Pizza pie. Yeah, that's right; Irish pizza. Why not? Americans are known for wacky pizza toppings. Just take the so-called Hawaiian pie that uses pineapple and ham. Or those named after celebrities, attitudes or with silly names. Barry Wine, former restauranteur of the noted Quilted Giraffe created a wasabi tuna pizza. While working with him at Sony Club, I remember making pumpernickel pizza garnished with smoked salmon, potato and foie gras. We also did French onion soup pizza which, I admit, was really good. In that spirit, with St. Patrick's Day upon us, here's my contribution to gilding the pizza lilly.
Recently I found a bag of Antimo Caputo tipo "00" flour," and decided to test it alongside with my recent purchase of Anson Mills "Pizza Maker's Flour - "00" farina." Doppio "00" (Double Zero) is generally misunderstood as a softer flour due to
its milling. A finely milled flour, it has the feel of a starch or
talcum powder. In truth, it does not lack gluten, hence it's elasticity and pizza
Well, I tried several tests including a short ferment with yeast as well as a sourdough with long bulk proof. For some reason my doughs were degrading, especially with sourdough and retarding. So I asked other bakers for suggestions. I got endless answers; PH balance, retarding, method changes, starter, yeast, and more. I ran out of Anson Mills. Left with just the Caputo to test, I tried a formula from an Italian baker/blogger named Marco Cenci.
Initially, scheduling at work got in the way. But then I fermented the dough cold, and once removed from the fridge, balled my dough into 200-240 gram pizza balls, then fermented them between 2-4 hours. Voila, I got some real pizza coming out, including the signature oven-spring cornicione or edge. The last bit of dough was left an extra day in the fridge, so it was literally a 60 hours bulk. In the end, the dough was both softer and sweeter.
Anson Mills with a one day ferment with sourdough, eight hours total. Results: Crisp light, but not a large Cornicione or border, taste delicious golden wheat, sweet.
Caputo flour, 48 hour bulk ferment, balled to 200-240 gram, final proof between 2-3 hours, shaped and baked, (notice the cracks, I'd left out the pizza uncovered for a bit,a no, no!) Still decent pizza nonetheless.
Same dough, (Caputo "00"), perfect crust, crunchy, light, sweet wheat taste, no sour taste from fermenting more then 48 hours.
I had a small ball of dough left, so I took off five grams to build my next pizza and used this small ball, less then one hundred grams to adapt a pizza known as "Mastunicola", from famed PizzaiolaFranco Pepe, which is a pizza with pre-tomato origins. Usually with lardo, sheeps cheese, oregano and basil, my adaption I used my local butchers smoked and boiled bacon, which was soft like lardo and delicious, some Cacio cheese from Rome, and basil...just wonderful, as though dough is now over 60 hours bulk ferment, and airy, light and crisp..
Recently I purchased some flour from Anson Mills in South Carolina. I also added Red Fife to this order, along with double zero pizzaiola flour, which I usually avoid using because I dislike the Italian imports, in my opinion make the pizza seems bleached and is chewy in a bad way. So far, I've made a pizza, and was totally happy with the feel of the dough and it's flavor. I'll report on more as I keep baking!
While reading my comments recently, I came upon the address for Stoughton Steel Company. Run by a man named Andris Lagsdin, they offer a baking steel surface tool to replace the traditional homebaker pizza stone. Curious, I let out a fish line to ask if I could get one to test. A few tweets and emails later, he was kind enough to give me one to try.
And so I tried it with some lievito pizza dough. Previously I've used the cast iron pan-broiler method, which has given good results. But it's haphazard and sort of dangerous. With this new tool, I got both a perfect bottom crisp dough. And using my old stone,it concentrated the heat, which in a normal oven only reaches 500 faranheit. Though my dough didn't billow and have my usual curnicione, I got some deliciously crisp and perfect specimens.
Leafing through Gabriele Bonci's Il Gioco della pizza, I wanted to try his "impasto misto pizza." It's a mixed grain pizza fermented with natural levain which uses farro, whole grain and white. I didn't have any in my flour bins, so I used a hodgepodge of flours; barley, amaranth and rye. Call it old and new world meet rustic taglio. Next was making a topping with the simple use of three ingredients, something following the fall season with the guideline to not over do the toppings.
In hindsight...I was heading for trouble by leaving the dough with this weaker combination of flours more then the stated 18-24 hour period. The dough didn't have the nice crumb, namely it wasn't airy or light. It was dense, but deep flavors of rye and amaranth pervaded. And I did like the ricotta, Brussel sprout, onion and speck topping. I'll try this again, but maybe grind my own farro. Should I?
In my ongoing pizza tests, I recently made a breakfast pizza; a pie featuring bacon and eggs. Having piece of dough in my fridge (which had turned hard as clay), and following a long night after baking for my micro-bakery, pizza fit my hunger pangs. I left the dough on the counter for six hours. And from this lifeless looking blob, a surprising bubbly and almost maleable dough was turned into a deliciously light, airy and crisp pizza. To my surprise the dough didn't have any overly sour flavor either, but a deep rich wheat taste. Even more intriguing was the fact the dough was made with supermarket flour, far from high end brand!
Recently I had made a batch of dough but it was flat. So I took a small portion of the tired dough and refed it till it showed signs of life. And while I kept the same tactic of a bulk ferment at four hours, this time I left it out longer, giving eight hours for proofing. The next day I balled the dough to 200 grams and stored them in the fridge.
The first pizza was good and bubbly, though it was a bit tough to stretch. The next pie I left out on the counter a bit longer and results were exceptional, really crisp and light. A longer proof and retarding the dough gives this dough a wonderful texture and taste.
First pie, mushroom, four cheeses, pesto, mushroom and tomato and the next was the more traditional "Margherita"
Visiting Montreal, among my stops was Bevo Bar + Pizza, where Chef Giovanni Vella is making waves as well as pies.
"Madonna," I said and crossed myself, wondering if I could fit anymore in my mouth after my earlier food trip around the city. Our purpose was simply to see the oven and meet Giovanni. But he immediatley started playing with the dough, and we just couldn't refuse his offer of a pizza.
Giovanni's hand ballet in shaping his dough was genuine pizzaoila, delicately dressing it in sauce, cheese and Calabrian salame.
Giovanni hinted, but would not divulge any secrets regarding dough hydration and pre-ferments, but he continued to demonstrate his finesse, baking us several delicious pies.
Salame, Ham. "Capriciosa" with egg and other toppings.
At the end, he dished out a plate of arrancini, a risotto ball usually stuffed with some meat or cheese and fried. Giovanni's version somehow managed to bring lightness to an intrinsically heavy dish, perhaps by smothering it in pork ragu rather then stuffed! Troppo! Basta!
Just before Memorial Day, we have a fête at work, sort of a Spring fling you could say. It heralds the summer and the winding down of the winter and spring. It's also a time for me to play baker, making doughnuts and pizza after my primary focus on caviar and other savory canapes.
This year I really had the doughnut production layed out, but the pizzas were what made it fun for me. I didn't fuss with any levain; I just did straight up old yeasted pizza Napoletana! Just to change it up I even made a bit of Bonci inspired taglio pizz. I'm still trying to untangle the artistry and language of that pizza. It takes time.