Bara Brith

My wife had intended to imbibe a couscous salad of hers with currants, raisins and alcohol. It made no sense to me until I recalled a speckled Welsh bread from Chris Young's The Real Bread Campaign. Young's credited the recipe for this British bread (known as "Bara Brith") to Wayne Caddy a fine baker and Instagram poster of huge talent. Anyway, I decided to give it a go. It's a mix of sourdough and some basic mixing that include a variety of dried fruits. I had lovely results. Slathered with a fabulous goat cheese that married with the bright and sweet fruit.

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Paella

Just before New Years hit, me and my wife invited over friends for “hanging out.” While the friends suggested that we avoid long stays in the kitchen by ordering eat-in take-out, I had other ideas. I’d just been watching Chef Jose Andres new show on Spain and  I made a B-line for my paella pan. Here’s the results, a paella Valenciana with soccarat. Delicious.

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Sweets for the Meeting

New challenges at work including sweetening the table for business meetings. I decided on baking "petit fours," classic's that I haven't made for many years inspires. I included a nod to Argentina with "alfajores with dulce de leche" and "Prousts Madelines" for France, ironic how the World Cup enters this story!

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Baked Alaska

For years, I have served Baked Alaska at my workplace. And each year I say we'll try something different. Up till now, no luck. As the saying goes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Well, how about old wolves? Call me what you want, but Caroline Schiff inspired me this year. Her simple preparation was transforming. Warning, get out your fire extinguishers! It includes some burn.

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Slow down

As is my usual predicament with timing and levain, I find myself in an endless battle to slow the hell down! Why? With fermentation. Here's a tip that's easy to say but difficult (at least for me) to do. Avoiding wasting flour to refresh and feed your starter. It's a beginner mistake I have made repeatedly for years. But this year I put down my foot – and eyes. More specifically I started a panettone starter and fed it according to great directions from baker Quentin Berthonneau. The man reminded me to never rush. Or chance rushing straight toward imperfection. Slow down and follow directions (as well as your better instincts). Anyway, it works!

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Country Bread

Pain de campagne (aka "country bread")is a flavorful and structured bread. A wheat bread generally includes rye at around 10 percent. Below is a recent version using rye sourdough. This adds a punchy ferment and beguiling flavor. It's great with pate, cheese or just to clean that last delicious sauce from your plate. I baked the loaf with an overnight retarding of the dough. It's important to keep your levain healthy. Also helpful is make small batches weekly refreshing. This can lead to better baking. 

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Burgers In Casiss

From my trip to France this past summer.

Returning late to Cassis from a day trip in Aix-en Provence we couldn't get a bus or cab from the train station. That forced us to walk a few kilometers to our hotel. Passing a fork in the road, our eyes fixated on two restaurants. By this time we were as hungry as we were tired. One restaurant offered sushi, the other burgers. We opted for burgers, as I liked the specials offered on their chalkboard; especially the chimmichurri Argentinian burger with a side of fries and a Coke. We were delightedly amazed at the quality. Honestly, I forgot to take photographs of the food, but it was a fine burger. And the fries, damn they were excellent.

La Petite Girandole, it's so French and wonderful. Here's a shot from their website. If you get to Cassis, it's worth the walk.

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Direct Bake

Work has been overtaking my usual lazy baking routine. All to say, that my job has forced me to baking without involving any retarding of dough. That means a five-hour window from mix to bake, not counting previous day's levain build.

 

Below are photos of two lovely loaves we served with a beautiful gem salad and paella dinner. The first was a dropbox formula from a apiece of bread in Tasmania, Ian the baker told me it was based on a Basile Kamir formula, which he jokingly called Campaign (Campagne). I've tried this formula many times but never had much success. This time I left it to prove for four hours, then shaped and left it alone probably an hour, and boom.

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The second was a formula I'd seen on the Youtube channel produced by Ian Spampatti, an excellent young pizzaiolo and baker. This loaf was called "open sourdough" or many holes (molti buchi). I used the processing for leaving it in the refrigerator after initial proving and shaping it, then the next day baked the loaf in my Creuset pot. It resulted in an open but even crumb and fabulous taste.

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Bun – The Savoy Pizzaiolo Of Tokyo

 
 
My Instagram feed has a variety of followers. A fellow by the name of Bun had a profile photo that caught my eye. It's of Passalaqua Cafe, which is one of my go-to places for Napolitano cafe. It turned out that Bun is manager and pizzaiolo at Savoy Azabujuban's "tomato and cheese."  I don't know how long or when I may get to Tokyo, but his own Instagram feed is terrific. It makes me hungry. And so I invited him to share his pizza and baking knowledge with Stir the Pots. Below is an edited write-up of our email interview. 
 
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How did you start making pizza?
My father is a French cook. But he loved pizza very much.He encouraged me to start doing pizza.

 
When did pizza in Japan take off?
Pizza in Japan probably first started in the 1980s. At that time, there was no Neapolitan style pizza yet.

 
What is your concept?
What I look for in a pizza is lightness.
 
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Is your pizza yeast or sourdough base?

Our pizzas are fermented for a long time at low temperature using a small amount of yeast.
 
 
What flour are you using?
We use Italian and Japanese 

 
How many toppings for pizza?
Basically just Margherita and Marinara. Some stores have pizzas with various toppings.

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Pizza heros?
In my opinion, Anthony Mangieri

 
Counter service is a more personal experience for you and customer?
For me, making pizza is a tool to connect with customers, so the counter is a great fit for me!
 
Have you been to Naples or NY?
I went to Naples on vacation and I went to NY to make pizza for a week.
 
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How do you shape your dough differently from a Napolitano pizzaiolo?
The method of making pizza dough is the same. Just the way the pizza dough is stretched is different!
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What do you like more, fermentation, shaping or baking the pizza?
I love every step of the process!
 
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Favorite food.
Definitely pizza
 
 
What did you grow up eating?
Japanese food , French, Italian.
 
 
Any use for whole grain in pizza?
No.
 
Mozzarella imported?
Yes.
 
Tomatoes local?
Imported.
 
When not making pizza, what do you like to do?
 
Visit restaurants owned by friends who chefs. Go eat their food.