A Notion of Sacramental Bread
Michael Hanson

Note from Peter: We welcome Michael Hanson back with another thought provoking and, maybe even, controversial guest column. I am very curious to hear what you think of his ideas; whether you understand his vision and if you agree or disagree with his world view. This is an open forum and we encourage dialogue with all of our readers. It's okay to voice your opinion as long as it's done in a respectful way; nothing touches a nerve quite like commentaries that refer to God and the sacred. Now, here's Michael:

 

“The Bread in your hand
Is the Body of the Cosmos”

Thich Nhat Hahn

Many times recently I have been asked to explain my idea of Sacred Baking in more detail. Many of you may have read my previous article about my life journey and my idea of baking an honest, holy or sacred loaf. Here I want to explain my practice in more depth and welcome your thoughts. I have moved beyond “artisan baking” for two reasons. First, the term artisan, as many people have noted, has been stolen by the mass retail marketing experts; most “food porn” perverts the language to such an extent that factory made food now often gets called “artisanal.” Second, my personal journey has brought me to a new place of understanding and connecting with the Divine, that which is bigger than ourselves.

Our ancestors had a direct and deep connection to the earth and the fruits of the earth: tilling, planting and harvesting in cycles to feed themselves. Around these tasks built up ceremonies, rituals , songs and dances which, in our culture have all but disappeared, the remnants of which exist in ancient folk customs, many of which were expropriated by the religious orthodoxy and institutions and transformed into “religious” ceremonies; that most fundamental to Christians being the Eucharistic bread proffered in the form of a blessed sacrament.

In existing older societies and cultures around the world there still exist ceremonies, songs, and dances in which the people honor and give thanks to the earth for its abundance. In the Christian west we have given over this role to the church. I believe that there is a need and desire to reconnect with the ancient ways of being, of living. In a small way, home bread making is filling this need. I believe that we can re-sacralise our lives through bread; by baking in a holy way we can create sacred bread.

As a third generation master baker and bread oven builder I have a deep understanding of bread and baking, and the important role of the village baker/bakery in the creating and sustaining of the village. One cannot have a village/community without a baker and an oven. Home is where the hearth is, and a sacred hearth can bake communion bread for the community without the need for priests and their process of transubstantiation.

As a ceremonialist I understand the importance of personal and communal ritual in thanksgiving for the food we eat. Grace is a state of being, of communion with the Holy, as well as a prayer said before a meal. Bread is perhaps the foundation of “modern” civilization, the staff of life, and for over seven thousand years societies have found ways to honor and give thanks for grain, whether it be wheat, maize, barley rice etc etc. Their connection to and respect of the earth allowed them to bake in a sacred way. My intention is to do the same.

If one is to bake sacred bread I feel one has to combine the ancient wisdom of ritual with artisanship. When baking I feel a deep connection with the earth and my ancestors; additionally one has to source raw materials in a respectful way, honoring and thanking everything and everyone who has contributed to the wood, clay, water and wheat. This develops a way of baking with intention that enables the Divine to manifest through one’s hands and heart, and hence one can bake a sacred loaf. In short, honoring creates empathy which in turn creates sacred bread.

I feel my life’s work is to re-sacralise the bread we eat, the bread we bake, and through this the life we live. There are many thousands of home bakers who in their own way are feeding this process. I want to help them move beyond their desire to become artisan bakers to become Sacred bakers. I see bread as a “ferment” for change, internally and universally. I would love to know how you feel; do you bake sacred bread? Or does this belong only in the “priestly realm”?

 
Tony's Ovens
Peter Reinhart

Okay, this is the webisode many of you have been waiting for, where Tony Gemignani shows us all four of his ovens and also, as a bonus, explains the difference between the various types of Double Zero flour -- it's a whirlwind of information and I think you will want to watch it more than once and take notes. One of the joys we've had in traveling and meeting all these pizza masters is seeing how deeply they look into all their choices, whether it be flour, tomatoes, cheese, or other ingredients, ovens, heat sources, etc. They all have their own reasons for the choices they, which is great for all of us pizza hunters, as this attention to detail is what distinguishes them as artisans, and that's why we celebrate them.

There's more Tony to come in future webisodes, but this one may be the most useful of them all. Enjoy!!

 

 
The Sonny Boy from Pizzeria Bianco
Brad English

I had my large #10 can of the new Organic Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes and I had some pizzas to make.  I started with one from Tony Gemignani, who uses the tomatoes, and thought I'd do a couple from Chris Bianco himself.  I haven't had the chance to make it to Phoenix yet to try Pizzeria Bianco, but I've read much about it.  It is high on my list of things to do, and you will all be the first to know about it, when I get there.

I found Chris' Sonny Boy Pizza on his website and that sounded like something I wanted to make.  It's a simple pizza, perhaps you could call it an artisan version of one of the more popular pizzas on earth: The Pepperoni Pizza.  We all grew up on pepperoni and, although I still love a good one today, I am happy to find that more and more pizzerias are experimenting with other salted pork products such as salami. 

Chris' Sonny Boy has tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, salami and gaeta olives.  That's just pure and delicious, simple and straightforward.  That's good pizza!  I was at the store with my list; I tasted some salami's at the deli counter for this and came up with one called a Finocchiona Salami by Creminelli. I couldn't wait! When it came time to find the Gaeta olives they were not to be found!  It was hard to believe with size of the olive bar I was standing in front of.  But, I had to find an alternative. 

Smart Phone:  Google -- Substitute for Gaeta Olives = Kalamata Olives. Done. 

I love salted, brined olives almost as much as salted pork products.  I couldn't wait for this pizza.

 

 

My home version of The Sonny Boy Pizza from Pizzeria Bianco:

Pizza Dough
Hand Crushed Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes
Fresh Mozzarella
Finocchiona Salami
Kalamata Olives

As you build any pizza, you sit there and have to find the balance of the flavors.  This is part of the performance art and fun of making pizza.  No recipe will properly tell you how much cheese, sauce, salami, olives, olive oil or salt to use.  You are given a list and it's up to you to blend it together and find the perfect balance on your own.  That's a pretty cool thing about making pizzas at home.  I always say it's fun (I think I've said it a few times here).  This is another reason why.  

You spread the sauce and think about how long it will bake, will it dry out, will it be runny?  You have to find a balance.

I was using these salty ingredients (salami and olives) so I didn't salt the tomatoes at all. 

You pinch off the fresh mozz and lay it around the pizza.  You have to imagine how it will melt into the sauce.  Looking for balance...

You lay down a layer of salami.  Sometimes you may want it wall to wall, or other times, just a hint here or there. 

Add the olives.  To me, these are there to provide bursts of flavor, so not too much.

Into the oven.

Wait.

The Reward!

Enjoy (and it's fun!).

 

 

 

 
Peter's Blog, Sept. 27th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

As I prepare to head out to Denver for what I referred to last week as "The Big Reveal," I want to share this week's Peter's Blog with our correspondent, Nick Birkby, a baker and beer maker in South Africa. The timing is perfect, as Nick has been doing a lot of experimentation lately with beer malts in pizza dough, which is one of the keys to our Challenge Pizza (the recipe for this dough was posted last week). Nick has pushed the envelope even further, as you will see below. For those who have been writing in asking for more details for how to work with malt in dough, Nick's report will be invaluable and, hopefully, spur you on. If so, please write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to share your own adventures. As Nick points out, it's all part of the quest.

Here's Nick:

Every good quest should include a few exciting detours. Beer, much like pizza, rewards the passion of it’s creator.  It allows the brewer experimentation, and is capable, at times, of layers of dizzying complexity. Beer and  pizza are similar in that, in skilled hands, they can both be crafted with subtle simplicity or audacious bravado. They make for perfect partners, not just at the table, but in spirit. Both are capable of inspiring.

This contribution to the Quest takes us into some exotic  territory.  It’s been fantastic keeping up each week with the developments in the beer and pizza pairing saga, and my offering is simply another slice to add to the already exciting picture,  .

What caught my imagination as a home brewer was the adding of brewing malt flavors,  as well as  colors, to a pizza dough intended to be paired with beer. I had been occasionally adding malt in small quantities to my loaves for some time with good results but, what i wanted to see was if I could get some of the colors of these tasty complex roasted malts into a pizza base. I love the beautiful rich colors that some beers have – golden copper through to amber and on to dark chocolate black. I envisioned a dark brown deep roasted malt pizza base to pair with an Irish Stout, and a reddish base for an Amber Ale.

Before I carry on, I should explain what role these specialty malts play in brewing.  A brewer works with a recipe that uses pale or ’base’ malt as the largest proportion of the brew. It is, quite literally, the basis. Then, the ‘specialty’ malts are added in smaller amounts for their flavoring and coloring quantities. These malts are roasted and kilned for a longer time under different conditions by the Maltster, to produce different qualities and flavors that will allow the brewer to craft, say, a deep caramel Amber Ale or a coffee-like dry and roasty Stout. There are many types of specialty malts and most brewers love to experiment with them!  Flavors can range from "bready" and toasty through to caramel, toffee and even fruity plum and raisin. Think of the base malt as the canvas, and the specialty malts (and hops of course ) as the paint!

Getting hold of these malts is very easy, as brewing is such a huge hobby and any home brewing shop will be able to help.

Using the fantastic Neo-Neapolitan dough  (listed on this site ) as my recipe, what I did was quite simple. I steeped the coarsely ground up malt in some hot water until it had completely infused and cooled and then, once I sieved it off from the spent grain, substituted that for the water in the recipe. Because these malts are so good at releasing their flavors and colors through infusion, it wasn’t necessary to add actual ground malt to the dough.  The results were quite exciting!  From a flavor point of view it made a huge difference.  Roasted malts add a lot of complexity, roundness and an unusually delicious flavor to the dough. It definitely augments the dough, but does not overpower it and, paired with the appropriate beers and toppings, it was really memorable!

Due to time constraints, I have not been able to pursue this ingredient and pairing concept as far as I would have liked, but perhaps that makes it all the more exciting. The idea is here, and now it’s up to the bold to venture forward!

The Neo-Neapolitan recipe was halved for these experiments. Simply double up it for more.

For the ‘Stout’ dough I used 30 grams of dark ‘chocolate’ malt to 300 mls of very hot water, infused and allowed to cool. Use it in place of the water in the recipe. The topping was brown mushrooms and bacon. I paired it with a sweetish English Stout

For the Amber dough, I used 50 grams of ‘Caramel 50’ ( Cara 50 ) with the same amount of water as above. The amber color was not as pronounced as I hoped but here is where I will experiment again.  The topping was a mild chorizo, which happened to be at hand, and also happened to be amber! I paired it with one of my own malty Amber Ales!

Thanks very much to Peter for the invitation to contribute. All the Best, Nick.

Thank you Nick -- this is fabulous information!  I can't wait to hear from our other brewer/baker/pizza makers out there. Meanwhile, anyone who will be in Denver this weekend for the Great American Beer Festival, or for any other reason, look for us at the Summit Beer Garden, 1902 Blake St., on Friday, from 6 PM till the coals die out (or till they throw us out). I'll try to post a follow-up on Saturday. Here we go.....

 

 

 

 
The Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza Dough
Peter Reinhart

This is a small batch recipe for making the Challenge Dough that is used in the pizza that we will be making for the public for the first time on September 30th in Denver at 7 PM at the Summit Beer Garden, just a few blocks from The Great American Beer Festival.  The ingredients that distinguish this from typical pizza crusts are the flour and crystal malt.  The flour that we are using is called Germania, milled by our friends at Central Milling (the actual mill is in Utah and the main office is in Petaluma, CA).  It is made in the Double Zero style, which means a super fine grind, but with protein levels near 12% (higher than its Italian counterpart and thus more absorbent of water).  In addition to two types of wheat flour in this blend, there is also a small amount of pumpernickel rye flour. The actual amount is a proprietary company secret but in our version, for those who can't get their hands on Germania -- which you would have to buy directly from Central Milling (see the end of the recipe) -- I will give some suggestions below for creating your own version.  The malt crystal is a non-diastatic powder, meaning that the diastase enzymes found in barley malt have been deactivated during heat treatment and thus it is used strictly for flavor and not for it's enzyme function. We use approx. 4% malt to flour, which is a generous amount. Three ways to obtain the malt is through beer making supply stores or to go to your favorite micro-brewery and ask to buy some from them, or, when you call Central Milling to buy this flour, ask them if you can buy a pound of the malt (that's where I got mine). OR, you can buy barley malt syrup from a natural foods market or from your local bagel store, where you can plead your case  -- some bagel shops will sell you some and others won't. The syrup is not exactly the same as the crystal but it still adds that nice malted barley flavor that evokes the flavors of malty beer and makes this an ideal pizza crust to enjoy while you're quaffing down your favorite brew.

Note: This is not a beer dough, that is, I don't use beer as the liquid. You can always do that but I think it is a waste of good beer. Dough is solid beer--you are fermenting the grain in a dough form not a liquid form as you would with beer. So, while beer can work as a hydrating liquid it is somewhat redundant if you have the malt instead. Of course that's up to you and, if you want to sacrifice a pint in the dough to see how it affects the flavor, go for it. As for me, I'll be taking mine from a cold mug.

 

 

 

The Pizza Quest Challenge Dough (makes five 8 ounce/227 g dough balls)

For best results, this dough should be made at least one day in advance--it will also hold in the refrigerator for up to 3 days with good results. Any longer than 3 days and the dough will weaken (start to break down), though it can last for months if shaped into dough balls and frozen in small freezer zip bags.

 

 

 

22 ounces (624 grams) Germania flour or a blend of 20 oz./567 g of your favorite bread or Double Zero flour and 2 oz./56 g of pumpernickel or coarse rye flour or rye meal).  If you don't have a scale, this will be approx. 4 3/4 cups of flour.

0.5 oz/14 g. salt (a scant 2 teaspoons or 2 1/2 teaspoons if using coarse kosher or coarse sea salt)

1 oz./28 g crystal beer malt (light or dark--I use amber) or 1 1/2 tablespoons barley malt syrup

0.11 oz/3 g instant yeast (1 teaspoon)  OR, 1 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast dissolved in 4 ounces of the water for about 3 to 5 minutes

16 oz/452 g  water, room temp. (if using Caputo or another Italian Double Zero, reduce the water to 14 oz/399 g)

--In an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, or in a mixing bowl with a large spoon, mix the dough on slow speed for 1 minute, or until the dough is fully hydrated and all the ingredients are evenly distributed (instant yeast goes right into the flour--it does not need to be bloomed in water, while active dry yeast does need dissolving, as described above, by pulling 4 oz. of water from the total). The dough will be coarse and shaggy at this point, and all the ingredients need to be hydrated.

--Let the dough rest for 5 minutes and then mix again on medium speed for 1 additional minute (or knead by hand on a clean, lightly oiled work surface), until the dough is fully developed (you can stretch a small piece very thin without it tearing to make translucent membrane). Adjust the water or flour as needed to make a very soft and supple, very tacky, almost sticky dough. If the dough is too weak to hold together, mix for an additional minute or so. If too sticky to work, sprinkle in more flour as needed. If too stiff, drizzle in a little water, one teaspoon at a time.

--Form the dough into a ball by stretching and folding it, place it into a lightly oiled bowl large enough to accommodate it if it doubles in size, mist the top with spray oil or brush a small amount of oil on the surface, cover with plastic wrap (the whole bowl, not the dough), and let the dough sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough again (either in the bowl or on the counter) and return it to the bowl, mist with spray oil, and cover the bowl again with the plastic wrap. Then, place the bowl into the refrigerator where it will continue to rise overnight before going dormant. As noted above, you can use it anytime for up to 3 days or you can divide it immediately into dough balls and freeze them; they will keep for at least 3 months in the freezer where, when ready to use again, you transfer the frozen dough balls to the refrigerator the day before you plan to bake the pizzas and then treat as you would freshly made dough.

--Remove the bowl of dough 2 hours before you plan to make the pizzas and divide the dough into 5 equal (approx. eight oz.) dough balls. Place the dough balls on a sheet pan or tray that has been lightly misted with spray oil. Keep them as separated as possible. Mist the top of the dough balls with spray oil and cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap, or place it into a can liner, to keep the dough from forming a skin. The dough will slowly wake up and start to swell. If the room is very warm, reduce the wake-up time to 60 or 90 minutes instead of 2 hours.


--Prepare your ingredients and oven for pizza making. A baking stone is recommended. Set your home oven as high as it will go (convection is fine); if using a wood-fired oven, the deck should be about 550 degrees F/288 C, and the ambient ceiling temperature should be at least 800 degrees F/427 C.  The pizzas will take 5 to 8 minutes to bake in a home oven and about 2 to 3 minutes in a wood fired oven.  If using a pizza stone in a home oven, let it preheat for at least 45 minutes.


For more specific details on how to shape or make a pizza, toppings, and sauces refer to our Instructional videos, photos, and recipes, or obtain a copy of "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza."

To buy Germania Flour and malt crystal, contact Central Milling at (707) 778-1073, or visit their website at www.centralmilling.com/

 

 
Tony Gemignani's Coney Island Pizza
Brad English

As many of you know, Chris Bianco has joined forces with Rob DiNapoli of DiNapoli Specialty Foods.  They have come up with a new product that Chris had been nudging Rob to create for some time.  There has been a limited supply of their new Bianco DiNapoli Organic Tomatoes available at some select pizzerias and restaurants and we have been lucky enough to be "in the loop!"  I happen to be sitting on a small supply.  So, I recently decided to use them here at home and make some pizzas to play with that set the tomatoes up as the star.  Since we are running a series on Tony Gemignani and I know he's one of the other lucky ones to have a supply of these tomatoes, I thought I would pick a few of his pizzas to re-make here at home.

The first one I started with was his Coney Island Pizza.  This is one of his creations that features the Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes that are simply hand crushed and placed on the pie with a little added sea salt.  It also has a number of other ingredients that sing that siren song to me: hot peppers, spicy pork products, roasted yellow peppers, and a blend of cheeses.

I had some of our Signature Bruery Beer Dough on hand (hidden in my freezer) from our last filming event down at the Bruery, so I used that.  Following is the recipe and photos.


But, there's a big "aha moment" I'd like to share.  As I was making this pizza, and setting up to make a few more afterward, my son Owen was circling the kitchen like a Great White waiting for the pizza to come out of the oven.  "Dad, when's the pizza going to be ready?"  You all know how that goes.  I'm covered in flour, sauce, taking pictures, chopping vegetables, laying out the next set of ingredients, and I keep getting the occasional bump from my growing little Great White.  Anyway, I finished the first pizza, and he came in for his feeding, taking a slice and going to the table. 

My wife, was helping me, as I worked on the next pizza.  Out of nowhere Owen says: "Dad -- this sauce is awesome!"  I looked at Shanna, who knew that I was making all of these pizzas to play with Chris and Rob's new tomatoes, but Owen (age 12) had no idea.  This really hit me.  The sauce was just the tomatoes processed through my fingers into a bowl.  That's it.  I didn't even add any sea salt, because I figured there was plenty of other things going on with the salted pork and peppers.  Maybe Rob and Chris got to Owen in a plot to make their sauce really stand out?  I don't know.  He hasn't purchased anything new with a secret source of income recently.  So, I'll just say, "Wow!"  And, it was good.  Each of the tomato pies I made that day were really good.  I'll post the rest of them in the coming weeks….

Tony Gemignani's Coney Island Pizza (Brad's Version)

Pizza Quest Signature Beer Dough (or use your favorite pizza dough)
Mozzarella (low moisture, full fat)
Hand Crushed Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes (the secret ingredient -- but try it with your favorite  brand or canned plum tomatoes until they make it available to the public, whenever that may be)
Spicy Coppa
Calabrese Peppers
Roasted Yellow Peppers
Serrano Chiles
Provolone

I went to my local Whole Foods to get some of the ingredients.  I really wanted to find good quality ingredients to put together with these tomatoes.  I had to make some substitutions while at the store, because certain things in Tony's original version were not available.  That is part of the fun -- trying something new, or finding an exciting option.  I couldn't find any Calabrese Peppers so I picked up some Hatch Peppers.  Apparently, these are the "hot" item these days when they're available (only this time of the year).  I now see why!  They are spicy -- very hot when raw, but I noticed that they became almost sweet when baked into my pizza. They're still hot, but not overpowering.  I also found a great Spicy Coppa Piccante from La Quercia that was perfect for this pizza.

--Shape your Dough
--Add grated Mozzarella on top of the dough
--Top with Hand Crushed Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes (or, any other high quality tomato)
--Add the Coppa Piccante slices
--Add sliced Hatch Peppers and Roasted Yellow Peppers
--Add Chopped Serrano Chili
--Top with Grated Provolone

Into the pre-heated oven it goes, on a preheated baking stone if possible (make it as hot as your oven allows). Nobody knows for how long.  Ok, maybe we know - about 8-10 minutes for me, maybe less if your oven is hotter than mine.

I mucked up my dough on this pie in the photo -- having it a little too thin in the middle and it ripped somewhat and the pizza wasn't perfect.  So much effort, shopping, chopping, grating, hand crushing down the drain?  But, that's only if we were just talking about the photos.  This pizza rocked!  As Owen said, the sauce was incredible.  The blend of ingredients makes this one of my favorite pizzas in a while (I say that a lot, I guess).  But it will become a regular in my house for sure -- at least as long as those tomatoes hold out.  The hatch peppers were great, you can see I didn't add too many after tasting them raw, but next time I won't be so shy. 

Take a whirl at this one, and let us know what you come up with…

Enjoy!

 

 
The Big Reveal: Part One
Peter Reinhart

The following is an article I wrote, with Brad's help, to be sent to various beer blogs to alert them to the big event next week in Denver. We've been writing about here for a number of weeks, and on Thursday I'll post the Challenge Pizza dough recipe, but I thought I'd share the article with all you as a way of recapping the past few posts and to give you the info as to where to find us if you happen to be in Denver next week. The location is given toward the end of the article. Hope to see you there and we'll be telling you all about it and, eventually, sharing the videos as well. Feel free to send this post to anyone you think might be interested, or to beer blogs that you may know. So, here's the article which I call...

The Big Reveal:

I'm a bread baker, not a brewer, but in a way, that's just a matter of thickness, viscosity, and a different approach to manipulating the three major points of the food triangle: time, temperature, and ingredients.  Bread is solid beer and it's a whole lot more tolerant of human imprecision than beer, which is probably why I took the bread path when choosing careers.  Pizza is an extension of bread -- it's dough with something on it, whatever name you call it by, and it's been called by a lot of other names than pizza (focaccia, schiacciatta, sfingiuni, naan, American flatbread, quesadilla, and grilled cheese all come to mind for starters).  So, when the folks at our website, PizzaQuest.com discovered the unusually complex beers from Orange County's The Bruery, at the equally dynamic Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, it seemed like the time had come to meld the beer/bread tributaries into one seamless river.

After visiting The Bruery in person, Brad English and Jeff Michael saw the same passion for making great beer that we’ve seen at so many great pizzerias and other food establishments. So, we challenged Patrick Rue, owner of The Bruery, to make a beer inspired by a pizza, and not just an ordinary pizza but one that we would create for them, a very special Challenge Pizza.  This would be a pizza and beer pairing but, instead of the more conventional pairing of food to an existing beer or wine, we created the food first and challenged the brewers to create the perfect beer to pair with that pizza! 

Patrick and his team accepted the “throw-down” and then Kelly Whitaker and Alan Henkin, owners of Pizzeria Basta, went to work on some topping ideas for the Challenge Pizza and I focused on the dough.  Basta is using a new line of flour from Central Milling, a mill that I know well, as the owner, Keith Giusto, has been supplying me with flour for over twenty years.  Lately, he's developed four new specialty pizza flour blends designed to compete with the famous Italian Double Zero brands such as Caputo and San Felice.  One of the blends contains three different types of flour, including some coarse pumpernickel rye. I zeroed in on this one for The Bruery Challenge Pizza because of that rye, but also wanted to turn my pizza dough into something even more like solid beer so, after some experimentation, added in a fair amount of amber malt crystal to evoke a hint of the alehouse brew that Patrick’s team was creating.

Kelly and Alan came up with two distinct pizza topping concepts, one red and one white, and we assembled and baked them in a 900 degree mobile wood-fired oven that a friend of ours, Tim Gonzalez, drove to The Bruery.  We asked Patrick and his head brewer, Tyler King, to taste and choose the pizza that they would use as the inspiration for their beer as it’s perfect pairing partner.  They went for the white pizza, which we thought they might, since it was a thing of beauty (the red pizza wasn't too shabby either, loaded with organic tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and killer guanciale bacon -- made from the jowl, not the belly of the beast -- kind of the Rolls Royce of bacon).  But the white pizza was really out of the box, just the way The Bruery makes their beers.  It was topped with fresh burrata cheese (a blend of fresh mozzarella wrapped around creme fraiche -- what an oozey delight!), sweet white sardines, preserved lemon, squash blossoms, fresh arugula sprouts, and a sprinkle of fennel salt at the end.  It was a wowzer!

The Bruery team then went to work.  They fashioned a brew inspired by the flavors of the pizza, and Birra Basta was born.  This was a Biere de Garde style ale using six malts (Pilsner, Six-Row, Munich, Biscuit, Kiln Amber, Aromatic), two types of hops (Columbus, Strisselspalt) and a variety of other spices and flavorings (roasted zucchini used in the mash, and fennel seeds, lemon peel, and Spanish cedar in the fermentor), and finally they fermented it with their proprietary Belgian House Yeast.  Biere de Garde is translated as “a beer for keeping” and is similar in style to a Saison, or farmhouse ale although it is less hoppy and has similar malty and earthy flavors.

Pizza Quest Creator/Producer Brad English, who is the guy that put this whole Pizza/Beer Challenge in motion, and who lives near The Bruery, got a call to come down and taste the early, unfermented “soup.”  He was suitably impressed, to put it mildly, and has been hard at work ever since coordinating what I'm calling "The Big Reveal" on Friday, September 30th, at the Summit Beer Garden (www.summitbeergarden.com), which is an event open to the public, put together by Rueben’s Burger Bistro of Boulder and Denver’s Summit Music Hall, not far from where the Great American Beer Festival is taking place.  Kelly, Alan, and I will be cranking out the Challenge Pizzas in Kelly's mobile wood-fired oven, while Patrick and his team will pull pints of their original, hand crafted ale – Birra Basta.  Once and for all we'll find out if we've made a heavenly, synergistic match – a perfect pairing - with the sums even greater than the already wonderful parts.  Based on the players involved, I'm pretty jazzed about the moment when it all comes together.   After the event, Birra Basta will only be found at Pizzeria Basta, until it runs out.

Come join us at “The Big Reveal” at 6 PM on September 30th.

 
A Championship Margherita by Tony Gemignani, part 2
Peter Reinhart

I was mistaken last week when I said the Margherita that Tony made was his World Championship version. Actually, this week is the version that won it all. As it turns out, last week's pizza was made with Caputo flour and this week's is made with San Felice flour. When Tony won the World Championship in Naples, which he'll talk about a little in this week's segment, he used the San Felice flour so that's the one he reserves this flour for at his restaurant. He uses Caputo on all his other Napoletana pizzas and, as he indicates here, it's almost impossible to tell them apart and he loves both brands. But, because he won the title with the San Felice, that's the one you get if you order the Championship pie, served on the special pedestal platter. Tony told us that he tries to replicate the Margherita exactly as he did it for the judges, and he only makes 73 each day and when the dough runs out he stops taking orders for it. The number has special meaning for him but now I can't recall what it signifies so be sure to ask when you eat there.

Another surprise for all of us (and even for one of the judges, it so happens) is that the traditional competition Margherita is not required to be made with Mozzarella di Bufala but should actually be made with Fior di Latte (cow's milk mozzarella). Now we know. Hey, you'll learn all sorts of new things from hanging out with the Masters, which is why we go on these crazy quests. So sit back and enjoy or, as the saying goes, watch and learn....

 

 
Hens, Mussels, Devils, and Ears
Brad English

New York.

I grew up in New Jersey.  New York was the big beast that my dad went off to on a hot -- or cold -- bus for the day, depending on the time of year.  Unfortunately, the bus wasn't cold in the summer and it wasn't hot in the winter  the way you would like it to be (as he tells it).  Either way, it was a long trek from our small coastal town on the Jersey Shore to the big city.  

The Jersey Shore was an ideal place to be growing up in America in the 1970's.  I was free to ride my bike to school, walk all over town, and play hide and seek on the roofs of the empty summer homes that were only inhabited 3-4 months a year.

While visiting back here, I think about the freedom I had compared to my own kids, now growing up on the west coast in Southern California in a different time and place altogether.  We rode our bikes everywhere.  Now, my kids ride bikes, but I take them to the beach, or the park to do so.  Things sure are different.   

I have been working back here in NYC and staying with some friends and family, commuting into the city and passing many landmarks that bring back all sorts of memories.  There's the railroad bridge that crosses Sea Girt Lake, where I remember playing endlessly on these very railroad tracks, on the bridge, and under the bridge.  We would lay pennies on the tracks, throw rocks into the lake, try to set crab traps, build rock walkways, fish, build forts, etc.  As I roll over the same bridge now, in my adulthood, I remembered as clear as if I were that ten year old boy lowering a fishing pole, or laying a crab trap down from between the railroad tracks into the water.  My friend Richard and I once were startled when the sound of a train horn came bearing down on us.  You never saw two kids drop what they were doing so fast and escape to the "safety" of the rocky slope just off the edge of the bridge.  Our trap had fallen into the water -- gone.  As we settled into our safe position, panting, we peered down the tracks awaiting the rushing train, and watched as a fire truck rolled across the railroad tracks and continued down the road.  No train.  No dramatic swooshing rumbling rush. What a let down! And now, we didn't have our crab trap.  I wonder what we would have done with any crab if we had even caught one? (End of memory riff...)

Now I'm back in New York.  What a great city.  I can hardly process it all.  Imagine what we could do here on a Pizza Quest?!  We could literally set up shop and start questing and likely never leave this town.  The pizza is spectacular.  The food is amazing.  The variety and flow of it all is breathtaking.  To refer back to an article I wrote recently, I guess I can't help but to keep my eyes out for those "chalkboard" signs that will lead me to something new, amazing, or different.  There are so many here, literally, on every corner.

One of my favorite new joints in New York has to be The Spotted Pig.  I was meeting a friend for dinner and got there a little early to be seated, but the downstairs bar was full.  So, I wandered upstairs and found a couple of seats at the bar. I ordered my first Old Speckled Hen and asked for a menu while I waited for my friend to show up.  The bartender said, "As soon as I get it, it's yours!"  He was waiting for the daily printing of the menu.  This is evidence of part of the magic of this place.  I've been here multiple times during my trips to NY.  The menu is always changing.  I love that they are literally waiting for the final menu as they are already opening service for dinner. 

Everything on the menu is familiar, comforting, but also challenging and slightly different.  The dishes are simple, but explosive with flavor.  I sent a text to a friend (Dave Wilson - who has shot most of our videos on Pizza Quest and is a fellow foodie), who I knew would be thoroughly jealous that I was here.  He shot a text back saying, "Get the Deviled Egg, the Mussels, and the Crispy Pigs Ear!"  I snapped a photo of my Old Speckled Hen, knowing this back-lit glistening beer would really set him over the top, and sent that off.  Just then, I got another text, "I was just going to tell you to have an Old Speckled Hen for me!" 

My friend Steve got there and by now there was no way I was leaving this bar stool -- no need to get a table.  There's something about this place that makes me really feel at home.  It's more like having a beer and some great food in your friend's basement bar, than being out at a restaurant.  The only caveat to that is that there is one MAD Chef in this kitchen pushing the experience beyond sustenance and into the realm of experiential and memorable. 

So, in Dave's honor, having never had a fried crispy pig's ear in my life, I decided that if it was on this menu it was not only going to be good, but great.  My friend looked on in horror as I continued my order. I added the Steamed Mussels with Prosciutto, Cava and Samphire.  The pig's ear was accompanied by a small endive salad with a lemon caper dressing.  Now Steve felt pressured; he's not the most adventurous eater.  So, he took a leap and ordered the Char Grilled Burger with Roquefort and Shoestrings!  I've had it before -- it's really good.  We shared the Deviled Egg appetizer followed by another round of Hens and, as a follow up, because we didn't get enough Deviled Egg the first round, we went for round two. 

This isn't a review of the food, or this restaurant.  I am just sharing the experience as a way to further explore our journey here on Pizza Quest.  We are intrigued by the passion it takes to bring memorable food to the table.  Our focus is on pizza, but the elements are similar across the board.  It requires a balance of passion, dedication, taste, vision, with perhaps a dash of insanity. 

As I write this, I can sort back through my visits here and recall the welcoming feeling and satisfaction I have experienced every time I come here.  This sometimes comes accompanied by great food.  It can also come from experiencing great food with great people.  Or, perhaps we can have fond memories because of the place, or the timing, or so many other aspects that add value or meaning to our lives.   But, in far fewer circumstances, you will find all or many of these aspects of enjoyment coming together at once.  For me, I found the spot -- or, should I say I found the Spotted Pig?!

 
Teresa's Dessert Pizza
Teresa Greenway

Lately I have been thinking a lot about  some ways to enjoy dessert pizzas that you could get excited about and have your family and friends talking about too.

I thought maybe a cheesecake base with fresh fruit on top would be a satisfying, delicious ending to a pizza party, picnic or camp out. This pizza is great tasting while it’s still hot, cooled down or even cold from the fridge.  I experimented with different ways to bake the pizza and work the toppings to the best advantage of eye appeal and taste.


With the first pizza, I par-baked the crust (I always use a sourdough crust but you could, theoretically, use any favorite crust) and then spread the cheesecake topping on, sprinkled on the fruit (fresh blueberries), then returned the pizza to the oven to finish baking.

The pizza tasted great and looked good too. However the crust edge on a par-baked pizza tends to be thick because the par-baking will cause the dough to puff up in the middle and spread the dough outwards towards the edge. I like a bubbly edge to my pizza.

So for the second pizza I spread the uncooked dough with the cheesecake topping, sprinkled on the fresh fruit and baked the pizza for seven minutes at 550F degrees. The pizza had a nice bubbly edge a, really nice crust and tasted great. However, the fruit (the strawberries) looked a little “baked,” so the eye appeal suffered somewhat. Baking fresh fruit can cause it to look watery. This problem could be solved by choosing fruit that looks good baked at a high temperature (like the blueberries) or fruits that are already prepared, like sliced dried fruit, drained sliced peaches which were packed in juice, prepared apple pie filling etc. The peaches and apples would taste great sprinkled with a touch of cinnamon. I also think that a dessert pizza with a raspberry filling, chopped nuts and a crumb topping would be nice. Or maybe chopped apples, nuts, and figs drizzled with honey would bake up well. I have also been thinking of a pear/pecan pizza with a cinnamon crumb topping. The ideas are apparently endless. I would like to hear some of your ideas… Instead of dessert, some of these ideas would work for a breakfast treat as well.

On the third pizza, I baked with only the cheesecake filling and placed the fresh fruit on top right after removing the pizza from the oven , while the filling was still hot. The eye appeal on this pizza was just right. However, the fruit liked rolling off of the sliced pizza. I think if you were using a prepared filling, like a cherry pie, apple pie, or glazed fruit filling, you wouldn’t have the problem of the fruit rolling off and have a really great looking pizza.  The cheesecake filling tends to get a bit browner if you do not watch the baking time closely with this option.

 

On my next dessert pizza, I think I will go with the second baking method, bake the pizza with the filling and fruit and use blueberries or a prepared fruit topping. That would be my choice mainly because I liked the crust with that option and I love blueberries.

Now I find myself wondering about a lemon meringue pizza….. ?

To find the complete recipe for Berry Cheesecake Dessert Pizza visit: http://www.northwestsourdough.com/discover/?p=2321

Enjoy!


 
Peter's Blog, Sept. 13, 2011
Peter Reinhart

Thanks to our intrepid producer, Brad English, we're about to get a sneak peek at the Challenge Beer created by our friends at The Bruery. Brad only got to taste the unfermented wort, as the finished beer won't be ready till it's unveiled at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) on Sept. 30th. We'll all be there, making the Challenge Pizza created by Kelly Whitaker and Alan Henin of Pizzeria Basta with a crust created by me and the Pizza Quest team, and drinking the new, finished beer.  Can't wait to find out what they call it.

Meanwhile, as those of you who have been following these blogs know, I've been captivated by the use of beer malts in the dough -- we'll be using a light malt crystal in the Challenge Pizza but our friend Nick Birkby, in South Africa, is playing with all sorts of colors and intensities and plans to write a special guest column for us to share his findings. We'd love to hear from others, as well, if you've done any of this kind of experimentation with malts. Write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and maybe we can get your thoughts out to all of our followers.

So, let's get to the beer. Here is Brad's report after his trip to The Bruery for the first taste. In the coffee world they call this stage a "cupping" so I wonder if they call it a "mugging" in the beer world. If so, Brad got "mugged" and here he is to tell us all about it:

 

A Biere De Garde is born…

Biere de Garde translated means "beer that has been kept or lagered", or, "a beer for keeping."  It is a style of beer similar to a Saison, or the Farmhouse Ales of Northern France and French speaking Belgium. These beers were brewed in the winter months to take advantage of the cool weather, but brewed to be enjoyed throughout the year, which means they needed to be flavorful, but refreshing enough for the summer months. They are characterized by their malt flavors, with varying colors based on the malts added: Blond, Brune (Brown), and Ambree (Amber). They are less hoppy and show fruity, earthy or rustic cellar-like flavors.  Yes, I becoming a beer wonk!

Interestingly, I was originally drawn to The Bruery through one of their Saisons that Kelly had on tap at Pizzeria Basta last fall, a farmhouse ale with many of the characteristics as described above. And now, as time has passed, we have created a pizza, and The Bruery has created a beer in the style of a Biere de Garde. Can I call it a Biere de Pizza?

I went down to The Bruery to meet with Patrick, Ben, and Tyler a few weeks ago because they were about to start brewing the final full batch of the Pizza Challenge beer. I hadn't heard what the beer would be, but knew I would get to taste the test brew and see them get started brewing the final beer. When I arrived I sat with Ben for a while at the bar while we waited for Patrick to arrive. There were a few ingredients sitting there waiting to go into the brew: a few bags of Dried Lemon Peel, Fennel Seeds, and even a case of Zucchini. I could see right away what Patrick and the brewers were up to.

Our Challenge Pizza was made with a beer dough in which Peter included some whole rye flour and malt crystal to play up this beer connection. Then Kelly Whitaker and Alan Henkin pulled some wildly fresh ingredients together including: fresh burrata, squash blossoms, white sardines, fresh arugula sprouts and flours, preserved lemon, and a sprinkling of fennel salt along the crust edge.

We had made another pizza, with a red sauce and cured pork jowl (guanciale).  But, when we presented the two, I could see that Kelly was hoping that Patrick would choose this one because he wanted to challenge Patrick. And, I noticed that Patrick could see what Kelly was up to, and without words, their two grins connected and Patrick took that challenge. He was now answering it by bringing in some of those same flavors that Peter's malty dough and Kelly's eclectic mix of fresh ingredients brought, to pair with his beer.

Patrick poured some of the non-carbonated test brew for us. It was a rich amber color, with an almost orange glow to it. It was slightly hazy and you could instantly smell the malty, earthy, and fruity aromas. I had a grin from ear to ear. I didn't brew this, or design it, but with a few ideas, some conversations and lots of emails and phone calls, I was standing in one of America's most unique craft breweries and I had a glass of beer that I was a part of. You can't imagine how good that felt and how good that pre-beer tasted to me.

Patrick and Tyler were interested in this test brew for it's flavors; how they would work when finished, what they wanted to add or change. I was interested in this beer and what it was saying to me right then. It wasn't finished, the carbonation was still to come; it was warm, probably cellar temperature, but that allowed those flavors to be at their fullest.

It's been an interesting quest for me. I know Peter will expand more on the connections between bread and beer on the technical side, but I feel there has been a permanent connection made in my brain on an experiential level. I now seem to sense a deep similarity in the aromas and experiences I am having with good beer and good bread, or pizza dough, since this challenge began. Kelly mentioned that drinking a beer in the brewery where it was made is something special. I will add to that and say that drinking a beer and eating a pizza in the brewery where both were made is spectacular! I swear I can smell and taste the yeasty, malty sweetness if I just close my eyes and think about all of this.

I'm looking forward to the final pairing which is coming up in only a few short weeks. We will definitely, keep you posted!
Brad

Thanks Brad--I'm loving how your world has been rocked, and thanks also for setting up this whole challenge. Next week I'll post the recipe for the pizza dough and we'll talk more about the toppings on the Challenge Pizza. We're only two weeks from the big weekend and it's getting exciting for all of us.

 
Tony Gemignani Makes His Championship Pizza
Peter Reinhart

In this webisode, Tony teaches me (and you) how he makes the Margherita pizza that won him the world championship. You'll notice a few great tips, things that aren't commonly known even by professional pizza makers, such as: the traditional Napoletana way to load the pizza onto the peel; shaping the dough on the marble slab as opposed to lifting or spinning it; when to put the basil on; and the importance of bringing the dough to room temperature before putting it into the oven to prevent burning the underside.

Catch the quote on the back of Tony's tee-shirt, "Respect the craftsman."  That's become his mantra as he's transitioned from being an American pizza whizz-kid, winning innumerable competitions for his acrobatic prowess to, now, mastering and teaching the time-honored, traditional methodology that he learned from his own master teachers when he studied with them in Naples and the surrounding area.

You'll also briefly see Tony's own apprentice, Audrey Pagnotta Sherman, working in the background. We'll visit more with her in a subsequent webisode; she was recently seen in New York City at 900 Degrees, but I have just been informed by Tony that he and his team, including Audrey, have parted ways with that restaurant and will be focusing on a new place in Brooklyn. If anyone has more details than that, especially about how 900 Degrees is doing without Tony and team, please let us know.

As many of you already know, one of the major themes of Pizza Quest is the celebration of artisans and artisanship (or, as Tony says on his shirt, "Respect the craftsman"). I derive particular joy whenever I see a next generation apprentice, such as Audrey, immersed in his or her training. It gives me hope that the ongoing transmission of knowledge is still alive and well, and that future generations, today's kids and their own kids, will be able to continue enjoying the gifts created by these dedicated artisans. You'll see this message coming through and reiterated by Tony throughout this segment and in the ones to come. Enjoy!

 
A Brick Wood/Gas Grill Oven Project
Brad English

I am not the first to venture into how to bring fire and wood together to cook a pizza.  So, while making great pizza is all about balancing time, temperature and ingredients, it is also about the type of heat to a great extent. You can bake a pizza with a brick floor (brick oven), cook it in a live fired wood burning oven, which brings smoke and a more intense heat into the picture, you can cook it in your home oven on a pizza stone at lower - slower temperatures, or even cook a great pizza on your grill.  The possibilities may be endless.  The important thing is to balance time and temperature (heat!) with your ingredients and you can make great pizza.

I stumbled on adding fire to my home pizza making experience when I decided to grill a pizza.  I had added a wood smoker box into my gas grill and it seemed to cut the cooking time by almost 40%.  My home oven pizzas generally take between 8-10 minutes to bake.  This one baked in 6 minutes!  It also had fire, wood, and smoke added into the equation.  Of course, I do intend to get

 
Peter's Blog, Sept. 6th
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

It was a long, wet, windy Labor Day Weekend down here in Charlotte, so I'm a little behind with my posts (we're still technically under a tornado watch). Didn't even get to post a Coming Attractions box so I'll do that here at the end of this post. I'm going to take a little breather from the recent pizza/beer reflections and just write a short blog this week.

Today was the first day of classes at Johnson & Wales University and we welcomed about 900 new freshman yesterday (Labor Day) in our annual Convocation ceremony -- doing this on Labor Day is one of our traditions. As the faculty processed down the aisle to our seats, I watched the faces of all the newbies and imagined how all of their lives were about to change; that they themselves were about to change, transformed actually (transformation is something we write about here a lot on Pizza Quest). I know about this growth phenomenon from years of observation and, lest I had any doubts, I saw it in action on the night before the ceremony when I watched a new TV special on The Cooking Channel (not the Food Network, but their new sister network) called Cooking School Confidential. If you can get this channel please, don't miss this show (it's channel 353 on my digital dial, so I imagine many of you won't be able to get it or see this show until they rerun it on The Food Network someday) .

Yes, it's a great plug for our campus (BTW, I'm not in it, though there's a quick shot of me during the graduation scene but it's faster than a blink), as the show follows four Johnson & Wales University -- JWU for short -- students as they pursue their dream to become successful chefs. Each student has a very different situation to navigate through: one is a professional cyclist who

 
A Sommelier's Reflections on the Beer/Food Connection
Peter Reinhart

Note from Peter: Alan Henkin is a partner at Pizzeria Basta and is also the restaurant's beverage director. We were so impressed with his knowledge of both wine and beer, and his thoughtful list, that we filmed some special webisode segments with him, which we will show in the future when we run the Bruery Beer and Pizza Challenge series. But, as the time draws near for the Great American Beer Festival and the unveiling of both the Challenge Beer and the Pizza Quest/Basta pizza, we asked Alan to share some thoughts about the creative process he goes through in pairing food with beer. This is the first of what we hope will be more Guest Columns from him. Enjoy!

 

As a Sommelier, I have always been trained to use deductive reasoning when tasting wine, especially when blind tasting.  By eliminating as many options as possible, you can sometimes identify the origin and make-up of a wine.  For me, great beer is not as cerebral and feels more emotional and nostalgic...more like food.  After all, beer is not capable nor is it trying to express the terroir of where the malts and hops are grown.  This is not to say that beer can’t be linked to certain regions and producers through educated deduction, it is just not as specific.  That being said, I now believe that great beer making more resembles the work I see happening in great kitchens, right down to the way both chefs and brewers organize their pantry and clean their equipment at the end of a shift.  I see the same passion in the eyes of great brewers as I do in great chefs, and their ability to excite and inspire their staff is as important as any classic technique or encyclopedic knowledge of product.  

There are many great brewers in America right now who have this passion and that is why there is so much great beer to choose from.  At Pizzeria Basta we have only four beer taps and about eight bottles on our list, but we put a lot thought into each selection.  Sometimes it can be hard to decide what to serve and, other times, certain beers are so highly allocated that you can’t get them even if you want them.  This is all part of the process and choosing great beer to accompany our food is fun.  One brewery that we have focused on since we opened is The Bruery, located in Orange County, CA.   This relationship started as soon as we opened the doors of our restaurant.  We knew we wanted to offer at least one large format, 750ml bottle of American craft beer, but there were so many to choose from that we were not sure where to start.  We wanted something different than what other restaurants in Boulder were serving, and we wanted something new and fresh; something with balance that would go well with Chef Kelly Whitaker’s wood-fired cuisine. 

The Bruery fit this mold perfectly.  A young brewery, about 2 years old at the time we opened Basta, that only produces bottle conditioned, unfiltered, large format beers.  After sampling a few of their bottles I was instantly impressed.  The beers were impeccably made so that you could taste the craft behind the product.  On the nose they displayed a beautiful malt-driven sweetness with an underlying yeast component.  Even though most of their ales were over 8% abv, you could barely tell, and they wore their alchohol content like a suede jacket.  The hops were there, but were used in a way as to not dominate the rest of the beer.  In other words, the ales were perfectly balanced and tasted like they had been made by people who love the craft of brewing. This was the kind of beer I wanted to drink, and the kind of beer I wanted to serve to our guests.  We eventually devoted an entire tap handle to The Bruery and have served a large portion of their portfolio.  The similarities between their company and ours would later become very apparent to me when we visited them,  as you will read in some of the other posts by Peter and Brad on Pizza Quest. I hope to write more about that in future Guest Columns.

Alan Henkin, Boulder, CO

 

 

 
Tony Gemignani, Webisode One
Peter Reinhart

I love North Beach, the legendary Little Italy of San Francisco, where the beatniks ruled during my youth, Carol Doda launched a whole new kind of soul baring, and some of the best Italian restaurants and espresso cafes have ruled for decades (and now lots of great Chinese and pretty much something from every ethnicity). It was especially fun to return just after local boy, Tony Gemignani, opened Tony's Pizza Napoletana in the shadow of the beautiful Sts. Peter and Paul Church (where, Tony points out in this webisode, not only was he married but also where, sixty some years earlier, Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe--North Beach has seen it all!!)

In this short, introductory webisode, Tony welcomes us and shows us the oven dedicated to making his World Championship Margherita pizza. In another section he begins making a Sicilian style pizza and gives us a quick briefing on San Marzano tomatoes, which he uses only on a few of the pizzas on his menu.

If you look closely you'll see a quick shot of Audrey Pagnotta Sherman, who we last saw in my July blog as the head pizzaiola at 900 Degrees in New York City. At the time of this filming, Audrey was a student at Tony's Pizza School and also his apprentice in training. In an upcoming video she tells us she eventually wants to open her own place in Boulder--bet she didn't have any idea she'd soon be opening in the Big Apple instead.

That's one of the best things about this Quest--we get to meet so many great people, some at the top of their game and some who will be the stars of the next generation. It can happen fast, but over the next few weeks we'll be getting to know Tony pretty well, and we're catching him as he's about to become one of the biggest superstars in the pizza world, having first mastered the entertainment side as the unbeatable Acrobatic Dough Spinning  champ, and now, the first non-Napoletano to win the World Margherita championship.

So, let's meet Tony and dive into his world--there's a lot more to come….

 
Tony's Pizza Napoletana Gallery
Brad English

We're going to be visiting with Tony Gemignani at Tony's Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco over the coming weeks.  As I was building this Photo Gallery I thought back to when we first arrived and met Tony.  We were walking around with him as our crew was setting up while he showed us around his new pizzeria.  He took us in to see the wood fired oven that he brought in from Italy;  he explained to us about temperature, wood, time,  and the importance of using the right ingredients.  We then went into the back kitchen, where he showed us three more ovens that he had -- each one for a different and specific style of pizza.

I thought to myself, "Who would go through the effort to have four different styles of pizza ovens?"  Well, as you will see, Tony would.  You will also see that he is that way about everything he does, giving equal attention to the big details as well as the small ones.  There are certain ways he recommends that you stack your flour; he takes care to pick the right products, know the growers, and keep focused on the traditions of his craft.  I realized that Pizza Quest had just entered into the world of Tony's Quest, our journeys had converged, and we had a great time as Tony generously let us peer into his world.

Tony grew up in the Bay area -- it's his home turf and, so, he took us outside of the pizzeria a couple of times. One of those trips was to cross over the Golden Gate Bridge, just to talk about life, pizza, and to look back with fondness over his city.  He also arranged to take us out to the farmlands of his main California tomato producer, Stanislaus Tomatoes, where we met with Steve Rouse, the Stanislaus marketing director. We got some great footage there. 

I'm sure you will enjoy our visit into Tony's world as much as we did and we thank him for letting us in. Please enjoy the gallery and the coming webisodes.

 
Peter's Blog, August 30th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

I'll be writing a few words, below, about beer and dough but first, let's return to Brad English's ongoing story about the evolution of the collaboration between Pizzeria Basta, The Bruery, and Pizza Quest. When we left him last week, Brad was telling us all about his tour of The Bruery and what happened when he issued the "challenge."  Let's pick it up from there....

A Pizza Pairing - Part III
So, we're on a Pizza Quest, looking for the best of the best, the true artisans of the craft.  Along the way, we've followed a trail that leads us to a better understanding of what artisanship is.  At this very moment we are currently awaiting the craft brewed response  -- the beer itself -- to a Challenge Pizza that we created for Patrick Rue and his brewers at The Bruery.  After tasting our pizza, Patrick and his brewing staff set to work to create a never before made beer to be paired specifically with the flavor profiles created by Kelly Whitaker, Alan Henkin, and Peter Reinhart on the Challenge Pizza.  I think this project is the perfect example of what hand-crafted, artisan brewing is all about.  The process of bringing food and beverage together to form a more perfect taste experience is not a new one.  But, what has me most excited is all the time and energy that went into creating a custom brewed beer specifically to match up with a pizza -- this may be a first!  There is art going on here, along with a passion for the brewing process, and a deep understanding of both flavor and taste. 

This is what I had picked up from Kelly Whitaker when we talked in detail about The Bruery:  They are not just brewing beer; they are brewing flavors that go with friends, food, a dinner party, a night in a local pub, cheese, salted pork, the Super Bowl, the sunset, and - of course - PIZZA!  Their beers -- and I've tried quite a few now -- all have something else to say beyond the obvious: that this beer tastes good.  The brews are well thought out, a combinations of flavors.  Perhaps the liquid, the beer, can be considered a flavor delivery system in much the same way Peter has always referred to how a good dough, or pizza crust, is.  Yes, a flavor delivery system!

We re-visited The Bruery recently.  This time we brought a mobile wood fired oven along, courtesy of Tim Gonzalez and his TJ's Wood-Fire Pizza rig, and got to "work" (if you could call it that) exploring the brewery, making pizzas, tasting beers, talking theory, and generally having a pretty

 
Pizzeria Bianco and Big Brother
Brad English

Note from Brad: Ever since reading Peter's "American Pie:  My Search for the Perfect Pizza" I have been trying to get myself to Phoenix, Arizona to experience what Chris Bianco is capable of doing with our favorite food -- pizza!  I have to admit, this may have become more and more of an obsession as we developed Pizza Quest.  I will also admit that my obsession may have, just a little bit, turned toward a somewhat consistent nudging of my sister to go there on one of her many trips to Phoenix to visit her in-laws over the last few years.  Maybe.  Who wouldn't slightly nudge in this case?

The good news is that even though I haven't made it there myself yet, my sister finally listened to me!  You know how little sisters can be.  I had almost forgotten my requests when one day I got a text photo of Pizzeria Bianco.  She was there!  When she got home, she sent me an email and some more photos from her trip and I knew we had to share her story with you.  BTW, the photos are hers, but the captions are mine!

Enjoy and please send us more stories of your own adventures.


Pizzeria Bianco and Big Brother

For at least 5 years now I have visited the in-laws in Scottsdale Arizona, each time being pressed by my beloved, pizza fanatic brother Brad, co-founder of Pizza Quest, to go to this one pizzeria.  It was an amusing process, sometimes receiving several calls from him on my vacations to see if we were thinking of going, and then to push an itinerary if I said yes.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a pizza lover and always go for a good recommend, but Bianco’s was only open for dinner and the wait was two plus hours long.  So, when it came to the end of a long desert day, we always seemed to settle on local food that we could spend less time acquiring.

After all of these visits to Arizona I must admit that I started to antagonize my big brother by

 
Pizza Balsamico
Brad English

It's still summertime and, in Redondo Beach, CA, we are having one of the best summers I can remember.  We very typically have a marine layer of fog that covers our beaches for most of the day until it finally burns off after the relentless sun does it's job better than the Pacific is doing it's job of sending the fog our way.  But not this summer.  It has been sunny, sunny, sunny!  And, on top of all that sun, we have been blessed with a consistently cool ocean breeze, which has made things warm but not hot.  To further make this a great Southern California summer, our nights have been warm also.  I have hardly had to do the "layer off" routine and then, in the evening, put a layer (sweatshirt) back on.  Paradise! 

So, big deal you may be saying.  What's with all the talk of summer?  Let's get to the pizza.  We will.  But I'm on a roll here.  I've been having a ball making some fresh pizzas and enjoying sitting around outside and gobbling them up lately.  On a few long Saturday afternoons I've been taking advantage of the beautiful weather and making some delicious pizza pies with the wonderful ingredients that are readily available at so many good grocery stores. 

Now, with this pizza, I wanted to focus on the final touch - the drizzle -- which is a delicious balsamic vinegar that a friend gave to me from a shop up in the Central Coast of California Wine Country.  The pizza I made was delicious in and of itself, don't get me wrong.  I used some Bel Gioioso Burrata, fresh sliced tomatoes, sliced red onions, a little sausage, and chopped fresh basil leaves in a base of Peter's herb oil.  But, the kicker was how

 
Peter's Blog, Aug. 23rd, Beer and Pizza, Part Two
Peter Reinhart

Last week we gave you some back ground on the upcoming series we are still filming that pairs pizza and beer in a whole new way. I also wrote a bit about the parallels between beer and pizza, especially in terms of fermentation, so I don't want to repeat all that here (you can read it all in last week's Peter's Blog). So, let's jump back into Brad's story, the back story, that fills in the lead-up to this series. When we left Brad, he had decided to contact The Bruery, which we learned about from Chef Kelly Whitaker during our film session at Pizzeria Basta in Boulder. After Brad heard back from Ben Weiss, the VP of Marketing, things began to move forward. Here's Brad, as we pick up the story:

What goes better with pizza than a cold beer?  I feel like we're in the "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!" territory here.  If there was ever a pairing, this is it.

Jeff Michael (our Pizza Quest co-creator) and I finally found a time when we could make the trip down to visit Ben at The Bruery.  It is a relatively small facility, ramping up to put out about 5,000 barrels of beer a year (after 3 years in business).  Right away, I knew I'd like the people here. Ben greeted us in his office wearing a pair of jeans, a faded graphic t-shirt, and flip flops.  I immediately thought that Ben was fortunate to be able to work at a place like this, and that the owners must also be the kind of guys you'd like to hang out with.  Sometimes you can just sense the soul of a place.  The Bruery has good soul and, as I already knew, put a good amount of that soul into creating some amazing beers.

As Ben gave us a tour of the brewery he told us how much all of the brewers and staff love good food and, definitely, good pizza. In fact, I found most of our conversation was about food.  We discussed pizza, the various gourmet food trucks they schedule on a regular basis, and the local great restaurants.  We eventually made it over to their brewery's bar, where Ben pulled a few

 
Making Pizza for our Guru, by Cary Steiner
Peter Reinhart

Note from Peter: Cary and Lillian Steiner are friends of mine from New York who have their own wonderful pizza blog called Passion-4-Pizza (you can link to their site through our Sites We Like section). In fact, the photo of me used on all my postings was taken by Cary when he and  Lillian brought me to Umberto's in New Hyde Park to experience my first "Grandma's Pizza." It was there that I learned not only of their pizza journey but also of their spiritual journey and of their Teacher, Guru Shri Anandi Ma. The following is a memoir of Cary's experience making pizza for their Teacher. For those who have ever tried to cook for someone important in their life you should be able to relate to how such a simple act can also affect us on so many levels. Thank you Cary:

When Peter and his friends launched Pizza Quest, calling it “a journey of self-discovery through pizza,” the idea resonated very strongly with my wife Lillian and me. We had created www.passion-4-pizza.com as a sort of love story, our love of pizza paralleling our love for each other and our passion for life. The idea of pizza as metaphor was not new to us.  Creating balance on a pizza and finding balance in our way of life are regular and rewarding challenges: the scope and scale may be very different, but both call for creativity, flexibility, and faith. And sometimes the metaphor turns out to be a literal reality!

We’ve been students of Shri Anandi Ma and members of Dhyanyoga Centers since 1996, and being involved in a community of seekers has presented us with many opportunities for growth and

 

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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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American Pie Artisan Breads Every Day Bread Baker's Apprentice Brother Juniper's Bread Book Crust and Crumb Whole Grain Breads

… and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on Amazon.com

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