Posts Tagged ‘pizza bianca’

Cool Pizzas and Breads in February

Yea, it’s cold standing in a giant parking lot in February but as I monitored the weather channels over the past few days, I saw a window of opportunity this Saturday to bake some killer breads and pizza variants. I made the pan pizza (above) that was my ode to a pizza I saw at the Campo di Fiori in Rome, Italy. This pizza carried sliced zucchini and Peruvian purple potatoes tossed in egg and Parmesano and baked on a wonderfully creamy and crunchy Sicilian-style dough with an aged mozzarella and provolone.  The best part was the creamy Bellwether Farms Crescenza, from Sonoma County, California.  In spite of the cold weather, we sold out in a few hours. Thank you sunshine, farmer’s market customers, Avalanche General Manager Joel Fair, the staff and Laura for hanging out in the cold.


I recognize that my culinary efforts sometime skirt the realm of madness but I ignore it because the Italian kimchi I made (top left) was the BOMB! Just like Korean kimchi, I used the traditional combo of fish, garlic and chilies. My creation consisted of napa cabbage, roasted garlic, lemon zest, sun-dried tomato pesto, anchovies ground into a paste,  some excellent imported Calabrian chilies and oil for a great zing. I used King Family pork to make some fabulous meatballs (above middle) with chopped garlic, pizza cornicione breadcrumbs, red onion, rosemary, fennel seed, fresh basil, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. I made a a poolish on Tuesday of almost 100% hydration that spent the night in my mixer. On Wednsday morning, I mixed a Bianca dough with a high protein flour and 70% hydration using the autolyse method. See the gluten net as I tested the window pane (photo above right).


You may think this is high-maintenance but the glorious pizza these maddening combinations produced was spectacular! The Bianca dough came out great (above left) and I topped the dough with aged provolone and mozzarella, the Italian kimchi, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella for a big OMG! The pizzas sold out incredibly fast (above right). Man, you should’ve smelled these bad boys as they popped out!


Along with the above monstrosity, I had time to put together my favorite combo: Gruyere cheese and curry (above left). I roasted onions with curry powder and then added raisins to re-hydrate. I used a 16-ounce schiacciata dough topped with fresh spinach, the curry mix and imported Gruyere! Holy Moly is all I can say. I also made a smaller but equally potent schiacciata with a harder dough called “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Swiss” (above right). Ironically, this had absolutly no cheese made in Switzerland. The Finlandia Swiss and the stronger French Emmental paired with local ham, bacon and some shaved imported Serrano ham I just picked up.


The breads I made included the massive Flintstone Wheel (a Tortano-style uber-couronne, photo top left), my lebanese Barbari using local Amish spelt from Shagbark Milling and Seed with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and toasted cumin seeds (shown in the middle), and the sea salt and herb fougasse with extra virgin olive oil (above left).


I just love making ciabatta loaves! This weekend we made some large loaves (left) with a local spelt couronne studded with cherry and walnut. We also made a small ciabatta (middle) into two types of sandwiches: the first an imported Serrano ham from Spain with arugula, pistachio pesto, tomato and imported brie, and the second a Caprese sandwich with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato. I especially love looking at the crumb on ciabatta because of the irregular cells and the shiny gluten strands that indicate a killer loaf!


Last but not least is the always popular Leek-a-choke fougasse (above left) with leeks, artichoke and parmesan cheese. A very special fougasse I made this weekend included a Thai-inspired flair (above middle) and included pad Thai, roasted napa cabbage integrated with local peppered bacon, pickled local Amish daikon and tons of black and white sesame seeds. As the fougasse rested, I topped it with a four-month-old curried kimchi that I marinated in a Thai peanut sauce for three days. Man, talk about FLAVOR in capital letters!

Anyway, if you’re still with me and my mania, check out this video before the market at set-up time. I screwed up some introductions like saying ‘Fiore del campo” instead of Campo del Fiore and some other stuff but that’s what you get when an old man bakes all night. For those of you wondering, yes: my hands are sanitized.

Natural Yeast Pizza Bianca

     This Pizza Bianca is different from the 6-foot monsters made in Rome, Italy but tasty nonetheless. My staff and I ate the rest.

I promised to do a blog post about how to make pizza bianca and, I guess, this should be considered a “blomise.” After an earlier blog post on natural yeast, I’ve had alot of comments about the time it takes to obtain a strong enough levening agent to use in bread or pizza dough so… I’ve decided to combine the two.

 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

I hope you can learn some stuff from this but, just remember, I am just a pizza guy and baker who has pretty much learned by the seat of my pants, but if you want some books that are great, try Peter Reinharts “The Bread Bakers Apprentice” or “My Bread” by Jim Lahey, or “Tartine Bread.”

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.

2 Jalepeno’s

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