Forno Bravo Community Cookbook

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Care for a smoke?

During a recent pizza-making session I had the opportunity to use a few charred oak barrel staves that are used in the aging of Maker’s Mark 46 Bourbon. As soon as the stave ignited, I was amazed at the amount of aroma that was released from the wood. Even more impressive was the amount of butterscotchy vanilla and toasted oak flavors that where able to be tasted in the finished pizza. I always assumed, due to the shorter cooking time, that the subtle smoke flavors of different woods wouldn’t influence the finished pizza that much.

While I’ve been burning a combination of oak, apple and cherry wood and following Forno Bravo’s wood recommendations (see link below), I never thought twice about manipulating the smoke flavor of pizza like I have with meats, grilling and barbeque. As noted, always use hardwoods in your Forno Bravo oven.

Rarely do we have the opportunity to taste test the different woods in a single cooking session. I compiled a list of different woods that are typically used with pizza making as well as longer smoking / cooking methods. I hope you find it useful.

Oak is king. It burns slow, it burns hot, and it imparts a wonderful strong smoke flavor. Because oak is stronger, and it typically lacks a distinct flavor, adding a fruit wood is a way to balance its strength and add some sweetness.

Fruit woods like apple and cherry burn hot and slow as well, but their smoke is soft and sweet in flavor. Eating a cold piece of pizza the next day is a great way to taste the individual smoke characteristics.

Peach, plum and fig woods are regional and not always available, but all three add a very delicate sweetness to your cooking with moderate high heat. These woods can also have a floral character when they have not been sitting around for too long.

Hickory is a big boy. Intense meaty smoke is one of its benefits, but like anything too much of a good thing can overpower and leave you feeling like you took a bite from your ash bucket.

Pecan is an awesome nut wood. High heat, long burn and a nutty richness are the glorious trinity here. Be leery; too much can lead to a bitter aftertaste. I’ve smoked with pecan shells in the past and briefly considered trying it in the Forno Bravo but decided it was not worth the effort.

Almond wood is mild and it imparts a nice nutty sweetness; however, it has a very light ash and it can quickly cover your pizza masterpiece.

Walnut wood is scary; if you can even split it into smaller pieces, it will blow your smoke top with bold, bitter, heavy flavors that are good for bbq but not for pizza making.

Alder wood is prized for its cool burn and sweet, delicate flavor. Typically it is used for smoking fish. Too delicate for the pizza oven, its flavor is over shadowed by high heat wood you would be burning.

Just like grapes that go into making wine, as well as other fruits, vegetables and foods, the individual growing areas, soil and climate conditions of the trees, the “terrior” influences the final flavor of the wood being burned. Simply said, oak grown in California will have a different flavor than oak grown in Georgia.

My recipe for pizza-making wood burning:

Oak, oak, oak and a touch of pecan.
Burn it down to the coals.
Add cherry and/or apple wood.
Cook your pizza.

If you are in Kentucky and happen to find yourself on the Bourbon Trail, swing by Maker’s Mark Distillery and pick up some charred barrel staves and have fun. It goes without saying having a few sips of the Maker’s 46 will round out the flavor experience. Hope you enjoy.

Until next week, feast well.
Chef Bart

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Drink a beer; get inspired.

Last week my business travels took me to Boston. I was very fortunate to be on the receiving end of a private tour of the Harpoon Brewery. Harpoon is a working brewery that also has a large bar that you can visit and order up the breweries latest suds. To accompany your beer, they serve soft pretzels that are made to order. The pretzels have a wonderful fermented flavor, and I immediately needed to find out the “how’s & why’s”. Turns out the brewery uses some of the spent grains from the brewing process in their recipe for the pretzel dough. Ah ha … this got the wheels turning.

I started with Nancy Silvertons’s The Mozza Cookbook dough recipe as a base and went to work like a made scientist juggling beakers of potions. Three versions later, I stumbled upon a magic mix that yielded a spectacular dough. The end result has a crunch to the outer crust, a rich, dense chewy texture, and an amazing deep flavor of toasted grains, soft caramel, with malty aroma.

The dough is wetter then most and will take a bit of effort to make. It also will take a bit more time to cook in your Forno Bravo oven. I averaged about 3.5 minutes with the hearth between 650 – 700 and the dome right around 850. Be prepared and patient when working with the dough; your hands will get sticky with this one, but I think you will enjoy the rewards. I’ll be so bold to recommend you pair this with your favorite ice cold beer.

Yield: 6 dough balls

18 ounces warm water
4 ounces IPA beer, room temperature
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
32 ounces unbleached bread flour
4 ounces dark rye flour
2 tablespoons barley, toasted, ground
1 tablespoon wheat germ
2 tablespoons barley malt
1 ounce sea salt
Olive oil for greasing the bowl

In a small sauté pan over low heat, add the barley. Every couple minutes, gently toss the barley through out the pan to ensure even cooking. Once barley is toasted and beginning to yield a darker golden color and toasted aromas are present, about 10 minutes, remove from heat and let cool. Once the barley has cooled, grind into a small course size with a spice grinder.

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, rye flour, wheat germ, beer and remaining water. Mix with your hands until all the liquid has been absorbed, cover and set aside for 30 minutes.

In a separate small mixing bowl, add the barley, yeast, and 9 ounces of the warm water. Set aside for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, combine the yeast-barley mixture with the flour mixture. Add the barley malt and salt. Kneed the dough until all ingredients are fully incorporated. The dough should be wet and sticky. Cover and set aside in a warm place to proof.

After 1 hour or once the dough has doubled in size, punch down the dough and fold the “corners” back into itself twice. Cover and let rest for an additional 3-4 hours. You can let the dough proof longer to develop deeper flavors.

Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, form the dough balls and let set for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to cooking. Dough can be stored in the refrigerator up to 24 hours.

For my first pizza with this dough, I also used Nancy’s fennel sausage, panna and scallions recipe.

4 ounces fennel sausage
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 ounce mozzarella, torn into ½ pieces
3 scallions, cut on an extreme bias
½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fennel pollen
Pinch kosher salt

Hope you enjoy. Until next week, feast well.

Chef Bart

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Rating: 4.4/5 (5 votes cast)

You Say Tomato…

Now available in the Forno Bravo Store!

Now available in the Forno Bravo Store!

You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to.

Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix is considered to be some of the best pizza in the country, and some would even argue it is the best.  Among his many accolades, Executive Chef and Owner Chris Bianco is passionate for placing a significant emphasis on sourcing and using the highest quality ingredients.  As such, he diligently works to ensure his flour, cheese, and tomatoes are the very best.  On his quest for the perfect tomatoes for his pizza and pastas, Chris partnered with successful California family farmer Rob DiNapoli.  Together they launched Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes.  Their mission is to celebrate California’s agricultural heritage and to “connect the dots from seed to field” to yield the perfect tomato for your pizza making.

Bianco DiNapoli Crushed and Whole Peeled tomatoes are packed with organic basil and sea salt.  The crushed tomatoes have the addition of naturally derived citric acid to aid in preserving the tomatoes as well as providing a subtle additional hit of tartness.

The whole and crushed tomatoes have great, clean flavors right from the can.  Admittedly, my mouth started to water the second the aroma hit me. The crushed tomatoes pop with a desirable acidic and naturally sweet punch.  The velvety smooth and consistent texture coats the mouth and easily spreads across the pizza dough.

The whole tomatoes possess the same balance of sweet to acid though it is not as pronounced as it is with the crushed.  The firm meatiness of the tomato provides a wonderful toothsome bite.  As with any whole tomato, it requires crushing prior to applying to the pizza.

Whole Tomato Sauce

1 can Bianco DiNapoli whole peeled tomatoes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt (optional)

Using a spoon, remove the whole tomatoes from the can and place in a non-reactive bowl.  Using your hands crush each tomato until it is broken into smaller pea sized pieces.  Add olive oil and salt (optional) mix until incorporated. Because the Bianco NiDapoli tomato products are packed with salt it is not necessary to add salt, but I prefer a bit more saltiness in my sauce.

Crushed Tomato Sauce

1 can Bianco DiNapoli crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt (optional)

Empty the crushed tomato can into a non-reactive bowl.  Add olive oil and salt. Mix until incorporated.

Bianco NiDapoli tomatoes are certainly a favorite of mine and I am thrilled Forno Bravo now carries them in the online store.  Hope you enjoy.  Until next week, feast well.

Chef Bart

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Tuscan Bread

This Tuscan style bread is made with a straight mix method. No need to activate the yeast or make a sponge prior to making this bread. Once baked, the loaf has a deep golden brown crust that softens as it rests and a chewy, moderately dense texture. I personally love using this bread for bruschetta or for my toast the morning after baking. The recipe is adapted from the King Arthur Flour recipe collection.

2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 teaspoon basil, dried
1 teaspoon thyme, dried
1 teaspoon oregano, dried
1 teaspoon fennel seed, ground
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) warm water
3 ¼ cups (13 7/8 ounces) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Kneed by hand until incorporated and form the dough into a ball. Cover the dough with olive oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside for 1 hour and almost double in size.

Punch down the dough and then form into a football shaped loaf. Place on a floured pizza peel and let rest for 15 minutes. Score the top of the loaf and place in your Forno Bravo oven.

The hearth should be about 350-375 degrees and the over all oven 450-500. Place loaf in the oven and bake for about 35 – 45 minutes. The loaf is done at 190 degrees internally.

Remove from oven, let cool, slice and enjoy.

Until next week, feast well.
Chef Bart

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Rating: 4.4/5 (8 votes cast)

Grilled Albacore Tuna, Bacon & Mushroom Relish, Charred Bok Choy

Albacore tuna, also known as Tombo or Long Fin Tuna, is perfectly suited for the grill. Albacore tends to have less fat than other tunas, giving it a wonderful clean flavor. With less fat content it also means it can quickly overcook. Two to three minutes on each side depending on the thickness of the tuna should yield a perfect medium rare. The hearty, meaty flavor of the tuna pairs well with heady smoke of the fire from your oven. For this recipe, I paired the tuna with the sweet bitterness of baby bok choy and balanced all with a smoky mustardy mushroom relish.

3 each 4-5 ounces Albacore tuna steaks
3-4 heads baby bok choy, split in half lengthwise
3-4 pieces bermuda (red) onion, ½ inch thick slice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper, fresh cracked

Place the tuna steaks on sheet pan / seasoning plate and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Season the onion slices and bok choy with salt, pepper and remaining olive oil.

Once your fire has burned down most of the way and you are left with a great bed of coals, spread the coals evenly across the hearth and insert your Tuscan grill centered over the coals. Allow grill to preheat for a few minutes prior to adding your foods.

Once the Tuscan grill is hot, slide towards the oven opening and place the bok choy and tuna steaks on the grill. Slide grill back over the coals and cook for 2 minutes. Using tongs, make a quarter turn of the meat and vegetables and cook an additional 2 minutes. Slide the grill towards the door, flip both the tuna and vegetables and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes for medium rare to medium. Remove from grill and oven, let meat rest, and serve with the bacon and mushroom relish.

Bacon & Mushroom Relish
2 strips uncooked bacon, julienne
6 each shitake mushrooms, sliced thin
1 each shallot, diced
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Kosher salt
Black pepper, fresh cracked

In a medium sauté pan, over medium-high heat, add the julienned bacon to the pan. Render the bacon until crispy and pour off ¾ of the bacon fat. Return the pan to the heat and add the mushrooms and shallot. Continue to cook the mixture until the mushrooms are tender and the shallots are translucent, approximately 3-4 minutes. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and deglaze the pan with the sherry vinegar. Remove the mixture from the heat, add the mustard, and mix into the relish until fully incorporated. Remove from pan and set aside for use once the tuna is cooked.

Hope you enjoy. Until next week, feast well.

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Rating: 4.2/5 (6 votes cast)

Pineapple on pizza? Love it? Hate it?

chorizo and pineapple (2)

I freely admit I have never been a fan of pineapple on pizza. Nothing against pineapple, I love it, just not on my pizza. I think it has always felt too heavy, wet and overpowering to me to compliment the pizza. It’s funny though; given my professional culinary career, I have used pineapple in the past to balance dishes with its wonderful acidic sweetness. I just never considered it as an option for my pizza making. I much preferred to savor both the pizza and pineapple on their own. That was until my last round of pizza making.

Friends were over and we were conversing on how the pizza had to break from the traditional toppings and “kick it up a notch.” The main ingredient on hand was spicy Spanish chorizo. Seemed simple enough, spice on spice, we’d add pepper jack cheese and use the tart zing of BBQ sauce as a base to break the heat. I knew something was missing and immediately thought a smattering of chopped cilantro and green onion over the top once cooked would do the trick. But in what I can only explain as a fit of culinary insanity, for me at least, I diced up some pineapple and scattered the small golden bits over the top. What followed was a revelation. The heat from both the cheese and chorizo was balanced perfectly with the sweeter BBQ, but what pushed the experience from good to great was the pineapple. Warm and juicy, its punch left you craving for the next bite and the one after that as well. Love it or hate it, I am a fan.

1 each dough of your choice

2-3 tablespoons BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

2 ounces pepper jack cheese, sliced into thin pieces

½ cup spicy chorizo sausage, sliced

½ cup pineapple, small diced

After forming the pizza dough, spread the BBQ sauce evenly on the dough base and top with sliced pepper jack cheese. Scatter the chorizo sausage and diced pineapple over the top. Place the pizza in your Forno Bravo oven. Remove from the oven once cooking is complete. Hope you enjoy.

Until next week, feast well.

Chef Bart

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Sesame seed-chili flatbread

I was digging through recipes this week craving something spicy with a little crunch and a soft chew. Deep within the stacks of my handwritten, tattered pile of unfiled recipes, I uncovered a flatbread recipe I used 20 years ago in a Mediterranean restaurant I was running. Admittedly, we baked these off in a traditional oven for the sole reason of keeping up with demand. We served this bread as a part of the bread service with hummus and a feta cheese dip. I figured that it would be perfect for the Forno Bravo considering the recipe’s original roots hailed from Syria, and though their version is similar to a soft pita, the bread gets baked in long wood burning ovens. This recipe calls for chili flakes and sesame seeds, but the topping can vary based on your desires. Parmesan cheese makes for a wonderful salty punch and fennel seed and sea salt are always favorites of mine. I recommend serving as a flatbread/cracker for dips and pre-pizza noshing.

2 teaspoons yeast
2.5 cups water, 95 – 105 degrees
6 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 teaspoons sesame seeds
4 teaspoons chili flakes

In a large mixing bowl combine the yeast and water to activate the yeast. After about 10-15 minutes, add 2.5 cups of the flour. Mix the dough until flour is incorporated and add remaining flour and salt. Continue to mix the dough until all the flour has been absorbed. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Pour dough out onto a floured surface and kneed the dough for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough back into the bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1.5-2 hours.

In one of my favorite moves in dough making, punch down the dough and return to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half, then divided those halves in half and continue the process until you have 16 equal pieces.

Roll out the dough as thin as you can into a “free form” round. Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle about 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon of each of the sesame seeds and chili flakes over the top. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown and crisp (about 1 minute). Remove from oven and enjoy. Can be made ahead of time.

Hope you enjoy. Until next week, feast well.
Chef Bart

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Rating: 4.5/5 (2 votes cast)

Egg & Leek Pizza

Eggs are awesome. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or midnight munchie, their versatility is unmatched in the gastronomic world. It is also a popular culinary myth that the pleats in a chef’s toque represent the 100 ways a chef can cook an egg.
Adding an egg to pizza is certainly nothing new, but crowning your pie with the yolky richness certainly will elevate it from good to great. In this version I couldn’t resist the addition of leeks, potatoes and sausage.

1 each dough of your choice
3-4 tablespoons sautéed leeks
6-8 thin slices fingerling potatoes
2 ounces Taleggio cheese, sliced into thin pieces
½ cup andouille sausage, sliced
1 each egg

After forming the pizza dough, spread the leeks evenly on the dough base and top with sliced Taleggio cheese. Scatter the andouille sausage and sliced potatoes over the top, place the dough in your Forno Bravo oven, and bake for 20-30 seconds. Remove the pizza from the oven and crack an egg over the center of the pizza. Replace the pizza in the oven and cook until the crust is golden brown and the egg white is set but yolk still runny. Remove from the oven, season with fresh cracked pepper and enjoy.

1 cup leeks, small dice
1 teaspoon thyme, fresh, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
Kosher Salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

In a small sauté pan over medium heat melt butter. Add leeks, thyme and season with salt and pepper. Gently cook until the leeks are tender and cooked through. Remove from heat, cool and set aside for the pizza assembly.

4-6 each fingerling potatoes
1 each bay leaf
2 tablespoons kosher salt
4 cups water

In a small saucepot, add water, potatoes, salt and bay leaf. Over medium-high heat simmer the potatoes until they are fork tender with a slight firmness about 90% cooked. Remove potatoes from water, cool and reserve for pizza assembly.

Hope you enjoy. Until next week, feast well.
Chef Bart

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Strawberry & Rhubarb Cobbler

Early spring means strawberries and rhubarb! No better reason to break out the cast iron and build the perfect cobbler to cap off a perfect night of pizza. Rhubarb adds a wonderful tartness to any dish but it is typically prized in desserts to balance the sweetness of other fruits, thus creating a desired sweet and sour effect. Shout out to my grandma on this one; she loved rhubarb. Hope you enjoy it as much as she did.

Cobbler Fruit

3 cups strawberries, sliced into quarters
2 cups rhubarb, peeled, sliced into 1-inch blocks
2 tablespoons corn starch
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lime, juice and zest

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and toss gently so that the fruit is evenly coated with the cornstarch and sugar is mixed throughout. Place in a buttered cast iron dish or similar high-heat baking dish. Evenly spread the cobbler dough over the top and place in the your Forno Bravo oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until the cobbler dough is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling.

Adding cornstarch to the fruit mixture will thicken the fruit juices. You can substitute flour for the cornstarch if desired; just ensure the cooking time is over 30 minutes allowing the flour to “cook” though so you do not have a grainy finish.

Cobbler dough

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, chilled, unsalted
1 ½ cup heavy cream

In a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to bowl. Using your hands or a fork “cut in” the butter until the butter is broken up to smaller pea size pieces. Add the cream and mix into all the ingredients are combines. Batter will be stick and small lumps are okay.

Until next week, feast well.
Chef Bart

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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Andouille Sausage & Pesto Pizza

andouillepesto-1 (3)

Andouille sausage originated in France and was brought to the US by German immigrants who settled in Louisiana.  This smoked pork sausage is a staple of creole cooking and makes a great topping for pizza.  If making your own sausage sounds like too much, one of my favorite versions that is readily available is D’Artagnan’s Andouille-Cajun style sausage.  The sausage adds an intense kick of smoke and spicy paprika that is sure to enhance any pizza.  In this version, basil pesto is used for the base in place of tomato sauce and it is topped with peppery arugula.

1 pizza dough

.5 cup andouille sausage, sliced

2 tablespoons basil pesto

4-5 slices Gruyere cheese

.25 cup arugula

splash extra virgin olive oil

splash lemon juice, fresh


After forming the pizza dough, spread the pesto evenly on the dough base and top with sliced Gruyere cheese.  Scatter the andouille sausage over the top, place the dough in your Forno Bravo oven, and bake until the crust is golden brown and the Gruyere is lightly caramelized.  Remove the pizza from the oven and top with the arugula that has been tossed with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

Basil Pesto

1 bunch basil (approximately 1 cup)

1-2 cloves of garlic

.25 cup pine nuts, toasted

.25 cup parmesan cheese

.25 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt (to taste)

Pound the garlic and salt, using a mortar and pestle, into a paste.  Add toasted pine nuts and continue to pound.  Once the mixture is a course paste, remove garlic pine nut mixture from mortar and place in a small mixing bowl.  Chop the basil coarsely and add to the mortar.  Pound the leaves to a paste.  Return the pounded pine nut mixture to the basil, add parmesan, and continue to pound while adding the olive oil.  Taste.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Until next week, feast well.

- Chef Bart

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)