to the flour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above 2 grinding mills operate either independently, or, the top one delivers it’s coarse product through the maroon conduit to the lower mill for final milling.  This limits and controls the amount of heat delivered to the final flour.  Each mill will produce 6-8 lbs of flour per hour.  (shown with belt guards removed)

The farmer across the road grows wheat and I asked him if I could purchase a full grain wagon. This amounted to 200 bushels (the product of 5 acres) weighing 14,000 lbs.  The cost was $0.10/pound or $1,400.  It was a lot of wheat and I was excited.  I wanted to get my grain from as close to the grower as possible.  The wheat from Idaho, by the way, cost $0.75/lb counting shipping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have  several local friends that think like me, so we shared this wheat by packaging it in my shop purged with Nitrogen and sealed in Mylar bags with Oxygen absorbers all within 5-6 gallon plastic buckets.  In total we packed 344 buckets of wheat .

To test if there is sufficient Nitrogen, we use a flame over the bag.  If the flame goes out we have enough Nitrogen and the bag is sealed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Counting everything but my labor, the cost of a bucket full of wheat is 8-9 dollars.  This is 1/3 of what I kept, the rest being distributed among other local home bakers.  Each bucket will take me 1-2 weeks to use up, from baking bread to rolling wheat for cereal and pancakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until I read Peter's book "Whole Grain Breads" every loaf I would bake was like a dense brick.  Using his pre-fermenting process of soakers and bigas, now it looks the way proper bread should look: And the flavor and taste is my families favorite.

 

 

 

My grand children are being taught what’s required to bake the loaf of bread they eat for dinner. They grind the grain too and when they do I call them my “Grain Children”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bake bread in a wood burning oven during the winters and a gas oven when the weather is warm.  I store about 13 cords of sawmill sawed deciduous wood, mostly oak measuring 6" X 8", stored in 40 large stackable wire metal baskets; each basket holds 800-1,000 lbs of wood with a volume of 1/3 cord.  Each basket is color coded with a tag delineating the harvest date so I can better judge the seasoning.  I have found that from when it is green until it is seasoned the wood will loose 17% of it's mass through moisture loss.   I like this method of storage because the wood continues to air dry, does not rot, and with a forklift I can "plug" a basket into a slot right next to my stove just like an audio cassette.  I have limited handling, the biggest chore involving

 
Peter's Blog, July 21st, Upcoming Book Tour
Peter Reinhart

As promised, here are the upcoming travel dates as I hit the road for the launch of my new book, "The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking."  I hope to meet many of you and if you are interested in any of the classes or presentations, please call the various venues for details and ticket availability.

August 15th: Draeger's Market Cooking School, Blackhawk (Walnut Creek, Calif.): Gluten-Free class (GF from here on)

August 16th: Draeger's Market Cooking School, San Mateo (GF)

August 17th: Draeger's Market Cooking School, San Mateo (Artisan Breads Everyday class)

August 18th: Talk and books signing at Omnivore Books, Noe Valley, San Francisco, 3 PM

August 20th: Sur la Table, Los Gatos (GF)

August 21st: Ramekins, Sonoma, CA (GF)

August 22nd: Ramekins, Sonoma (Artisan Bread)

August 24th: Sur la Table, Santa Rosa, CA (GF)

August 25th: 2:30 PM Relish Culinary Adventures, Healdsburg, CA (GF cracker workshop)

August 25th: 5 - 6 PM, Book signing at Copperfields Books, Healdsburg, CA

September 10th: Loretta Paganini's Cooking School, Cleveland, OH (Multi-Grain breads)

Sept. 11th: Loretta Paganini's Cooking School (Artisan Breads)

Sept. 12th: Western Reserve Cooking School, Hudson, OH (GF)

Sept. 13th: Western Reserve Cooking School (Artisan Breads)

October 12th (evening) and 13th (morning): King Arthur Baking Center, Norwich, VT (GF workshop)

November 17th: A Southern Season, Chapel Hill, NC (GF)

There will be more to come and I'll add them to this calendar as they do, but that's what's on the schedule for now. I'm working on other cities for other months but no dates set yet -- I'll post them here as they confirm.  Hope to see you there as we get to a city near you.

Peter

 
Sriracha Seasoned Salt
Brad English

I met Randy Clemens at a baking class Peter was teaching at a Sir La Table here in Los Angeles. We were just getting Pizza Quest going and Peter was out on a teaching tour.  Peter introduced me to Randy, who had come to visit with him, after the class.  Peter had connected Randy with his publisher and Randy told us that he was close to finishing his first book cookbook.  I loved the idea.  It was a cookbook about using Sriracha Sauce.  I love that sauce.

Well, it turns out Randy published his book.  It's called The Sriracha Cookbook. I have to admit, I had meant to get a copy of the book, but as life goes, I just hadn't gotten around to it.  However, while browsing the internet I recently stumbled on one of the recipes from the book.  It was for a Sriracha Seasoned Salt.

It didn't take me 5 minutes to go to the cupboard and pull out my box of Kosher Salt and start measuring up a double batch of the stuff.  I put it into a couple of canning jars and gave one to a friend and kept the other.  Ever since then I've been finding ways to use this salt rather than just plain salt in any recipe, or as a final seasoning topping to any dish.  It is a great way to add a little spice to a dish in a unique way.  I use it on nearly everything that I'd use salt on.  You haven't noticed, and I have been waiting to say too much about it until I posted my version of the recipe here on the site, but I use it all the time on my pizzas!

 

The Sriracha Salt is spicy, but in a more flavorful way, if that makes any sense.  In other words, it's more flavorful than it is spicy.  The balance between the salt and flavors and spiciness is perfect (for me anyway).  It's like when you sauté up some jalapeños.  The heat is mellowed and you are left with a nice flavor with a toned down heat factor.

I recently even substituted this salt into a Pizza Dough recipe and it definitely added a subtle flavor (I'll post that dough recipe next week). You could sense a slight little spicy note trying to whisper at you through the dough.  You may not even notice it if you weren't aware of it, because there's relatively little salt in the dough, but to me, half the fun of cooking is experimenting and trying something that is new, or interesting.  You could just add Sriracha sauce to your food, but having Randy's Sriracha Salt around gives you another element to play with when trying to create fun and interesting things to eat and share.

I have the book on my list of things to get!  I suggest you track it down too.

 

Sriracha Salt

- 1/2 cup of Kosher Salt

- 5 teaspoons of Sriracha Sauce (with the rooster on the label!)

 

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees F.

Add the Sriracha Sauce to the salt and mix well.

Spread the salt/sauce mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Spread it as thinly as possible so that it will dry out.

Place the pan in the oven and turn off the heat.  Leave it in the oven overnight.  As the salt dries, it will clump up.  Before storing, place it in a bag, or crumble it in your hands in a bowl to break it up into individual crystals.

I keep mine in a glass canning jar and when I pull some out, I still squeeze it between my fingers as I apply it to break up the clumps up a little more.

This is a no-brainer.  Try it.  You'll like it!

 

 

 

 

 
Hot off the press news
Peter Reinhart

This just came in today and I want to let you be the first to know about it. I recently filmed a serious artisan bread making course for an internet educational company called Craftsy. Well, it's ready to roll (oops, sorry about the pun) and the best news is that those who sign up via the following link can get the whole course for 50% off (it will sell at full value for $39.99 so you can get it via the link for just $19.99). My understanding is that this special launch price will only be good for a limited period, so check it out at www.craftsy.com/artisanbread for the special price and a more detailed description of the course. We had fun filming it and, if it goes well, I'm hoping we'll be doing more, perhaps on pizzas -- who knows?  Anyway, check it out and feel free to pass the word and link on to others. To get the special price, though, you have to use the full url above.

If any of you do sign up, let me know what you think -- this is a whole new educational platform and concept and they have lots of other courses, such as cheese making, baking with chocolate, cake decorating, and crafts of all kinds. It's very exciting -- can't wait to hear what you think of it.

 
Peter's Blog, July 11
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

Lots of new recipe ideas from Brad continue to be featured on the Home Page -- he's currently on a huge Banh Mi Pizza kick so be sure to read his posts, below, for some very clever and tasty treats.

Also, a quick calendar note to let those of you in the Bay Area know that I'll be coming through in a few weeks for the launch of my newest book,"The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking."  My co-author, Denene Wallace, will also be on this tour and we'll be teaching at Draeger's (Black Hawk and also San Mateo), Sur la Table (Los Gatos and also Santa Rosa), Ramekins (Sonoma), and Relish (Healdsburg).  We'll also be giving a short talk followed by a book signing at Omnivore Books on Saturday, August 18th at 3 PM.  In my next Peter's Blog I'll break down all the dates and post a proper calendar for August and September, so this is just a heads up.

Most importantly, I want to welcome our newest sponsor to Pizza Quest, DiNapoli Tomato Products. Of course, we've been touting our love affair with DiNapoli tomatoes for many months, both in our recipe postings and also in various videos, some of which are still to be posted. Many of you already know of the collaboration between Rob DiNapoli and Chris Bianco that has brought Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes to a select few pizzerias across the country (I'm proud to say that Pure Pizza, the pizzeria that I helped start here in Charlotte, uses these phenomenal organically grown tomatoes exclusively on our pizzas). But they also have a number of other superb products that set the industry standard.  So, when I say we're proud to have DiNapoli as a sponsor, I really mean proud.

Rob DiNapoli first wrote to me way back when we launched Pizza Quest just to wish us well and to tell me about his pending collaboration with my long time friend, Chris Bianco.  A few months later, when the first cans were filled, he sent me a sample, and also some to Brad, who went wild creating pizzas that are now in the Instructional section archives. When we visited and filmed at Pizzeria Basta in Boulder we saw a number of empty cans of the Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes and Chef Kelly Whitaker told us that he had recently made the switch (the next time we visited Kelly he had also switched his flour to Central Milling, which also later became one of our sponsors). You can see where this is heading; Pizza Quest is dedicated to the search for the perfect pizza and, as we like to say, the celebration of artisans and artisanship of all types.  We've been posting for eighteen months now about this ineffable concept, a level of quality that can't be summed up by a few words, that has so many facets that every week we have to make another attempt to locate, define, and describe it.  It's partly about the people and partly about the ingredients -- and it's mainly about when the people and the ingredients come together in a rare synergy that delivers a rarely experienced level of satisfaction and joy. That's what's been driving us and, I think, why so many of you keep returning to this site in order to let us share our journey with you (because, in reality, we're all on the same journey -- and you're "on the bus" with us). One of the unanticipated benefits for us has been not only experiencing these amazing people and ingredients but having some of them actually join us as sponsors. Central Milling, The Fire Within, Forno Bravo Ovens, and now DiNapoli Tomato Products all exemplify what Pizza Quest is about and we're honored and proud to have them all on our team -- heck, as sponsors they help drive the bus and make it possible for us to stay on the quest, and for this we are very grateful.  When you have a chance, click through on the banner ad at the top of this page (it rotates in with our other sponsors) and read about DiNapoli and, if you have a few minutes, follow the prompts on their site and watch the video Rob DiNapoli has made that shows you the whole process of how he gets those amazing tomatoes from the earth to the cans.

We like being associated with companies that represent the highest expression of their segment of the food world and we're glad that they like being associated with us, and by extension, with you, our readers. So thanks to all of you for supporting us and for supporting our sponsors.

Next week, a calendar of upcoming appearances and classes. Also, we've had good response to the recent FAQ series so if you have a question that you'd like to see answered in this Peter's Blog section, please post the question in the "comments" below and we'll try to address it. Till next week, may your bread always rise and may your pizzas all be perfect!

 
LKB Banh Mi Pizza
Brad English

For some time, I have suggested that when our friend Kim Wildermuth's sister, Loan (pronounced Lahn),  who's mother is responsible for our favorite "Mom's Soy Pickled Jalapeños" comes to visit, that we get together and make a Vietnemese inspired pizza.  I have been a lucky guest on many of her visits from Oregon, when she and her husband Randy make the trip down to cook for me.  (Well, maybe they're here visiting Kim, but in my mind it's all about cooking for me!)  Kim is an amazing cook in her own right, we've posted a few of our cooking sessions here, though she always humbly defers to the excellence of both her mother and sister as the truly great cooks.  Let me say, for the record, that they are all pretty awesome in the kitchen!

The first time I mentioned my idea of making a Vietnamese pizza Loan thought I was crazy. She loves to bake fresh breads and was interested in getting together on one of her visits and making pizza with me, but making a Vietnamese pizza wasn't on her mind.  I just think she didn't connect the two culinary cultures.  That's where my madness comes in; I planted the seeds.  Time cultivated the concept and a recent trip provided the chance to finally make some pizzas together. We traded some emails and Kim and I kicked some ideas back and forth, then she and her sister kicked them around and, aha, we wound up coming up with a pizza tribute to the famous Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches!

What makes the Banh Mi sandwich so good?  As with any good sandwich, it starts with the bread. After the French colonization of Vietnam ended in 1954, one of the things left behind was the French baguette.  When they first introduced this the Vietnamese called it Banh Tay, which means "Foreign Cake".  It eventually became known as Banh Mi which basically means "bread."  "Mi" is wheat.  The coming together of cultures reminds me of the old commercials where someone is walking down the street eating chocolate and would bump into that strange individual who walked around with a peanut butter jar.  When they inadvertently came together we supposedly ended up with the Reese's Peanut Butter cup!  Well, as much as I like a peanut butter cup, I'll take a crisp warm Banh Mi sandwich, filled with a spicy, tangy concoction of marinaded pork, pickled carrots, cucumber and daikon with a little mayo, jalapeño and cilantro to top it off.

Sounds a little like a pizza to me.  Warm crusty dough topped with all of these delicious ingredients. On top of that, another great aspect of this pizza concept that I love so much is the combination of warm and cool ingredients coming together.  The change of temperatures you experience as you bite into a warm pizza dough, with hot oozy cheeses, topped with a cool juicy topping, adds another element to your experience.

I decided to try a new dough variation for this pizza.  I made up one of my favorite pizza doughs -- Peter's Signature Bruery Beer Dough -- but during the preparation I substituted a Sriracha Seasoned Salt that I made to see how that might give the dough a little more participation in this flavor party.

 

The LKB Bahn Mi Pizza  (Loan, Kim and Brad)

- Peter's Signature Bruery Pizza Dough *Made with Sriracha Seasoned Salt (I'll post this salt recipe soon -- till then, use your favorite pizza dough)

- Peter's Chili Oil *Link to Recipe

- Brad's Spicy Mayonnaise Sauce *Link to Recipe

- Chinese Barbeque marinaded pork loin

- Sliced Pickled Carrots, Cucumbers, Daikon, Green Onions

- Sliced Scallions

- Cilantro

- Soy Sauce for drizzling

 

The Prep:

Make the Chili Oil ahead of time - link to recipe above

 

Spicy Mayo Sauce:

I wanted to come up with a way to use Mayonnaise on the pizza to follow the tradition of the Banh Mi sandwich.  I didn't think spreading plain mayo on the dough and then baking it would make for an interesting "sauce".  I pictured it coming out dry and crusty which didn't seem appetizing.  As we were prepping things, I came up with an idea.  I had made up some of Peter's Chili Oil to drizzle on our pizzas and thought about using that and adding some of Mom's Soy Pickled Jalapeños that I often have laying around -- especially when you're with Mom's two daughters!  In fact, we had a fresh batch that Loan brought down from Oregon.  It turned out great!  It was moist and full of flavor.  Check out the link above to this easy recipe.  I will definitely use this on a sandwich in the near future.

 

The Pork:

We used a Char Sui Chinese BBQ Pork package to rub onto the pork loin.  Loan substituted Fish Sauce for the Soy Sauce called for on the package.  She does so, because the pork remains brighter than with the Soy Sauce.  She also adds a little Black Pepper and Garlic Salt to the mixture.

Mix the ingredients and pour over the pork.

Follow instructions on baking a Pork Loin, or whatever cut of meat you are using.  Bake the pork loin.  I tried to pull some out of the oven a little early so that it would remain moist as it finished cooking on the pizza.  We let the rest cook a little longer and served it as an appetizer with some nice mustard on the side.  The thinly sliced, moist pork cooked up perfectly on the pizza.

Pickling the Veggies

- Julienne the carrots, daikon and cucumbers into long thin slivers and place in a shallow dish.

- Sprinkle a little sugar on the veggies and a touch of salt.

- Add enough vinegar to almost cover the thin layer of veggies.  *If eating right away, using rice vinegar provides a lighter taste profile.

- Add a enough water to cover the veggies.

- Add Fish Sauce because it goes on everything.

- Allow them to sit for at least an hour.

*The rest can be stored in a sealed jar.   Loan doesn't measure, so you'll have to experiment, or look up another recipe for exact amounts.

 

The Pizza Part:

Pre-heat your oven to the highest temperature, about 550 degrees, for at least an hour prior to cooking to make sure to get your pizza stone up to temperature.

Spread out your dough and cover it with the Spicy Mayo Sauce and drizzle a little of the Chili Oil over the top.

Add some of the sliced pork loin and scallions and place it in the oven.  Bake until done.

When the pizza comes out of the oven add more of the juicy bbq pork loin and top with the pickled vegetables.

Top with Cilantro and drizzle with a little soy sauce to taste.

 

This Banh Mi Pizza came out amazing.  There are many layers of flavors, textures and temperatures to experience with this pizza!  As you bite into it, you notice the cool pickled veggies and the warm crusty dough on the top and bottom of your mouth.  Then you begin to get into the warm bbq pork and spicy mayo sauce.  It's a flavor explosion!

What makes a Banh Mi Sandwich so good?  Well, I would certainly give an equal role to the warm fresh crusty French Baguette and the delicious ingredients.  A sandwich can only be memorable with a great bread.  A good sandwich filling can, in fact, be reduced to mediocre with a lousy bread.  It's the same with pizza.  A warm, delicious crusty dough topped with great ingredients will make a great pizza.  It all has to work together.

This will definitely be a pizza that I repeat and, as I write this up, I realize, I will be repeating it soon!  I'm pressuring Peter to play with this one.  I know it's one he'll love and want to see what he comes up with when he tries it.

Enjoy...

 
Spicy Oil
Brad English

 

As promised, here' the spicy oil recipe. This is a staple ingredient n our house; one that I can use for many things.  When I don't have any, I just sprinkle some chili flakes on my pizza, but the little extra time this takes to put together makes for such a better overall flavor.  The oil is spicy and flavorful without being too hot.  Instead of drizzling a little olive oil over the top of a piping hot pizza, I love to add this instead.

 

This recipe is right out of Peter's "American Pie:  My Search for the Perfect Pizza".  As with everything, once you make it a few times, you can start to wing it.  I almost always have some of Peter's Herb Oil, but by now, there's no need to go back to the recipe.  You start to understand the flavors that each ingredient provides so that you can soon make these recipes by feel.

 

For this version of the recipe I used my home made Srirachi Seasoned Salt.  I will post about that soon as well.  Regular salt works just fine as well.  I was just looking for a little something to make it my own!

 

Spicy Oil

 

- 1 cup Olive Oil

- 4 teaspoons sweet or hot paprika

- 4 teaspoons chili flakes

- 1 large clove, garlic, peeled

- 1/4 teaspoon salt

 

*This is the recipe out of "American Pie".  I don't need 1 cup of this oil so I cut it way back generally, but it also keeps forever in the refrigerator so there's no problem if you make the full batch.  You will figure it out as you get comfortable with it.  It's just about finding the balance of the ingredients as you like them.  As I said above, I also substituted for the salt with my homemade Srirachi Seasoned Salt.

 

In a saucepan, add oil, paprika, chili flakes, and garlic.

 

Bring it to a boil (yes, really!).

 

Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

 

Set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.

 

Strain the oil and add the salt.

*I added the salt during the boil this time in the photos which worked out.  I usually

add it after per Peter's instructions.

 

Drizzle it on everything!

 

 

 
Spicy Mayo Sauce
Brad English

I have been really busy the past couple of weeks and haven't been able to post any recipes, though I have some interesting ones to share as soon as I can get them all together and posted.  I decided to post an interesting sauce that I came up with for one of these pizzas that I will share shortly.  I came up with this as I was trying to figure out an appropriate sauce for the pizza I was making.  It wouldn't work with a traditional tomato sauce and my usual go-to  special sauce - an herbed oil -- didn't seem to be appropriate.  So, I thought I would try something...

...and it turned out great!  I decided I would post this as a separate recipe in advance of the coming pizza. (aka, a "teaser"). Enjoy!!

 

 

Spicy Mayo Sauce

- Mayonnaise

- Peter's Chili Oil   *I make this all the time from Peter's book "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza,"  *Link here

- Chopped Mom's Soy Pickled Jalapeños and Garlic

*See our homemade recipe:  *Link here

 

In a bowl, mix mayonnaise and chili oil.  I used a good amount of the chili oil so that the mayonnaise mixture won't dry out during the bake.

 

Add the chopped jalapeños and garlic, and mix everything together.

 

That's it.  It's not complicated, but I think it is iunique and delicious!  I will definitely be trying this on a sandwich in the near future (maybe with a little less oil for that).

 

*Tune in next week for a really fun and interesting pizza that we used this sauce for!

 

Enjoy!

 
FAQ #3: Three Pizza Doughs
Peter Reinhart

 

Can you send me a recipe for pizza dough? I get this question a lot so here are three to get you going. We often refer to the first two recipes, below, in our instructional section and many of you already have them in your repertoire. But for those of you who are new, I'm reprinting them here in one place for easier retrieval. In addition, I've added a unique gluten-free recipe using sprouted gluten-free flour, along with the contact info for where to get the flour. I've written about this new development in the world of flour, sprouted grain flours, in previous posts so please refer to those for background. But here, for the first time, is a recipe you can use to make this dough at home.

We'd love to hear back from you, in the comments section below, with your results and also any questions that we can answer for the benefit of everyone.

One final note: in some of our pizzas we referred to the special Birra Basta dough we made last fall at the Great American Beer Festival with Kelly Whitaker and the folks from The Bruery. It is very similar to the Country dough, below. You can make your own version by using coarse, pumpernickel grind flour in place of the whole wheat flour and adding 1 tablespoon of dry malt powder (aka malt crystal), or use an equal amount of barley malt syrup.  You can also contact our flour sponsor, Central Milling, and order some of their Germainia flour and also a small bag of malt crystal, to make it exactly the same way we did.  I love that Germainia flour and hope to create a number of doughs in the future that use it.

 

Classic Pizza Dough, Neo-Neapolitan Style

(Makes five 8-ounce pizzas)

What makes this Neo-Neapolitan is that I use American bread flour instead of Italian -00- flour, but you can certainly use Italian flour, such as from Caputo, if you want to make an authentic Napoletana dough. Just cut back on the water by about 2 ounces, since Italian flour does not absorb as much as the higher protein American flour (if you use Central Milling's -00- flour you don't have to cut back on the water and it makes an amazing dough). Always use unbleached flour for better flavor but, if you only have bleached flour it will still work even if it doesn’t taste quite as good. If you want to make it more like a New Haven-style dough (or like Totonno’s or other coal-oven pizzerias), add 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. These are optional--the dough is great with or without them. As with the Country Dough, the key is to make it wet enough so that the cornicione (the edge or crown) really puffs in the oven.

5 1/4 cups (24 ounces by weight) unbleached bread flour

2 teaspoons (0.5 oz.) kosher salt

1 1/4 teaspoons (0.14 oz.) instant yeast (or 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast dissolved in the water)

2 tablespoons (1 oz.) olive oil (optional)

1 tablespoons (1/2 oz.) sugar or honey (optional)

2 1/4 cups (18 oz.) room temperature water (less if using honey or oil)

--You can mix this by hand with a big spoon or in an electric mixer using the paddle (not the dough hook).

--Combine all the ingredients in the bowl and mix for one minute, to form a coarse, sticky dough ball.

--Let the dough rest for five minutes, then mix again for one minute to make a smooth, very tacky ball of dough.

--Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, rub a little oil on your hands, and fold the dough into a smooth ball. Let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes and then stretch and fold the dough into a tight

 
Uncrowned Champions
John Arena

Most of you have probably read Brad English’s superb coverage of this years Pizza Expo. The Expo is certainly the premier event for pizza pros and is, quite simply, the “must see” event for anyone who is serious about a career in pizza. With that being said, this year I overheard something that at once disturbed me and got me thinking about where pizza is headed. While standing at the entrance to Expo on the first morning I overheard two executives from one of the "Big Three" chains chatting about their product. One of them asked: “ How do you like the new Original Recipe Dough?”   The other replied without a trace of irony “Oh, I like it much better than the old Original Recipe Dough”

Well, this may sound funny at first but to old school pizza makers it’s really kind of sad and here’s why: You could tell that neither of these guys had any sense of pride in what they sell. For them pizza was just a product. Next year they may be selling shoes.

So here is the thing: before we were business men, or restaurateurs, or executives, or chefs, or celebrities we called ourselves Pie Men. I don’t mean that to be sexist, there just weren’t many women making pizzas in the old days. We were Pie Men and we earned the right to be a part of that group by standing in front of a hot oven for 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, year after year. We told the world who we were by staying true to the craft that was gifted to us by those who came before. Everything that a Pie Man wanted to say was communicated through the pie. That’s why every classic pizzeria is named after the founding Pie Man. In a famous interview, Genarro Lombardi patted his coal fired oven and stated, “This is what made me a man.”  No one had a certificate, no one had won any medals, we didn’t insist on being called “Chef” or any other title. In fact no self respecting Pie Man would be caught dead wearing a chefs coat.  Joe Timpone the great Pie Man at Santarpios in Boston famously wore a brown paper bag for a hat while he tended the oven in an undershirt. Most Pie Men probably didn’t own a pair of shoes that weren’t caked with flour.

To have your peers refer to you as a “good Pie Man” was the ultimate compliment. Sure we were competitors, but there was a code of honor that can only be understood by people who are connected through a common struggle. To become a Pie Man was hard work, forged through a long and sometimes painful apprenticeship. Words like “artisan” “authentic” “certified” or the collection of high sounding initials that we now attach to products and methods would mean nothing to a Pie Man. For a Pie Man only two things were important, does it taste good and am I proud of it?  The two chain guys discussing their “Original Recipe” dough that was probably created by a focus group in a lab would most likely be thrown onto the street if they ventured into Totonno’s 50 years ago.

So are there any Pie Men left out there? Yes, and some great Pie Women too. You can find them if you search hard enough. I promise you, it’s worth the effort.  Al Santillo, in Elizabeth New Jersey, is a Pie Man; so is Lou Abatte in New Haven. These kind of people usually live near or above their pizzeria. They’re covered in flour. They have old burn stripes on their arms. They look very tired, but you will see something else too…Pride.

 

 

 
Andy's Potato Pizza
Brad English

I got an email from a Pizza Quest member recently asking about pizza stones and "00" flours.  We chatted back and forth and he has enthusiastically shared one of his family's favorite pizza recipes.  It's the pizza he starts every pizza making session with.  From what he says, if he doesn't get it right "The Family" let's him know.

I'm really excited to try this pizza.  When Andy described his crust, I remembered a place my friend Holly Subhan took me to, while I was visiting her in New Jersey last year.  If you remember, she is the one who also introduced me to Mossuto's where we found the Fat Lip Pizza. *Link She's batting a thousand.  The pressure is mounting!

There's always a debate when I'm around regarding what the best pizza place is.  She had been dying to take me to this Jersey Shore favorite called Pete and Elda's in Neptune, NJ for some time.  They make a crust very similar to what Andy describes below.  It's a very thin cracker like crust.  It is light, crisp, and doesn't fill you up.  This is really, I believe, the quality that Holly loves about the pizza!   I also think she loves the atmosphere of the place.  The main part of the pizzeria is a huge winding bar that wanders through the large dining room. I can see that, even without a good pizza, this is a place I would like to hang out.  The people are friendly and, as it turns out the pizza is quite good!  I let her order her favorite the black olive and hot pepper pizza and we enjoyed a few beers and conversation with some of the locals.  If you are ever in the area I recommend you check this place out.

Now onto the Andy's Potato Pizza...I can't wait to try it!

 

I asked Andy to give me a brief introduction to his obvious pizza obsession.  He said it all started in 1983 when he was helping a friend make some wine.  As the morning wore on, his friend said, "This is taking longer than we thought so you'll have to stay for lunch, I'm making pizza".  He remembers panicking, looking at the windows for a way out of the basement!  The idea of a homemade pizza had him looking for excuses to escape.  They made the pizza on unglazed quarry tiles in a hot oven and, at the moment he took a bite, he was hooked.  His friend referenced Ada Boni's book, Italian Regional Cooking, which now gave him some great recipes to work with as he began feeding his new obsession.  He said that things remained essentially the same till 2003, when "I discovered Peter Reinhart's book, American Pie.  This was an unbelievable source of information and inspiration.  Now the knowledge base has expanded again with Pizza Quest, all limits have been removed."

How great is that?!  I have a similar story and the birth of Pizza Quest does too.  I too found Peter's book American Pie and then contacted him and a while later Pizza Quest was born.

Here is his recipe for Pizza Romana or, as his family

 
FAQ #2: Why Do We Make the Dough a Day Ahead
Peter Reinhart

I get asked this one a lot. Or, more accurately, I get lots of e-mails asking some variation of the following question: What do I need to do to make the best pizza dough? Since that's a loaded question, subject to subjectivity and regional bias, I usually punt and focus on a couple of general tricks that seem to bring best results for nearly any kind of pizza dough.  The two most valuable tricks, in my opinion are, one, to crank your oven up as high as you can get it and, two, to make your dough at least one day ahead. The reason for the first suggestion is pretty simple: the faster you can bake the pizza, with both the crust and the toppings finishing up at the same time, the more moist and creamy (yet snappy) your crust will taste. Of course, if your oven is generating too much top or bottom heat and only half of the equation gets baked before the other half, all bets are off. Or, you may have to make some adjustments as to which shelf you use. Baking is a balancing act between time, temperature, and ingredients and it's usually possible to fix an uneven bake by simply adjusting one or more of those cardinal points. In most cases, it's usually the shelf but sometimes its too strong a convection.

But first you need a good dough and next week I'll provide three master recipes for pizza doughs based on my book, American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. But, in the meantime, assuming you already have a dough recipe that you like or want to improve upon, perhaps from another source, the first change you can make, if you haven't already, is to make the dough the day before (or, at the very least, early in the morning that you plan to make the pizzas). A few years ago very few people knew about this trick and most cookbooks provided recipes that treated pizza dough just like sandwich dough: mix, rise, shape, and bake. This made dough for pizza but, sadly, not for memorable pizza and, as our regular readers know, this site is all about shooting for great (i.e., memorable) pizza experiences.

This little trick begs the questions, why make the dough so far ahead? Why does it make better pizza? If you haven't asked these questions and are just taking my word for it, then I have failed you because another of our goals here is to explore how to cook, not just how to follow a recipe. What I mean is that ingredients have a certain functionality as well as having flavor, and the difference between a real cook and a recipe follower is that the former, after following recipes for awhile, develops an intuition about the functionality of ingredients so that you can cook without recipes because you know what the ingredient, or the technique, provides to the process. Sometimes, it just takes one piece of new information to trigger that aha moment in which everything becomes clear, as if for the first time. Making dough ahead of time is one of those pieces of information and I'm going to tell you why and, if you don't already know what I'm about to say, this may change your baking ability forever:

Flour consists of mostly starch, with some protein and a small amount of minerals and enzymes. Starch is, when push comes to shove, just sugar -- that is, it consists of complex weaves of various sugar chains such as glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, and the like,  that are so tightly woven together your tongue can't access the sweetness, and bacteria and yeast can't get to the sugars to ferment them. Fortunately, the amylase and diastase enzymes that also exist in the grain (and sometimes additional enzymes are added at the mill in the form of malted barley flour), act upon the starches and begin to break off some of the sugar chains, especially the glucose and maltose, and free them up for the micro-organisms to feed on, and also for our palates, and also for the oven to caramelize them when they bake. But it takes time for all of this to happen, at least 8 to 12 hours, so the refrigerator becomes our friend, slowing down the rate of fermentation so that the yeast (and, to a lesser extent, the bacteria) don't digest all the newly available sugar threads but leave some behind for our tongues and for the oven. The colder the dough, the slower the rate of fermentation and also the enzyme activity. If we hit the balance point just right, by the time we bake the pizzas (and also breads, to which this technique can be applied, as I show in my book, "Artisan Breads Everyday"), we can produce the most beautiful golden crusts (caramelization of the sugars), and the sweetest, nuttiest tasting crusts due to the acidity created by the fermentation, and the deep roasting of the protein threads caused by the high heat, as well as the remaining sugar threads still remaining for our own pleasure.  It's all about hitting that balance and, fortunately, while it is science, it is not rocket science and most of the work is done for us by the use of refrigeration and letting the ingredients work it out for themselves.

Next week, three pizza dough recipes.

 
The Veggie Omelette Pizza
Brad English

Here we are at the end of my "in depth" study of eggs and pizza -- a 3 pizza egg-sperimentation.  This will surely not be the last pizza I make with eggs as there are an infinite number of possibilities to explore using this ingredient on pizza.  The immediate connection is breakfast, which pizza fits right into, performing as the toast that accompanies any good breakfast -- helping to serve a delicious egg sandwich of sorts.  Eggs can fit anywhere on a menu.  They are delicious with any meal because they bring such a unique texture into the experience of eating.  Eggs take on accompanying flavors that are more powerful, or distinct and mellow them, or blend them with each other creating a new flavor and texture.

I was recently sent to a sushi restaurant called Sakagura in New York City by a friend of mine I call "The Foodie of all Foodies " and came across a cold soup called Onsen Tamago.  This was a new experience for me, playing with my concept of flavors, textures and temperature!  Onsen Tomago is a cold soup with soft boiled egg, sea urchin roe and salmon roe.  If you're squeamish, this soup is not for you!  It was one of the more unique dishes I have ever had.  I am a huge fan of sea urchin, though, so I was down with it.  Many people can't get past the texture of this, but the flavor is so delicious and balanced that I feel sorry for those who can't get past the soft, cool pudding-like texture.  The soup base was salty and delicious.  The soft boiled egg fascinated me beyond the silky texture, but the fact that it was so softly boiled and then cooled and perfectly extracted from the shell into the soup.  When I ate the soup, the egg yolk broke and became not only another part of the texture of the soup, but also a new flavor as it mixed with the stock and ingredients.  This cool creamy soup was accented by the delicious fresh uni (sea urchin) and then I came across the cool little jelly pops of the salmon row.  It was really a unique eye opening dish.

Although I've taken a side trip here, my point is that anything you like can be enhanced with eggs. They have a uniqueness to them that isn't shared by many foods.  They transform so much from their natural state to a finished product, and can be served in so many stages along the way in their cooking process.  I started my pizza recipe eggs-ploration with a nod to the classic American breakfast standard of bacon and eggs.  That one is simple.  It's everything you like about that breakfast and has so many of the elements of a so many pizzas we all eat on a regular basis.  My next eggs-ecution was about the jalapeño and egg combination.  Again, this is my breakfast of champions.  My third in this series is about yet another standard variety of breakfast fare:  The Veggie Omlette.

I hope you enjoy any or all of these, and certainly use them just as starting points and come up with your own favorites.

 

The Veggie Omelette Pizza

Ingredients:

Pizza Dough

-I used my favorite Central Milling Germania Flour based Signature Bruery Pizza Dough but use your own favorite dough recipe

Peter's Herb Oil

Partially sautéed thinly sliced vegetables:  Zuccini, Red Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms and Jalapeños

-I sautéed the veggies to get them started cooking before going onto the pizza.  Season with a little salt and pepper and sauté until just cooked - allowing room for them to finish cooking on the pizza, but getting out much of the moisture so they don't soak your pizza.

Grated Mozzerella

Chunks of Bel Gioioso's Italico Cheese

2 Eggs

Canned Chopped Green Chiles to top the baked pizza

 

The Build:

Spread the dough on a well floured peel.

Sprinkle a little of the Herb Oil on the dough.

Add the grated Mozz and pinch off chunks of the Italico Cheese.  I didn't want this to be all about the cheese, so I used both sparingly.

Add the sautéed veggies.

I wanted to make sure that I got runny, sunny side up eggs on this pizza, so, I decided to set this pizza in the oven and pre-bake it for a couple of minutes and then add the egg and put it back in to finish.

 

The Bake:

Bake in your oven for approximately 2-3 minutes until it sets up so that you can pull it out without it falling apart.

*Make sure you pre-heat the oven for at least an hour to get your pizza stone up to temperature.  I pre-heat at 550 degrees and then turn it to Convection Bake before loading my first pizza, which lowers the temp to 525 degrees.

Pull the pizza out and crack two fresh eggs over the top.

Back into the oven.  Bake until the eggs and crust and all the ingredients are just right.  This should be about 4-5 minutes more.  For egg pizzas, base the doneness on the eggs.  If you want the crust done more, you may have to sacrifice that to make sure you don't overcook your eggs.  I have played with this and as you can see from my pictures, this pre-bake and finishing bake seems to work well.  Each oven will vary, so don't be surprised if you have to figure out your own timing.

The eggs came out great on this one.  You can see the crust has some charring and darkness to the edges and the toppings got a little brown on the edges as well.  The egg is perfectly cooked!  The yolk is soft and ready to be spread across the pizza and become part of the overall sauce.  You can probably pull the pizza out a little early, because the egg will continue to cook after it's out of the oven.  (*See my Bacon and Eggs Pizza!)

Carefully spread the yolk around trying not to move all the ingredients away from the center as you do.  You'll find that you can move things back and forth once you break the yolk and start spreading it out so that you keep the ingredients balanced for each bite.

Finally, top the finished pizza with the chopped green chills, or your favorite salsa.

Cut and serve!

 

 

 

 

 
FAQ #1, Sourdough Starters
Peter Reinhart

This will be the first of a series of posts that address the most frequently asked questions that I get from our readers.  I will just deal with one at a time, and will headline them FAQ with a number next to it as well as a word identifier, so this one will be FAQ #1, Sourdough Starters. That way, when someone wants to track one down in the Peter's Blog section each question will be easy to find.

So yes, this one is about sourdough starters, one of the great mystery areas of bread baking.  I will keep it short, as I have a much longer file that goes deeply into the subject and will send it to those who are serious about the matter, while not boring the rest of you here with the complicated stuff. This posting will be more like the headline news version.  If you want the file, write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to request it.

Just to clarify and get us all on the same page, sourdough starter is really another way of saying a natural leaven, composed of various wild yeast strains and also various bacteria stains that produce both lactic and acetic acid, all living in a medium made up of flour and water.  The starter can be kept either in a wet, spongey form or in a firm, bread-dough-like form. In either instance, there is usually no salt in a wild yeast or sourdough starter (the salt gets added during the mixing of the final bread dough).  The micro-organisms live in the flour mixture, which is replenished from time to time on a feeding schedule determined by the baker.  These starters take the place of commercial yeast, or can also be used in conjunction with commercial yeast, to raise the dough. Because of all the complex acids produced by the bacterial fermentation, sourdough (aka wild yeast) breads contain an acidic flavor complexity not found in breads leavened by commercial yeast alone,

Instructions for how to make a sourdough starter from scratch are contained in the file referred to above. What I want to address here is one issue that I hear about a lot: why isn't my starter bubbling away by the third or fourth day when I make it from scratch the way it's supposed to, especially since it started bubbling on Day Two?  Something has changed in flour, I believe, since I first started giving instructions fifteen years ago for how to make a starter from scratch.  This is just a theory, based on some sleuthing done by a chemist friend of mine, Debbie Wink, who analyzed the microbiology of her starters under a microscope, but it seems to be proving itself:  there is a lactic acid bacteria called Leuconostoc that seems more prevalent in grain these days and it has changed the way wild yeast grows in a starter.  At first, it mimics yeast in that it produces carbon dioxide, much as yeast does, when it ferments the natural grain sugars in the dough mixture. It makes us think that the starter has come to life and that the wild yeast is growing and multiplying -- but the yeast hasn't multiplied. Wild yeast needs an acidic environment in order to flourish, and this is exactly what the bacteria provides. But Leuconostoc, while slowly producing acid, actually doesn't like to live in it. So, while this bacteria, along with other bacteria present in the starter (mostly having come in with the flour, but probably some also some from the air), eats sugar and creates acid, while the wild yeast waits and waits until the Leuconostoc goes dormant, and then the yeast cells become active and multiply.  As a result, what used to be about a five day process now takes as many as 7 to 10 days. The problem, though, is that if if you just let the starter sit and wait, some unfriendly bacteria can land on the surface and create molds.  If you proceed to the next feeding cycle prematurely, before the starter starts to bubble and burp, it just sets it back another few days.

So, the best way to get through this middle, dormant phase is to stir or knead the starter (we call it a seed culture at this stage, prior to becoming a full-on starter) twice a day to prevent the invading bacteria from getting a foot-hold. It may take three or four days to finally wake up but eventually it will.  By this time the Leuconostoc will go dormant and the other, more flavorful acid producing bacteria will thrive, as will the strains of wild yeast that provide the leavening for your bread. Once the seed culture come to life, you can resume feeding it as directed in the instructions to complete your sourdough "mother" starter.

Note: one trick that seems to shave a couple days off the process is to use pineapple juice (or even orange juice) on the first day when making the Day One seed culture. The acid from the juice gets things going in the right direction, but you still may run into a dormant period in the middle phase.  Don't give up on your starters, though; they will come to life if you remember to stir or knead them twice a day during the dormant phase.

Again, for more details, write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and I'll send the file, or you can read about it my books, Whole Grain Breads, and also in Artisan Breads Everyday. Those of you who have your own tricks for making a potent wild yeast starter, feel free to comment below and share your methods.  Also, refer to our sourdough maven, Teresa Greenway's website at www.northwestsourdough.com for all sorts of great recipes, info, and photos.

 
Delicious Slime -- A Breakthrough!
Jenn Burns

Note from Peter:  Jenn Burns, who last appeared here following her coffee farm adventure in Central America picking beans on a steep mountain slope, is back. Jenn just graduated Magna cum Laude from Davidson College, a few miles north of Charlotte, with a degree in Food and Environmental Studies. During her four years at Davidson I've been following her career through her writings as she transitioned through the many universal rites of passage into adulthood. The following is a recounting of one such recent adventure and Jenn gave me permission to share it with all of you. Her final legacy at the university is that she was able to help guide the administration in bringing locally raised products into the school's food service operation, thus supporting local farmers and food producers. Her next big adventure will be as an American delegate to the Slow Food Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto gathering in Italy this fall.  Hopefully, the following will not be the last we hear from her. Enjoy!

In an independent study project for my Food Literature and Writing course at Davidson College this past semester, oysters somehow became pervasive in many of the readings.  Of course, the ubiquitous nature of oysters in the artisan food world should have come as no surprise since there are over 200 varieties in North America alone, and the flavor of an oyster is almost entirely determined by its terroir.  I also learned that oysters are an easily accessible food that can set a serious foodie apart from a mere food aficionado, and I realized that I had some serious catching up to do.  My only previous experience with oysters began and ended one fateful night when I was about seven years old and not yet experienced enough to be discerning about such things. Neither of my parents would ever let a slimy grey sea creature pass through their own lips, but they agreed that it would be great entertainment to see how their adventurous, fearless kiddo would react. Not knowing any better, I slurped up the small pile of slimy goop, juice and all, and began to chew. I continued to chew and chew and chew. After I became visibly more distressed, my dad suggested I just go ahead and swallow the now even goopier substance that I had collected in my mouth. I tried, but my esophagus simply refused to let it go down so there, in the middle of one of Indianapolis’ finest dining establishments, I barfed the oyster. Needless to say, I tried for years to block this experience and everything to do with oysters from my memory.

But, nearly 15 years later, oysters are everywhere in my life. A few weeks ago I read perhaps the best food memoir ever written, The Gastronomical Me, in which M.F.K. Fisher relays a story of two lesbian lovers sensually feeding one another oysters. I later learned, through research, that oysters are often thought to be an aphrodisiac because they are high in zinc, which controls progesterone and, as a result, sexual drive. Furthermore, since sexual appetite often starts in the mind, and an oyster is reminiscent of the female sex organ, oysters may encourage a psychological effect on the libido. More recently I read A Short History of the American Stomach, which, surprisingly, concludes with the history of oysters!  I learned oysters were once a staple food for colonists until they ate the native American oysters to extinction; indeed oysters were the country’s first indigenous species eradicated by humans. Now, scientists are furiously working to create a triploid oyster that could be farmed, but would not be able to reproduce in case an oyster were to escape, which would decimate local ecosystems. But, another reason is to also ensure that all the oysters’ energies go towards growing big and delicious for human consumption, and that no energy goes into such frivolous tasks as reproduction. Another interesting factoid is that all oysters are born male; then, upon reaching sexual maturity, and every year for the rest of their lives, each oyster decides whether to remain male, become female, or to be a hermaphrodite (about 1 in 50), yet it is still unknown why oysters change sex. Simultaneously, I was reading a collection on the history of various foods called, What Caesar Did for My Salad, and learned that Oysters Rockefeller was invented in New Orleans at Antoine’s in 1840 and that the recipe has remained a closely guarded secret ever since. The sauce for this dish is bright green, resembling a dollar bill; thus, it was named after the richest man in the world, John D. Rockefeller. Meanwhile, I am about to graduate from college and have been told on numerous occasions to celebrate because “the world is my oyster.”

All of these readings transformed my opinions of oysters to the degree that I, the previously traumatized oyster-phobe, suggested to our class that we go out for oysters. Despite studying and teaching about food for almost two decades, my professor, who I nicknamed "The Goddess of Food," had never eaten raw oysters either, so, she fully supported the adventure and agreed to join us. I found a list of the ten best places for seafood in the Charlotte area and selected one located conveniently close to Davidson College. I found myself  thinking about the pending dining experience days before the actual event; I was worried that my uncontrollable gag reflex would spring into action. I realized that I didn’t know how to properly eat an oyster and I was concerned that the oyster would taste revolting. I imagined myself with shell to lips, yet unable to take the leap. It would be the food equivalent of having toes curled over the edge of the diving board but unable to flip into the pool.

Three of us -- the professor and two brave students -- made the trek to Vinnie’s Raw Bar. It was, quite possibly, the worse place imaginable to go with one’s professor. This was the Hooters of seafood shacks. Well-endowed waitresses were wearing tight shirts and tighter booty shorts that revealed many tattoos and piercings. A party of firemen blasted hard rock. Posters, signs, and graffiti sure to offend every profession, race, and gender covered the walls. Having read Margaret Vissers’ treatise on table manners, The Rituals of Dinner, that week for the class, I could only imagine what she and Emily Post would have to say about this dive.

We tentatively ordered a half dozen raws. Thanks to the guidance of our waitress, who herself refuses to eat oysters, we put the mollusk on a cracker and added a dollop of cocktail sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Inspired by the "Goddess of Food’s" confident lead, I popped my little tartine too. It tasted like lemon and the dominating cocktail sauce and it felt like a cracker and, you know, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it was good. Vinnie’s, I soon learned, sources their oysters from Apalachicola Bay, on the panhandle of Florida.  It is the only place in the United States where oysters are still wild and are harvested using tongs from small boats.  This is merely one example of how that small community strives to preserve traditional livelihoods.  Apalachicola Bay oysters are thought to be some of the best in the world, if not the best, thanks to their natural mellowness (as opposed to being overly salty) and the plump, meatiness of the oysters.  For my second oyster, which I eagerly scooped up directly from the shell, I tried a bit of horseradish instead of cocktail sauce. It too was delicious!  Although other oyster varieties, such as Naked Cowboy, Hama Hama, and sweet petite have more tempting titles, I now recommend to to any oyster virgin (which I no longer am!) to start with the best - Apalachicola Bay oysters.

Our shared raw oyster experience lasted only a few minutes and seemed almost anticlimactic at the time, although it has forever changed my self-styled status to that of a daring foodie. We soon moved on to Vinnie's fried oyster baskets and a lively evening of literary discussion as if we had not just enjoyed a small scoop of delicious slime.



 
Jalapeño & Sunny Eggs Pizza
Brad English

Eggs-perimentation - Numero Dos:

I love Eggs on a pizza.  They are a perfect topping being both a topping and possibly becoming part of the sauce of the pizza.  If you time it right, you can get the egg to cook to that perfect Sunny Side Up - runny deliciousness.  After the pizza comes out, you simply take a fork and knife, or a spoon and break the yolk and spread it around the pizza.  The egg is now playing two roles, both of which work perfectly on a pizza. But I've already told you this the last time I posted, and then Peter reiterated it in his recent blog about Pure Pizza in Charlotte.

So this is the second pizza in my latest little pizza experimentation here at Casa Ingles (as we affectionately call it)!  The fun thing about making pizza, as I've written before, is that there is a lot of opportunity for creativity.  Unlike when cooking other things, you get to try a number versions every time you make pizza.  They bake quickly and you are generally making at least 4 different pizzas during a meal.  It would get costly if you cooked up 4 large steaks every time you had that as a main dish, using seasonings and different cooking techniques.  I suppose you could cut a steak into smaller portions and do that, but that has it's own set of downfalls.  My point (and I do have one) is that pizza is a naturally interactive food during planning, prep, and eating.

You can lay out a plan and easily find a new path to the perfect pizza that you are hoping to make. I often only plan out a couple of the pizzas I'm going to make and then let the others come out of something I see while I'm shopping, or something that may be in the house at the time.  It's those found ingredients that sometimes take a pizza to the next level.  This pizza came out of the idea of using Jalapeños.  I am fascinated with the idea of pre-cooking them, which knocks out some of the heat and leaves you with a bold flavorful ingredient with enough spice to make them stand out, but not too much for those who can't take a lot of heat.

 

Jalapeño & Sunny-Eggs Pizza de Casa Ingles

Ingredients:

Pizza Dough

-I used my favorite Central Milling Germania Flour, Signature Bruery Pizza Dough but you can use your own favorite dough

Peter's Herb Oil

Partially baked thinly sliced potato

Sautéed Mushrooms, Zucchini, and Jalapeños

-I sautéed these to get them started cooking before going onto the pizza.  Season with a little salt and pepper and sauté until just cooked - allowing room for them to finish cooking on the pizza.

Bel Gioioso Creamy Gorgonzola Cheese (or other blue cheese)

2 Eggs

Chopped Scallions

Fresh Rosemary Needles

Grated Parmesan

 

The Build:

Spread the dough on a well floured peel.

Sprinkle a little of the Herb Oil on the dough.

Add the potatoes, zucchini and mushrooms.

Break off chunks of the creamy gorgonzola cheese.  Alternatively, you could use another soft cheese, like a brie mixed with a little blue cheese.  I didn't use much cheese here.  First of all this cheese is very flavorful and I didn't want it to take over.  Second, I wanted the sautéed vegetables and the egg to play a bigger role.

I wanted to make sure that I achieved runny sunny-side Up eggs on this pizza.  So, I decided to set this pizza in the oven and bake it for a couple of minutes and then add the egg.

 

The Bake:

Bake in your oven for approximately 2-3 minutes.

*Make sure you pre-heat the oven for at least an hour to get your pizza stone up to temperature.  I pre-heat at 550 degrees and then turn it to Convection Bake before loading my first pizza, which lowers the temp to 525 degrees.

Pull the pizza out and crack two fresh eggs over the top.

 

Add the sautéed jalapeños.

Place it back into the oven.  Bake until the eggs and crust and all the ingredients are just right.  This should be about 4-5 minutes.  For this pizza, base the doneness on the eggs.

The eggs came out perfect on this one.  You can see that my crust has some charring and darkness to the edges and the toppings got a little brown on the edges as well.  The egg is perfectly cooked!  The yolk is soft and ready to be spread across the pizza and become part of the overall sauce.

 

 

Carefully spread the yolk around trying not to move all the ingredients away from the center as you do.  You'll find that you can move things back and forth once you break the yolk and start spreading it out so that you keep the ingredients balanced for each bite.

Finally, top the finished pizza with scallions and some grated Parmesan.

Enjoy!  And do send us some ideas of your own...

 

 

 

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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

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