Posts Tagged ‘Gutekanst’

Winter Wonderland of Baking

 

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

Guanciale; The Chuck Norris of Pizza Toppings

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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!

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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!