Posts Tagged ‘avalanche’

Loaf Vadar and Dark Side of Baking

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This  year brought a lot of new and different pizzas and breads to my neck of the woods. For some insane reason I’ve found a particular enjoyment in circumventing conventional baking wisdom and over the years have embraced what another traditional baker has called “the gluten dark side.”  It’s taken years to let nature and circumstance drive my baking and I now realize that the only people that give my efforts any relevance are my customers here in this small corner of Appalachia. I am not bound by inane recipes or tradition but by the seasons, my customers and what my farmer-friends grow. Most weeks I feel like “Loaf Vadar”, taking the culinary path less trodden.  I like it near the edge where true local flavor lies.

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In Athens, Ohio, we have the greatest farmers, ranchers and cheese makers in the country. These great folks are all my friends and I love buying local produce, meats and cheeses from them. This weekly spastic exercise is like a giant chefs basket challenge where the seasonal produce dictates my decisions as to what flavor profiles I can manipulate into cohesive deliciousness. I like to see how funky I can get to turn my customers on to the best damn baked products around by incorporating the best local stuff with great traditional meats and cheeses. (above- fresh celeriac from Shade River Farms and Tat Soi from Barrel Ridge Farms.)

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I  love to use wonderful “Agra dolce” or sweet and sour flavor profiles with old-world ingredients like the Stilton, Cherry Orchards pear and Serrano Ham “Cornetta” above and above top.

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Even Mr. Vadar has to have partners and here at Avalanche because besides being a high-volume pizzeria in a college town, we bake massive amounts of breads every week.  I had lots of  help, mentorship and advice from Joel Fair, Torrey, Dane, Dave and so many other this late summer and into November who constantly brought new ideas and techniques to work on. Lets take a tour.

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Whilst baking, I have plenty of time to bang out some righteous pies using different hydration, flours, temperature and fermentation times. Above left is a very nice “Green Tomato Margherita”, the concept of which I totally ripped off from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery and Co. It is made with Gibson Ridge Farms green tomato sauce, fresh fiore di latte mozzarella, fresh basil and a dollop of San Marzano’s to stave off any traditionalists snarks. On the right is a straight shooter! Local Shagbark Seed and Mill spelt crust with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and roasted Rich Gardens organic Corolla potatoes with a little sprinkle of white truffle oil after the oven.

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“Slash and Burn” sourdough batards above are very cool looking, fun to bake at 600 degrees and even better to eat.

 

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This fougasse above features some bodacious French Breakfast radishes and fresh ginger grown by my friends at Green Edge Gardens atop a flatbread stuffed with Harmony Hollow ham, Ed Perkins’ fresh cilantro, and black and white sesame.

 

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This was a very Violet day at Avalanche. We stuffed local Integration Acres Feta in dough with Vest Farms Beets, Sassafras Farms dill for a killer fougasse called “Beet me in St. Louis” or “Can’t Beet This” or some other stupid name we come up with at 4 a.m. (Torrey, I miss you telling me how fucked-up the names sound- even though Dane does that now.)

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Pain Tordu, or twisted baguette on the left and some crimped and crispy pizzas on the right are also crowd faves.

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With the coming of the cooler weather, roots of all kinds are a smash hit. On the left are roasted and sliced Shade River organic celeriac and roasted white potatoes from the Chesterhill Produce Auction paired with Parmigiano Reggiano, toasted leek, house-cured Harmony Hallow Pancetta and crushed Castelvetrano olives. On the right is a wonderful combination of curried Vest Farms sweet potato, Gruyere, toasted pumkin seed and local parsley.

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I love making couronne. The large forty-ounce loaf on the left is made with a sixty-hour, cold fermented dough and is called the ‘Flintsone Wheel’ and Dane Salabak rolled some really cool aged mozzarella and provolone with basil pesto into some slitted couronne on the right. Delicious.

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Spanish Saffron is a delight, especially cooked in a moist, wheaty profile like these pizzettes. I made these using saffron, extra virgin olive oil and onions and kneaded into the dough. I aged these for two days in cold fermentation then topped with Manchego Cheese from La Manchia, a bombastic house-made chorizo and roasted Rich Farms Corolla potato.

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Not all pizza have to be round! This crunchy pizza (above) is my Vest Farms “Carrot Star” with Gruyere, Integration Acres chevre, roasted beet and sweet Toro peppers from Cowdery farms.

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I sell a lot of filled ladder bread like the Italian sausage, above left with onion, green pepper and poppy seed. A real fun fougasse that I made was this pork belly sunburst fougasse; cured pork belly sliced and baked with plenty of fresh Green Edge Gardens cilantro, corn, onion and topped with sunflower seeds.

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Above is my Pissalidiere New Style; Sicilian and Turkish white anchovies adorn this crisp olive oil crust with a scallion-basil-lemon pesto, Spanish Manchego Cheese, Cowdery Farms “Cherry Bomb” peppers roasted and filled with San Remo olive pesto, capers and finished with real Sardinian Bottarga!

 

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Using a technique to bring as much saffron flavor into dough, I’ve kneaded roasted onion into a very hydrated saffron dough and incorporated it into a Focaccia al Metro above. Kernza is a perennial wheat that is heralding the beginning of sustainable farming techniques that cut out tilling, (and thus erosion), chemical fertilizers, water and all the energy and oil involved with the stupid practice of re-planting seeds every year. It has a nice nuanced molasses flavor akin to pumpernickel.

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Dane really kicks ass with massive amounts of fresh ciabatta that he baked. This sandwich has Prosciutto di Parma, fresh arugula, roasted sweet peppers, roasted Portobello, brie and balsamic glaze with a little Parmigiano Reggiano.

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On the left, above is a fab Spanish style Coca with an organic potato-garlic puree, saffron onion, white beans and Manchego with roasted Cowdery Toro peppers and Spanish Boquerones or white anchovies and capers. On the right is our “Canoli-rita” with roasted Chesterhill roma tomato, fresh basil, Piave Vecchio and Parmigiano Reggiano. Wow!

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“Italian Stallion” stuffed fougasse above with sweet Soppressata, roasted garlic pudding, aged provolone, fresh spinach, roasted Vest Farms carrots and Yukon gold potatoes.

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Baguettes are one of the first things we make each and every morning, above left. Sometimes, (meaning always), I get a “wild hair” and fold in some cool shit to bake. Example- the Chinese Five-spiced batons stuffed with aged provolone, kimchi and rolled in toasted sesame. Major yum!

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Left above is a stellar “Agra Dolce” profile in a Turkish Pide style dough. This has Stilton, braised Shade River Organic endive, Adriatic fig jam and Marcona almonds.

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I am now experimenting with Kernza. This is a product made from the first harvested Kernza in Ohio with Parmigiano, fresh mozzarella, roasted Portobello’s, Prosciutto di Parma, balsamic glaze and a blast of white truffle oil.

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Above is my take on the traditional Slovakian Cabbage Bread. I took some radical Shade River Organic purple cabbage and Shews Orchard Granny Smith apples, roasted both with caraway and kneaded, baked and sold all 28 of them in under an hour. (I think it was the freaky scales that did it!)

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I love stuffed breads so I had to do my version of a traditional Casatiello di Napoletana. This is with Parmigiano Reggiano, roasted Cowdery Farms roma tomato, Prosciutto di Parma, Genoa salami, fresh basil and Fiore di Latte curd. What a killer bread- sure to show your “O” face while eating this baby!

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We tie a lot of gluten at Avalanche. many knots appear on our Turkish style Pide like the (above left) “Berry Me in Bacon” with King Family bacon, fresh blueberries, aged provolone and Coonskin Sugarbush Maple Syrup. On the right is another long, crisp Spanish style Coca with cured pork belly, Manchego cheese, saffron onions, Stanislaus Valorosso tomato, fresh spinach and basil.

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These Chinese style Shao Bing crackers we served with our vegan boxes. toasted sesame oil with seeds folded over and over. Speaking of folding, above right is our “Gorrilla Bread”, cinnamon, vanilla, maple and a nice steamed, sweet pull of….sweet, sweet bread!

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Above left we baked Tavola da Surf. These surfboards rock with local Shagbark Seed and Mill polenta, roasted Rich Gardens fingerling potato and Cowdery farms potato-garlic pudding-stuffed cherry bomb peppers along with corn. Above right is some knotted pide with the same garlic pudding, Chesterhill pattypan squash and a dandy sweet puree of Cowdery Farms finest sweet peppers!

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I took a real walk on the wild side with this “Ribread”. Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried this cabbage, Gruyere and baby back masterpiece!

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Asian flavors in bread are not commonplace but my customers love the flavor profile so I continue to make this long tall fougasse, (above left.) It is toasted sesame, local Green Edge Gardens ginger, fresh basil and lemon- the smell as these pop from the oven is alluringly heaven-like. On  the right is our Shagbark Seed and Mill spelt couronne using local spelt grown only 20 miles away by the Amish. It features dried Michigan cherries and walnuts.

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For a great filling dessert type bread, I also make a Lebanese Sukkar bi Tahin. Sweetened tahini rolled in high protein flour then coiled, baked and either topped with almond and maple syrup or a maple poached Cherry Orchard pear.

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So that’s it folks, I hope you can make a few of these delights for your customers or family and friends. I’ll post a video we made last week with more baked goods.

And remember all you freaky traditionalists, if you’re not having fun with food, get a life and join the dark side.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face!”

 

Mike Tyson really had that one right. It seems he might have owned a busy pizzeria or bakery because try as I might, I just can’t seem to stay on track as indicated by my weekly menu above. Last week, I dumped all the photo’s I have from my dough-encrusted iphone and realized I really have no plan and no clue. This is the reason why I am always experimenting with foods. Some are winners, some lose and some just weird. Here they are.

Much of the stuff that I bake hasn’t gotten documented on this blog and usually gets gobbled up fast by my fabulous customers like the wonderfully hydrated pizza bianca crumb above!

 

Then there is the Tuscan Crema Paradiso, a ground-up combination of pancetta, white wine vinegar, pepper, rosemary and garlic. Please go here to Pizza Today for the recipe. This little paste used in moderation is the bomb. That’s TWO B’s for Bacon Baby!

 

Now lets progress to the meter-long Turkish Pide, (PI-DAY). Here I have some fabulous parsnip and carrot pide’s with aged provolone and basil pesto and cherry tomatoes.

 

I believe this year marks number four into my obsession with highly hydrated doughs like the teglia, (pan) pizzas left. I love to proof them, par cook them, top them like this one on the right. I salt-cooked the local white raddichio then added finely chopped Calabrian Chilies, shaved turnip, spring onion and kohlrabi to it and tossed it with a smidge of white balsamico for an Italian-style kimchi that macerated for two days. At bake time, I topped the long pizza with mozzarella and some great aged Taleggio and some meatballs made from local King Family pork.

Speaking of white radicchio, my friend, Rick Vest of Vest berries grew this great “Pan di Zucchero”, or sugar loaf radicchio that I wrapped around some local Shagbark Milling polenta that I cooked with ricotta, parmesan and sun-dried tomatoes. I cooled the logs and wrapped the polenta in some quick-shocked sugar loaf then I wrapped the logs tight and set overnight.

The next day, I took the inner core of each sugarloaf radicchio and tossed them with a slurry of anchovy and freshly ground garlic with blended with copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil and lots of lemon juice, (channel Bagna Caulda). I passed them into my pizza oven at 474 degrees until the smell made me cry in anticipation of eating this glorious crunchy heaven. Then I made some schiacciata with 70 percent hydrated dough that had been cold-fermented for three days topped with the tender outer leaves of the sugarloaf with sauteed local apples from Neil Cherry’s orhard, and some freshly shredded Asiago cheese. When done, I placed the polenta roulade on each schiacciata.

 

Speaking of my first love…it has to be my “Flinstone Wheel”, I think of each loaf as a child of mine. Check out the bark on these…deep, dark and crunchy with a creamy crumb from high hydrated, 80-hour cold fermentation and blasted in a steamy 570 degrees…simply the best…well, except the “Leek a Choke” fougasse that I make with roasted leeks, artichoke and Parmesan cheese kneaded into a high protein flour and cold fermented also.

Speaking of meat that I have made this year; on the left are the chorizo meatballs that I just love. I use smoked paprika, cilantro, onion, egg, cooked cornicione, basil, garlic, pepper and local King Family Pork. In the middle is the crunchy orgasmic flavor bomb of a dried Prosciutto di Parma chip. Check out the veins of salt! This is my secret. On the right is a curry meatball that brings the flavors of India blasting onto a pizza! I usually use Gruyere cheese, curried cauliflower, spinach, onion, beans and paneer on a pizza with this meatball…(the secret here is a little bit of cinnamon.)

Don’t forget the simple but fragrant Emmental and Local Harmony Hollow ham schiacciata or the brioche schiacciata with nutella, almond pudding and banana.

Two succsessful fermentation projects I undertook were the “kimchied” apples and pears at left and the kimchied kale stems. I held both for four months in a Kimchi brine. The apple made a great sweet/salty spice to salads and the kale stems was fab in a salsa with japapeno’s and cilantro with a chiffonade of kholrabi and turnip.

Feeling bored, I made some Gnudi that I once had in Florence. This mixture of blanched spinach, ricotta, parmesan and egg is simply balled up and boiled just like gnocchi till it is nice, warm and the egg has set.

Then I took these delectable balls of power and wrapped them in high protein pizza dough with our sauce from Avalanche and some shredded provolone and mozzarella and baked at 475 degrees until browned.

Then I put them on a pizza with some local King Family sausage for a fabulous combination of lumpliciousness.

Speaking of pizzas, here are two that sit atop an airy, proofed crust. On the left is a large Campo di Fiore pizza and a variant on one I had in Rome. This one has Pecorino Sardo down first, then  mozzarella, Peruvian purple potato and zucchini that has been tossed in egg and more pecorino then baked at 500 degrees and finished with ricotta fresca. On the right we go back to the new world for a Detroit Red-Top pizza. When par-cooking the proofed raw dough, I took a handful of aged white cheddar around the edges of these awesome heavy-gauge pans to act like glue so the dough stays close to the pan. Then with the final bake, the toppings are hidden under the cheese which forms a jagged, razor bark of flavor around the red sauce that sits on top.

Of course, the fun never ends here. I’ve learned never to let a jar of methylcellulose sit around too long with my young staff before the name gets changed. And also to never underestimate the power of a Christopher Walk-in!

Because we get whole, local wings and raw ground pork, I decided to take the chorizo meatball filling and fill a chicken wing with it by lifting up the skin carefully, stuffing and baking the bird part until crisp. Yes, fairly high-maintenance but talk about juicy!

I cannot talk about obsession without the word “baguette” coming up. Enough said. Luckily I now have a great baker in Jacob Seidel that makes the best around.

During the spring of this year, the Japanese cherry trees blasted giant pink puffballs around Athens. I decided to sneak into a neighbors yard and grab buds like the devil and run like hell. With these, I made “Sakura no Shiozake” or pickled cherry blossoms. I salted these until they sat in their own juice, then drained them and added rice wine vinegar and sugar. I then let them sit another week and a half until draining them and putting them into my dehydrator for a very light dry. When I needed them, I re-hydrated in water and popped ‘em on pizza for a great “wow” garnish.

Spring also brings in buckets of asparagus for my ricotta-whole grain mustard-parm-pistachio-asparagus-cheddar stuffed fougasse. (Freight-train writing intrigues me.)

My fave this year was the massive amounts of ramps I was able to pair with morels, asparagus and pizza!

Left is ramp pizza al metro, middle is a ramp-almond pesto pizza al metro and pizza Siciliana on the right.

 

Asparagus is fabulous on a croissant tart like above but lets not forget those deeply colored roots like the beets in what I call a “Tromba Paradiso” with fresh chevre, mandarin orange, mozzarella, walnuts and spinach.

I don’t want to beet this ingredient to death but because getting people to buy any food item is just like bass fishing, the colorful beetroot is to customers what the Texas-rigged plastic worm is to bass. Just look at the schiacciata I made with direct-method, (very young dough) and some local chevre, ramp pesto, spinach and those purple beauties!

 

I cannot seem to keep away from the pickle jar. On the left is Shiozuke, or Japanese salt-cured pickles that I squeezed then put to sleep in a blanket of red and sweet miso with chopped garlic. On the right was a great project of kimchifying Belgium endive. Both were stellar!

I also had four huge bags of daikon from the Amish in Chesterhill to pickle. Turned out nice also.

Finally, with my new oven, some steam and up to 670 degrees to work with, I baked into the sunset with my large Pizza al metro and the blistered heaven of a crusted boule. From there I left the States last summer for Europe…

…where I had some great foraging adventures with my greatest friend, Bruno di Fabio and a Dolomite mountain man named Farro! But more on that later.