Posts Tagged ‘Italian Pizza’

Insider Baking, Summer 2014

IMG_2578iii My definition of insanity is to make the same pizzas and breads with the same recipes and the same ingredients in the same oven for years and years and years!

Even the glory of a “authentic” wood-fired bake, the prospect of bakers asthma, and the accolades of being a true “Artisan” by smarmy award-winning bloggers and critics isn’t much of a turn-on. That’s why nine years ago, I decided to do a professional zig-zag by baking some amazing bread and pizza-bread variants. (I call them “varmints” because that’s what some old guy thought I said whilst I was referring to my bread “variants”… and I like it better.)

The schiacciata above is made with a dough at 55 percent hydration, ramp pesto topped with La Grande Ruota, “Fioretto” fine polenta, roasted fingerling tips and finished with white truffle.) So, as I started the “Zig”….and just kept zigging along with breads stuffed with ribs, garlic pudding and even other breads that I have recorded in this fantastic pizza blog. Every once in a while, I do ‘zag” and feature some northern Italian pizza recipes, southern Italian pizza recipes, fruit pizza recipes, pizza dough recipes and just plain every topping under the sun but now… I present to you my pizza and bread “Varmints” I’ve been making this summer.

 

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Above are two “Cornetti” which are over 80 percent hydrated and aged for three to four days under refrigeration. The left is a vegan variety stuffed with a cashew-tahini-sweet miso pudding, fresh spinach, Peruvian purple potato, roasted beetroot at carrot and baked at 700 degrees. On the right is a cornetti stuffed with gruyere, broccoli roasted beetroot, kohlrabi, and fresh spinach. It was cooked at 550 degrees and spinkled with sesame.

 

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Here’s a good look at a long tall sally of bread using beetroot again. This fougasse has a great sweet and spicy flavor profile of mango and some mid-summer ancho chilies that I roasted for a spicier, charred effect.

 

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Because it is summer, the heirloom tomatoes keep coming. I try to bake them on pizza but because of their juiciness, I prefer a low-highdrated dough like this fifty percent hydration dough. These are German Pink, Carolina Gold and Mr. Stipey heirlooms with fresh spinach and authentic English Stilton. Massive food love!

 

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And while we are on the subject of beets in bread… here is a fougasse that I have paired with some great Amish carrot and my homemade mustard seed caviar.

 

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This balzy combination of Italian polenta and toasted pine nuts is on a vegan schiacciata with all my loves; toasted pignoli polenta, roasted fingerling potatoes, oven dried tomato, (tomato confit) and a nice slurry of ramp pesto from this spring. All the lusciousness of a princess with the intense sweet and tang of a WWF wrestler.

 

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Here is fluer di lie in the style of a Turkish pide of dried pear, cinnamon, pecan and blueberry with a balsamic-blueberry glaze, all in a local spelt bread.

 

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Here’s what a 85 percent hydrated, naturally yeasted dough bakes up to after almost four days under cold fermentation. I baked these schiacciata at 630 degrees with a fabulous topping of fresh spinach, Shiitake, portobello, porcini, cremini and button mushrooms, Fontina, (DOP) and Teleggio, (DOP), there is Parmigiano Reggiano underneath and I topped this after the oven with white truffle oil and a killer balsamic glaze.

 

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I’ve been using sprouted grains and legumes in my breads for years now but none is better than the Puy, or Green French Lentil because it sprouts fast and has a fantastic toasty, savory quality in breads. Here I did a crescent shaped fougasse filled with the sprouted lentils, local King Family Bacon, Amish carrots from Chesterhill, Ohio, what a great combo!

 

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I love working with 80 percent hydration dough and even higher. Above left is a vegan schiacciata with a pudding made with raw cashews, tahini and sweet miso and on top of this is vanilla-cinnamon roasted butternut squash, beet and carrot. On the right is a crazy-delicious schiacciata of curry roasted sweet onion, fire roasted corn, re-hydrated raison and topped with Gruyere cheese.

 

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Now for some less hydrated Mediterranean breads. This is Man’oush bi Za’atar, a quick baking flatbread with the brownish Za’atar from Aleppo (left pic, left on bread) featuring a sweet cumin, anise taste and (right on the same bread) is a za’atar from a Palestinian woman’s cooperative with that great thyme, sumac tingle of a green za’atar.

 

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This simple schiacciata takes advantage of these candy-like cherry tomatoes that farmers are practically giving away now. I paired it with some aged mozzarella and provolone, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil with coarse Trapani sea salt.

 

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Above is a celery, leek and ham disc with calabrian chilies and whole roasted cumin seed.

 

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This pizza will blow your face off and send your intestines to the old folks home before puberty. I used some summer habenero’s and Calabrian chilies and made a paste with San Marzano pizza sauce and some aged mozzarella and provolone and topped with a pickled jalepeno. My customers said this is hotter than my ghost chili pie. (go figure)

 

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This is my sea salt and herb fougasse that Joel Fair and I make deep into the night. It is our customers most favorite; an airy and savory treat.

 

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What to do with a boatload of local okra? This time I pickled it then paired it with balsamic caramelized onion and Gruyere on this schiacciata.

 

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This fougasse I call the Purple People Eater. She is a sweet and spicy charmer with chipotle roasted onion and dried blueberry!

 

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Above is a mix of cashew, Cowdery Farms ‘Cherry Bomb’ chilies, cilantro and dried papaya that made this spectacular bent fougasse, (right) very popular.

 

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last week, I was back on the beet with 40 pounds of this purple gem so I killed it with a vegetarian schiacciata topped with fingerlings, roasted Amish Brussel sprouts and beetroot on top of Italian polenta and English Stilton.

 

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Here is a crunchy, airy ciabatta. I have been experimenting with this loaf for years and love those large, irregular cells produced from natural fermentation and a long proofing time followed by high heat.

 

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We can never forget to bake hundreds of baguettes each week. The crunch, the airy crumb and light digestibility make these a crowd pleaser. Torrey cooked these and has become a real master.

 

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I made a cool split batard with this loaf of dried peaches, cinnamon, pecan all nestled in local spelt milled here in town by Shagbark milling.

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Above is a fingerling potato disc with some quick dill pickles I made from Cowdery farms cukes, sun-dried tomato, onion, dill, Asiago and local cheddar curd.

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This dual-holed fougasse contains our old friend the sprouted Puy lentel, this time paired with roasted leek, bacon and roasted celery, key lime zest, cumin and key lime slices. Very Bright!

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Joel Fair, Torrey and I did a special event this summer called Bounty on the Bricks which was a tremendous effort by the Athens Foundation to help local food pantries. Master Chef Alfonso Constriciani and all the Professors and Chefs at Hocking College put on a great dinner featuring our Epi rolls, (above left) and some airy Fontina bombes. The event was a success with thousands of dollars donated to the pantries.

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On top of lots of airy breads with high hydration, I back a lot of these Afghan Snowshoe Na’an that feature, horseradish Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh dill and lemon zest.

 

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I just realized that this post is huge and I have so much other “Varmints” to highlight but I have to go…bake. I’ll leave you with a delicious ciabatta topped with Nutella and banana and a pizza box made by a customer. Remember, don’t eat that yellow snow!

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“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.