Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ 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!

 

 

 

 

Winter Wonderland of Baking

 

January 2015 885tt

Sometimes inspiration comes at the weirdest times. This last weekend, I decided to bake my ass off again just to ward off the winter doldrums. The weather was forecast to rise to a whopping forty degrees which in Ohio terms is beach weather.  During the week, I foraged for all the fodder I would need to make some great pizzas and breads. Joel Fair and Torrey Evans got the ball rolling to make some killer dough for the Athens Farmers Market and at eleven on Friday night the baking began.

January 2015 894tt January 2015 866tt

First order of business was to collect all the frozen chilies that were thrust upon me from various farmers this summer. This is a moment of the greatest questioning in my pizzeria; “Does this look like a Ghost or a Hab?” says I. “I don’t know?” says Torrey. “Fuck it, how’s about I toss six of dem in this mix?” says I. “Sounds good to me.” Torrey responds laughing and shaking his head, (He is my ‘hot-as-hell-sauce-taste-tester’.) This weeks ‘Beelzebub’ pizza had the following chilies in the sauce: Paper Lantern, Fatalli, Red Habenero, Pickled Jalepeno, Red Jalepeno, Green Ancho and those lovely little Ghosties swimming in our organic tomato sauce with roasted garlic and a little red onion. Then I blasted out some thin pizza crust and topped the pizza with some Asiago Cheese and a few pickled cayenne peppers.

January 2015 876tt January 2015 873tt

This week I was also particularly proud not only of the fabulous local spelt dough that Torrey made but that I could use it to make some fabulous vegan Napoletana pizzas. Here I topped the spelt with filets of San Marzano tomatoes, (DOP), fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, Trapani sea salt and a vegan mozzarella cheese that I have been working on for a very, long time. I baked these babies at 650 degrees. (You know you’re a pizza psycho when you just stare at the melt from any given cheese…like I did all weekend!)

January 2015 867ttt January 2015 893tt

On the same spelt crust (Grown only 20 miles away and milled in our town by Shagbark Milling) I spread a bright San Marzano sauce then made a spoke with local polenta with pine nuts. This was finished off with another pickled pepper and local arugula from Green Edge Gardens. (Upper left). On the right I made a Cornetta with fresh spinach, curry-roasted cauliflower with macerated cashews and macadamia nuts and finished off with vegan mozzarella and roasted red peppers.

January 2015 856tt January 2015 869tt

I also made my favorite. I call it a “Scaletta” with ciabatta dough in which I slice and impregnated with Calabrian Chilies, Castelvetrano olives and local King Family Bacon.

January 2015 860tt January 2015 879tt

And last but not least, was a Turkish style Pide made with local spelt that was topped with a roasted garlic pudding, roasted leek and then local Yukon gold and rose potatoes.

January 2015 855tt January 2015 862tt

 

So, along with some killer sourdough boule, mushroom schiacciata, baguette and several types of fougasse, we were off to the races. Below is a video of our repertoire. I may seem a little out of it because I had to set everything up in 20 degree weather grumbling the whole while about my lousy little baking life…which I love!