Last week I made a batch of bread and filled the dough with King Family Farms Bacon, Patterson ancho chili’s, fresh cilantro and some gnarly Jeruselem artichokes, (sunchokes,) that one of my favorite organic farmers, Ed Perkins dug up for me. I was proud to create a bread like this with such stellar local ingredients grown by great people.
I cut the ancho peppers and added them to a pan with whole strips of bacon and passed them through my 475 degree pizza oven for nine minutes, then I added the sunchokes for another nine minutes after cutting them in large chunks and holding them in lemon water so they wouldn’t turn brown. I had to be careful to not cook the chokes too much or they would turn to mush.
The fougasse I made after letting this dough mature for 26 hours. I then egg washed the dough, cut and formed the dough and let it proof for another hour before firing it up in my conveyor pizza ovens while smiling my fleshy, old man smile as these beauties came out, (above.)
For my pizza lunch, I cut a nine-ounce piece of the dough right after mixing and let it proof in a ball for two hours, (really not enough time for a great dough, but I had mixed 30 pecent flour with a 70 percent pre-ferment so it was maturing fast.) I pressed the dough out gently into a a football shaped schiacciata, (literally means, “flattened” in Italian) then topped it with a light coating of San Marzano tomato sauce, baby spinach and extra virgin olive oil. I baked it in a 475 degree oven for 12 minutes and…
This is what the leapording looked like on the bottom. The cell structure in the dough is small but irregular and because it is so young, the gluten has yet to wrap around the incorporated ingredients.
The oil from the bacon and chilies takes more than twenty four hours to get integrated into the dough, otherwise it looks like this, (above.) Although it wasn’t an “Epic Fail,” it could have been a much more mature integrated pizza dough.
I gobbled it up with glee nonetheless. The feeling of expectation when I bite into a pizza crust that is filled with chilies, sunchokes, cilantro and bacon is enough to make me happy for at least a few hours until the next small business crisis occurs.
I have found that to raise a hearty strain of wild yeast as fast as possible from the environmnet without other contaminants takes about four to five days. Just use fruit and filtered water and wash your hands before handling either.
Maturation of a natural starter is a wait-and-see effort. But the starter is only the beginning. It can take up to 20 days of feeding for a strong, fragrant and relevant mother to take hold. (why 20 you idiot?? I can do it in…) When you take your time and don’t push things, your starter will respond better.
I bake hundreds of breads each week and, like kids at differing stages of development, these large plastic bins with goo made from my starters start to talk to me. Some scream for attention early,(i.e. they need a nice bake in the oven.) Others are more mellow and coast for a long period before displaying the fruity, aggressive gas and enzematic activity associated with a great pre-ferment. I’ve even screamed at my staff, ”Who put the fruit juice in with this starter?” and, after finding out that it had naturally evolved into this wonderful floral goo, felt like a dad who watching his kid kick some ass at a wrestling match.
I use a cold-maturation for my pre-ferments. This enables the yeasts to activate slower and I think, because I am using old grains like spelt, coaxes more flavor out of the whole grains. Thus, when I plan to bake, (which is every day.) I start a by feeding spelt and high protein flours to my pre-ferment that was made with the natural mother (10 pecent starter to 90 percent high gluten flour spelt and water. Then I feed twice a day for a week with the dough near the pizza ovens, (60-75 degrees.) I throw out or recycle 80 percent of the preferment and add another 80 percent flour and water, mixing with my hands. At this temp, the yeast is in it’s perfect environment to eat, eat, eat, then turn to an almost lifeless soup. After the week, I mix one more time and retard the pre ferment in my walk-in for a much needed rest for a few days.
For bake day, I take my pre ferment out for about five hours. My initial mix starts with the “Autolyse” method of mixing just the flour and water in a Stephan VCM (vertical-cutter-mixer… and yes, this is appalling to most “serious” bakers but…the hell with them- you gotta work with what you got!) I wait about 25 minutes to mix the yeast and salt in. This process greatly enhances the gluten net.
I sometimes use a small amount of diastatic malt from Ohio’s Berry Farms and salt with a hydration of either 40 to 60 pecent depending upon what I am baking. I also use a Pate’ Fermentee, or old dough to the mix. The little bit of malt helps with the overall taste and resulting crust as my dough retards in a cold environment for 12 to sometimes over 48 hours before baking. After this fast mix for up to three whole minutes, I bench the mix for a rest using the windowpane test
Just remember, you learn better from mistakes than from perfection and if you really mess things up, just lie and tell your guests its a “rustic” bread recipe from a lost Celtic tribe off the coast of Idaho. Just don’t blame me, I’m just a goon. Here’s a video of this pizza bianca with a killer topping.
Here is the recipe for the cilantro topping:
These were the Na’an that I attempted. The cilantro topping was great but the dough suc…errrr… didn’t quite meet my expectations.
1 red ancho chili
5 cloves garlic
One bunch cilantro
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Place all in a blender, food processor or bowl with an immersion blender and blend together. Hold under refrigeration to let flavors meld for four hours or longer. Place on Pizza Bianca as shown in video