Archive for the ‘Pizza Recipes’ Category

Steely Pan; Naturally Leavened Sourdough Pizza!

jan 2015ii 098iiiii

“The spore is in the wind tonight, you won’t feel it til it grows.” – Steely Dan, Rose Darling

Sourdough has been around as long as that small bacterial spore of lactobacilli landed in someones porridge that was left to ferment in some warm place. The ancient Egyptians coaxed the flavor from milled grain and water to make their breads and the Greeks used basil leaves to create the starter for their traditional sourdough.  This bread product has a long history of bakers, pundits and scientists dissecting the types of bacteria that make great sourdough but the basic premise is that sourdough is long fermentation of dough containing natural lactobacilli and yeasts. Like the yeasts, the weaker lactic acids and stronger acetic acids ferment some of the sugars and create carbon dioxide gasses. Acetic acids contribute to the wonderful flavor in this dough as the sour taste. The carbon dioxide pushes against the gluten net forming the cell structure of the finished product.

 

January 2015 862tt                 Picture1

I’ve been working with sourdough breads and pizzas for 12 years now using straight natural starters as well as old dough, levain, biga, poolish and commercial yeast and any/every combination there is. I’ve found through massive fails and celebratory bakes that there is no single way to produce a fabulous bread or pizza dough. It all depends on time, temperature, flour, yeast, ovens, moisture and for me, what level of finesse my customers expect from me. Above left are the boule and above right the long, naturally fermented Pizza al Metro with fresh spinach, basil, Valoroso tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with ramp pesto and chorizo meatballs.

 

baking in late may 065iixxx

It takes a certain type of confidence in nature as well as a boatload of patience to not only make but especially to sell  naturally-leavened sourdough pizzas. The time involved in coaxing the dough to optimum sourness is just one aspect making a great sourdough pizza. The technique involved in mixing, holding, forming, panning, proofing, par-baking, baking, cooling and serving is hard to explain to a cost-complaining customer who wants their pizza fast but also to heavy handed employees with other things on his mind. The intricate nature of making a great pan pizza is hard but the reward is in the smile achieved each and every time that beautiful square gets coaxed from the steel pan with its bark riding high.

 

oct-2011-082iiiii

 

I have found in my very unprofessional experiments that I can get a better, more sour flavor from the acetic acids by having a 60 to 70 percent hydration level as compared to a more hydrated dough. As with my starter, it is derived from wild yeasts from the Dolomite Mountains of Italy which can tolerate more acidity than commercial yeasts. I’ve refreshed it every other day because the lower hydration (more like a wet biga or sloshy levain) enables the yeasts to eat slower. I do not use commercial yeast in the sourdough, only the starter, salt and water. The key to all this becoming a great bread and pizza is time and temperature. My baker Torrey Evans has also perfected the sourdough process and does it very well producing hundreds of crispy sourdough boules and batards and baguettes each week.

Here we go.

jan 2015ii 018ii jan 2015ii 019ii

This is a steel pan. Some jamokes in Detroit call these.. ‘Detroit Steel Pans’ but most of mine were made in Pennsylvania.  Nonetheless, they can be found anywhere and everywhere. They are fantastic for baking a great deep dish pizza in. First though, they need to be seasoned. Seasoning is the black coating of carbon on the inside and outside of every steel pan as it produces a better, more intense bake for any dough’s that are encapsulated in it. To season the pan, wipe with a very thin coating of oil. Vegetable oil seems to work best. Then cook the empty pan at high temperatures, (we prefer 550-600) but look out, the pan will smoke something fierce. Do this a few, maybe ten times for a deep, dark, black sheen of carbon on the steel and you are in business.  To bake a pizza, add a coating of good extra virgin olive oil in the cooled pan and you are ready to make a great pizza.

 

jan 2015ii 015ii jan 2015ii 021ii

For this pizza, I used a 30 ounce dough made from Manitoba hard wheat flour and a starter of local Amish spelt and 14 percent protein flour. It was cold fermented for over three days and had a hydration level of 65 percent.

 

jan 2015ii 023ii jan 2015ii 026ii

Taking the dough while still cold, I formed a square on a stainless steel table. Because the dough was cold, I was assured I wouldn’t do any damage to the gluten net that would have already formed (by the rise produced by the yeast) if I had let the dough proof in the warm air. I pulled the corners to accommodate the pan.

 

jan 2015ii 027ii jan 2015ii 029ii

Then I used Corto olive oil made by my friends, the Cortopassi’s of Stanislaus Tomato Company fame. These guys are as psycho about quality as I am and I switched to their olive oil because simply, it is the best. After stretching, I used my fingertips to “dopple” the dough. This bears down on every internal part of the pizza making sure that a single mega-bubble of carbon dioxide will not blow up in the dough when I bake it.

 

jan 2015ii 063ii jan 2015ii 064iii

After covering with plastic wrap I set this pizza near my oven in 70 to 75 degrees to proof for an amazing nine hours. Because I am using natural yeasts that are converting sugars to carbon dioxide in a high-protein environment, the proof is warm, slow and steady. This gives time for the lactic acid as well as the acetic acids both time to thrive on the sugars. Both will create the carbon dioxide that will fill the high-protein gluten net creating the rise in this pan. The sides of the pan will push the cell structures toward the middle of the pan in a small hump. (Note- if I was to try to ‘correct’ the pizza now by sticking my fingers, a spatula or even a small knife near the edges or sides of this proofed pizza, I would ruin it by displacing the gasses and letting some excape creating a dropped or bowed effect anywhere I touched….leave it alone!)

 

jan 2015ii 068ii jan 2015ii 067ii

To create a level top to the pizza, I use an old technique of putting a hard-aged cheese around the side of the steel pan. Here I spread a few ounces of aged Asiago. This will act as a glue to keep the dough pushed against the side of the pan in my 550 degree deck oven.

 

jan 2015ii 069ii jan 2015ii 070ii

Before par cooking, I put  some aged mozzarella all over the sides and top to help hold the dough down as it hits the heat of my hot oven.

 

jan 2015ii 074ii jan 2015ii 075ii

As you can see, after 12 to 15 minutes in a 550 degree oven, the area that I left bare of cheese “popped” up tremendously. Still, the Asiago glued to the side of the pan and held the pizza together. If I hadn’t done this the pizza would look like a mountain.

 

jan 2015ii 076ii jan 2015ii 077ii

I let the pie cool for five minutes then topped with more aged mozzarella and provolone and some natural casing pepperoni that will ooze out some glorious juices cooking under the cheese.

 

jan 2015ii 078ii jan 2015ii 081ii

I then returned the pizza back to the oven for the final bake, (12-20 minutes should do it, just remember, you have to cook the interior of the pizza dough, there is nothing worse than cutting into a pan pizza and finding dough- this is why I use a long proof time.) I’m crying now….it is a thing of beauty!

 

jan 2015ii 086ii jan 2015ii 087iixx

I let the pizza sit for at least seven minutes to set the bark along the edges. The key to any sourdough pizza in my neck of the woods is to have a bark that is intact and not fallen down by taking out of the pan too soon. I topped this with some crushed Stanislaus pear tomatoes and some local Snowville Crème Fraiche mixed with just a touch of ricotta as well as some chopped fresh basil.

 

jan 2015ii 095ii jan 2015ii 105ii

I suggest leaving the pizza intact just to gloat at the magnificent thing of beauty you have created.

 

jan 2015ii 104ii jan 2015ii 093ii

Then slice away and pig out on the crunchy corners first saying to yourself, “All good sourdough comes to dems dat wait.” Amen!

 

 

 

 

Guanciale; The Chuck Norris of Pizza Toppings

march 2014 150tt

Pizza is Americas food, that’s a fact. On the thousands of pies my business makes each year, a massive portion of my customers have chosen bacon as a topping. The word itself sends middle-aged, pre-heart-attack victims like myself into a frenzy because the thought of that smoky, melting fat atop a slippery glacier of melting mozzarella is the stuff of dreams. It is hard to mimic or turn anyone away from the thought of crunchy, porcine goodness but there is another, more silky alternative to that streaky belly fat: Enter Guanciale; the jowl or cheek cut from the face of the pig!

 

march 2014 421ii

 

Above is some awesome Red Wattle, (heritage breed pork) guanciale that I cured with a long crisp Spanish syle Coca crust, Teleggio (an Italian Alpine cheese)  roasted celery root, fresh basil and killer Bosc pears grown by Neal Cherry in Crooksville, Ohio that I have citrus-pickled.

 

Because of my inherent shallowness, I interpret the relationship of smoked pork belly fat vs. unsmoked pork facial fat as that of Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris. Bruce was the king of Kung Fu and, just like bacon, he was my hero when I gazed upon him kicking the shit out of bad guys on Green Hornet. Chuck was another bad ass (after Bruce had broken the martial arts-as-entertainment barrier) that transformed his talent in that memorable movie, Good Guys Wear Black. Both of these guys amazed and rocked my world just like bacon and jowl, unfortunately, Bruce is gone but Chuck Norris can split the atom with his bare hands! So lets make some guanciale!

 

guan3 guan5

 

First, let’s start with a pork cheek from your local butcher or pig farmer. An excellent butcher can give you a skin-on cut that extends from the cheek down to shoulder, (like above, which I love). I trim any and all glands I find. They are soft, greyish and are easily distinguishable from fat like the cut above with a gland in the middle of the jowl. I also cut the cheek in two to help with the cure but I always leave the skin on. The pork “cheek meat” or oyster may still be left on the face. It is a roundish hunk of flesh that most butchers cut off to expedite the curing process but if you are lucky enough to have this wonderful piece on, just leave it.

 

guan2

 

To cure the guanciale, take a cup of course sea salt and vigorously rub the meat all over. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then in a large plastic bag without any air in it. Refrigerate for two days. Many people say to weigh the jowl down but I leave it alone because I don’t need a uniform piece of jowl. Just a thick slice of that porky goodness that will melt on a pizza.

After the two days, re-rub the jowl. You may have some juices to get rid of also. Re-wrap and set in refrigerator for one or two more days, depending upon how salty you want the jowl.

 

guan1 guan020iii

 

On the last day, rinse all the salt off and dry the jowl completely. I like to immerse the jowl in a baggy of white wine for an hour before drying again, (I like what the fruit does to the fat) then I rub like a madman with cracked peppercorns, roasted fennel seeds, roasted cumin seeds and rosemary that has been whipped up in my spice blender. (This is where puristas and me part company.) Because I am melting this flesh on a pizza, I want as much nuanced flavor to come out of this fat as possible, so I give a great shiatsu massage to this pork with strong spice and less salt. Yum.

 

guan6 guan7

 

There are many ways to hang your cheek in the drying chamber. The best chamber to use is a white wine cooler that you can buy for under $300 clams. Just set the temperature for 55-60  and place a bowl of salted water at the bottom because your curing will need some moisture. The fan on these wine cabinets offers enough airflow to complete a good cure. (Optimum cure temperature is between 55 and 65 degrees with a humidity of 70 percent.) The first way is to wrap in a double layer of cheesecloth and tie with twine this will keep any herbs and spices in place but still able to breathe. The other way is to wrap the cheek in the herbs and use plastic wrap to force the spices and herbs in place then unwrap the plastic and remove before tying. Both of these have worked for me.

 

late summer 2014 290tt late summer 2014 292iii

 

Tie the guanciale up for four to five weeks or until it loses 30 percent of their bulk.

 

guan11 2014 nov, pics 248tt

I’m tellin’ you… on that day that you go to your chamber and remove the guanciale, it’ll feel like your birthday. After wiping off some or all of the spice, get a sharp knife and cut the skin off. Any mold that is white is okay, any other mold is a concern. If you encounter any mold, wipe with vinegar until it comes off.

 

guan9 guan10

 

Then place the thin slice on your tongue and wait for the gorgeous melt to happen. Man oh man, if Chuck Norris wasn’t so fucking weird now, you’d be tempted to invite him over for some guanciale and a bowl full of nails.

guan12 guan13

Above left is a Pizza Romana baked at 700 degrees with caramelized shallots, chevre, beets and local cheddar curd or for another magnificent flavor profile, above right is a knotted Turkish Pide with fresh local blackberries atop guanciale, aged mozzarella, provolone, fresh spinach and topped off with maple syrup.

sept 2012 058iii

Or, if you have the guts, you can make a killer schiacciata with Stilton, walnuts and pear with that crisp melting guanciale taking it’s final bow for now!