Basta -- A Beginning
Peter Reinhart

We are beginning with this posting of a new webisode story arc featuring our friends at Basta, the wonderful wood-fired restaurant in Boulder that we've featured here in the past. This short opening segment re-introduces you to Kelly Whitaker, the visionary chef/owner of Basta and, in later segments we'll meet other members of his team and then, over time, we'll follow his trail all the way to Southern California and back again to Denver at the Great American Beer Festival where Kelly and I teamed up to make an original, unique pizza, matched in kind by Patrick Rue and his Bruery team making a one of kind beer brewed to pair with our pizza.

It all begins with a cup of espresso, as Kelly starts each day with his morning ritual and, as you will see over the next number of months, leads us into all sorts of wonderful culinary adventures. Basta (and, in later segments, the Bruery) are featured here not because they are the only great restaurants and breweries doing amazing things but because they both represent and are signifiers of a growing movement of artisans who are pushing the envelope in search of great flavors.  I often refer to pizza as "the perfect flavor delivery system" but beer makers, cheese makers, bakers and chefs working in every medium feel that way about their own products. It's always about delivering flavor and, with that flavor, comes something else, an opening up of our minds, hearts, and souls into a larger, greater world of possibility. Pizza Quest is, as we say at the top of the page, "a journey of self-discovery through pizza" and we don't take that promise lightly. Our video webisodes set out to explore that journey, often starting with pizza, because it is such a perfect flavor delivery system as well as the perfect metaphor, and then we follow it, like breadcrumbs (yet another metaphor -- forgive me!!) wherever it leads. That's how we end up meeting so many visionaries, people like Kelly, who many of you already know from earlier webisodes we've posted. But you will now get to know him in a new and deeper way as we explore, with him and his colleagues, the fire that burns in their bellies, the compelling vision that drives them to do extraordinary things.  In so doing, we hope to inspire all of our viewers to tap into their own vision, or at least to vicariously share our vision as it leads to and connects with your own. For Kelly (as for so many of us), it begins with his morning Joe-spresso -- but the fun really starts when we follow the bread crumb trail from the coffee, through the pizza and beer, and then into the deeper vision that drives it all.

 

 
Peter's Blog, Nov. 1 2012
Peter Reinhart

Just a few quick notes this week:

--We've had some great response to John Arena's new series on what it takes to open your own pizza restaurant. A very valid question has been raised: how can he tell us to get fast while he (and Brad English, our intrepid pizza quester) also extoll the virtues of super slow pizzaiolo Dom DeMarco of Brooklyn (see Brad's recent journey, further down the page, on his visit to Pizzeria Di Fara). John, I'm sure, will address this but for those of you who have recently joined us, look back in the archives of our Guest Columns and read John's earlier pieces in which he defines three categories of pizza makers, including the "artistes" such as Dom, Anthony Mangieri, Chris Bianco, and others. Some great stuff there...

--I've been asked by many of you, "When are we going to see more video webisodes?'  The answer is NEXT WEEK!!  It's a slow and costly process to edit our hours of footage into coherent, quality short films (remember, we shot this originally for long format, PBS-style shows -- a dream we still hope to fulfill), but Brad, who produces these webisodes for you, just informed me that we have a few almost ready to post. This new story arc refers back to last year's hugely fun pizza/beer challenge that I wrote about in previous Peter's Blogs, culminating in the Big Reveal at last year's Great American Beer Festival in Denver. It all began at Pizzeria Basta, in Boulder, two years ago, so we have a long story to tell. The first installment should post next week, and then we'll bring out the others from time to time, as we get them edited. Anyway, check back soon -- it's really going to happen!

--We have had some response threads to your pizza and dough questions. Time to start another. Does anyone have a pressing question or want to resolve an ongoing pizza controversy? Post to the comment section on this post and I'll choose one for the next round. How about something along the lines of "What makes a pizza memorable?"  Remember, we define great pizza as being memorable, so what makes it so?  I'll riff on it again, as I've done in the past, but what about your riffs? I know there are some strong opinions about this out there, so now's your chance. If you decide to cite a particular place (and not one that you own), then at least give us the reasons why, what makes it memorable? As I tell my Johnson & Wales students, it's okay to have a strong opinion but you have to be prepared to defend it with valid criteria. (OR, you can also suggest a different topic or question that we could also grapple with.)

--I'll be in Chapel Hill in a few weeks, teaching at A Southern Season with my co-author Denene Wallace on Saturday, Nov. 17th on  "The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking." Not sure if they're sold out yet, so contact them directly if you want to come.

--Should have some other good news to share in a week or two about, well, I can't say yet but I think you'll be happy to hear about it (this isn't a false tease, I'm really excited about this, but I  have to wait till it's all confirmed before spilling the cheese). Soon, though, I promise....

 
Di Fara Pizza
Brad English

Di Fara Pizza - Part I of a 3 stop pizza quest:

Dave Wilson (our very own Pizza Quest Director of Photography and Co-Director on our various webisodes) and I were working in New York together and realized that it looked like we were going to actually have a Saturday afternoon off.  Time for ourselves!  The wheels were spinning.  What to do?  Where to go?  NY is limitless after all!  With this much time off we quickly came up with a small "p" pizza quest to keep ourselves busy and fed.

Our first stop was Di Fara.  We had heard so much about it, but neither of us had ever been.  We figured we would go try some pizza there and make our way over to Roberta's while still in Brooklyn and then come back to the city and end our quest at Keste -- because Dave had never been there either and I insisted that he would have to try it.

Armed with iPhones and subway apps we hit the rails.  Our destination was in an out of the way place in Brooklyn.  We didn't know how "out of the way" it was until later when we were trying to find a cab to take us "up" to Roberta's.  The road trip was happening.  Too bad, we thought, that Peter, Jeff and the rest of the crew and equipment weren't all piling into the subway car with us.

 

Brooklyn, here we come!

The stop at Avenue J is only steps from Di Fara's.  You notice right away that this area is different. It's more run down, or less developed depending on how you look at it.  Not knowing the area, you have to wonder if it's safe.  Since we were on a quest, we knew it was safe.  Nothing happens to you when you are actually on a quest, right?!  (Well, miracles happen, but nothing bad.)

There was something else different about this stop, these streets, and this pizza place.  The Di Fara Pizza sign is original to say the least.  It's a classic to be sure. The street and the pizzeria seem suspended in time.  This place is the same pizzeria you would have visited 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 15, 20 etc.

 

 

As we walked up to the pizzeria, we could see Dom DeMarco through what may have been an old ordering window open onto the street.  We snapped this picture on one of our iPhones.  The funny thing is that there is a artist rendering inside that is of Dom in almost the same position as we found him - how old was that?  How old is this place?  How much time has Dom stood there, making pizza after pizza over the years?

The place wasn't as crowded as I expected.  We were there a little after the lunch rush around 1:30Pm I think.  There was one guy taking orders and Mr. DeMarco was making pizza.  I think there was another kid in the back kitchen, but didn't see him.  We placed our order for the classic Regular Pie with Fresh Basil.  The guy said it would be about an hour.  Really?  There were not that many people around.  Ok?!  We'll wait.

 

 

I couldn't wait.  It all smelled so good.  An hour?  I found a way to let go and embrace the experience.  I decided to visit this place in this warp of arrested time and allow it to unfold around me.

Mr. DeMarco made a pizza.  We watched.  We walked outside again and watched through the window. We took a few more pictures of the sign.  Time passed quickly, but not because it seemed like all of a sudden our pizza was ready, but because time acted differently.  I'll admit that our quest may well have been the main reason we seemed to pass our time so effortlessly, but it was something I not only noticed, but felt.

We wanted to get a table to experience the place instead of eating our pizza on the street.  There are only about 6 tables, so after our hour or so, we waited inside and got some sodas and sat down.  I think we waited almost 2 hours for our pizza in the end.  Mr. DeMarco made pizza after pizza after pizza by himself.  He wasn't rushed, and wasn't necessarily taking his time either.  He was making each pizza with as much time as each pizza needed to be made with - as if time was actually one of the ingredients.  I have never seen this before and didn't really think about that until just now as I am writing this blog post.  That's an interesting concept.

Our waiting time was up.  Mr. DeMarco held the basil over our pie and snipped away at it with his shears.  I broke the time space continuum here, and moved quickly through this stalled timeless place and snapped a photo of my pizza.  It was still Mr. DeMarco's pizza though, as it hadn't been passed off yet, but Dave and I were soon to become it's new owners.

Dave and I were dying to speak to Mr. DeMarco.  I knew that Peter has met him before and I could have easily said hello.  Instead we wanted to visit this place and experience it for what it was.  I'm glad we did.  I have often thought about watching Mr. DeMarco make his pizzas.  It's almost surreal. He gave each pizza his undivided attention.  Would he have done so if we told him we would likely be posting pictures and writing an article?  Based on everything we saw, it probably wouldn't have phased him one bit!

We ate.  We smiled.  We enjoyed.  We watched everyone around us doing the same.  For the record, Dave ate one more slice than I did and he's half my size!  We had to stop though, because this was stop 1 of 3 on our small "p" pizza quest.  But wait, I didn't say enough about the pizza.

 

 

 

Oh my god!  So good!!

 

 

 

 

What makes great/memorable pizza?  Is it the dough?  Is it the tomato sauce?  The cheese?  Is it super fresh basil?  Is it the oven temperature, or type of oven?  I think the answer in part to all of these is yes, certainly, but there is something beyond that.  Perhaps another important aspect is, in fact, time.  It's the time the pizzaiolo has spent perfecting his craft.  It's the time he spends focusing on each ingredient.  it's the time he gives to each pizza, which is really being given to each customer.  You could call it love, dedication, or passion, but it's all about the connection of the food to the customer through the time given to sharing the experience.

I'm glad I spent the first part of my day off in Di Fara's time-less zone.  I thought time had stopped, but it was, instead, shared.

 

 
Are You Ready to Turn Pro, Part Two
John Arena

Note from Peter: Don't forget to scroll down the home page for Part One of this new series from our friend John Arena, owner of the hugely popular Metro Pizza in Las Vegas. We've been getting some great response to this. Thanks John!!)

There are many components to opening and sustaining a successful pizzeria, but for now let’s focus on essential pizza making skills.  So here is lesson number one:

From now on, every time you make a pizza, or any element of a pizza make it as fast as you can. It doesn’t matter if you are making one pizza for your family or 100 pies for a lunch crowd on a tight schedule. Work fast. You cannot make a living in the pizza business if you are slow. Speed is both a skill and a habit.
--Dividing and rounding dough balls? Do it at top speed.

--Extending dough? Work fast. You need the practice.

--How fast is fast enough? Of course that’s a matter of opinion, but for starters, 2 people should be able to divide and round an 80 pound batch of dough in the time it takes to mix a second batch so there is no idle time in production. The most crucial task in your pizzeria is dough management-making dough, fermenting dough and using it at exactly the right time regardless of ever changing conditions.

--When it comes to making pizzas, you should be able to fill your ovens before the first pizza is ready to come out. So, if you are making large pizzas in a standard 2 deck gas oven you have to extend (stretch), top, and insert 8 pizzas in the oven in about 9 minutes, while taking the time to rotate the pies if necessary. In a wood burning oven the same rules apply. You must be able to fill the oven and move pies around to get the desired bake, take them out without burning or dropping anything or having any down time where the oven is empty. Now cut and plate the pies and keep moving.

--Sorry, but if you intend to be a pro there will be no more painstaking placement of every single mushroom. Yes, your pies have to look beautiful but the next hungry guest is waiting. Now here is the hard part- Once you can fill the ovens…do it again. OK, now do it again… and now again. Keep doing it for at least 3 hours without a break or slow down, because that is how long the average dinner rush will last. Speed is important but it is useless without endurance.

--Now, let’s not forget that all of these top speed pizzas must also resemble each other. Even if you are making artisan pies your guests are going to expect that there is a basic defining look and consistency to your pizzas. So like it or not, pizza making is repetitive work. What you do right now is what you are going to do again in 60 seconds and what you do today is going to have to be done again tomorrow.

--You are going to find that there is a rhythm and spirit to each part of your day. Throw away your clock -- and your calendar-- because from now on you are living on pizza time. You’re a football fan? So are your customers. From now on you will be using your DVR. You like to spend holidays with your family? Give them a job, so you can build the business together.

Is this starting to sound daunting? Be fearless, because here is the great part. You are going to take flour, water, and yeast and, using your own hands and some fire, create the world’s greatest communal food. You are going to join the ranks of a time honored profession and your pizzeria will become a vital part of your community.

In the next installment we will explore the common pitfalls of creating a pizzeria and teach you how to avoid them.

 
A Wandering Desert Road Pizza
Brad English

I was walking through one of my local markets and, in the produce section, a large oval green shape caught my eye.  As I turned to look closer and my eyes focused on what I was seeing, my smile grew at the same time.  My market had fresh cactus!  I had literally made my pickled cactus sauce, ode to the Nevada desert pizza, "The Hwy 15 Pizza," a couple days ago.  I was going to order some cactus online until this fortunate meeting of me and the spiked Napolea Grande leaf.  If you can't find it in your local store, I found this informative site that grows and sells Organic Cactus called RivenRock.com.  They have videos and recipes on using their products, which I relied on when I brought my "leaf" home from the store.

I continued to shop, but now I was on another mission -- to do another version of my Hwy 15 Pizza that featured a sauce made from pickled cactus.  Lets see, what other desert ingredients can I bring to this pizza party?  I figured I would keep this in the same vein as the original Hwy 15, but add something to it here and there to see where this experiment might lead.  I found some Queso Fresco, which is a light, fresh Mexican cheese that can substitute for goat or feta cheese as a lighter fresher cheese option.  I thought this might work well, allowing the other ingredients to shine.  I figured I would once again use the pickled cactus sauce as the base, but add some fresh jalapeños into the mix.

After wandering around, I figured I had enough new items to create something that started on Hwy 15, but maybe ended up out on a deserted dirt road that wandered across the Nevada desert.

 

A Wandering Desert Road Pizza

Mesquite Pizza Dough

Pickled Cactus and Jalapeño Sauce

Queso Fresco

Fresh Cactus Leaf

Thin sliced Pancetta

Whole Sage Leaves - chopped, or torn

Fresh Jalapeños - sliced

 

PREP

Mesquite Pizza Dough

I had come up with the idea of creating a new dough for my original desert-themed pizza.  While researching ideas for this pizza, I inevitably came across mesquite, which many know as a "flavor" associated with grilling.  This could be an interesting thing to add to the wood mixture in a WFO. Though it's not necessarily associated with Nevada, I felt that it did embody desert life and was heavily used by Native Americans as a staple food source.  They create a mesquite flour by grinding down the dried mesquite pods in a mill.  It lacks any gluten and has a very intense flavoring - which changes when cooked/baked.  It can become bitter.  The website where I purchased my mesquite generally recommends blending the mesquite flour at 1/3 of the volume of what you are making.

I chose a Fire-Roasted Western Honey Mesquite Flour.  Peter suggested I start with my first batch at 10% mesquite to total flour.  I used the basic Neo-Neopolitan Pizza dough and added in my mesquite.  (Note: If you've read my blogging much, you'll have heard a few comments by my son Owen, or other family members.  Owen may have a knack or a finely tuned palate.  I once was making a few pizzas with some Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes, used straight, as the sauce to see how good they were.  Owen said, "Dad, this is the best sauce you've ever made!"  Well, all I did was open the can.  Thanks Owen!  He did it again with this Mesquite Dough.  He said, "Dad, this is the best crust you've ever made!"  He had no idea I made this with the mesquite flour.  He just showed up for some testing of the finished product.  Anyway, as Owen can vouch, it's good!)

Here's a link to The Mesquitery where I got the Fire-Roasted Western Honey Mesquite Flour:  www.mesquiteflour.com

 

Neo-Neopolitan Dough Recipe: *Link

 

Pickled Cactus and Jalapeños Sauce:

The idea for this "sauce" comes right from Jersey's own Mossuto's Pizzeria.  Here's the link to my version of their Fat Lip Pizza - *Link.  I wanted to incorporate cactus into the pizza for obvious reasons.  When you think of the desert cactus is likely one of the first iconic images that you think of.  I picked up a jar of Pickled Nopalitos (Cactus) and had a jar of my Mom's Soy Pickled Jalapeños around and went from there.

- Pickled Nopalitos (Cactus)

- Pickled Jalapeños

- Garlic

- Olive Oil

- Fresh Ground Pepper

Chop the cactus and jalapeños and some garlic to taste and place in a bowl.

Add olive oil and freshly ground pepper.

Measure and add ingredients to taste.  The cactus is somewhat sweet with a nice tang from the pickling.  The jalapeños add some heat and a little salt - because I am using my soy pickled jalapeños.  Pull the solids from the sauce onto your pizza, being careful to manage how much oil you get on the pizza. You don't want it to be too runny.  Mix the ingredients and let sit to marinade for as long as you can for the flavors to come together.

 

Fresh Cactus Leaf

To prepare your cactus leaf check out this simple video demonstration at RivenRock.com.  *Link

It's really simple.  You use the scrubber side of a sponge to lightly remove the spines.  Then you simply trim the edges and slice your cactus into the shape you want to use.

 

A Wandering Desert Road Pizza

Spread the dough

Add a scoop of the sauce and spread across the dough.  Add more as desired, or place on top of the pizza before, or after cooking.

Break off chunks of the Queso Fresco to cover the pizza.

*Prior to assembling the pizza:

Lightly fry up the chopped sage leaves and sliced jalapeños until just tender.  They will cook more in the oven.  I used a little of the Pickled Cactus Sauce as the oil.

Add pancetta over the cheese.

Add your sliced fresh cactus

Top with some of the sautéed jalapeños and sage.

Into the oven it goes.

 

When the pizza comes out of the oven, you might drizzle a little of the Pickled Cactus/Jalapeno sauce, or just dig in.

Layers!  What struck me here was the layers of flavors/textures created using fresh cactus and pickled cactus. I am now a born again cactus fan!  I have since made some of my favorite homemade salsa using chopped fresh cactus.  It has a really fresh flavor.  I sliced the cactus thick enough so that it retained it's moisture.  It was like the oasis of moisture on my pizza, just like the cactus is in the desert.  The pickled cactus added a vinegary accent, while the fresh cactus gave a soft fresh juicy note as you bit into it.

I will definitely keep playing with this new ingredient while exploring my desert pizza experiment as well as on other foods I enjoy like: tacos, burgers, salsas, salads and maybe more?!

Enjoy!

 

 
Are You Ready to Turn Pro?
John Arena

Part I

OK, you’ve been making pizzas at home now for years. You invested in a great oven. You source the best ingredients. You stay up all night arguing on the internet about water sources and fermentation times. You obsess over every detail.  Everyone tells you that your pizza is better than what they can get in any pizzeria. Well… even if no one else says it, you know that you make the greatest pizza in the world.  Certainly you can do better than those hacks at your neighborhood pizzeria (how have those guys stayed in business for so long?). Admit it, you want to turn your pizza avocation into a vocation. You want to own a pizzeria. The question is, how do you know when you are truly ready?

I speak to ambitious amateur pizza makers all the time. Many of them have amazing passion and talent. Those qualities are an important start, but there’s more to it if you want to succeed. Allow me to explain: I’m sure you can all remember the incredible satisfaction you received from baking your first pizza, cutting it, and sitting down to enjoy it with your friends and family. I envy you. My experience is quite different. 45 years ago, on September 8, 1967 to be exact, I made my first pizza. My Uncle Rocco took it out of the oven, cut it, boxed it, and collected $2.25 from a waiting customer. Out the door went my pizza, a small step for the customer, but a giant leap for me. At that moment I fell in love with the pizza business. I fell in love with the idea that someone would spend money to buy and consume something that I had made with my own two hands.

Growing up in a small family pizzeria I also understood that this was hard work, with small profit. I learned from childhood that making a great pizza was only part of it. If you want to stay in business you have to be able to make pizzas that people are willing to buy at a price that covers your expenses and makes you a little bit more. Most importantly, you have to remember that you are selling an experience. The perceived value of that experience is what will allow you to charge enough to make a profit. No matter how high or low your price points the customer must always feel that the experience was worth more than they paid for it.

That’s the key. How your customer feels after they pay the bill will determine whether or not they come back. That is the pizza business. It doesn’t matter if you trained with Raffaelo Esposito’s great grandson or that you hand-feed hazelnuts to the pigs that become your sausage. In the end you will have to be able to sell enough of your great pizzas at a profit year after year to keep yourself in business.

Note: In Part 2 we will explore the skills you will need to make pizzas at a professional level and how you can prepare yourself for the transition from dedicated amateur to successful pro.

 
Montanara Starita
Brad English

 

This is not a restaurant review!

This is a selfish blog posting about being on my own little pizza quest and running into one of the masters in the world of artisan pizza.  I had been trying all week, while I was working in NYC a while back, to fit in some pizza questing and I had the opportunity to visit one of New York's newest ventures.

Don Antonio by Starita opened recently and is getting some rave reviews and, now I know, that's for good reason.  It's a new venture by Pizzeria Keste owner, Roberto Caporuscio, and Antonio Starita, who owns one of Naples' most famous pizzerias, called Pizzeria Starita, which is 110 years old (the pizzeria, not Antonio).  I have been a personal fan of Roberto's for some time having visited Keste on nearly every one of my visits to New York since it opened.  His pizzas have not only pushed beyond good to great, but very well may have reached a new level in my book.  They are what Peter Reinhart calls "Memorable," here at Pizza Quest.  Memorable is something more than just "great".  If you remember a very good pizza you had, you can describe it and even imagine the taste.  But, a memorable pizza is one that goes one or more steps further and makes sort of a time stamp in your mind and is experienced and remembered on a totally different level.  You can seemingly taste and almost experience it again as you recall it.  I don't mean to gush, but that's just what I feel about Keste.  Roberto's dough and crust is that good.

Now back to me…my window opened and opportunity called!  I had time to escape the office for lunch; I bolted for the door.  I took the subway, which popped me up only a block or so from Don Antonio. I went in and sat at the bar for lunch.  I had a limited amount of time and knew that, while here, I had to try the signature pizza called the "Montanara Starita" which is made with a lightly fried pizza dough.  Scott Weiner, of Scott's Pizza Tours, had told me that if I only had time for one pizza there that I had to try that one.

I asked the bartender if Roberto happened to be in today.  Unfortunately, he wasn't.  I ordered a salad and my Monatanara. As I ate my salad, I overheard someone say "Roberto!"  After a few minutes I asked the bartender again and as it turns out Roberto was there (what am I, chopped liver?).  When his conversation wrapped up behind me, I introduced myself and was lucky enough that either Pizza Quest, or Peter Reinhart's name got me into a conversation and,, later, back into the kitchen!  I was about halfway through my Montanara when Roberto came to sit with me.  We talked about, what else, pizza.  I went on a bit about how much I liked Keste and enjoyed the fact that I was eating a pizza with him.

He asked me back to the kitchen to meet his daughter Georgia, who was the pizzaiola working the oven.  We talked bit more back there with his staff and Georgia took me over to watch her make a Montanara pizza.  It's simple.  Spread the dough and drop it in the fryer.  It sits in there for a few minutes.  She would touch it here and there, pushing one side, or the other under the oil as it floated to the top and turned it a couple of times before pulling it out to drain a little before she topped it.  At this point it's prepped like any other pizza.  Add the sauce.  Add the Cheese and some basil and it goes into the oven.

As I was about to leave Roberto asked me how I found the Montanara. As I began to tell him, I referenced how I first found Keste's dough, he misunderstood me and thought I was trying to tell him how I got to Don Antonio!  I said, "No, no! I understand!"  We then discussed the pizza.  I had the feeling he was really interested to know what I thought about it, not because I was an expert or anything, but because it was something "new".  When I was at the Pizza Expo in Las Vegas months earlier, there was all sorts of chatter about fried dough being the next rage.  I think Roberto was, and is, curious about this new trend, one that is apparently not new at all.  It's just newly in fashion.

So, how did I find the Montanara - fried pizza?  It was my first fried pizza, to be certain, and I honestly didn't know what to expect.  I found the Montanara to be a unique pizza experience.  The dough was lighter than I thought it would be.  It was puffy and crunchy, but still soft.  The tomatoes were bright and the sweet acidity worked well with and against the dough, which had a buttery quality to it due to the frying.  The pizza was rich, but balanced. The smoked buffalo mozzarella was delicious and there to be tasted, but wasn't overwhelming or in a competition with the tomatoes and dough. Then there was the fresh basil which came in with a nice aromatic finish to this ensemble.

 

 

I found this pizza interesting.  Okay, I found this pizza to be delicious!  But most importantly, I found this experience of getting to eat this pizza with Roberto, and watch Georgia making one while standing with us in the kitchen by the wood burning oven, well, I found it memorable. Maybe "memorable" is about more than just great food.  Maybe memorable is about great food, plus good people, a unique experience, and maybe even simply great timing!

 

 

 

I'm still haunted by Roberto's traditional wood oven baked doughs, but was happily surprised by this "new" variation of an old deep-fried classic!

 
Peter's Blog, Oct. 1
Peter Reinhart

Here's the first question that came, from Doc.Dough. He must be a doc, for sure, as it takes a little study to understand the question -- but I'll take a stab at it and then all of you can chime in with comments.

Over on TFL I see lots of people slavishly following very exacting instructions without understanding what the instructions are intended to convey. Perhaps Peter could attempt to articulate the difference between importance and exactness or in some way provide some useful guidance to set expectations a little lower with respect to the behavior of sourdough cultures in the amateur's kitchen. There is the "you have to do it enough times to have seen it go wrong occasionally" method of teaching, and there is the parametric sensitivity derivatives analytic approach which is fine for the science crowd but pretty useless for the average home baker. Is there a happy medium?

I think the answer is both yes and no. Let me see if I can elaborate: there are dozens of legitimate ways of making and keeping a starter. I have offered to send a file on the subject to anyone who requests it (write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to make the request -- hundreds of you already have), but the main thing to remember is that a starter is just a medium for the cultivation of wild yeast and lactic acid and acetic acid-forming bacteria. The speed of development and the creation of a hospitable environment for these micro-organisms is partly determined by temperature and also by what organisms are already living in a dormant state on the grain and, to some extent, in the local air.  The biggest mistake I've seen in recent times is that people abandon their starter in the early stages (we call it the seed culture stage) because they think it is dead, or it isn't activating on the same timetable as described in whatever method they are following. Other errors include trying to jump start it with commercial yeast (which is too fragile to survive the acidic conditions and will die and then give off glutathione which wreaks havoc on the gluten), or thinking that their old "mother" starter is no good after sitting in the fridge for months so they throw it out.

It is true that an old starter will turn to mush in the fridge and is not structurally sound enough for using in a loaf, but it only takes an ounce or two of it to re-establish it in a new, strong, viable "mother" starter in a day or two since the micro-organisms are still viable even if the dough itself is spent and chewed up by the acids.

There are a number of theories floating around about why it seems to be taking longer for a new

 
Peter's Blog, Sept. 28
Peter Reinhart

Two quick things: The home page here is getting kind of long so I will soon be trimming it and sending some of the older pieces into their respective archives, which you are always welcome to open with the buttons at the top of the page. I'll also be shortening some of them with a "continue reading" tag at the end. But util I do that, for those of you interested in our recent Peter's Blog Q & A thread, which is now located about halfway down the home page, I wrapped up that very interesting thread with a request for more questions (see thread item 26) so we can start anew. Let's move the response to that request to this posting just to keep it further up the page.

The other item is some happy news for our Pure Pizza team here in Charlotte. We just got our first major review, by Helen Schwab who is the restaurant critic for the Charlotte Observer. You can check it out here: http://events.charlotteobserver.com/reviews/show/14288405-review-pure-pizza

I'm super proud of everyone and I think we're doing something very special there. Please check us out when you are in Charlotte (those of you who came to the Jon Stewart Daily Show tapings, held across the street during the DNC, consumed a lot of our pies -- thanks for spreading the word).

Enough bragging and kudos -- now back to Q & A -- bring them on.....

 

 
Kneading Conference West 2012
Teresa Greenway

I just finished attending the amazing Kneading Conference West 2012 here in the Northwest. It was the second annual Kneading Conference West and was held on September 13, 14 and 15 at the WSU Research and Extension Center in Mt. Vernon, WA. I was fortunate to be able to attend the class, “Pizza in the Wood – Fired Oven,” given by Mike Dash of www.rollingfire.com. He had his trailered Forno Bravo oven on site. Mike’s class was very informative and I think I learned more about pizza baking and wood fired ovens than I ever imagined I would. Some of the information available at the class was:

 

Heating the wood fired oven:

There are three kinds of heat used to bake a wood fired pizza: bottom heat, convection heat and broiler heat. Mike had a fire going in the oven when the class arrived. Once we started the class and began to shape the pizza dough, Mike moved the fire to the other side of the oven and we placed the pizzas right on the floor of the oven where the initial fire had been. The fire was right next to the pizza on the right hand side and was the source of the “broiler” heat which, with the bottom heat and convection of the all-around heat, very quickly baked the pizza to perfection. It was astonishing how quickly the pizza was done. A wood fired pizza bakes at temperatures from 700 – 900F, those kinds of temperatures are not obtainable for a home baker with a standard oven. Mike said some of the best wood to use for a pizza oven fire are oak and apple wood, and to stay away from soft wood and wood with a lot of resin.

The pizza dough:

Mike had containers filled with pizza dough rounds which had sat overnight proofing. He highly recommends the “Caputo” flour, which is available from Forno Bravo here: http://www.fornobravo.com/pizza-ingredients/index.html .

(Note from Peter: Caputo truly is wonderful flour but you might also want to try the Central Milling "00" Classico Flour, an American, organically grown version inspired by the Italian brands, that I totally love (and, of course, Central Milling is one of our Pizza Quest sponsors too!). Click through to their site on the banner ad at the top of the page -- it rotates in periodically -- or click *HERE for more details.)

The “hands on“ feel of the dough is incentive enough for me to try the Caputo flour. I think the dough was the one thing that surprised me more than anything else; it stretched easily and flowed like something alive… which of course it was. The handouts for the class included recipes for Neapolitan dough available on the Forno Bravo site and New York Style dough, available from Peter Reinhart’s book, “American Pie.” Mike did a great job explaining how to stretch and shape the dough, it was a really fun part of the class, especially when the participants had a go at trying it on their own.

Every participant who wished to, not only had the chance to stretch out their own pizza dough, they then topped it and baked it themselves. Mike stood by to give advice, answer questions and offer a helping hand when necessary. The pizzas produced by Mike’s method and the Forno Bravo wood fired oven were superb! I really had a wonderful time being able to take the class, make my own pizza and enjoy the dinner pizzas made by Mike’s staff the evening before. If you wish to set up classes in your area, you can visit Mike online at http://www.rollingfire.com. Hopefully Mike will be available next year at the third annual Kneading Conference West for more Pizza in a Wood Fired Oven classes. If you want more information about the Kneading conference visit: http://www.kneadingconferencewest.com . If you want to learn how to bake your own pizza, well, you are already at the best site!

 
How the Internet Changed Pizza History
Albert Grande

Pizza has always been America’s favorite food. It’s been the subject of movies, books, and songs. Pizza is not only a food of sustenance, but for some has become an obsessive delight. And for many fans, pizza is a sheer and utter passion. Pizza debate brings on an endless thirst for argument that cannot be easily quenched with just a slice or two.

People discuss their favorite pizzerias with the same emotionally charged energy as they would discuss politics or their favorite sports team. Pizza has become so entrenched into the culture that it is easy to forget that it was once simply peasant food. Pizza was, for many years, enjoyed by the lower echelons of society who could afford little else.

For most of pizza’s long and romantic history it was a regional dish. The great pizza in New York stayed in New York. The inside secrets of the best New York pizzas remained in the boroughs and neighborhoods where it was created. There would be an occasional newspaper or magazine article. Television and radio reporters would sporadically discuss pizza on regional and local venues. However, unless you visited New York, these insider pizza secrets remained mysteries to the rest of the country.

The pizza in New Haven stayed in New Haven.  Frank Pepe began making pizza in 1925. Sally’s founded by Frank Pepe's, nephew, Salvatore Consiglio, came into being a decade later. Modern Apizza, also in New Haven developed their own brick oven masterpieces. Up the road in Derby, Connecticut, Roseland Apizza had created their own brand of

 
The Hwy 15 Pizza
Brad English

A few months ago I went to Las Vegas for the Pizza Expo.  I wrote about visiting with John Arena of Metro Pizza.  While driving to Vegas I had been a little lost in thought.  No, I wasn't on my phone, but I was drifting along somewhere out in there in the desert.  I was thinking about the email exchange I had with John and the fact that he mentioned he'd love to make some pizzas with me.  As this worked it's way around my brain, I started noticing that the desert valley I was in was reminiscent of something familiar.  I was driving along in an air conditioned car, with a cool venti iced latte from a Starbucks stop a while back.  I said to my father, who was riding with me, "Look at the mountains that are encircling us.  Don't they look like the crust of a giant pizza?"

He looked around and said, "No."  I told him he was crazy and unimaginative!  All he could see was the white sand and scrubby sage and rocks.  "Can't you see how the sage brush is like little bits of herbs poking out from the desert sand (which would be the cheese)?

We then came upon a hill that appeared to be formed from a lava eruption, or burst from under the ground.  To me, that was it, it sealed the deal, I was literally in the middle of a giant 10-mile wide pizza and that burnt rock hill was a bubble in the crust.

I think I brought it up to my father again in the next valley. (There are two distinct "Pizza Valleys" on Hwy 15 from LA to Las Vegas -- you heard it here first.)  He just couldn't see my vision. Topics turned to the more mundane banter bouncing between laughter and arguments that we always have - especially while trapped in a small car for 4-5 hours together.

I've written before about my experience meeting up with John Arena at the Pizza Expo, which was great.  During the show, John took me by a booth that he had made dough for and I noticed that there was a huge air bubble with a burnt top.  I mentioned my desert pizza "vision" to John and, being far more visionary than my father, he loved the idea.  We kicked around some ideas for desert ingredients.  On my way home I was all ready for the pizza valleys and admittedly, I did ask

 
Peter's Blog, Sept. 15th, Cold Fermentation
Peter Reinhart

In my recent Peter's Blogs we received a number great comments, including an offer to engage in some dialogue on dough methodology from Scott123. Rather than answer his first question in a Comment box in the previous post, I thought it might be best to make it the topic of a new Peter's Blog, and we can keep all the comments related to this question here, and deal with subsequent questions each in their own blog posting. Who knows, we might end up with a nice collection of useful information, all nicely archived. So, the forum is open and let's start with Scott's opening salvo.

He's raised an interesting question: does long, cold, overnight fermentation create a flavor that would universally be considered superior; that is, an inarguable benefit?  To answer this, I think, requires more than a simple yes or no, but an explanation as to what happens during the fermentation stage that would lead to the opinion that this is a way to improve flavor.  We've discussed this here in the past, though in an abbreviated manner, so let me draw it out more

 
Pesto Seafood Pizza
Brad English

When you do a pizza night, half the fun is coming up with the menu.  With the prep work that goes into making pizza, it just doesn't make sense making one type of pizza for the night.  You usually have the idea pizza for the night and then you borrow ingredients, add others and come up with supporting pizzas for that particular event.

Our friends had us over and as you have hopefully read, they brought down some fresh seafood and some fresh ideas.  We made a Vietnamese inspired Banh Mi Pork Pizza and then moved on to use the freshly caught (or dug up) Coos Bay Empire Clams on a White Clam Pizza.  Both of these were delicious and I'd say the Bahn Mi Pizza was more like inspiring.  We weren't done yet.  Knowing we had a good supply of clams, we planned on doing a couple of pizzas with the clams as well as a pasta dish for the evening.

For this second seafood pizza, we wanted to do something different than with the first which was a clean white sauce -- herbed olive oil pizza.  What else would go well with the the clams and some other seafood?  Loan (pronounced Lan, who is our friend's sister from Oregon who I would say has become our friend as well) suggested doing a fresh pesto.  Bam!  That pulled the idea together. The pesto sauce would be a nice adjustment while using some of the same ingredients.  As this pizza came together it continued to evolve as a work of performance art.  Our creative juices were flowing and I think we came up with a winner!

 

Pesto Seafood Pizza

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

- Fresh made Pesto *Link to Peter's Pesto Recipe

- Sun Dried Tomatoes

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

- Fresh Jumbo Shrimp

- Fresh squeezed Lemon Juice

- Thick grated Parmigiano-Regianno

- Thick sliced tomatoes

- Chopped Garlic

 

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

"When making this pizza, look for freshly shucked medium-sized whole clams, such as manila, cherrystone, or littlenecks.  You can also shuck them yourself or steam them open.  An easier

 
Peter's Blog, Labor Day, 2012
Peter Reinhart

Hard to believe that it's already September -- how did that happen? Meanwhile, Charlotte is gearing up for the big convention this week and everyone is wondering what life will be like after it's over. We'll know soon enough.

But first, before I forget, I need to let you know that there are still places available for the Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free class coming up on Wed., September 12th at the Western Reserve Cooking School in Hudson Ohio.  If you can make it, contact them at www.wrsoc.com/   or call (330) 650-1665.


Since I just got back from the inaugural teaching tour for the new book I can  honestly say that the class is a lot of fun and those who attended the eight classes we did in the SF Bay Area all loved the products and were amazed at how easy the method is.  In addition to the upcoming class at Western Reserve  (I'll also be doing an artisan bread class the following day there), I will be at the upcoming Bookmarks Book Festival in Winston-Salem this coming Saturday, Sept. 8th, along with Steven Raichlen and a slew of authors from all genres. If you are in the area, please do come by. My demo is Sat. morning at 10:30 AM, and details can be found at http://www.bookmarksbookfestival.org/

The Bay Area tour was a big success. Denene Wallace, my co-author, is an inspiration, as she not only figured out how to make diabetic friendly gluten-free baked goods of all types using nut and seed flours instead of grain flours, but also, in the process, weaned herself from five insulin shots a day down to zero. She was a terrific collaborator both on the book and in the classes, telling stories in her delightful Georgian twang ("Do I really sound like I'm from the South? I don't hear it -- do they?" ) and also sharing all her hard earned baking tips.  Sadly, she won't be with me in Hudson -- I'll be going solo this time -- but she will be rejoining me in November (the 17th) in Chapel Hill at A Southern Season. Anyway, we did cooking schools, radio shows, and I even re-connected with some of my old friends from the Brother Juniper's Bakery days. The main thing we needed to find out, since this was our first tour, was whether those who came to the classes would love the products as much as we do. And they did!!!   So, mission accomplished.  For more details on the book and, to write to us about this aspect of our work, go to our website at www.thejoyofgluten-freesugar-freebaking.com

Now, onto the long thread in the recent Peter's Blog. As I mentioned in the last posting, I was thrilled to see so much passion and sharing of knowledge. For some of you it was probably TMI -- not everyone cares about potassium bromate and the various nuances of fermentation, but many of us do. But I hope you all read each of the comments as they amounted to a wealth of narrative and information. My guiding mantra, which I wrote a whole book about once ("Bread Upon the Waters") is: "Reverence the reverences of others, not the things they revere."  So I don't feel that I have to agree with every point regarding NY pizza by the slice, or the choice of flour, to get excited by the degree of caring expressed by the various correspondents, and I want to honor that passion.  There were great points made regarding some of the things I've written in the past, such as how much water to add to tomato puree to make sauce (I did write 1 3/4 cups for my marinara sauce recipe in "American Pie" based on a very thick puree I used, but should have added, "or as needed" -- good catch, Scott).  So let me make just a few points, below, to clear up

 
Sriracha Dough
Brad English

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

*Note:  This would work with any dough recipe.

 

Enjoy!

 
I'm Back
Peter Reinhart

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

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

 
Thank you!!
Peter Reinhart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 
Finding Your Inner Pizza Maker
John Arena


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

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

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

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

 
Coos Bay Clam Pizza
Brad English

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

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

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

 

Coos Bay Clam Pizza

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

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

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

- Teaspoon of Fresh squeezed Lemon Juice

- Grated Mozzarella Cheese

- Grated Parmigiano-Regianno

- Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley

 

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

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

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

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

 

Prep:

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

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

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

 

The Coos Bay Clam Pizza

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cut and Serve...

 

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

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

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 
The Farmer Across the Road
Bruce Vetter

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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Vision Statement

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.

Peter's Books

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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