Tomatoes, Flour And Salami
My wife and I went to a pizza cooking class recently, conducted by an Adelaide gourmet shop with Italian owners. I thought I’d share some of their tips for your information.
The main tip involved tinned tomatoes. The presenter said there was a lot of difference in quality in many of the Italian tinned tomatoes. She said that the only ingredients should be tomatoes and tomato juice, and when checking the ingredients on the can, ensure that this is all there is. If the ingredients include salt and water (some do apparently), or citric acid (‘acidity regulator’), then you're really not getting maximum flavour for your money. Salt is particularly bad as it can lead to corrosion of the internal tin-plate surface, so you'll end up with a tinny flavour. Also, some brands include the seeds which, she said, can lead to bitterness when cooked, and some may even include skin, although I've never seen this myself.
The shop stocks the Pomoli' (dalla Terra del Molise) brand of ‘Premium Italian Cubed Tomatoes’ which doesn't have seeds, and tastes superb. They're about double the price of other brands – but this equates to a mere $1 here for a 400g can. The point was made that why go to all the trouble of making pizza (or a pasta sauce) yourself and scrimp on ingredients? Well worth the extra dollar.
Another tip was about flour. After all the reading I've done on this Forum, I thought that a Tipo 00 flour was essential. The presenter claimed that if 00 flour is used, the pastry will end up too crisp. She advocated using a 'strong' flour, even an unbleached supermarket plain flour, rather than 00. All I can say is that it worked for us! I achieved a lovely springy ball, which rose nicely over the course of 20 minutes or so at room temperature. I used a small piece of it to make a pizza with tomato sauce, a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, white anchovies, olives, basil leaves under thin pieces of Bocconcini and a liberal splash of EVOO on top. The pastry was superb when it came out of the (conventional) oven - much nicer than I expected, neither too crisp nor too bread-like. The anchovies were MUCH less salty than the ones normally found on ‘commercial’ pizze - and I'd used four large fillets! I thought it was the best pizza of the evening (but I'd have to say that ....!).
More pizze were prepared by the presenter – very thinly sliced Desirée potatoes which were brushed with an olive oil, rosemary and garlic mixture after baking, one with a topping of steamed chicory leaves, fried off in olive oil with sliced Spanish onion, garlic, pine nuts and currants, and others including a sweet one with a rhubarb topping.
Another tip was to put salami on pizza only towards the end of cooking (or even after cooking) so the fat doesn't run everywhere and spoil the rest of the topping. The salami for the class was sliced very thinly, and wilted to just the right texture when added after the pizza came out of the oven - the heat of the pizza cooked it!
All in all a great evening. I’d be interested to know if others have any experience using a ‘strong’ plain flour in lieu of the Tipo 00 and how the results compare.
Re: Tomatoes, Flour And Salami
Paul, sounds like a great experience. I only used 'plain' supermarket all purpose flour prior to the wood fired oven and found it to be very good in the conventional oven. I don't know that caputo would work that well in a conventional oven. It's in the higher temperature of the wood oven that caputo shines. Conventional flour will burn in hot spots and (I've found) will end up too crispy. Also, leftovers become gummy with regular flour, but hold up much better with caputo. Just a few observations.
I love some of the pizza options they presented. One of our favorites for years has been a white pizza with thin sliced potato (usually russet) and mozz, romano, green onion, rosemary or thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. We've done sauteed broccollini, as well as sauteed mustard greens - I bet the chocory was very good (nice slightly bitter veggie with the 'sweet' pizza crust). Recently we did marinated onion with goat cheese at my father's for his birthday. Can you tell us more about the rhubarb (it's my favorite pie filling)? We usually hide our salami under the cheese to minimize rendering the fat (probably works better in the quick cook of a wood oven).
Re: Tomatoes, Flour And Salami
Yes, the chicory was great. I don't recall ever having it before, and I hope to emulate it one day. Your toppings also sound very appetising.
The chopped rhubarb (1" in length) was placed in a bowl with a quantity of sugar (that's as much info as was divulged) and left to stand for a while (sorry to be so vague), and then piled onto a cooked pizza base and put back in the oven for five minutes or so to heat through. Served with thick cream. One of my favourites too, since a child, but it seems to have fallen out of favour lately.
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