Guest Bloggers
John's Vollkornbrot
John O'Hanlon

(Note from Peter:  John O'Hanlon, a serious home baker and long time correspondent, sent me this story of his recent quest to make a killer vollkornbrot (translation: 100% whole grain, German style rye bread). His passion and determination inspired me to ask his permission to share his story and his recipe with you, so here it is. Let us know if you try making this bread -- we'd love to hear your results.)


Each morning during a recent stay in Salzburg, we enjoyed our hotel’s dazzling displays of fresh breads at the buffet. A special favorite was a whole grain loaf; hearty, moist, dense, seed filled and topped that was baked in long, narrow pans.

On return, we searched in vain for a recipe. Our waitress had called it “Kornspitz,” which we discovered, was a proprietary grain mix sold by an Austrian baker’s supplier that is used in several breads; its brief description mentioned rye and wheat flour, as well as bruised rye, wheat, and soy grain, wheat malt, linseed, and salt. Armed with this information and our observations, we began to reverse engineer a suitable approximation.

The original was clearly a rye-based sourdough, dark in color, and filled with pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds, as well as shredded carrots, chopped soybeans, chopped rye and wheat grains, and then topped with pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and brown flax seeds. This amateur baker (me) asked Peter Reinhart  for advice, since I had never made rye sourdough and was unfamiliar with German and Austrian constructions. Peter directed me to his pineapple juice rye sourdough, as well as some excellent books filled with European whole grain formulas. Off to our local library!

A three-part construction was the starting point: wild yeast rye sourdough, soaker, and wheat dough. We used a firm, or stiff, rye mother starter sourdough; Roggenstursauerteig in German, a commonly used Austrian rye starter.

Soaker ingredients were initially scaled in equal portions, but first the grains must be pulverized. Austrian breads use the term schrot, meaning cut with knives, like steel cut oats, rather than ground like coffee. That is not easily accomplished. Brew suppliers use burr grinders. The oily nature of soybeans makes them an unwelcome guest in a grinder. Since small quantities are required, a blender was used. Briefly pulse, then remove dust with a fine wire strainer, and finally collect chops that pass a coarse (~5/32”) pasta strainer. Two more cycles, for those that did not pass the coarse strainer, yielded uniformly chopped soybeans with little dust loss.  

The final dough contained wheat and white bread flour, grated carrots, wheat malt extract, and yeast.

After several months devoted to myriad failed attempts, we formulated a version that looks and tastes like the original. Peter helped me solve a major problem—loaves were falling during baking. Baking books suggested tightly covered overnight hot water soaking.  Peter explained how hot water can over-activate some enzymes that digest the rye starch structure. His suggestion of cold water solved the problem. Finding a suitable pan proved difficult. The style I remember from my youth is no more. Ultimately, we found the "Lasagna Trio" (Chicago Metallic) made for a different dish! Each pan is 2–3/4”W × 11”L; perfect! If you cannot find such a pan, scale the dough in 125-g portions and make weckerl (small rolls).

While in the brew supply store, we purchased a pound of Black Emmer wheat and had it ground. Why? Curiosity. German and Russian immigrants brought Black Emmer winter wheat to the Dakotas in the late 1800’s from Southern Russia, where it grew well in poor soil. It is now used mainly in brewing. We substituted this for the regular wheat in the soaker as an experiment. The result was coal black soaker water that colored the dough dark brown without the use of molasses, cocoa, or coffee, which add either sugar or caffeine!

The resulting bread is now a favorite that we share with friends. It has over 7% dietary fiber, 11% protein, and a reasonable balance of essential amino acids. The original is not available for comparison, but we think we have nailed it. We are happy campers!

SOAKER:
35 g    Rye grain, #2–1/2 grind
35 g    Black Emmer Wheat grain, #2–1/2 grind
35 g    Dry Soybeans, coarsely chopped
35 g    Sunflower Seeds, roasted, unsalted
35 g    Pumpkin Seeds, roasted, unsalted
12 g    Flax Seeds, brown, raw
11 g    Kosher Salt
234 g    Water, room temperature

Soak at room temperature overnight in tightly sealed container.

SOURDOUGH

165 g    Dark Rye Flour
135 g    Water at room temperature
50 g    Mature Sourdough culture

Ferment at room temperature overnight until it crests, but not beyond.

FINAL DOUGH
340 g    White bread flour
60 g    Whole Wheat bread flour
23 g    Malted wheat powder
12 g    Instant dry yeast
60 g    Carrots, finely shredded
110 g    Water, room temperature
432 g    Soaker
300 g    Sourdough (all, less 50g returned to culture)

(White-to-whole-wheat ratio can be changed to suit taste as long as total = 400 g. The amount of water may need adjustment to suit your flour hydration and percent whole wheat.)

TOPPING: Pumpkin, Sunflower, Flax and Sesame seeds

Mix the final dough dry ingredients in an electric mixer, and then add shredded carrots, water, soaker, and sourdough. Mix and knead in mixer, or knead on oiled surface until elastic. Divide dough into two 625-g portions; ferment at room temperature in oiled and covered bowl no more than 50–60 min. Don’t over proof.

For Loaves: Stretch and roll each portion into a 10” × 10” sheet and then roll into a ‘log’ the length of the pan. Roll the logs onto a parchment to aid in transferring dough to spray-oiled baking pans. Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle with topping seeds. Using parchment, press the seeds lightly into the dough.

For Rolls: Scale dough into ten (125-g) portions. Shape into elongated rolls, brush tops with egg white and dip topsides in a plate of seeds. Transfer to two parchment covered quarter sheets.

Cover with plastic film and proof loaves and rolls for 50–60 min at room temp. Do not over proof.

Bake at 350°F; rolls ~15 min., loaves ~30 min. or till done (internal temp. should be above 190 degrees F.)

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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Doug Essinger-Hileman

Isaac Newton has long been one of my science heroes—my earliest life journey was as a science and math geek. Now he is my newest baking hero.

 

Most everyone knows that Newton developed his theory of gravity after seeing an apple fall from a tree. Every high school physics student learns of his three laws of motion. He built the first practical reflecting telescope, confirmed the accuracy of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, and developed differential and integral calculus.

 

In consideration of his early work, Newton was appointed a fellow of Cambridge and then to the Lucasian Professorship of Mathematicks. His first lectures as Lucasian Chair were on optics. In them, he demonstrated his “celebrated phenomenon of colors,” proving that prisms don’t color light but separate colors already within light, and providing us a classic example of the craft of the scientific method.

 

Newton’s work on optics continued the work of others, particularly that of Descartes and Hooke. Though he rejected their theories, he built on their craft as scientists, as he explained in a letter to Hooke: "What Des-Cartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, & especially in taking ye colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants." [spelling original]

 

This is why Newton is my newest baking hero. Baking, as much as science, depends on the craft of the baker. And though I am no Newton of the baking world, I now see further than before because I too stand on the " shoulders of Giants."

 

The first breads I baked were from a Dell Purse Book called, Breads, that I found on the checkout line of a grocery store. I baked from that pamphlet for years, creating loaves which were better than store-bought, and brought friends running for a taste. Never, though, did they rise to be exceptional.

 

I met my first giant when I bought Peter Reinhart’s, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. Through that book, I learned much about coaxing the full flavor stored deep within wheat’s kernel into the bread. Preferments, slow fermentation, and overnight retardation are techniques that are now part of my craft. I met my second giant when I attended a workshop at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center. There I learned from Jeffrey Hamelman how to make baguettes six ways. Now my craft includes the knowledge that there is always more than one way to create exceptional bread and the passion for experimentation. I met my third giant, Richard Miscovich, at two workshops, one on shaping and scoring and another on operating a wood-fired micro-bakery. Now my craft includes mixing and kneading larger batches by hand, more careful shaping and scoring techniques, wood-firing a brick oven, and loading, steaming and baking in that oven.

 

Beyond all of this, though, these three giants taught me that to be an artisan is to passionately seek to become better with each batch pulled from the oven. So this is my quest. And from them I know, too, that if I am true to this quest, my bread will be better for it. How much better, as Isaac Newton has taught me, depends on how many giants’ shoulders I climb onto.

 

Now, where is the next pair of shoulders?

 

 
Keste - Mini Quest Part 3
Brad English

Dave Wilson and I set out about 7-8 hours earlier on a mini pizza quest, where we started at Di Fara Pizza and were now just leaving Roberta's -- both in Brooklyn, NY.  You can read about these stops in Part I and Part II of this series.  Links:  Part I, Part II

 

As we staggered out of Roberta's for the second time that night, after running into the god of pizza fanatics - New York's own Scott Weiner -- we walked in silence.  And we walked in the dark.  But the area, which had at first seemed formidable and perhaps even dangerous, now seemed like a friendlier place -- a cool, artsy neighborhood.  We both wore smiles, but our eyes must have been a bit more realistic, perhaps betraying our satisfaction as we began to really consider if we could continue on with this madness of a mini-quest that had become a big "P and Q" Pizza Quest.

 

We dropped down into the subway to head back to Manhattan.

 

I broke the silence.  "Keste?"  Were we going to make it in time? Dave struggled, but I knew his answer.  His slight hesitation and doubt suddenly brought me back to life.  I realized again what we had set out to do, what we must do, what we were going to do.  Dave had never been to Keste.  He knew what his answer was though he made a veiled attempt at pretending we could cut this quest short.  Scott had reinforced us with his recommendations and stories of Roberto's pizzas at Keste.  I had told Dave numerous times about his crust that was unparalleled.

 

"Keste!" Dave agreed.  We didn't have to eat a lot.  Right?  Of course not.  We were not hungry, we were on a mission.

 

Wherever we got off the subway we ended up having to walk quite a bit to get over to Bleecker Street where Keste sits.  I think that probably saved us, or at least emptied our guts a wee bit.  It was a beautiful night out in New York City and even though we had been eating epic pizza all day, we were headed to yet more epic pizza.  What else were we to do, go sulk in our hotel rooms?  I don't think so.  The walk was good.  It helped the mind, the eyes and, for sure, the stomach all get themselves back in line to finish this task, this journey.

 

It was pretty late by the time we got to Keste.  To my surprise there were a few tables still available.  We sat down and saw Roberto Coporuscio, who recognized me from visiting a few times before, as well as when I stopped by his new place, Don Antonio by Starita.  We chatted a bit and I got back to telling Dave about Roberto's crust.  I remember the first time I had it.  I was staying at a hotel and brought back a couple of slices and when I walked in the room, I couldn't stop myself from opening the box of leftovers and pulling another slice to see if what I was remembering was true.  It was.  The crust is as good as, and probably better than any I've had. It's soft with a slight crispness and is almost as good an hour later, out of the box at room temperature.

 

Prosciutto and Arugula

This is always one of my favorite pizzas.  The balance of a great prosciutto like this, with hints of salty soft ham-iness, along with the cool, peppery bright arugula is hard to beat.  I've devoured this pie here before.  Tonight we picked away.  It was really good, but by this point we were tasting the pizza more than eating it!  There was just no room in our pizza processing facilities left!  It felt like we were committing a crime leaving so much pizza untouched, but this was for the cause and we were on a mission.  The mission was slowly coming to an end and our bodies were waking us up to the reality of survival now!

 

Pizza Del Pappa

Oh, then the second pizza arrived. Scott Weiner had insisted we order the Pizza Del Papa.  Another sip of a beer, and the show went on!  Our eyes and mouths and slouching postures were all lining up now!  The pizza was, of course, delicious and brought us back to life.  The smoked buffalo mozzarella was a nice touch under the soft red and yellow peppers, zucchini, and it balanced well with the butternut squash cream!  I love playing with the concept of sauces. Nothing beats tomato sauce, actually, but then again when something works it works.

We left more pizza on the plate than one would ever consider if they had come for dinner.  Dave said it was as good, or better than Scott and I had described.  It was well worth the journey, and we left satisfied, on many levels, because of the extra effort that elevated the whole night into mythic epicness!

On this mini-pizza quest I discovered that three small pizzerias in New York and Brooklyn could take me on a journey through time and space in a way I never thought possible.  At Di Fara's it felt like everything was frozen in a time long gone by.  The experience was like stepping back into the exact same space but in a different era, the sixties.  At Roberta's time was affected, but in a different way.  Roberta's was like stepping over into a time and space warp where we experienced being in Brooklyn, Portland and the TV show Portlandia all at the same time.  At Keste there was a whole different experience.  Keste is perhaps timeless.  It is both old and new.  You can taste history and the future at the same time.

Interesting…

Life is good when you can come up with a crazy plan for the day and just let go and let it happen. As our small "p" pizza quest came to an end, I realized what our big picture Pizza Quest was all about again.  It's about the chase.  It's about exploring and being open to finding what life will bring you, celebrating the passions of others and enjoying their gifts and sharing yours.  It's about finding that ever elusive something called quality.  Our search here on Pizza Quest for the perfect pizza is really just an excuse to discover something new about ourselves and our friends, but also about discovering all the possibilities that life has to offer.

Postscript: Keste translated means "This is it!"  Well, this is surely it for this pizza quest journey...unless you want to know about how well I slept that night.

Like a baby with a pacifier!!!

 

 

 
Are You Ready to Turn Pro? Part 5
John Arena

Note from Peter: If you'd like to read all five of John's columns on this subject you can go to the Guest Columns section instead of scrolling down the home page. There, you will find them all in one place. Either way, please do read them; it could make all the difference between success and failure. And even if you're not thinking of opening a place, this is great, universal wisdom, applicable in any venture.

Well, so far we have explored some of the demands of opening a pizzeria so now it is time to ask yourself something that could change your life.  Here is the easy part. What type of pizzeria do you want to open? Everyone has a vision of their ideal place, so I bet the answer popped into your mind immediately.  Now it gets tough. Here is the big question: Why? Why do you want to build that particular type of pizzeria?

You see, in the modern era, something very interesting has happened, something that has never occurred in the world of pizza before: choice. In the not too distant “old days” virtually every factor that shaped one’s pizzeria was predetermined by their environment. Equipment? The Neapolitans made wood oven pizza because they had 2,000 years of experience building those ovens. Service style?  Pizza by the slice developed in New York because of fast paced foot traffic. Ingredients?  Sausage was the pizza topping of choice in Chicago because they processed a lot of pork in the Windy City. In modern times many of those limitations have been lifted.  You can now make a conscious choice about what you want to serve, how it will be prepared and how you will serve it. That’s good, right? Not exactly, because with freedom comes the responsibility of due diligence.

Here is an example: A few months ago I was contacted by a restaurant group that needed a consultant to develop a deep dish pizza concept. I turned them down and here is why: Their location was in an office park that would require multiple table turns with 80% of sales at lunch time. Deep dish pizza has a long bake time and people tend to eat lighter at lunch. On top of that, they were in a city that is usually hot and humid, which is not the perfect place to eat a cheese and meat laden pie. Why did they choose deep dish for their concept? Because the CEO had visited Chicago and loved that pizza and they reasoned, “We will have the only deep dish pizza in the area.”

Sound familiar? Each of us has had similar thoughts when we find a special place on our personal pizza quest. “Wow! This is amazing. I can bring this pizza to my home town and make a fortune.”  The honest truth is, maybe you can and maybe you can’t. You see, there may be some good reasons why a certain type of pizza isn’t available in your area. Sure, a high traffic urban location with a food savvy population can support many different pizza styles. Tony Gemignani has proven that this is true with his fantastic multi-style pizzeria in San Francisco. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you like something it will be successful. It is all about the right fit. If it is in your heart to make a certain type of pizza it is absolutely crucial that you are brutally honest when you evaluate your proposed trading area.

So it all comes down to choice. To be successful you must either choose a certain pizza style because you honestly feel it is right for the location, or, you must choose a location that is right for your style. Sure, passion is important. Having a unique high quality product is important. But those factors alone are not enough to guarantee success. Remember, as you transition from accomplished amateur to pizza professional you must continually evaluate not only what you want to make but also what your guests want to buy. That is the major difference between cooking for your friends and family and staying in business.

In the next segment we will take a look at the things you must consider when shaping your pizza concept.

 
The Baking Steel
Andris Lagsdin

Note from Peter:  We've been writing about this new Baking Steel for a couple of months, so I asked its creator, Andris Lagsdin, to tell us more about it in his own words. I love his inspirational story, one that exemplifies what Pizza Quest is all about, and am thrilled to be able to share it with you now. Enjoy!

Although for my day job, I work for a family-owned manufacturing company, Stoughton Steel, outside the office I'm pretty passionate about food -- pizza in particular.  I've been making pizza's since I started with Todd English at Figs in the early 90's.  It's been a pretty casual obsession of mine over the years, making pies mostly for my family and hosting pizza parties for my friends.  I used to make my pizza's on the back of a metal sheet tray, then switched to a stone for what I thought would help make a better crust.  I brought the steel into the picture just this past year, after reading excerpts of Modernist Cuisine in a Wall Street Journal article.  Steel and pizza -- are you kidding me?  Of course I was intrigued by the idea.  Having more than 15 years experience working in the steel industry and also a strong culinary background, I had been looking for a way to marry the two for quite a long while. And so my journey began.  

The WSJ article stated that the best way to replicate brick oven pizza at home was with a steel plate, so I decided to give it a go.  I found an extra piece of steel in my shop and cleaned it up to take home.  I have to admit that the first steel was a bit of a monstrosity and my wife looked at me like I had two heads when I told her what I planned to do with it.  She insisted she wouldn't subject herself or our two kids to anything I made off of that "hunk of steel."  Well I went for it anyway, made a batch of dough and baked up the pies.  We all marveled at the browning of the crust.  There were no leftovers that night. I knew then that I was on to something.  

After a couple of months of fine-tuning, we decided we were ready to see how other people felt about baking pizza on steel.  Being that our customer base was the construction industry, we needed a

 
On Pizza and Beer
Brad English

Note from Brad:

I was reading Part 4 of John Arena's "Are You Ready to Turn Pro" series on our site and noticed an interesting comment from one of our readers, Kevin Szot.  Well, truth be told, it was interesting in that the commenter owned a micro-brewery in Chile and loves to make pizza!  I checked out his site and realized that he didn't just love making pizza, but had really thought things through, even dedicating a section of his website to gourmet pairings featuring pizza. So, intrigued, I wrote to him.  After trading a few emails with Kevin, he sent us some additional thoughts on pizza and beer, which we are sharing with you below.

Peter and I think this is an interesting piece about two of our favorite subjects, especially in light of the great beer and cheese info contained in the recent Basta webisode we posted.  I am hoping to drag Kevin into another kind of beer and pizza collaboration, where the two of us do some recipe pairings over the internet in the coming months -- maybe even featuring his beers.  Stay tuned and, in the meantime, enjoy this very informative Guest Column.  Thank you Kevin! (Note, Kevin's website and e-address for Szot Microbrewery Chile are:

- www.szot.cl  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Introduction

Although we’re in the beer business (we own a microbrewery located near Santiago, Chile), we are also “homebrew” pizza fanatics.  My wife is a bread and cookie baker, so we have a bakery quality oven at home, plus we had an outside “barrel oven” (http://www.szot.cl/hornobarro.html) which we just destroyed to make way for a refractory brick pizza oven (work-in-progress).  Our home kitchen has even been approved by the local health authorities for commercial baking.  There is a bit of overlap between our beer and pizza since, in most of our doughs, we use beer where the recipe would normally call for water.  We also use a small percentage of freshly ground malted barley grains (either pilsen malt or crystal/caramel) in our dough.  We have tried the use of spent grains (leftovers from the beer making process) like some have recommend in the beer press, but these have already had most of their complex sugars, enzymes and flavor removed by the brewing “mash” process. We find it’s much better to use a small quantity of new ground fresh malt and just send the spent grains off to the cows. It’s easy to grind the dry barley malt in a home coffee grinder.  Barley adds a nice touch, plus has enzymes which probably have some effect on breaking down the starches in the wheat during the rise, but you have to be careful – too much barley makes the dough too sticky.  We tend to make our dough on the morning of “pizza night” or even the night before, to allow a nice rise or two.  In Chile we do not have the selection of flours that you have in the States, so we tend to use 50% common white bakers flour and 50% fresh ground whole wheat (no specifications).  We have no qualms about throwing in small quantities of other grains or seeds (sunflower, etc.)

We are inspired by Italian pizza styles, but do not try to replicate them.  We do have locally made cow, goat and sheep cheeses.  There are no local blue-cheeses in Chile, though imported cheeses are easily available in supermarkets where the “gourmet” selection is actually quite good. Chile has a tradition of accompanying food with sauces, one of which is “pebre”.  Similar in concept to Mexican “pico de gallo” this can be made with big chunks of tomato, onion, cilantro, garlic, oil and vinegar (like a salad), or chopped up more finely, or even made almost liquid (like a sauce).  Nice topping, especially cold on top of a hot pizza right-out-of the oven. We start with simple “Margherita” type pizzas, then move up to more flavorful toppings as the night progresses.  “Empanadas” are big in Chile, the local way of making a beef and onion filling for them also makes a nice Chilean-style topping. We invite friends to bring their own special toppings (we give hints, like octopus, wild boar, imported cheeses etc.) and ask them to make their own pizzas (we do the dough and oven work).  That said, our favorite family pizza has a Thai inspired topping made of chicken sauteed with onion, then mixed with a peanut butter sauce cut with olive oil, and ample fresh-cut ginger, a bit of either mozzarella or blue

 

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