Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

Famous Joe Carlucci, Pizza Maniac

At the North American Pizza and Ice Cream Show this last weekend, I partook in the annual ritual of competing with some of the best pizza makers in the Midwest. In order to clear the air, let me just say that I took 40th spot in the Gourmet category. Yes, that’s FOUR-ZERO. My pizza choice was the tremendously popular Hot Tuna pie at Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio. Evidently it wasn’t tremendously popular with the judges in Columbus.

Not to worry. My friend and fellow pizza fanatic Joe Carlucci of Tortoras Pizza won with The Sydney in the traditional category on Sunday.

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Joe Carlucci with his winning pizza.

I hadn’t seen Joe since last year at the World Pizza Championships in Salsomaggiore, Italy. It was our final night at the five-star Hotel Valentini, and I had just lay down in my bed after an exciting yet rowdy party with my team, The World Pizza Champions. Brits, Irish and  Aussies had joined in the festivities (yes, a very bad combination for any club owner).

Hearing a noise, I opened my  door to see what the commotion was out in the hallway. My foggy eyes saw Joe gleefully jumping up and down, playing rowdy leapfrog down the hallway with the members of the Australian pizza team. They were adept in their hyper-hops along the padded carpet, with nary a miss. I asked if they could pick another hallway. Joe’s last word to me was an endearing, “Ribbitt.”

2009 pictures of italy 025 Joe making his Pizza Teglia at the World Pizza Championships in Italy, 2008.

Joe is to pizza what Willie Mays is to baseball. He’s often overlooked because of bigger, louder, and more aggressive celebrity chefs, pundits and artisan bread cretins shoving their way into the limelight. Joe still has the title from the Guinness Book of World Records for the Highest Pizza Dough Toss, when he threw a perfect round pizza dough 21.5 feet in the air. His competitive nature has propelled him to win numerous culinary as well as acrobatic awards, which is why he is one of the greatest pizza consultants around. But despite all the awards and accolaides, Joe still remains one of the kindest and best friends any pizza guy could have.

Monday, I was in a loser funk that floated around in my head like Badluck Schlep-rock after a failed attempt at pizza victory on Sunday. While standing around with my “L” tatoo newly imprinted on my forehead, Joe came by carrying 4 pans in large plastic bags. The dough in these pans was bloated to the point of looking like “The Blob” of Steve McQueen fame, only these blobs were white.)

“Holy Moly, Joe.” I sniffed the dough, smelling the familiar smell of long-fermentation similar to a mellow Scotch. “How long have you had this stuff fermenting?”

He looked around to see if anyone was listening, “Seven days with a pre-ferment. Wanna see me par-cook this stuff?”

I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Joe was using two specialized pans from the best custom panmaker in the nation, Lloyd Pans. These pans were seasoned to perfection and would transfer enough heat to turn any dough into a crisp golden brown.

“Looks good,” he continued. “Huh? Huh? Looks great John, huh?

“Yeah,” I said, pushing the now-crisp outside, feeling a great bounce back from the bread-like interior that makes a great Pizza Teglia. (This is a pan pizza process that we undergo at the World Pizza Championships in Italy.)

“You’d tell me if it wasn’t, huh? Huh, John? You would, right? Right?” Joe was rambling, trying to elicit an honest response from me by nagging. Little did he know, I’ve been married for too long to fall for that.

I smiled at the funny way in which this guy, who has won so many competitions, was still modestly demanding a second opinion. He was doing the same thing I do when reaching the finals: get a response from a friend. After all, every opinion from a team member is a good opinion.

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As Joe took his pizza to the table to top it with his ingredients, I asked him about his toppings. “Some sausage, tomatoes and onions and mozzarella.” he said flippantly. I knew this response well. Keep it simple, tell the truth, but not all the truth. Accidently leave the secrets out. For years Joe and I have had conversations like the following:

“Well Joe, that looks like Chorizo sausage,” I said, trying to sound insulted.

“Oh, yeah buddy, sorry. Sausage with paprika…that’s chorizo.”

“Those look like carmelized onions, Joe.”

“Oh yeah. Sorry John, it was a long night.”

“Did you oven-dry those tomatoes, Joe?”

“Ah, maybe…Oh, yes, it think they ended up in the oven. Yes.”

“What’s in that sauce?”

“Tomatoes…and stuff.” he said with finality and smiled. I threw my head back and laughed. Now that’s a competitor, I thought.

Here is a video of Joe’s final moments before submitting his pizza at the show.

And after the final bake, he made another pizza for the finals competition.

After congratulating Joe, I asked him for his recipe. He hasn’t responded. I don’t blame him, as I’m going up against him in Italy and Las Vegas soon. Contact him at Famous Joes and bug him, but don’t get your hopes up.

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Congratulations to Joe. Semper Pie!

Wheatless, Eggless, Gluten-Free Crusts

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A tremendous amount of people have varying degrees of wheat and gluten allergies now. Some folks whisper that the genetic make-up of modern grains is the culprit and, for the most part, they are right. Some, like myself, just want to accomodate people and their aversion to wheat and gluten because they will become my customers for life so I can buy new cars, politicians, pectorial implants and a “posse” to follow me around saying, “John, you are absolutely right on all counts!” (can you tell I’m married?).

At my little place called Avalanche Pizza Bakers, I’ve used a partially-cooked non-gluten, non-wheat pizza crust from Still Riding Pizza because I have too much wheat flour flying around my shop. Still Riding is run by Elizabeth Silverman, who supplies pizza goons like me with excellent non-gluten crust made (with egg) in a dedicated non-gluten facility. It comes in a sealed bag, ready for careful topping by us. We put alot of disclaimers on our packaging because we bake it in a pizza oven with other wheat things. People with wheat or gluten discomfort have given the crust rave reviews because finally, they can have pizza with the rest of their family.

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Now, however, I’m ready to delve deeper into the wheat/gluten arena and come up with my own crust for pizza and focaccia. In the 30 years I’ve been  in the food business, I’ve learned that people must know their enemy, just like Al Pacino in Scarface, who learned never to go into a bathroom with a guy who has a chainsaw. I refer to the basic makeup of wheat and the gluten produced when wheat flour is mixed with water. So here’s a little story about  the elements that make lots of folks sick:

Once upon a time, two partial proteins named Glutenin and Gliadin fell in love. Both were brought up in a small town called Endosperm in the great State of Wheat Kernel.

Even though they were closely related (let’s just say 2nd cousins for the censors), their love for each other was intense, so they decided to bond in a holy matrimony. The wedding was a beautiful one, overseen by Reverend Water. All was going great at the reception until a cretin named Mr. Yeast crashed the party. Mr. Yeast has stomach problems, and when he dipped into the hydration punchbowl and danced around, he released lots of  gas (real bad). Luckily the new couple, now calling themselves the Glutens, created a net to stop the gas from embarrassing the whole party. Mr. Salt and Mrs. Oil were also invaluble in strengthing the net holding that ungodly gas at bay.

As the party progressed, the heat rose and the gasses grew and grew and grew, until the whole reception decided to go into a warm (a very warm) room. There, even though things got a little crusty, they worked everything out, to a crunchy end.

Okay already, I know it’s a goofy story, but as I push my hand into the finest corn flour I’ve ever seen, I realize I need to replicate the gluten net holding any gasses that yeast will release. This will be the only way for me to get some sort of rise out of my non-gluten experiment. I have promised many customers who are gluten or wheat intolerant that I will come up with something soon.

This is a daunting experiment, and I have not even cracked “book one” on the subject. I have competed in the non-gluten challenge at the World Pizza Championships, however, and know that Europeans have an affinity for certain flours such as chickpea and rice. I’m using some local corn flour and am excited because I saw this corn grown on the stalk last summer, harvested this fall, stripped off the cobs this winter and milled just recently by my friends Michelle Ajamian and Brandon Jaegar.

Luckily my first experiment turned out pretty good. Here goes, a pizza that is very good and a foccocia that has a  great mouth feel, taste and texture rivaling flour. This recipe makes 13 balls of dough.

Dough for pizza or focaccia:

4 cups finely ground corn flour

1 cup oat flour

1 cup quinoa flour

1 cup brown rice flour

1 cup millet flour

2 cups chickpea flour

1 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup potato starch

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cups warm water

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Grains on top row, left to right: millet, brown rice, quinoa, oat and corn. Bottom row: salt, yeast, baking powder, potato flour, tapioca flour, chickpea flour.

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Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and stir only until the flours are incorporated. Add the warm water and mix gently with your hands. Do not overmix. Form a large ball.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest after setting the bowl in a warm place at 70-75 degrees for 30 minutes.

Now you are ready to divide this dough into 6 ounce dough balls (makes 13.) Use what you need and freeze the rest or make some foccacia. (BEFORE WE GO, REMEMBER THERE IS NO GLUTEN IN THIS DOUGH AND IT WILL NOT STRETCH, PULL OR RISE WITH ANY SIGNIFICANCE. KEEP IT ON THE PARCHMENT PAPER OR IN THE PAN.)

For the pizza topping:

Extra virgin olive oil as needed

One can of whole peeled tomatoes

3 fresh basil leaves

Pinch dried oregano

Pinch sea salt

2 ounces cheese, preferably whole milk mozzarella, grated (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 460 degrees and place an upturned cookie sheet on the middle rack to get hot.

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Take a small amount and form a ball (aproximately 6 ounces). You will be making a 10 inch pizza so if you do not have a scale, imagine the size being just smaller than the size of a tennis ball.

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Place a piece of parchment on the table. It must be at least 11 inches square. Oil it lightly with extra virgin olive oil.Place the ball in the middle and press down in the middle. Keep pressing gently with your fingertips until you have pressed the dough out. (TAKE YOUR TIME!) The outside edges will start to crack so you must push them back together again. Remember, the same quality (no gluten) that makes it hard to form can also be on your side when repairing holes and cracks. Once you’ve got the round to a disc shape, brush the top with olive oil. This will help for the next step, pressing it further into shape.

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Being patient, keep pressing now with more of the flat of your fingers until the dough is 10 inches in diameter. Using your fingertips on both hands, form the outside edge. Use the brush to finish the edging.

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Drain the can of whole tomatoes in a colander. Tear the tomatoes into little pieces with your hands, and let drain for 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl. Tear the  basil leaves and add them, along with the oregano and sea salt. Stir.

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Top the crust with the grated cheese, followed by the tomatoes. (Are you wondering why the tomatoes are on top? I want the fullest cook possible on this dough and the possibility of a liquid coming in contact with these flours would exacerbate the already inherent flimsiness of the finished crust.)

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Place the parchment on the heated upturned cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the crust starts to turn brown in spots. Check the bottom of the crust for golden browning. Pull from oven when the crust is starting to turn golden brown. (Note: some of the flours burn faster than others so look at the overall pizza before taking from the oven.)

Serve immediately.

Foccacia topping:

1 large or 2 small red onions

Pinch dried thyme

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

Extra virgin olive oil as needed.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

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Cut 2 small or 1 large red onion in half lengthwise, then half again, then half again to make slivered petals. Dust with dried thyme and toss with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Roast in an oven at 450 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions are just barely limp when tossed.

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Oil a square or rectangular non-stick sheet pan or cookie sheet with extra virgin olive oil. Place 36 ounces of the non-gluten dough in the center and press gently into the pan to form a cohesive mass approximately 1/4 to 1/2  an inch thick.

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Place the onions on the dough and press down into the dough. Place petals from 2 rosemary sprigs into the dough and around the onions.

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Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until you can place a spatula under the crust and see the browning in the bottom-middle of the pan.

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This recipe should produce a nice firm and flavorful bread free of gluten, wheat and egg. Please enjoy.