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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 22nd: Ramekins, Sonoma (Artisan Bread)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter

 
Sriracha Seasoned Salt
Brad English

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Sriracha Salt

- 1/2 cup of Kosher Salt

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

 

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees F.

Add the Sriracha Sauce to the salt and mix well.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 
Hot off the press news
Peter Reinhart

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

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

 
Peter's Blog, July 11
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
LKB Banh Mi Pizza
Brad English

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

- Peter's Chili Oil *Link to Recipe

- Brad's Spicy Mayonnaise Sauce *Link to Recipe

- Chinese Barbeque marinaded pork loin

- Sliced Pickled Carrots, Cucumbers, Daikon, Green Onions

- Sliced Scallions

- Cilantro

- Soy Sauce for drizzling

 

The Prep:

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

 

Spicy Mayo Sauce:

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

 

The Pork:

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

Mix the ingredients and pour over the pork.

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

Pickling the Veggies

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

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

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

- Add a enough water to cover the veggies.

- Add Fish Sauce because it goes on everything.

- Allow them to sit for at least an hour.

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

 

The Pizza Part:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Enjoy...

 

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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.

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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