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Old 09-29-2010, 08:01 AM
heliman's Avatar
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Default Pizza Variables - Wood

After drawing inspiration from a recent visit to Da Michele in Naples I turned my attention to duplicating that light crust style, leoparding, the minimalist topping and non-traditional oil that characterises their age old style of pizza making. The only difference was that I wanted to achieve this duplication using only locally available ingredients - including flour.

Interestingly, Da Michele are non-VPN (and have no desire to conform to that standard I understand) giving them an additional "rebellious" dimension which adds to their appeal. My research encompassed observations, tasting, gathering snippets of information on their methods, ingredients and preparation process and was quite exhaustive. This process took me offline as I didn't want any distractions and diversions that regularly occurred during my earlier posts.

I am pleased to report that I have achieved this objective - and have been able to duplicate it several times successfully so believe I have developed consistency in producing the recipe. Not wishing to begin a discussion on the recipe itself, something else that I discovered involved the wood that I used, and I thought that a discussion on that topic may be of interest to those here.

There have of course been some discussions here on the "types" of wood used but not so much on the gathering and preparation of the wood itself - which had a significant impact on the end result, particularly leoparding, of the pizza. I will however start with the types of wood (WA specific) that I have found to work well.

Listed in order of hottest to coolest burning: Mallee roots, White Gum, Jarrah and Peppermint. I first build a good fire with White Gum and mallee and let that burn for a few hours, then introduce finely split Peppermint and White Gum for the flare to keep the fire running optimally for pizzas. Sounds simple enough but where do you get these products you may well wonder...

After a recent trip to the woodyard to get some White Gum (at $15 /small bag) I decided to find another source for this great burning wood. On looking around I noticed that there is tons of it growing everywhere! We are surrounded by it - growing like weeds. For those that have bulk rubbish collections in your area - keep a lookout for sawn branches/logs. I found heaps just waiting to be collected. Also (pics in an earlier post), a neighbour did some severe tree pruning of a White Gum tree and I grabbed all the good bits from him - enough for about 8 - 10 fires.

Now, what you will need is a good chainsaw and a log splitter to process the wood. Sounds expensive? No, not really - reasonable 50cc chainsaw plus 2 blades delivered to your door - $135. Hydraulic log splitter costs a bit more = $300 - $420 (7 Ton capacity). With those two items you will be able to process all your wood for future WFO needs very cheaply. If you don't want to spend the money on the hydraulic splitter - just go to Bunnings and buy an axe type log splitter for $30. It will have the same effect, only slower, but will be hard on your back!

I also bought a pole mounted chainsaw during my buying spree. I tried it on my neighbours White Gum that was hanging over the back fence. The trunk was almost 30cm thick and the small blade struggled a bit but soon it came crashing down. I took the chainsaw to it and after a while had split the logs into oven size bits - both larger for coals and thinner ones for flare. That made about 8 fires worth and there is another branch awaiting surgery too for when I get the next urge.

Logs will of course take a while to dry completely but I load my next firing of wet wood in the warm oven (after a cook) and it should be perfectly ready for use when I next fire up the oven.

I will post pics of the log splitting machine activities shortly. This piece of equipment has turned out to be one of the most useful items in my pizza making arsenal and it ensures that I have perfectly sized and very cheap wood available at all times. Definitely worth exploring if you are a serious pizzaiolo.
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Last edited by heliman; 10-03-2010 at 04:21 PM.
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Old 09-30-2010, 02:26 PM
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Default Re: Pizza Variables - Wood

Dear rossco
I'm going to show my age here when I was a child living in the bush all our ovens were solid fuel stoves "timber getting" was a task that everbody undertook utherwise you would pay a small fortune for the timber. Cause a large log took many years to dry and "wet timber" easy to cut across the grain logs were cut into lenghts and left to dry in big lose piles in the paddock.
Left to dry a minimum of at least 1 year, 2 to 3 was perfect. Wet timber is hard to split along the lenght and if you took home partly dry timber you had a hell of a task a head of you. You had to split it down to smaller widths I used to have to do this with a sharp axe as a log splitter only work on really dry timber. You had to them re stack it up and leave it again to properly dry. You may has well left it in the paddock and saved youself the task of splitting stacking and waiting..... However now with that.... said that that power log splittter sound the go. If that thing can split the timber into smaller pieces it should then dry faster. how much faster i'm not sure. Hope you have some spare room on your property cause i suspect at least a year.
I'm lucky at the moment as I have a small supply of 2'x3' hardwood saved from helping a couple of Friends with some house renervations... 50 years in a wall... definitry dry.
But this is only going to last for so long so I'll be faced with cutting wet timber and find the time and space to season it or burning out chainsaws and cutting dry ( hopfully) fallen timber.
Hope that log splitter speads the process await the results please post the results in I suspect a years time.
Regards
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Old 09-30-2010, 11:23 PM
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Default Re: Pizza Variables - Wood

Hi Dave - thanks for the very informative post.

I have reported finding some White Gum over the road from my house some while ago in this post: http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/16/c...html#post79322 (Choosing and finding wood)

That was on 2 Feb so that makes it 8 months ago and I have been using the wood for about 4 months now (unsplit) and it was pretty dry an burned well. I have since used the log splitter on the remaining logs and they seem to be pretty well dry and ready for use. Based on that history and given that I am spliting the logs into pretty small pieces I would envisage that they would be ready for use in about 4 -6 months time - particularly as we are heading into summer now and it is likely to be very hot.

The Peppermint wood that I have has been dried for about 13 years so there is no problem with that for now. I also mix the bought, super old and dry fallen wood with the newer White Gum and find that a good combination.

I have plenty of space in the back garden so will keep a pile going for as long as I have supplies. I will avoid buying any more from the woodyard if I possibly can.

Will post pics of the 8 month dried wood and the 1 week old wood for comparison a bit later. Will also include pics of the 7-Ton splitter.
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Old 10-01-2010, 04:45 AM
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Default Re: Pizza Variables - Wood

The 7 Ton Splitter in action Video

Pics

Pizza - sample of Da Michele clone (more recent ones have pure mozarella)

Wood - Peppermint, 8 month aged White Gum, 1 week aged White Gum
Attached Thumbnails
Pizza Variables - Wood-cimg4297.jpg   Pizza Variables - Wood-cimg4301.jpg   Pizza Variables - Wood-cimg4302.jpg   Pizza Variables - Wood-cimg4308.jpg   Pizza Variables - Wood-cimg4310.jpg  

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Last edited by heliman; 10-01-2010 at 04:57 AM.
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Old 10-01-2010, 04:59 AM
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Thumbs up Re: Pizza Variables - Wood

Lucky enough to have a few trees on my place as well as backing onto bushland with a good supply of peppermint, tas oak, wattle and blackwood. Usually take a hand saw with me and bring back dead and dry saplings up to around 75mm dia. Some up to 8 metres in length. Cut them to length on the docking saw and store under the WFO and BBQ. With it coming into the 'season to be jolly', I feel there will be a few trips 'up the back'.

Cheers Doug



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Old 10-01-2010, 07:20 AM
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Default Re: Pizza Variables - Wood

Heliman,

Could you post your clone recipe or pm it to me. I would love to try it out.

Thanks
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Old 10-01-2010, 11:27 AM
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Default Re: Pizza Variables - Wood

Hi Rossco,
So nice to see your posts again. Touring Naples eating at and studying Da Michele is a fine and acceptable excuse .

Your pic of your 'clone' is perhaps the most beautiful example of a pizza I've ever seen. Bravo. The fine marinara translucently lapping the edge of the cornice with perfect leoparding is breathtaking.

I compared your pizza with pics on the net of Da Michele and you've got down perfectly. I bet it tasted great.

How did you make the marinara or tomato sauce? That hydraulic splitter is cool. It looks like I could fit one perfectly in my wfo side storage. I may have to adjust my xmas list this year.

cheers, Dino
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Old 10-01-2010, 02:33 PM
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Default Re: Pizza Variables - Wood

On the subject of wood splitters, I bought a manual hydraulic log splitter from Harbor Freight (I don't like buying all this Chinese stuff, but all of them come from China, no matter who sells them). It will crack open good sized gnarly live oak log (which you can not split with a maul) pretty well. It starts popping and finally gives up and cracks open.

That electric splitter will not split the live oak around here, it will split straight grained well seasoned mesquite, but not live oak.

I paid $100 for it with the 20% coupon.

10 Ton Hydraulic Log Splitter
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Pizza Variables - Wood-log-splitter.jpg  
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Old 10-02-2010, 03:20 AM
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Default Re: Pizza Variables - Wood

Hi Dino - thanks for the kind comments. Especially complimentary coming from you as a master of the wood oven!

In relation to the sauce - my observations at Da Michele was that the sauce was simply San Marzano tomatoes - pulp extracted (no pips) and no additional condiments, herbs or oil added. If oil is added, the sauce takes on a shiny appearance and there was definitely none evident. They would have reduced the consistency (slight colour change to darker red) as well.

To emulate that - I use my KA attachment and extract Roma pulp, then reduce it and that's it!
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Old 10-02-2010, 10:36 PM
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Default Re: Pizza Variables - Wood

Rossco
Thanks for that thread that lead to all that interesting talk on wood. It was interesting to hear our american friends talk of all the different woods and there flavours. On that do you have Sheoaks on the west coast? Remember on the south coast many moons ago eating mullet cooked over sheoak coals on a wire rack and just when it was ready throwing a handfull of green sheoak leaves on the coals so it smoked the fish. Its an old Abo trick Now that was good I'll have to follow that up.
Saw the u-tube of the log splitter in action... its a beauty!!!. Ive never seen anything like it, what a cool tool.
Complements on the pizza... a bit cruel though... can't make pizza due to the rain and the oven is soaked can't put a seal on the dome due the rain will not stop. Highest recorded rainfall for Brisbane for a sept. Can"t winge though Begining of last year we were only 15 per cent water in the dams.


Regards Dave
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