A Morphed Pizza Dough
Teresa Greenway

Morphed Pizza Dough with Mushrooms, Blueberries and Spinach


Lately I have been thinking about morphing a sourdough crust dough with a commercially yeasted crust dough and combining the best qualities of both. Using a sourdough levain or starter in your pizza dough can make a significant flavor and texture difference. The sourdough starter adds acidity to the dough which affects strength and flavor. The commercial yeast helps the crust ferment more quickly so it is a lighter, less tough dough. Add the two together and you get a quick, airy, chewy crust with good flavor. Here is the recipe for the dough, it makes two large 15” pizzas:

 

Proof two teaspoons of commercial yeast in 2 oz of water for 15 minutes.
Add together in a large mixing bowl or dough mixing trough:
•    10 oz/283g sourdough starter @ 100% hydration
•    2 oz/56g evaporated milk
•    10 oz/283g warm water
•    The commercial yeast/water mixture
•    16 oz/453g bread flour

Mix these ingredients together and allow them to rest for 30 minutes. After resting add:
•    .6 oz/17g sea salt
•    1 oz/28g oil

Stir the salt/oil in well and then add an additional:
•    8 oz/226g bread flour

For the last 8 oz of flour, add most of it (6-7 oz) to the dough and then knead the dough for 10 – 15 minutes using the flour left over for kneading. After the dough feels smooth and soft and you can stretch a windowpane, pat or spray oil on the outside of your dough and then let the dough bulk ferment for two hours in a covered container. Divide the dough into two pieces once the bulk ferment is done. Then proceed as usual. I divided the dough and let the pieces set for 15 minutes and then stretched/rolled them out. I placed them on parchment paper and allowed them to proof for 45 minutes. Then spread your choice of sauce and toppings. I used white cheese, spinach, mushrooms and blueberries. Bake at 500F on a very hot baking stone for 7 – 12 minutes. Makes about 3 lbs of dough @ 65% hydration.

Teresa Greenway
http://www.northwestsourdough.com

 

*Note from Brad:  Thanks again Teresa for another great recipe!  I hope this inspires others to jump in and try these and even share more of their own with us all here!

 

 
Peter's Blog, Jan. 24th, 2012
Peter Reinhart

In the past week I received three gifts: the first was a new folding proof box for home bakers made by Brod & Taylor. I tried it out and love it for two reasons: during my baking classes for home cooks I get asked all the time how to proof bread without a professional proof box. I suggest things like using the dishwasher as a steam box, the microwave with a glass of boiling water, an upside down styrofoam box with a lightbulb hanging through the roof, and other improvisations. But this new device is a compact (yes it folds up for easy storage) mini-version of a real proof box (and you can even make yogurt and sour cream in it), with a hot plate, water pan, and, temperature controls. The second thing is that it's just a beautiful design, something you want to let people see. I just read the Steve Jobs biography and have a new appreciation of his genius for creating (with the help of his over-worked and over-chastised, under-recognized team of collaborators) beautiful tools. This is a similarly beautiful tool and, for serious home bread bakers, solves the proofing problem.  We all have a tendency to say, "Hey wouldn't it be nice if someone would make ...." and then we go on with life.  Well, these guys went out and made it and it sells for about $150. Check it out at:  http://brodandtaylor.com/

This must be "thank the people week." Here's the second of the three gifts I mentioned above,  a great e-mail from Raphael Vaccaro along with some photos he sent. I'm posting this not because we will post every restaurant person that writes to us (though I am willing to post some as Guest Columns if you send me a good story at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), but because I love the fire and passion and sense of connectedness with which he tells his story (and I like the way his pizza looks too!). We say here that we want to celebrate artisans and artisanship wherever we find them so here's an example:

Good Afternoon Peter:

My name is Raphael Vaccaro.  I am second generation restaurateur in Akron Ohio.  I have been working in the industry all of my life.  About 2 years agoI had an epiphany that would change the way I cook and the whole concept of bread making.  You do not know it, but your books and explanation had a lot to do with it.  This together, with the passing of my father, the patriarch of the family business; I have felt great comfort in and peace knowing that a 58 year old family pizza business has been elevated to the next level.

Just a quick intro:

· My father started in 1957 -- a classic deck oven pizza business.  It's grown into 7 locations.

· He was the first in the area to install a Middleby Marshall conveyor convection oven.  All stores utilized them.  This was in the early 70’s.

· Transferring the pizza cooking process from deck oven to conveyor gave us the ability to do high consistent volume, but we also sacrificed a lot of texture.

· In the early 90’s my father went from several locations to one location, changing his venue from classic old school Italian. I felt the need to go upscale because we relocated into a very upscale high end neighborhood.

About 2 years ago my brother built a wood-fired pizza oven in his back yard.  He kept telling me how good the flavor of my parents old style pizza is in that oven.  It was my dream to go with the wood fired ovens.  The caveat to the oven is that most restaurateurs do not know how to use them.  They have no concept of intense temperature, how to work with dough, and the cold slow fermentation of yeast.   I see countless pictures on the web of wood fired pizza’s, artisan Napolitano style, true to Italian heritage, blah blah blah.  The pictures I'm sending, though, look OK in high resolution, but when you actually follow the procedure of retarding dough, the quality and flavorand overall result is beyond ordinary or what any picture can show.

My brother introduced me to the Bread Bakers Apprentice and Pain à l’Ancienne…I have since changed the whole pizza making procedures that my father started to the next generation of Vaccaro’s Pizza.
About a year ago I found an old Blodgett deck oven and refurbished it.  I opened up the gas valve to change the btu’s from 37k to about 65k btu.  I lined it with fire brick.  I added a 650 degree thermostat.

The story goes on and on and on.  Enclosed you will find the final product with Pain à l’Ancienne and 00 Caputo flour.  The crust is INCREDIBLE.   I also switched from using provolone or mozzarella like any other American style pizza and switched to 100% DOP Pecorino Romano.

I look forward to more correspondence as this pizza tradition develops into the next tradition of our family business.  My next version of dough will be whole wheat and also using spent grain from a local micro brewery.

Raphael

PS…I have also enclosed some pictures of a new prototype oven I am building to be mobile for my catering.  It is a combination of the Pompeii and Tuscan ovens.  This is lined with thermal blanket with fire brick.   I should reach 800 degrees with no problems and be able to roast meats for my dinner service.
Ciao

Raphael Vaccaro
Vaccaro's Trattoria



Finally, gift number three, here's a note from a home baker in the UK, Ilian, who also happens to be a professional food photographer, as you will see from these amazing shots. If you like them, check out his website for more. Enjoy!   www.ilian.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Peter,

Just want to say I have your Whole Grain Breads book and I made Four Seed Crackers. Thanks for the recipe, the crackers are amazing. Attach are some of my images.

Best Regards

ilian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay folks -- you did all the work this week and thanks to Ilian, Raphael, and Michael Taylor of Broad and Taylor.  And to everyone else,  do feel free to share your stories with us -- we'll publish the ones that carry the same spirit as these.




 
A Crab Dip Pizza
Brad English

How can I use crab on a pizza?  I had crab - if not just out of the ocean fresh it was caught by my friends steamed and brought home to me.  In my mind that's far better than just caught fresh any day!  As I hope you've already read, I had decided to make one pizza with some of the fresh cracked crab placed on top of the warm pizza after it baked. I thought that would be a great way to use the crab as close to it's original form.  But, what else do I love with crab?  What other ways could I use the rest of my supply?  That's simple.  Crab Dip!  I love crab dip.

Crab Dip is already practically a pizza topping waiting to happen.  It's a warm cheesy topping that you spread on a cracker, or a slice of bread.  What does Peter always call pizza?  He says it's basically "dough with something on it."  That pretty much brings your typical crab dip served up on a slice of a nice baguette into the realm of Pizza.  Wouldn't you agree?  The simplified instructions would be:  Place crab dip onto pizza crust.  Cook.  Eat.

So, off I went to the internets, as I like to say. Let's see what kind of Crab Dip recipes we can catch there.  I browsed a few references for Crab Dip and Spicy Crab Dip until one jumped off the page from the Food Network.  It was Emeril's "Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip".  It looked Hot as in spicy and it had the word Jalapeños!  I didn't need to wander any more.  I was hooked (or, netted to play the pun) as I read the ingredient list and surprised to see he didn't call for just jalapeños, but pickled jalapeños!  Well, who do we know who has his own pickled jalapeños sitting in the fridge that were made by none other than MOM herself!  It was me. I had Mom's Pickled Jalapeños, which is what I wanted to use anyway.  Crab, Emeril and Pizza - how could that be a bad combination?  This was going to be fun.

You can go to Food Network, or simply google "Emeril's Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip" to get his original recipe.  I didn't create this, I just used it as the basis for my pizza.  I will post the recipe here as I modified it for my use.  For the original, please go directly to the master himself! 

A Cracked Crab Dip Pizza


- Peter's Classic Pizza Dough *See archives for recipe
- Peter's Herb Oil *See archives for recipe
- Emeril's Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip *I did a modified version.  Or, use your favorite crab dip.
- Monterey Jack and Mozzarella Cheese
- A little Cream Cheese
- A little grated Parmesan Cheese
- Arugula
- Limes for drizzling


Instructions:

My version of Emeril's "Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip"

I halved his recipe as a guide because I was making one pizza and had about 1/2 the crab called for in his original recipe!  The left overs were delicious as well the next few days!

- 1/2 pound Cracked crab, or packaged Lump Crab
- Chopped Garlic - about 1/2 teaspoon
- Grated Monterey Jack, Mozzarella and Cream Cheese
- Chopped Mom's Pickled Jalapeños
- 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 teaspoon of Hot Sauce - I used Frank's Red Hot
- 1/4 cup of Mayonnaise

Combine the Crabmeat, Garlic, Mom's Jalapeños, Cheeses, Worcesterchire, Hot Sauce and Mayo in a mixing bowl.  I added the 3 cheeses by eye - wanting this cheesy, but not too cheesy.  For my version I added a little cream cheese to make it a little creamier. I did not add any salt at this point because I felt that my Mom's SOY Pickled Jalapeños had enough and I like to finish the warm pizza with a little anyway.

There is no need to pre-bake this.  Just mix it and set it aside.  Bake the rest of it after you are done making your pizzas for later.  Again, check out Emeril's original for the official version.

The Crab Dip Pizza

Pre-heat your oven to the highest temperature (about 550 degrees) for at least 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 cover lightly with some of Peter's versatile Herb Oil.

Add the Crab Dip onto the pizza.  Spread it out a bit.  It will cook down and flatten out as it bakes.  I sprinkled a little more cheese on top as well before baking.

That's it:  Dough then Dip.  Now it goes into the oven.  My oven was now on Convection Bake at 525.  This pizza went in at 12 after the hour and came out at 19.  That's 7 minutes.  Pretty fast for a home oven.  And, look at the bits of char I got.  This was a nice bake for a home oven. 

Right when it comes out of the oven hit it with some fresh squeezed lime and don't be shy about it.

Top with some wild arugula and a little grated parmesan cheese to finish.

Cut and Serve!

This was rich and spicy!  This is not a pizza you'll sit down and eat by yourself.  But, as an appetizer, or if you are sharing, it was really nice.  Imagine taking your favorite crab dip and spreading it over a warm hot slice of an amazing bread that you just pulled out of the oven. Ok, that's this pizza!  Delicious.

Try it out.  Let me know if you've ever done this, or if you do, what you did to make it your own.  Interestingly, I pulled a slice of this out of the fridge the next day and took a bite of it cold.  It was really good - cold.  It wasn't as rich and I ate a couple slices as my breakfast of champions meal of the day. 

Thanks Emeril and thanks to my friends the Wildermuth's for bringing me some of their Dungeness catch to both enjoy with them and take more home to explore some new pizza ideas!

 

 
Peter's Blog, Jan. 17, 2012
Peter Reinhart

Just received a call from a friend of mine from Syracuse who said she received her latest copy of Better Homes & Gardens and saw the pizza article about me. I think it hit the news stands today. I don't know when it will go digital but I just taped a narration voice-over for a short video on how to shape a pizza dough, which should show up on their web site at some point soon. I'll let you know when it goes live and we'll post a link to it here when it does. It's short and sweet (about a minute and a half long), but it was fun to sit in front of an iMovie console and tape a narrative over the video stream. It was the first time I've ever done that and I can see how easily it could become a habit. If any of you discover that the video is live before I do please let me know by writing to me here in the Comments section.

Also, I wanted to remind those of you who have been writing to ask about where and when I'll be teaching around the country in the near future, that I'm just starting to schedule a new tour for late summer and fall, 2012. The new book I've been working on is almost finished and when it is I'll have more opportunities to get back on the road, so as soon as I have the new dates I'll post them here. For those who live in Little Rock, however, I will be doing a demo next week at the Professional Association of Innkeepers International Conference at The Peabody Hotel. Of course, the demo is limited only to attendees at the conference, but if you want to meet up for a drink or a cup of coffee, drop me a line at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . I'll be arriving late Tuesday night and my demo is Wed. afternoon but I'll be free afterwards so who knows what kind of questing we can get into. Is there any killer pizza in Little Rock? Time to find out!!

One final note: our friend Paisley McCaffery's mom, Sheila, has a really fun blog in which she shares the menus and anecdotes from her A-list dinner parties over the past thirty or so years (maybe even longer -- she seems to have known just about everyone worth knowing). In her most recent post she fired up a few pizzas, recounted some memories, and gave Pizza Quest a shout out. So, check out her blog at: http://entertainingaddict.blogspot.com/ and let her know we sent you. All I can say is that I want to get invited to one of Sheila's parties. She doesn't go on quests, the quests come to her -- you go girl!!

More coming this week, so keep checking back. And may your pizzas all be perfect!!

Peter

 
Crab Season Pizza
Brad English

Somewhere around mid-November every year the Dungeness Crabs of the West Coast begin to make their journey from the sea to our plates.  This fact did not go under-utilized by our friends, the Wildermuth's, who had invited us to join them on their trip to Oregon for the Thanksgiving Holiday.  Due to family obligations we were unable to attend.  We wanted to; we always do.  We've had a standing invitation for years now.  Who wouldn't want to go visit Coos Bay, Oregon in the late fall where their family lived.  Kim and her Mom have been chronicled in these pages on Pizza Quest when I asked her mother to make up some of her pickled jalapeños on a visit to LA sometime last year.  I affectionately called them "Mom's Pickled Jalapeños". You can find the recipe in our archives.  I got word that her whole family got a kick out of Googling "Mom's Jalapeños" and seeing her recipe pop up in the number one spot! 

Anyway, I was minding my own business, helping my own in-laws around the house during the holiday break, when I started to get text messages from Oregon about how much crab they had just pulled onto the boat.  Torture! I imagined the feasts they would have.  More torture!  Then I started getting more texts about the feasts that they did have.  Enough!  I blocked it out of my mind and went back to my crab-less vacation.

After the holidays, I got a pleasant surprise when they asked us over to help them eat some of the crab that they brought home.  Done deal!  We sat and cracked crab and I was introduced to a terrific new dipping sauce -- a simple, spiced up version of Vietnamese Fish Sauce.  I devoured my crab using only that.  The salt/spice combination was terrific with the steamed and then cooled crab.

There were plenty more crabs left from their haul and they sent me home with some.  Kim's family had sent extra, perhaps knowing the torture I was put through over the holidays!  I wanted to eat the crab while it was still relatively fresh.  A light bulb went off in my head and I pulled a few frozen dough balls out of the freezer.  It was time that I get to making some more pizzas for the website anyway. Why not come up with a couple to celebrate our friend, Mr. Dungeness? 

For this first version I decided to try to make a simple pizza and finish it off with the cooled crab on top after it cooked.  This is a great way to enjoy a "special" ingredient in a not so common way -- on a pizza.  I wanted to build a pizza that supported and showcased the crab as it was, as close to how I had just eaten it: cracked, dipped, and devoured.  So, here's what I came up with.

The Crab Season Pizza


- Peter's Classic Pizza Dough *Recipe (in PQ the archives)
- Peter's Herb Oil *Recipe (likewise, in the archives)
- Shredded Mozzarella cheese
- Shredded Provolone cheese
- Preserved Lemon, or Lemon Curd
- Sliced Red Onion
- Grape Tomatoes
- Fresh Cracked Crab -- Steamed and Cooled -- or a quality canned Lump Crab Meat
- Chopped Kalamata olives
- Fresh Arugula
- Spiced Fish Sauce

 

Spiced Fish Sauce Recipe for drizzling:
- Vietnamese Fish Sauce (I have access to a lot of ethnic markets around here and this is readily available everywhere now, but especially at local Asian markets. Also, Kim generally monitors my Fish Sauce, Oyster Sauce and Chili Garlic Sauce pantry, as we all often get together and cook at each others houses.)

- Thai Chili peppers or whatever heat level peppers you can tolerate

- A fresh lemon or lime



Instructions:

Spiced Fish Sauce Recipe

To make this great drizzle sauce, simply take a little fish sauce and chop up some Thai Chili peppers, to taste, add them to the sauce and squeeze a little fresh lemon or lime.  You can make it on the same day you plan to use it but, if you can do this the day before, the sauce will take on even more of the flavors from the chili peppers.  Store it in the refrigerator.

The Pizza

Preheat 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 and shape your dough, and cover it lightly with some herb oil.

Add a little grated Mozzarella and a touch less of the provolone, or other favorite cheese. 

*NOTE:  I used a limited amount of each ingredient in order to give the crab center stage.  If you make this a few times, you can adjust the amounts each time until you get it just right.  For this pizza I think a less is more approach is best.

Add a few dabs of the Lemon Curd around the dough - for flavor accents in the finished pizza.  *You could skip this and drizzle the pizza with a little fresh squeezed lemon juice instead, or do both.

Add the sliced red onions and halved grape tomatoes.  Place them open side down, which helps them sit there when you slide the pizza in the oven and allows the tomato to hold more moisture -- almost acting like a steaming chamber for itself.

Into the oven with your pizza. 
*Note: When I place my first pizza in the oven, I change it over to Convection Bake which adjusts the temperature down to 525 degrees, but the airflow seems to help cook the pizza much faster.  I am getting close to 6 - 7 minute pizzas regularly in my home oven.  Cooking times are not a science and are more often than not a moving target from one pizza to the next.

When the pizza comes out, add a few chopped Kalamata Olives and the cool crab.  If you have been reading my recipes, this seems to be a running theme of adding cool toppings after the bake.  Crab is the perfect ingredient to do that with.  It will slowly warm up as it sits on the pizza, so make sure you enjoy a bite while the temperature contrast is there.  I love that!

Drizzle a little of the Fish Sauce with Chillis onto the crab (ahhh, the "secret ingredient" to this incredible pie!).

Top with some fresh arugula

Cut and Serve! 

I think you will enjoy this pizza if you like crab.  As you bite into it you experience a flavor sandwich with the warm crust and cheesy herb oil on the bottom as the roof of your mouth explores it's way through the cool greens and fresh cracked crab while it all meets with the occasional burst of the sweet warm grape tomatoes!  There are also hits of the tart sweet lemon, an occasional salty briny Kalamatas, and the fish sauce with an accent.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I clearly did. 

Send me some of your favorite crab, or seafood pizza recipes and I'll give them a go and maybe feature them here.  And, as always, if you try this, let us know how you liked it and maybe what variations you came up with that you loved as an option.  After all, making pizza is all about options!

 
Peter's Blog, January 10th, 2012
Peter Reinhart

I'm still having trouble believing it's already 2012. I still recall back in 1970 how long the run-up seemed to take to the Bi-Centennial in 1976 and I wondered what it was going to be like for me to be, amazingly 26 years old -- an adult!-- when it happened. Then, all of a sudden, it did happen, and then so many other things happened and the years just kept coming and adventures kept unfolding and then, hey, how did it suddenly get to be 2012?!! I'm in denial, what can I say, but I'll get over it by simply going on more quests and pretending that I'm still waiting to turn 26 and will maybe live until the Tri-Centennial.

I keep getting great e-mails from people all over the place, and not just from the USA, telling me about these fabulous pizzerias where they live and how we should film a Pizza Quest webisode there. I can tell you, I'd like nothing better but I still have to do my day job (which I love, teaching at Johnson & Wales Univ.), finish my book on gluten-free baking (yes, it will have some great pizza and focaccia recipes in it), and keep working on the material we already have in the can. But I know there are dozens, maybe more, of Pizza Quest worthy places to check out and capture on video. All I can say is, we're trying; Lord knows, we're trying (see what Tim Tebow has got me saying now...). Speaking of Tebow, what's happening in Denver reminds me of the Bible story about the people who asked Jesus to perform some miracles so that they might believe and he said, (and I paraphrase), "He already sent you Moses and the Prophets and that didn't seem to be enough so what makes you think you'll believe now?"  It's just that miracles don't seem like miracles when they're happening, but they do later, when we tell our kids and grand kids about what once upon a time happened. Now, I'm not saying he's going to win the Super Bowl or anything; to do that he'd have to beat some of the other players who have also been referred to as the "son of God" by their fans, like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees.  But what  I can say is this: watch and enjoy -- these are the days of miracles and wonders....

...But I digress. Getting back to Pizza Quests, let me share this link with you, especially for those who want us to do a Pizza Quest to their favorite place .: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/italys-best-pizza-town

This article was written by Anya von Bremzen, a long time favorite food writer of mine, and it recounts her own pizza quests in Naples and Rome, where she met some of the "next generation" future pizza legends as well as visiting some of the classic golden oldies that still make a mean pie. This lady has some serious questing chops, so I want to go on one of hers the way some of you want to go on one with us. The good news, I guess, is that there are a lot of us who really want to get out there and do it -- and so we shall.

 

 
Peter's Blog: Year End Wrap Up
Peter Reinhart

It's the final day of 2011 and also the end of our first year of Pizza Quest. So, first, on behalf of the entire team (who I will name at the end), thank you for your loyal following of our journey, and for sharing your own.  As riders on our metaphorical "bus," you and we went to some great places together this year, including Pizzeria Mozza and La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles, The Cass House Inn in Cayucos, CA, The Taco Temple in Morro Bay, Pizzeria Delfina, Tartine Bakery, and Bi-Rite Market and Creamery in San Francisco's "Gastro District," Stanislaus Tomatoes near Modesto, Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, CO, and also The Fire Within Mobile Wood-Fired Oven Summit, also in Boulder. During the past few months we also shared a number of illuminating visits with Tony Gemignani, of Tony's Pizza Napoletana.  All of these videos are either still on this home page or waiting to be viewed in the archives of either our Webisode section or the Instructional section. For newcomers to the site, please feel free to go through all the sections and catch up to those who have been with us from the start. You'll also find a number of excellent Guest Columns and lots of photo recipe sessions by Brad English, Teresa Greenway, and others, as well as foundational recipes for doughs, sauces, herb oil, and focaccia.  It's amazing how much info has accumulated in just one short year, so thank you again to all of you, including our contributors, for creating this amazing community dedicated to the celebration of artisanship, both in pizza and in all aspects of life.

You will find, posted earlier today, a year end recipe pictorial from Brad in which he completes his four-part cycle of making his own versions of what we called the Signature Challenge Pizza, created as a collaboration between Kelly Whitaker (Pizzeria Basta) and us as a gauntlet throw-down to Patrick Rue of the world famous The Bruery. His team of brewers then came up with their own one of a kind signature beer that they dubbed Birra Basta, which debuted at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver back in September. Again, for newbies, go back to the Peter's Blog posts from that time period and read all about it. Of course, we have hours of video footage that we plan to share in the coming year, from the original issuance of the challenge in Boulder, then on and to the first unveiling of the pizza at The Bruery itself in Placentia, CA, and then, finally, to the "Big Reveal" in Denver at the beer festival. All of that is still to come, along with new footage from other fabulous pizzerias, but in the meantime, Brad made four home-style variations of the Challenge pizza and the final version just posted today. It helped, as you will read, that he was able to procure the last keg of the Birra Basta from The Bruery, which he's been nursing along for the past couple of months (I'm sure the keg is under lock and key). We were all so excited about the results of this pairing and, especially for Brad, and also for the rest of us vicariously, we've been able to enjoy the fruits of his personal quest to bring it all home. This is exactly what we hope for you, as well, that you not only enjoy the videos and content on the site but also make some killer pizzas at home and also get out there on your own quests for the perfect pizza and your own memorable moments.  We'll be back soon, throughout 2012, with more postings and we love having you "on the bus" with us.

Till then, here are some personal thanks to all those who make Pizza Quest possible: Brad English and Jeff Michael, the co-creators of Pizza Quest who asked me to join them on this most amazing of adventures -- and thank you also to both of their wives, Shanna and Julie, and their families, for letting the three of us play in the sandbox together; James Bairey and everyone at Forno Bravo, our partners in this website venture, who provided all the technical web expertise and introduced us to their own, growing, wood-fired oven community;thanks to Geoff Rantala, our trusty web designer;  Francis Wall and the folks at Bel Gioioso Cheese, our first charter sponsor who made it possible for us get these first webisodes filmed and edited; our amazing Director of Photography, David Wilson who totally gets what this quest is all about; all our other video and audio crew members including Annette Aryanpour, our talented film editor who does such a great job keeping the footage so lively and entertaining; Maria De Barros who shared her wonderful music with us;  the folks at Crash & Sue's Post Production facility, who edited our first webisode, Pizza and Obsession, which we use as the intro for all newcomers; Joseph Pergolizzi, owner of The Fire Within, and builder of amazing mobile pizza ovens, who is now also one of our sponsors and our link to a whole world of fabulous artisans, Keith and Nicky Giusto, of Central Milling, who not only created the special flour blend for the Signature Challenge dough but are now an official sponsor of Pizza Quest.

Also, thank you to the Guest Columnists who contributed their thoughtful essays and recipes: Teresa Greenway, our resident sourdough maven; John Arena (of Metro Pizza); Michael Hanson, "the Sacred Baker;" Tom Carrig, Tony Gemignani, who contributed one of our first guest columns ("Respect the Craft"); Caleb Schiff; Brad Otton; Jenn Burns; Alan Henkin of Pizzeria Basta; Wes Baily; and John Della Vecchia; and Brad's sister Kristin English.  You'll find them all in Guest Column archives.

Another round of thanks to all the folks we featured in the webisodes and for the generous amount of time they all gave us so that we could dig deep in order to find out about the fire that burns in each of their bellies.

And, of course, my own thank you to my wife, Susan, who continues to support me on my Quixotian quests.  All Questers need great partners and we here at Pizza Quest, well, we're all lucky to have ours.

Happy New Year everyone--more to come in 2012….

 
Brad's Signature Pizza with Sausage, Goat Cheese and Avocado
Brad English

Being last isn't always a bad thing.  As I often say, one of my favorite pizzas to make is the one that develops with left over ingredients or by chance.  Making pizzas is no small task.  You don't generally just make one pizza - at home anyway.  You prep and throw a few pies together because it's a bit of work and the operation does create a bit of a mess no matter how you manage it.  When you add in photography as part of your mise en place you get flour and ingredients all over the place -- but it's so much fun!  Besides all that, pizza is also meant to be eaten as a left over.  It's good cold the next day for breakfast straight out of the fridge and how many things can you say that about?

I set out to make my 4th version of the Signature Pizza using a Hot Italian Sausage as the anchovy replacement.  As I was shopping, I thought of the Buonchristiani Lamb Fennel Sausage Pizza I first made earlier this past year (see archives) and decided to pick up some fresh goat cheese to go toward that concept, and to also try changing another main ingredient to see what would happen.  So, here I was about to make version 4.  I think there was a leak in my glass.  I kept having to refill it as I made my pizzas.  I have to say, I think I enjoy having a sip of good wine or beer while I'm cooking as much as I do when eating the finished product.  In the same sense I think, for me, the act of cooking is half the fun of eating, so why wouldn't the tasting of wine or beer while you pull your ingredients together make for an enhanced experience just as when you pair the final dish?  I think this further explains why food is so important to us.  It really is a a gift that we gather around on a daily basis as we share our lives with one another.  I enjoy sharing a home cooked meal with friends, either here or at their house, but for all of these reasons, I think some of my favorite dinner parties are when you gather and cook together, essentially making the dinner prep part of the dinner party. 

But, this time I was alone in the kitchen.  The family was circling, but busy doing other things while they waited for the next pizza to emerge from the oven.  Alone, I had to march on, knowing that they would soon gather and, hopefully, enjoy what I was making.  I know Owen would.  He's like Mikey - he eats everything!

The ingredients on top of this version of the Signature Pizza are basically the same as the previous except for the substitution of the Sausage and Goat Cheese.  As I was assembling the pizza an avocado, sitting in a bowl on the counter, caught my eye.  It was ripe.  Okay, why not?  When life puts a chalkboard sign in your path, pay attention!  While the pizza cooked, I decided to cut it open and throw it on the pizza after.  It was green and would certainly look cool, and I thought it would be an interesting texture and mellow flavor accent on top of the spicier sausage and distinct goat cheese.  I have a nice bottle of balsamic vinegar that a friend gave me from the Central Coast.  It's surprising that I still have it, because it's so good you feel compelled to drink it, not drizzle it!  At the end, this sweet vinegary drizzle proved to be the final touch of a lucky accident. 

This is a terrific pizza!  There are layers and layers of flavors that come at you from between the cool topping of avocado to the warm crusty dough on the bottom.  The Birra Basta, with it's fruity earthiness, handled this quite well.  Each of my four variations of the Signature Challenge Pizza (see previous postings), in fact, delivered a slight variation of flavors to work with,  challenge, and blend with the Bruery's beer.  What a great way to experiment on playing with a pizza and pairing concept, coming up with a number of similar but interesting variations.  It was also a pizza feast!  I'm still a fan of Kelly Whitaker's original anchovy version, but I sure had fun creating some options to share with my family, who all agreed that these were some of the best pizzas yet!


Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza - with Hot Italian Sausage, Goat Cheese and a Sliced Avocado Topping:

Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough  *Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough.

Burrata cheese

Fresh Goat Cheese

Hot Italian Sausage - or, any other sausage you may feel like trying

Sliced Chilis (Hot or Mild)

Preserved Lemon   *Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts, as well as a sweet finish.

Greens  *I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.

Kalamata Olives - I had picked up some at the market and decided to use a few.

Fennel Salt
*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.

Sliced Avocados

Good quality Balsamic Vinegar to drizzle


INSTRUCTIONS:
Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add Peter's Herb Oil to dough (see archives)

Add the Goat Cheese and then put a little Burrata in the center (bear in mind that it will melt and cover).

Add the pre-cooked, but not browned sausage (it will brown and crisp in the oven on the pizza)

Add the sliced Chilis

Add a few pinched Kalamata olives for little salty briny flavor bursts

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not an all over flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza, but when used sparingly I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick Rue and his team infused with lemon peel during the brewing.  Maybe...


Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, cut the avocado in half.  In the skin, make 1/8" slices lengthwise.  Scoop them out with a spoon.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes, or when done (in a convection 525 oven I am getting closer to a 6-7 minute bake). 

Lay the avocado slices over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle or drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the pizza

Cut and serve…

This one is a keeper!  So good --  you have to try it!


Enjoy and Happy New Year!!!!


 
Final Webisode, Tony Gemignani, Respect the Craft
Peter Reinhart

It's fitting that we wrap up our first year of PizzaQuest.com with the final segment of our series with World Champion pizzaiolo, Tony Gemignani. We did it in grand fashion, climbing to the top of a hill above the Golden Gate Bridge, looking back on Tony's new "kingdom." It looks almost like the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz, and the view was truly majestic, as you will see (you can see Angel Island and a hint of Alcatraz off in the distance too). But it also gave us a chance to reflect back on some of the key life lessons that Tony shared with us during our time with him. His catchphrase at the restaurant is "Respect the Craft," and he elaborates a bit in this segment about what he thinks are the keys to success for anyone getting into the pizza game (for those who were with us way back when we launched, you may recall Tony's guest column -- still available in the archives of the Guest Columns section -- in which he writes about his strong feelings regarding respect for the craft).

Perhaps his most valuable parting advice in this segment, which sums up so perfectly what we've discovered in all our encounters with artisans everywhere that we traveled during our first year of Pizza Quest, and a great place to end the year, is this: "You have to be in love with it."

 
Signature Pizza with Jalapeno Cured Bacon
Brad English

I'm still working on my Pizza Quest Signature Pizza series.  I set out to make a few versions to try with a glass or two of my Birra Basta.  I can't just let the keg sit there, right?  It was all created to be used; The Bruery didn't brew this beer to pour it down the drain.  The makers of my "new" kegerator surely wanted beer to flow through it.  I know I'm onto something here. 

As so many artisans explain, quality food starts by using the freshest ingredients you can get.   As I got into home cooking, I watched a lot of Molto Mario.  One of the things I picked up early from watching was that you use what is fresh. If you set out to make a recipe that calls for Bluefish and all you can find at the market that's fresh is the Sea Bass - you substitute!  Go fresh.  Buy local quality food as close to it's original environment  as you can.  This isn't exactly the right example here, but I bring it up because when I shop for pizza ingredients, I have a general list and look for those ingredients, but keep an eye out for something that says, "Here I am!  I am fresh!  I am bold!  I am your future!"  I haven't found that thing yet, but I often find some other interesting ingredients to work with. 

I was browsing the meat department looking for another option to this Signature Pizza.  I had some things in mind, but was definitely browsing.  "Hello there" it said.  I introduced myself.  We got along immediately.  I don't know how we had never met before.  "I'm always in your neighborhood!?" I said. By now the butcher was about to call security on me.  He wasn't used to customers talking to his bacon display.  But, this wasn't just bacon.  It was a proudly sliced pile of Jalapeño Cured Bacon. 

Ok, now back to reality.  How do you not try that?!  I knew I was looking for some spiciness and salted pork.  I didn't know it would be brought together in this way, but there she was.  Beautiful in all her glory.  Sorry, I slipped away again. 

The pizza is pretty much the same as the previous few.  It turned out delicious which was to be expected.  If you can't find a Jalapeno Cured Bacon, I imagine using a quality bacon and adding some thinly sliced, or chopped jalapenos would work as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza - The Jalapeño Cured Bacon Variety:

Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough (see Instructional archives)
*Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough
Squash Blossoms
*I couldn't find any, so I substituted a baby Belgian white endive
Burrata Cheese
Lemon Preserves
*Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts as well as a sweet finish.
Old Glory herself - House Cured Jalapeño Bacon (We met at Whole Foods, if you're interested)    
Fresh Greens
*I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.
Fennel Salt
*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.


Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add the Burrata Cheese to the center of the dough, factoring in how it will melt and cover.

Lay out the endive leaves

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not an all over flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza, but as you'll see in some of these recipes I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick infused with Lemon Peel during the brewing.  Maybe...



Add the cooked Jalapeño Bacon (or bacon with sliced chilis)


Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, toss some greens with a little herb oil or a favorite dressing. Or, you could just put the greens on as is.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes.

Lay Salad mixture over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle the Fennel and a little Sea Salt across the pizza (sparingly).

Cut and Serve…

Oh, and pour your next glass of bier!


Enjoy!



 
The Signature Pizza with Sopressata and Chilis
Brad English

I love our Signature Pizza.  I didn't come up with the recipe but, I was a part of the creation of the question, and the following ideas, that ultimately came together to become it.  I think how lucky we were to have Peter come up with a brand new dough that brought beer into the pizza - a pizza being designed to be paired with a beer that was to be created to pair with the pizza!  What came first... (no, this is not an Abbott and Costello routine, though it could be)?  As Peter wrote about in his Signature Dough Recipe post, you could just add beer in place of the water and do the same, but he "didn't want to waste a perfectly good beer."  (Maybe I'll give that a shot in the coming weeks as an experiment for those of you who don't have access to the Malted Barley crystal. When we were with Kelly Whitaker at Pizzeria Basta at the beginning of this journey we did make a test dough with a Bruery beer in it.  It was great.  I'll definitely have to follow this up with a liquid beer dough for those of us who are just home cooks).

I also think about how lucky we were to have met Kelly and his restaurant partner Alan Henkin.  They took this idea and ran with it.  They gave a lot of time, and put in a lot of effort, to create a one of a kind, truly unique pizza.  I was like a kid in a candy store watching it all happen.  Peter, Kelly, and Alan were also like kids in a candy store when we visited The Bruery, first taking a tour and then getting to make pizzas right there outside the brewery door in a mobile wood-fired oven.  I can only assume that owner Patrick Rue, and Tyler and all the guys at The Bruery felt equally delighted as they got to test their brewing skills to match the "Signature Pizza."

 

When Kelly made the final batch of pizzas in Denver for what we called "The Big Reveal," he brought a variation for the anchovies.  I actually requested that he bring something along so we could try a a different variation with the newly created Birra Basta and see how that went with it as well.  Kelly, being Kelly brought a house cured pork belly.  If you have read any of my writing here you know I am a huge fan of salted/cured pork products.  Well, that pizza was definitely a winning combination with the Birra Basta as well.  So, here at home, I thought it only fitting to try a few versions of my own.  On top of that, my family, other than my son Owen, doesn't much like fish.  Anchovies, I learned from them, are at or near the top of the list when you don't like fish! 

For this first variation I used a mild Sopressata salami, as well as some thinly sliced Anaheim Chili Peppers.  The rest was basically the same as the original.  I wanted to push this pizza a little toward Kelly's house cured pork, but also adding another accent with the chilies.  It works!  There's a lot going on here, from the savory sopressata, buratta cheese, and herb oil, through the chili's announcement that it's joined the party, to the subtle ping of the lemon curd popping in and saying "Hello there!"

Oh, and it did go down quite well with our "friend," the glass of Birra Basta (yes, I managed to acquire a keg of that amazing brew now living in my special kegster fridge) playing off some of the same flavor notes that Kelly established, and adding a few more to challenge the pairing.

Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza - The Sopressata Edition:

Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough
(*Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough -- see the archives in our Instructional section)

Squash Blossoms
(*I couldn't find any, so I substituted a baby Belgian white endive)
Burrata Cheese

Preserved Lemon (*Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts as well as a sweet finish.)

Sopressata salami (mild, or slightly spicy)

Anaheim Chili Peppers, or any other chili such as a Hatch, or even thinly sliced Jalapenos if you want a little more heat.

Fresh Greens
(*I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.)

Fennel Salt
(*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.)

Peter's Herbed Oil or any flavored herbed oil (see archives)

 

Instructions:

Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add the Burrata Cheese (considering how it will melt, spread, and cover).

Lay out the endive leaves.

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon, in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not a dominating flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza but, as you'll see in some coming recipes, I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a mug of Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick infused with Lemon Peel during the brewing.  Maybe...

Add the Sopressata and Chili Slices

Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, toss some greens with a little of the herb oil or a favorite dressing. Or, you could just put the greens on as is.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes, or when done.

Lay the greens over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle the fennel and a little sea salt across the pizza (sparingly).

Cut and Serve…

Oh, and pour your second glass of bier!

This is a terrific pizza, if I do say so myself!  I hope you'll try it and let us know what you think.

Enjoy!




 
Peter's Blog, December 5th
Peter Reinhart

Normally I try to post a new Peter's Blog every Tuesday, and I plan to do another one this week, but not till Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, because I want to wait until I return from the ribbon cutting ceremony at Charlotte's new 7th Street Public Market. It's a project that has been two years in the making and, I hope, will signify a major shift in the cultural culinary scene in this city. I've been fortunate to serve on the Board of Directors for this project and the ribbon cutting marks the opening day of commerce in this new farm to table, year round, daily, artisanal marketplace. I'll be back in 24 hours or so with my report and more thoughts on the Public Market.

In the meantime, Brad is working on another original pizza pictorial and we'll be posting that on Wednesday. So keep checking back, as there's always something new here at Pizza Quest.

 

...I'm back from the ribbon cutting ceremony and, of course, I'm jazzed. The mayor of Charlotte, Anthony Foxx, was there along with the head of the host committee for the upcoming Democratic National Convention, Dr. Dan Murrey (who is also the Chairman of the Board for the 7th Street Public Market). Representatives from Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Health Care of the Carolinas, the Market's two major sponsors who financially made it possible, along with Michael Smith of Charlotte Center City Partners, the visionary group that ideated the whole concept, also offered welcoming comments and helped the mayor cut the ribbon (actually a construction rope) to officially open the market.  Christy Shi, the Executive Director of the Market, has been working around the clock for months leading up to this moment which, for Charlotte, is historic because it signifies a huge statement of support for sustainability and local agriculture, as well as for artisans of all types. It is, in fact, the beginning of something important for this city.

Okay, so why is this such a big deal? There are thousands of farmers markets all over the place, as well as urban markets like The Reading Terminal Market in Philly, Pike's Market in Seattle, The Ferry Terminal Market in San Francisco, and many others. Markets like these help define the identity of their region and the people who live in it. Charlotte, for example, is a growing city, on its way to becoming a major city, populated by a very diverse crowd from all over the world. Yet, unlike other cities near to us, such as Charleston, South Carolina, Atlanta, and even Chapel Hill, all of which have very strong cultural food identities, Charlotte is still in its discovery process when it comes to food and culinary identity. We have a number of dedicated farmers surrounding the city, some amazing pork, poultry, and beef producers, year round vegetables,  a young but vibrant wine industry just up the road, access to great Mid-Atlantic seafood, an emerging micro-brewery culture, the first few entries in what promises to be a large farmstead cheese community -- all the pieces are coming together but there really hasn't been a central place, until now, that celebrates -- and sells -- these on a daily, year round basis. We are, at last, moving from the hobby phase to the "this is who we are" phase; from the "wouldn't it be nice" phase to the "this is how it should be" phase. All the values of The Slow Food Movement, the sustainable agriculture community, the Chefs' Collaborative, and other worthy organizations are embodied in this new Public Market, which is really an incubator for small start-ups that will eventually grow into successful, impactful businesses.  This is the Market's vision, which includes supporting other organizations that serve areas we call "food deserts," neighborhoods that don't have access to good products and practical food or health education.

We've discussed on this site the idea of food being a signifier of one's cultural identity. Living as we do in a "tossed salad" society (the new version of "melting pot"), cultural identity is often a difficult thing to pin down. But we all recognize that food is one of the front line aspects of identity (hey, I'm from Philly, home of hoagies, cheese steaks, roast pork sandwiches; when I lived in Rhode Island it was all about the quahog stuffed clams, spaghetti and "gravy," and, more recently, grilled pizza -- nearly every region has such identifiers). I think that one of the next steps in the unfolding of Charlotte's identity will be some locally produced foods that become associated with this city. We're going to take a stab at it with the new sprouted wheat pizzas that will be served at Pure Pizza in the Public Market (opening is slated for mid January), but I have a hunch that one of the biggies will be a new benchmark version of pork tacos, perhaps made with a signature sauce and local cheese -- a Charlotte equivalent of a Philly Cheese Steak. I just saw in today's paper that we just got our first Korean Taco truck, so we'll see how that catches on. Things are starting to happen and I think this new market, championing local products, is a big piece of the puzzle.

My sense is that similar projects are happening around the country as well as around the world. We'd love to hear about how this celebration of local, artisanal, and benchmark products is manifesting in your region. Please send us your comments and your stories. If you want to flesh it out in the form of a commentary, we'll consider featuring it in our Guest Column section. Meanwhile, I'm heading back to the Market -- a new era has begun….

 
Bread as Ferment for Social Change
Michael Hanson

Recently I was asked to talk about bread and baking to a group of Transition Town activists here in the UK. It got me thinking about the importance of bread in creating and shaping  society and community.  I had much to say, the difficulty was in what to leave out.  I came up with the title, “Bread as a Ferment for Social Change.”  I believe Jesus would have known exactly what it meant. Just as Jesus threw the money lenders out of the temple he would probably through modern bread out too. With “Occupy” demonstrations springing up all over the world in response to the crisis in global capitalism/materialism I feel that the simple act of companionship needs consideration.

For over seven thousand years bread has been the staff of life in Europe and the Near East, the staple food of our ancestors. The domestication of grain in the fertile crescent heralded the transformation from nomadic to semi –urban pastoralist society. When disparate groups came together to form small villages,  then large towns (the first of which is widely agreed to be Chatal Hayuk in Turkey), the new communities needed organizing. Farming was easy and agricultural laboring was the natural way to be. On the societal and ceremonial level the new urban rulers needed to create larger and larger communal forms of worship in order to keep control.
This is when I believe our ancestors expanded and developed the ancient forms of fertility/Goddess worship practiced throughout the ancient world. Instead of honoring and sacrificing to a pagan God/Goddess they came up with ceremony and ritual based on grain and bread.

So it is only a small leap -- five thousand years or so -- to Jesus’s brand of bread worship. In the West we have largely accepted the modern Christian idea of ceremonially honoring bread through partaking of the “blessed” sacramental host. In the Near East both Islam and Judaism also have deep respect for grain and bread. In my view grain built community, and bread ordered it. Hence bread has become deeply embreaded (sic) in our psyche and symbology.  Bread, dough, and crust are  “seen” as pecuniary compensation;  so in our current economic, political, and societal crisis it seems very apposite that bread is once again being taken seriously.  The Roman Empire declined when its wheat basket around the Medditerrean was lost, creating bread inflation and social unrest in Rome.  Let them eat bread.  Give us this day our daily bread.  As more citizens near “bread line,” the queue for free food grows longer. How long before the Christian church starts to hand out panis benedictus to the poor?

The good news is that people are beginning to wake up, to sense the change. They no longer want to buy  plastic wrapped industrialized pap that ne’r a human hand has touched; through self empowerment and action they are “baking it for themselves.” They want to eat a holier bread made in an honest way; some want to earn an honest crust through baking at home. We should welcome the rise of the home baker.  Eating good bread is a symbol of how you respect yourself and the earth; baking bread is a metaphor for  one's desire to change the way one lives, and in my opinion the simplest, surest, and safest place to start to make that change. The more that people wake up and bake the better. Symbolically  they are throwing off the chains of the Walmartopoly. I just hope that the Occupy Wall Street protestors are not having to make do with gifts of out of date supermarket factory pap, but are  getting the chance to eat real food and bread.
Bread is as good for community today as it’s always been. Companionship is literally the breaking and sharing and eating  of bread with your community. Now, more than ever before, we should be baking and sharing. Jesus may or may not have fed the five thousand with his bread, but the  seeds of ideas certainly did feed their bodies and minds.

Any campaign or movement that encourages people to eat or bake good bread should  be congratulated and supported. Here in the UK we have a burgeoning Real Bread Campaign. In America I understand you too are having a renaissance in real, or artisanal, bread.  Perhaps in two thousand years time  our descendants may even measure time as BAB (Before Artisan Bread) and AAB (After Artisan Bread). Now that would be a legacy.

Pizza Quest Members: Your comments are welcome.

 
Harvesting Tomatoes with Tony
Peter Reinhart

This is one of my favorite webisodes of all time. Tony Gemignani took us on a field trip to Stanislaus County, to the town of Westley (near Modesto, CA), where we met Steve Rouse, the marketing director for the world famous Stanislaus Food Products company. We arrived just a week or so before the peak of the harvest, but found a few vines that were, nevertheless ripe and ready, as you will see. But more importantly, as you watch us in the field, the wind blowing, surrounded by acres and acres of low lying tomato vines, the smell of those tomatoes infusing the atmosphere with that distinctive tomato vine aroma (well, you had to be there for that part), there were a few indelible moments that I will never forget. First, for Tony, who we've been featuring for the past few months in this webisode series and whose talent is prodigious, this was not just a source for his tomato products but a place where, as he explains, he feels a deep connection to his own heritage, especially to his grandfather, a hardworking farmer and his personal hero, and this sense of connectedness clearly infuses and informs his own work. For Steve, as you will hear, there is a connection to his company's own quest for quality, embodied in the values of the owner, Dino Cortopassi, to keep reaching for perfection. One of Dino's sayings, and Steve shares it with us in this segment and I'm sure I'll be stealing it many times in the future, is: "In the race for quality, there is no finish line."

Even if you can't smell the tomatoes the way we did that day, take it all in through these images and words. There are a lot of life lessons in this segment, transmitted through many generations of hard earned wisdom.

 

 
Brad's Signature Pizza
Brad English

Pizza Quest was an idea that popped into my mind a couple of years ago.  I called my buddy Jeff about the book I just read  - Peter's "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza".  Not long after I was corresponding with Peter and Jeff about how we could make this idea a show.  It still isn't a show on TV, but we have launched the website and if it's anything, it is an adventure in and of itself.  We have put some hard work into the site and hope it's been as enjoyable to our guests as it has been for us. 

Another idea came along about 6 months ago and many of you have been following our quest to challenge Patrick Rue and his brewers over at The Bruery.  It was quite an experience watching and living that idea as it blossomed from it's inception to us chasing this unique beer and pizza pairing across the western United States.  I find myself at home now, thinking back on the whole thing, and I'm smiling.  It was just amazing to be me standing with the likes of Peter Reinhart, Kelly Whitaker and Patrick Rue.  My father is an actor.  I remember when I was younger - oh, so much younger. He had come home from filming an episode on Cheers during it's hay day.  He said it was like stepping in and playing on a Super Bowl Team for the week.  As I wrote in a previous photo caption, I felt like I was standing with giants. 

We didn't move the world.  But, we moved our lives a good measure toward our common quest for a better quality of life.  Each of us can participate in this everyday, or as often as we wish.  True artisans like Kelly, Patrick or so many others we have met along the way do it for a living.  But, it's there for all of us to experience as we challenge ourselves to participate in life.  It's amazing to me, even as one of the nuts behind Pizza Quest, that pizza can be such an interesting way of exploring these aspects of life. 

One of the benefits of being a Pizza Quester is that you get a few perks.  We don't get many, but the few we've gotten have been nice indeed.  Patrick offered me a keg of Birra Basta since they didn't bottle it.  I didn't have a kegerator, but always wanted one.  So, now I have a kegerator and a keg of Birra Basta - a beer brewed by a great brewery that was at least partially inspired by my ideas.  How cool is that? 

Now, what better way to enjoy the beer than to make the pizza it was created for?

Here's my first version of the pizza that Kelly created to rest atop of Peter's Signature Bruery Pizza Dough.  I will follow this up with a few more variations on this pizza in the coming weeks, which all turned out amazing as well.

 

Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza:

-Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough
*Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough (you can get the flour by contacting Central Milling -- see the link to their site at the top of this page).
-Squash Blossoms
*I couldn't find any, so I substituted baby Belgian endives
-Burrata Cheese -- it's a blend of fresh mozzarella filled with creme fraiche or mascarpone cheese.
-Preserved Lemon
*Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts as well as a sweet finish.
-White Anchovies
*I found a marinaded white anchovy at Whole Foods.  It was delicious - was dressed in a lemony/herby oil - which I used to toss into the greens.
-Greens
*I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.
-Fennel Salt
*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.

 

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add the Burrata Cheese around the center of the dough (it will melt and spread).

Lay out the endive leaves.

Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, toss some greens with the white anchovies.  Again, these were dressed in a nice lemony herby oil.  I didn't add anything else to the salad.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes.

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not an all over flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza but, as you'll see in some coming recipes, I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick infused with Lemon Peel during the brewing.  Maybe...

Lay the salad mixture over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle the fennel and a little sea salt across the pizza (sparingly).

Cut and Serve…

Oh, and pour your second glass of bier!

This pairing works.  The crust sets it all up and you are literally experiencing a flavor affair in your mouth.  You then take a sip and it becomes something else, similar but altogether different.  Enjoyable is a word that comes to mind.

I ate this pizza all by myself.  I had some other ideas along these lines that I wanted to share with my family - but they wouldn't go near the white anchovies with a 10 foot fishing pole!  Of course, I'm not talking about my son Owen - he actually walked in and had one of the slices. 

More to come on this...






 
Two Secret Ingredients of Great Pizza
John Arena

If you are reading this it is safe to say that you are a pizza fanatic. You have traveled to hundreds of pizzerias and possibly even picked through some trash barrels in search of the keys to the mythological “perfect pie”. You have spent hours debating the merits of different types of ovens, flour, cheese and tomatoes. Over time what becomes painfully clear is that there are no universal rules, standards or agreed upon recipes for what defines a great pizza.  Of course it is human nature to try to find order in the chaos, so there must be something that is common to all of the truly extraordinary pies, right? Well, it turns out that there is. Truly amazing, life changing, mind blowing pizzas, have two things in common, two ingredients that are available anywhere, but are only truly used and understood by a handful of pizza makers and pizza aficionados.

So, for the first time anywhere, the two top secret ingredients common to every great pizza are: Wabi and Sabi. Wait! Don’t rush out to the local Whole Foods to pick up these items. As they say in the infomercials, “Wabi and Sabi are not available in any store.”  That’s because they are not tangible ingredients, but they are, in my opinion, the crucial elements that can be found in any truly great artistic expression including the pizza you will find at places like Una Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn.

Wabi and Sabi are Japanese words that can be defined as “understated elegance and finding beauty in the impermanent”. This is the reason that we are drawn to the simple pizza bianca at Volpetti in Rome. It is also the reason why you can find 50 people waiting in line in front of Frank Pepe’s on Wooster St. in New Haven. The irregular blisters on the crust of a pizza at Spacca Napoli in Chicago, and the simple choice of organic toppings at Slice in New York -- that’s Wabi and Sabi. But of course there is more to it than that.

The real key to including Wabi and Sabi in your pizza recipe and in your life can be found in the completion of the definition: “Things that resonate with the spirit of the makers hand.”
Think about it, whether we are talking about the tomato pies of DeLorenzo’s in Trenton or the amazing creations of Al Santillo at Santillo’s in Elizabeth NJ, the one thing that every pizza we love has in common is that they are a pure expression of the person who made them. Sure the big chains have consistency and uniformity but none of them achieve greatness. Keep it simple. Let every ingredient shine. Most of all, allow your pizza to show your own hands. This generous sharing of self will allow people to connect to the gifts you offer them. When your pizza tells the world everything they need to know about you, you are on your way to being a legendary pizza maker.

 
Special Webisode: The Italian-American Experience
Peter Reinhart

While we were filming at Tony's Pizza Napoletana we met Marti Casey, the editor-in-chief of Salute' Magazine, a publication dedicated to celebrating the Italian-American experience. Of course, there we were, in the heart of San Francisco's Little Italy section, North Beach, eating amazing pizza at Tony's, surrounded by quintessential Italian-American focaccerias, pork shops, bakeries, and classic spaghetti and meat ball trattorias, so what better place to discuss the immigrant experience. As you will see, we got off the subject a few times (don't miss Marti's description in the first part of the video, of her first business, making beef jerky, and the slogan they came up with to sell it), but we soon realized that the Italian-American experience was, in a sense, a metaphor and microcosm of the entire American immigrant experience. What used to be called a melting pot is now often called a salad bowl, but the common thread and essential commonality is that people came to this country, and still do, because it represents the single greatest symbol of opportunity in the history of the world. The immigrant experience is all about the possibility of reinvention of one self and freedom from any preconceived boxes that held individuals back in the past. Not everybody manages to leverage that opportunity into a successful life but the odds sure are greater here, even now during these turbulent times. North Beach, and its adjacent China Town, are perfect examples of that, so it was enjoyable spending time with Marti, sharing our own stories and viewing them through the lens of the Italian-American version.

One thing we've learned over and over again while out on our pizza quest is that when you're on a quest you meet some really interesting people and it reinforces an intuition that I think many of us have: no matter where you are from, when it comes right down to it, we are not all that different from each other.

 
The Marinara
Brad English

I think the Marinara Pizza may be many pizzaiolos favorite to make.  It is a pizza pie with no cheese and I think reflects the skill and passion of a pizza maker's ability to evoke deep flavors from such simple ingredients.  I remember asking Pizzeria Basta's Kelly Whitaker what his favorite pizza was to make and he said, without hesitation that it was the Marinara.  He said, "My favorite pizza goes back to the basic principle of being as simple as possible…the marinara." 

Marinara sauce is said to come from the term Mariner's sauce.  One of the folk legends about the history of this sauce says that it was invented after the Spaniards introduced the tomato to Europe and it quickly became the sauce of choice for those at sea because it was simple, easy to make, was flavorful and wouldn't spoil as fast as other sauces on their long journeys.  No matter where it came from, it is a simple sauce that is full of the robust flavors of quality tomatoes.

The traditional Marinara Pizza has tomatoes crushed, or blended, sliced fresh garlic, fresh oregano, extra virgin olive oil and maybe some sea salt to taste.  Some pizzerias may use basil instead, or in addition to the oregano.  This pizza not only allows the skill of the pizza maker to come through, but really showcases the quality of the individual ingredients. 

This is the perfect tomato based pizza for me to explore my skills, and experiment with these new Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes that I've been loving. 

The Marinara Pizza

Dough - Central Mills 00 flour (or your favorite Napoletana dough recipe)
Bianco DiNapoli Hand Crushed Organic Tomatoes (or your favorite brand)
Thinly sliced fresh garlic
Fresh oregano leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

 

This pizza is all about balance.  Since there is nothing on top of the tomatoes you have to layer enough sauce to ensure that the sauce doesn't dry up, or dry out in the oven.  I think the longer bake times in a home oven can make this more of a dance, than if it were done with a 90 second bake in a wood fired oven.  Top with the ingredients keeping balance in mind.  This pizza is all about the tomatoes.  The garlic, oregano and oil are there as accents.

Add your sauce - in this case simply hand crushed tomatoes.  I didn't add any sea salt to any of my pizzas using these tomatoes.  There was no need. There might be, however, if you use a different brand (especially since Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes are only available to a few pizzerias and not to the public--sorry!!)

Add the thin slices of garlic

I added a little olive oil prior to baking.


Into the oven!

When it comes out, add the oregano leaves and drizzle with a little more oil.


Cut, serve and Enjoy!

 

 
A swing through Eataly
Brad English

New York City is a world unto itself.  It's a relatively small island filled with a lot of everything from everywhere.  You can find almost anything you can imagine in this city.  What I find most interesting is that you can be here by yourself and not be lonely.  And, on the opposite side of the coin, you can be surrounded by literally thousands of people and be left alone.    

I have often imagined that when we start our official Pizza Quest tour here in NY we may never finish.  It would be like a black hole, or a Twilight Zone episode where Peter takes us into the city to one pizzeria after the other and we wake up one day to realize we're now stuck in a perpetual pizza quest - tasting our way through the city and surrounding boroughs.  If we ever got to the end of our journey there, we would probably have to start it all over. I have heard that the Golden Gate Bridge is never finished being painted.  It's so large, that when the crews make their way across the bridge painting it, and finally reach the other side and "finish" - they have to start the process over again at the beginning. 

There's even another, perhaps more sinister obstacle we would face on our trip through New York.  We may never get to that imaginary "End" of our search for that perfect pizza in the first place.  We will surely face this manipulative demon day in and day out.  We will run smack into a never ending supply of quest-worthy "detours" that would inevitably become quests on their own.  Trust me!  We went to Cayucos, CA and couldn't get out of there without numerous side trips, taco quests, cookie connections and that town only has about 137 people!

One day, we'll get to NYC with our quest crew.  I'll just have to inform my family and prepare them to move there with me.

So, what's the big deal here Brad?  Why all this talk of the BIG APPLE?  Are you beginning a quest there?  No, not yet.  But Eataly caused me to realize just how all consuming and compelling New York City can be.

EATALY.

Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and her son Joe have put together a concept that may only be possible in this city.  I finally had a chance to drop in and wander around this new venture of theirs.  It's hard to believe.  It's decadent, but yet it's about simple things - quality ingredients, good food, and a celebration of gathering and eating.  When I visited it in the summer of 2011, and our economy was not looking it's shiny best.  In a way, it struck me as hard to balance reality and this over the top expression of a gourmet food market.  But this is NYC.  You have to realize just how many people are here.  That justifies a different reality that allows Eataly to exist.  Where you may be lucky enough to find a great butcher, fish monger, a fine cheese shop, or bakery in cities and towns everywhere, it's something special when they happen to all be in the same location.  This happens organically on occasion, as one good restaurant becomes successful, it draws another, and another and you begin to have a great neighborhood, village, farmers market, or gathering place.  We really do gather around food either in our cities and towns, or at our dinner tables or breakfast nooks. 

Eataly is that neighborhood where all these unique, quality artisan vendors come to sell their goods.  It is like what Anthony Strong, of Pizzeria Delfina, so proudly proclaimed in one of our early webisodes about his Castro neighborhood in San Francisco.  It had become known as "The Gastro" because of the gathering of so many dedicated food purveyors, restaurants, bakeries who had settled in and it become a place to go to eat, graze, shop, or just get together.  In a city like NYC there are certainly many great neighborhoods with all of these elements, but at Eataly, they have taken the concept and brought it into one place, under one roof.  The space feels like a remodeled old rail station, or warehouse.  It's clean, bright, and has high enough ceilings to make it feel open, but not too cavernous. I could even say I found it cozy at the same time.  The city is like that as well.  It's gigantic, but you find coziness in the smaller parts, the nooks and crannies - the neighborhoods.  Eataly's design also lends to a sense of discovery as you wander through the space, turning corners, and uncovering what else there is to find.  

I have one lament though.  As a visitor swinging through NY, you can't take advantage of a big part of the experience, which is access to so many amazing - quality ingredients to take home and cook with!  But, you can browse, sit, eat, taste, sample and drink within this great public gathering space.  I don't think you can even appreciate what Eataly is until you've had the chance to experience it all, eating in but also taking the food/ingredients to go.  It is a great place to visit, but perhaps a greater lifestyle type of place.  I read one review saying how someone was frustrated eating in what was essentially a public market.  This was exactly the aspect that I loved so much about it.  I was there alone, but I felt part of the shared experience. 

We all know it's one of life's gifts to sit in a quiet little restaurant with a candle on the table and enjoy the ambiance along with some great food.  There's definitely a time for that.  And, there's a time for Eataly -- a time to celebrate a gathering of ingredients, foods, artisans, and friends in a very open and sharing way.  You can't help but be excited in here.  I would love to rent an apartment in the city sometime just to be able to swing by here to pick up some of these amazing ingredients to take home and make a meal with.  In all likelihood, that may well result in a taste or two of some fine wine or other small plates along the way.

So, what did I eat in there?  Well, this is Pizza Quest, right?  So, I had to try the pizza, of course!  I really wanted to have some fish, but, well you know with the Pizza Quest thing, I didn't feel there was much of a choice.  I could have played off the whole fish taco thing, but I figured the best place for my Eataly journey to end that day would be the pizzeria "La Pizza".  But, as you can see from the photos of the fish store, that's a place I'll definitely be back to explore when I can do it justice.

I had the Messesse Pizza.  It had a nice fresh tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, spicy salumi, and a little fresh basil to top it off.  Their pizza, as they advise you, is made very thin and is meant to be eaten with a fork from the middle outward to the crust - a traditional Napoletana style pizza. The pizza was balanced, bright and delicious.  The crust was very thin in the middle and had a nice chew to it out near the cornicione.  I was very happy!  I will be back. 

I live in California.  I realize that my Eataly Quest may take some time to complete.  And, I realize that it may be much like my dream of our Pizza Quest in NYC - a never ending journey - which is great because that is what life is all about and I think it's exactly what Mario and the gang were striving for.

 
Pizza Margherita ( A One Day Sourdough Crust Formula)
Teresa Greenway

I said in an earlier post that I would come up with a one day sourdough formula for a pizza crust. Well, I have one I think you’ll like.

I really enjoy the simplicity of Pizza Margherita. Wikipedia says: In 1889, during a visit to Naples, Queen Margherita of Italy was served a pizza resembling the colors of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). This kind of pizza has been named after the Queen as Pizza Margherita.

Well, mine does have all of those colors so I guess you could say this is a Pizza Margherita.  I love basil, the smell and the flavor is just right on a pizza. I often cannot keep it for long and a trip to the market is an hour for me, so I sometimes will freeze it while it is still fresh. It doesn’t have the eye appeal that the fresh basil does, but at least I have it when I need it. This pizza is sans fresh tomato and fresh basil (I used the frozen basil), but it still tastes terrific! The toppings include a crust spread with olive oil, pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves.

Formula for One Day Sourdough Pizza Crust:

Early in the morning, in your dough folding trough or mixing bowl mix together:
•    12 oz/340g of vigorous sourdough starter at 100% hydration, which was fed the night before
•    9 oz/255g water
•    4 oz/113g evaporated milk
•    1.5 oz/42g oil (I like to use olive oil)
•    4 oz/113g white whole wheat flour
•    9 oz/255g bread flour

Mix all of the above ingredients together until you have a nice mass of dough. Then let the dough rest (autolyse) for 15 minutes. After autolyse is over, stir in:
•    .6 oz/17g salt  (stir in well before adding the rest of the flour)
•    10 oz/283g bread flour
•    (it can be fun to add a pinch of garlic powder or granulated garlic to the dough - ¼ teaspoon should be enough)

This will make 3 lbs 2 oz /1420g of dough at 65% hydration.

Knead all ingredients together for two or three minutes and then allow the dough to ferment in a covered container at room temperature for six hours. During the six hour ferment time, fold the dough four or five times to strengthen the gluten.

Peter has a good video on youtube.com on how to fold dough. Once the six hours is done, divide your dough into two pieces (weighing about 1.5 lbs each). Shape into rounds and spray with oil, cover and let set for 20 minutes.

Roll/stretch out your dough into a large pizza round, 14 – 16 inches and set the dough on top of a baking parchment paper to proof. Let the dough proof for 1.5 hours. Then top with your preferred toppings and slide pizza onto a very hot preheated baking stone at around 500 degrees for 10-15 minutes with 12 minutes being average.

The oven/stone is not as heated as hot as usual due to the milk in the dough which adds color and lightness to the dough but will make the dough burn a little easier as well. Make sure your stone is up about 1/3 of the distance of your oven from the bottom.

Enjoy!



 
Peter's Blog, November 8th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

First, I want to welcome our newest sponsor to Pizza Quest, our friends from Central Milling in Petaluma, California. This company is headed up by my longtime friend, Keith Giusto, one of the finest bakers in America and also one of our greatest millers--rarely does someone possess world class skills in both realms, and we're very proud to have Central Milling in our growing stable of Pizza Quest sponsors. You've read in this blog how we used Keith's (and his nephew Nicky's) latest flour blends to create the "Challenge Pizza Dough" in Denver, so I hope you'll click through to the Central Milling website and check them out -- this is a company dedicated to producing the absolutely finest flour in the country and, quite possibly, the world. It is my understanding that there will even be bread classes and demos at their Petaluma headquarters --you'll have to contact them for details (the website has a contact section)-- but you should also learn about the actual original Central Mills -- the mills themselves-- in Utah, where the magic really happens. Thanks for your support Keith and Nicky, and your whole team at Central Milling. Welcome onto the Pizza Quest bus….

Meanwhile, I've been ruminating all week about the two extraordinary pizza experiences I recently had in San Francisco at Una Pizza Napoletana and also at Tony's Pizza Napoletana. The reason I can't stop thinking about these places is because they are so totally different from each other yet each represents a level of excellence and artistry that is extremely rare in the pizza world (though the list of pizzerias operating at this level is growing by the day, to the benefit of all of us). These two places, though, are the yin and yang of artisan pizza. Tony's features eight different styles (see last week's Peter's Blog), all executed at at benchmark levels, while Una Pizza Napoletana makes one style, a unique iteration of classic Napoletana but with a wild yeast crust, created and crafted  by Anthony Mangieri in a small, almost zen-like fashion, on a small work station with a beautiful blue tiled oven at his back.

One can't help but be awed at both places, yet in very different ways and for different reasons.

Tony Gemignani's ambitions make it impossible for one person, Tony, to make all the pizzas himself so he is dependent on a team of personally trained cooks (he also runs a pizzaiolo certification school next to the restaurant) who must also make pasta, his legendary meatballs, and many other classic Italian-American menu items.  His restaurant is an emporium, a massive statement on a grand stage in the heart of San Francisco's most famous neighborhood, North Beach, across the street from the church where Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe, around the corner from City Lights Bookstore where Allen Ginsberg and the other beatnik poets dominated the literary landscape, and just blocks from Fisherman's Wharf.  In one of our early webisodes with Tony we went to the top of a hill overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, looking back on the city of San Francisco as if it were the Emerald City (which it is, as anyone who has ever lived or visited there knows). I asked him how it felt to be the newest star on the biggest stage and Tony, who is no stranger to acclaim and cheering crowds, seemed awed himself as he took in the immensity of his striving. It was a defining moment for each of us, I think. In future webisodes we'll get to explore a little more of the fire that burns in his belly, that drives the desire to climb to these heights. He is the George M. Cohan, the John Wayne, the Michael Jackson of the pizza world and we're delighted to be able to give you a glimpse of his artistry.

I'm hoping we'll be able to go back to San Francisco in the near future and explore in an equally deep manner the fire that burns in Anthony Mangieri's belly because, while Tony's is like a grand Broadway musical, a "Phantom of the Opera" playing to 2,000 people a night in a majestic theater, Anthony's place is like a small off-Broadway theater playing The Fantasticks to a 90 people a night (btw, "The Fantasticks" ran for about 30 years in that tiny theater -- not sure if Anthony will want to do it for so long, though).

What I'm trying to say is that I really want to get inside that monkish complexity I experienced at Una Pizza Napoletana; the oven itself was so clearly like, in a purely metaphorical way of course, a The Holy of Holies of the ancient Temple, a consuming, transformative fire that transmuted dough, cheese, and sauce into a new something, into a a one of a kind pizza. I'm just dying to know how much of that design was conscious and intentional and how much simply an intuitive stumbling into the mystic. That's what's on my list for my next trip to San Francisco because experiencing Tony's and Anthony's pizzerias on two consecutive nights reminded me that there are many paths to the Holy Grail; soulfulness can manifest in St. Peter's Cathedral and also in a desert monastery or in a lonely mountain top and, in the end, the only thing that actually matters is that it inspires us and touches us in the center of our being. Two paths, two distinctively personal quests, but one ultimate destination, sought after and celebrated night after night after night. As we've said before, the quest never ends....

 
Sssshhhhhhh....It's a Secret
John Arena

Lately I’ve been thinking about New Orleans. The Crescent City has a huge Sicilian heritage yet it has never been known as a great pizza city. We will explore why at a later date because right now let’s think about something New Orleans is famous for and how it relates to pizza -- music.

Back in the early 1900’s there was a legendary jazz musician named Freddie Keppard. People who heard Freddie play claimed he was the best cornetist in history, yet today most people have never heard of him, and here’s why: Freddie Keppard was always afraid that some young musician would steal his secrets. He became so paranoid that he would play with his hands covered by a handkerchief so rivals wouldn’t see what he was doing. He went so far as to refuse to record his music fearing that it would reveal too much to his competitors. The result is that Freddie Keppard is now just a footnote in musical history, his talents reduced to nothing more than legend and speculation. On the other hand just about everyone knows of Louis Armstrong, another New Orleans jazz great who generously shared his talent with the world, mentoring scores of musicians, sharing his gifts and becoming one of the most beloved figures in musical history.

We have all heard tales of legendary pizza makers who seem to have some mystical ability. In the history of pizza there have been a small number of pizza alchemists who are able to take the most basic ingredients and turn them into something greater than the sum of its par -- a perfect pizza. Like all mythology, the implication is that these people possess some secret technique or ingredient, or perhaps a piece of equipment, some holy grail of knowledge shared by only a select few. The veil of secrecy goes back to pre-Roman days, when guilds and societies were formed to insure job security. In ancient Roman times bread baking was considered so crucial that if you were born in to a baking family you were required by law to continue that trade. My Dad once told me that 80 year old Italian bakers in New York in the 1930’s would jealously guard their recipe books from their co-workers fearing that some youngster would steal a secret and force them into retirement. I remember pizzaiolo’s removing the temperature knobs from ovens to hide their chosen baking temperature from “pizza spies”. To this day I know pizza makers who carefully shred the labels from tomato cans before discarding them. The folly of this is that most of these folks are baking at the same temperature, using the same tomatoes, and generally following the same procedures. At the very least they have more in common than they can imagine and they would realize that if they ever bothered to speak with one another.

Besides the fact that all of this secrecy has created a culture of distrust among professional pizza makers there is another problem. Every once in a while someone does come up with a true insight or improvement. My feeling is that if we don’t generously share knowledge something very important could be lost. Look at it this way: who has brought more lasting joy to the world, Freddie Keppard or Louis Armstrong?

 

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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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