Archive for the ‘Pizza and Bread Stories’ Category

Insider Baking, Summer 2014

IMG_2578iii My definition of insanity is to make the same pizzas and breads with the same recipes and the same ingredients in the same oven for years and years and years!

Even the glory of a “authentic” wood-fired bake, the prospect of bakers asthma, and the accolades of being a true “Artisan” by smarmy award-winning bloggers and critics isn’t much of a turn-on. That’s why nine years ago, I decided to do a professional zig-zag by baking some amazing bread and pizza-bread variants. (I call them “varmints” because that’s what some old guy thought I said whilst I was referring to my bread “variants”… and I like it better.)

The schiacciata above is made with a dough at 55 percent hydration, ramp pesto topped with La Grande Ruota, “Fioretto” fine polenta, roasted fingerling tips and finished with white truffle.) So, as I started the “Zig”….and just kept zigging along with breads stuffed with ribs, garlic pudding and even other breads that I have recorded in this fantastic pizza blog. Every once in a while, I do ‘zag” and feature some northern Italian pizza recipes, southern Italian pizza recipes, fruit pizza recipes, pizza dough recipes and just plain every topping under the sun but now… I present to you my pizza and bread “Varmints” I’ve been making this summer.

 

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Above are two “Cornetti” which are over 80 percent hydrated and aged for three to four days under refrigeration. The left is a vegan variety stuffed with a cashew-tahini-sweet miso pudding, fresh spinach, Peruvian purple potato, roasted beetroot at carrot and baked at 700 degrees. On the right is a cornetti stuffed with gruyere, broccoli roasted beetroot, kohlrabi, and fresh spinach. It was cooked at 550 degrees and spinkled with sesame.

 

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Here’s a good look at a long tall sally of bread using beetroot again. This fougasse has a great sweet and spicy flavor profile of mango and some mid-summer ancho chilies that I roasted for a spicier, charred effect.

 

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Because it is summer, the heirloom tomatoes keep coming. I try to bake them on pizza but because of their juiciness, I prefer a low-highdrated dough like this fifty percent hydration dough. These are German Pink, Carolina Gold and Mr. Stipey heirlooms with fresh spinach and authentic English Stilton. Massive food love!

 

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And while we are on the subject of beets in bread… here is a fougasse that I have paired with some great Amish carrot and my homemade mustard seed caviar.

 

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This balzy combination of Italian polenta and toasted pine nuts is on a vegan schiacciata with all my loves; toasted pignoli polenta, roasted fingerling potatoes, oven dried tomato, (tomato confit) and a nice slurry of ramp pesto from this spring. All the lusciousness of a princess with the intense sweet and tang of a WWF wrestler.

 

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Here is fluer di lie in the style of a Turkish pide of dried pear, cinnamon, pecan and blueberry with a balsamic-blueberry glaze, all in a local spelt bread.

 

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Here’s what a 85 percent hydrated, naturally yeasted dough bakes up to after almost four days under cold fermentation. I baked these schiacciata at 630 degrees with a fabulous topping of fresh spinach, Shiitake, portobello, porcini, cremini and button mushrooms, Fontina, (DOP) and Teleggio, (DOP), there is Parmigiano Reggiano underneath and I topped this after the oven with white truffle oil and a killer balsamic glaze.

 

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I’ve been using sprouted grains and legumes in my breads for years now but none is better than the Puy, or Green French Lentil because it sprouts fast and has a fantastic toasty, savory quality in breads. Here I did a crescent shaped fougasse filled with the sprouted lentils, local King Family Bacon, Amish carrots from Chesterhill, Ohio, what a great combo!

 

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I love working with 80 percent hydration dough and even higher. Above left is a vegan schiacciata with a pudding made with raw cashews, tahini and sweet miso and on top of this is vanilla-cinnamon roasted butternut squash, beet and carrot. On the right is a crazy-delicious schiacciata of curry roasted sweet onion, fire roasted corn, re-hydrated raison and topped with Gruyere cheese.

 

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Now for some less hydrated Mediterranean breads. This is Man’oush bi Za’atar, a quick baking flatbread with the brownish Za’atar from Aleppo (left pic, left on bread) featuring a sweet cumin, anise taste and (right on the same bread) is a za’atar from a Palestinian woman’s cooperative with that great thyme, sumac tingle of a green za’atar.

 

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This simple schiacciata takes advantage of these candy-like cherry tomatoes that farmers are practically giving away now. I paired it with some aged mozzarella and provolone, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil with coarse Trapani sea salt.

 

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Above is a celery, leek and ham disc with calabrian chilies and whole roasted cumin seed.

 

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This pizza will blow your face off and send your intestines to the old folks home before puberty. I used some summer habenero’s and Calabrian chilies and made a paste with San Marzano pizza sauce and some aged mozzarella and provolone and topped with a pickled jalepeno. My customers said this is hotter than my ghost chili pie. (go figure)

 

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This is my sea salt and herb fougasse that Joel Fair and I make deep into the night. It is our customers most favorite; an airy and savory treat.

 

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What to do with a boatload of local okra? This time I pickled it then paired it with balsamic caramelized onion and Gruyere on this schiacciata.

 

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This fougasse I call the Purple People Eater. She is a sweet and spicy charmer with chipotle roasted onion and dried blueberry!

 

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Above is a mix of cashew, Cowdery Farms ‘Cherry Bomb’ chilies, cilantro and dried papaya that made this spectacular bent fougasse, (right) very popular.

 

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last week, I was back on the beet with 40 pounds of this purple gem so I killed it with a vegetarian schiacciata topped with fingerlings, roasted Amish Brussel sprouts and beetroot on top of Italian polenta and English Stilton.

 

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Here is a crunchy, airy ciabatta. I have been experimenting with this loaf for years and love those large, irregular cells produced from natural fermentation and a long proofing time followed by high heat.

 

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We can never forget to bake hundreds of baguettes each week. The crunch, the airy crumb and light digestibility make these a crowd pleaser. Torrey cooked these and has become a real master.

 

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I made a cool split batard with this loaf of dried peaches, cinnamon, pecan all nestled in local spelt milled here in town by Shagbark milling.

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Above is a fingerling potato disc with some quick dill pickles I made from Cowdery farms cukes, sun-dried tomato, onion, dill, Asiago and local cheddar curd.

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This dual-holed fougasse contains our old friend the sprouted Puy lentel, this time paired with roasted leek, bacon and roasted celery, key lime zest, cumin and key lime slices. Very Bright!

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Joel Fair, Torrey and I did a special event this summer called Bounty on the Bricks which was a tremendous effort by the Athens Foundation to help local food pantries. Master Chef Alfonso Constriciani and all the Professors and Chefs at Hocking College put on a great dinner featuring our Epi rolls, (above left) and some airy Fontina bombes. The event was a success with thousands of dollars donated to the pantries.

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On top of lots of airy breads with high hydration, I back a lot of these Afghan Snowshoe Na’an that feature, horseradish Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh dill and lemon zest.

 

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I just realized that this post is huge and I have so much other “Varmints” to highlight but I have to go…bake. I’ll leave you with a delicious ciabatta topped with Nutella and banana and a pizza box made by a customer. Remember, don’t eat that yellow snow!

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WOW! Puglian Grano Arso-Black Ash Flour Pizzas

 

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Puglian Arso Nero crust above, (left) with San Marzano sauce, fresh spinach, guanciale, pignoli and Puglian burrata. (Right), the greyish coricione with perfect irregular cell structure and that unmistakable smoky, umami taste…bad ass!

My introduction to Arso Nero, or Black Ash flour all started when I met Chef Antonio Esposito and Alberto Busi of Pivetti flour at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas four years ago. They were cutting up dough balls for a demonstration of Neapolitan pizza and I had just finished preparing for a bread demo.

“Hey Guys, need some help?” I said overly friendly-like.

“Ahhh, no.” Antonio said smiling.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, we are sure, but we can let you stand there and watch us for no extra charge.” Alberto said. They both laughed sadistically and I instantly liked them. I stood there for the next 20 minutes (more to annoy than anything), asking question after question about their flour, dough, hydration, mixing etc and they were some of the most knowledgeable and friendly Pizza guys around.

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This year I was lucky enough to meet up with them again in Las Vegas and in Columbus Ohio at the awesome RDP Foodservice show. They showed me their new product called “Skura” (by Pivetti). They were cooking pizzas and breads in my all time favorite pizza makers mobile oven from GoreMade Pizza, owned and operated by fellow Ohioan and outstanding pizza maniac Nick Gore. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with this dough. Nicks oven was just over 800 degrees because he had just set up but still this great dough stood out. It had the same oven spring as a typical “00″ flour and charred nicely on the bottom leaving some killer leoparding, (spots) but the distinguishing characteristics were the juxtaposed qualities of  a nice light, airy cell structure and a deep, smoky, back-of-the-throat finish.

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Chef Antonio Espisito at work and with Pizza Legend Bruno di Fabio at the exciting RDP Foodservice show in Columbus.

Out of the ashes: The low down on Arso Nero:

In 18th century Puglia, Italy, wheat was first harvested then the fields were burnt to the soil for next years fertilizer. After the burning, the peasants would scour the fields and pick up the arso, or charred wheat berries left behind. They ground them up with semolina to make grano arso or “ash flour” then baked them in bread that produced a toasted flavor. Pivetti has successfully replicated this famed flour by slow-roasting the wheat for the same grey-black appeal.

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Check out the beautiful charred flecks of wheat floating all around the gluten net of my windowpane test, (above).

After repeated begging Chef Antonio sent me a bag of this glorious product and I went to work. I mixed it the way I would any of my high-heat, Naples-style pizzas; with just the dough, salt and water with a little pre-ferment from the Dolomite Mountains. I then aged it for 30 hours under refrigeration.  I just couldn’t wait to stoke my oven up to ultra-high heat and blast some pizza!

Here are some pies I made with Arso Nero flour.

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 First pizza was a San Marzano sauce with fresh spinach, thin slices of my homemade Red Wattle guanciale, pignoli, and some glorious Puglian buratta. Then I made a Teleggio and Portobello pizza with white truffle oil and balsamic.

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I used some aged Piave Vecchio I had and paired it with a ballistic three-year old Brugge Prestige, roasted fingerling and leek then topped with Prosciutto di Parma. For a really awesome worldly pizza, I topped the Arso Nero dough with aged provolone, curry roasted onion and cauliflower, raison, spinach and finished with fresh cilantro and Calabrian Chilies! Wow, not that’s the BOMBE!

Here’s the action packed video from my wrecked phone, (fell into some poolish a while back).

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I finally wanted to bake an ash-flour pizza with a truly Roman flavor profile of anchovy, tomato and garlic. I used salt-cured Sicilian as well as white anchovies as well as some sliced garlic and San Marzano sauce.

 

All I can say now is that these pizza really rock! Thank  you Pivetti and Antonio and Alberto! Now I am going to try to replicate this dough with charred speltberries. (More on that later).