Guest Bloggers
Tomato Pie, Rocky Ford, and Me, Part One
Bob Radcliffe

Note from Peter: Bob Radcliffe is, like me, a North Carolina transplant from Philadelphia and, as you will see, also from Trenton, New Jersey, where at least two things of great historical import have occurred. The first was George Washington crossing the Delaware and turning the tide of the Revolutionary War (not an inconsequential thing). The other is the existence of DeLorenzo's Pizzeria. Bob has regaled me with stories of his relentless quest to re-create the fabled Tomato Pies of DeLorenzo's, so I asked him to share his stories with you, which he has agreed to do over the next few weeks. Here is Part One, just a short intro, but it speaks to the same fire-in-your-belly passion that Pizza Quest is all about. Thanks Bob and, to all, enjoy:

 

I know this is Pizza Quest, but I’m hooked on Tomato Pie. No, this isn’t my latest food-fetish, but something I always craved for since I was old enough to chew. I grew up on the outskirts of Trenton, NJ and until college always ate Tomato Pie at DeLorenzo’s on Hudson Street in the “Berg” (opposite the old Roebling Steel plant that made the cables for the Brooklyn Bridge). After college I commuted by train for a few years from the Trenton Rail Station and stopped in as the last customer on my way home after evening graduate school classes for a late night snack. Years of professional travel took me to all of the “best” pizza shops across the country so I could check them out.

DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pie was simply the best! Sadly the old haunt closed in 2012 and relocated to the suburbs. I understand it’s still good, but certainly will never match those pies made in the tiny Hudson Street shop on the coal-fired oven I remember so vividly from the early 1950’s. The sight of carrying shovel-full’s of glowing coals into the shop and spreading them under the oven floor is mindful today of how they slow cook barbecue with glowing wood embers in North Carolina today.

It’s been fifteen years since I left Philadelphia and relocated to Rocky Ford in rural Franklin County, North Carolina, and well over twenty years since I last ate a Tomato Pie at DeLorenzo’s. Frankly, over the years I have made several attempts to replicate that now mythical Tomato Pie. I struggled with the dough recipe and the ovens I had - whether gas or electric. Something was terribly missing. Could it be that hard to make a "Pie"?  For heaven’s sake I was an engineer with advanced degrees – the kind of guys that put men-on-the-moon. I finally just decided to bite the bullet and do whatever it took to make that Pie. Adding insult to injury, I was from Trenton where, if you don’t already know, the bridge over the Delaware River boldly states: “Trenton Makes, the World Takes”. And for me, not to be able to make a Pie, would certainly be a huge embarrassment.

Well I know that Peter and many others have made testament to their lifelong Pizza Quest, but I believe my story needs to be told. So here I am, and this is my story. I hope that you pick-up a few helpful tips along the way. I am sure you won’t want to replicate everything I have done, so just steal the best stuff for yourself.

I don’t pretend to have cloned DeLorenzo’s Pie, or gotten the secret from Chick, but what started as a recipe problem blossomed into my need to build an organic farm, perform tomato trials, grow garlic and basil, build a wood-fired oven, and create a private dining venue (the Franklin BreadWorks) so I could introduce and validate my creation to North Carolinians who, I soon discovered, have never heard of my Tomato Pie. Here, it is usually confused with a tomato dish in a pie pan with some cheese and mayonnaise! But what the hell was one more obstacle to overcome; I was on a mission probably as crazy as the Blues Brothers.

In upcoming postings I am going to take you along on my odyssey. I have to tell you that my favorite cooking show (on PBS) is “Mind of a Chef”. That may help you understand what to expect along the way. What may seem crazy at times has helped me find my way to a clearer understanding of rather simple ingredients and to refine my technique for building the layers of flavor we all seek when we cook.

Bookmark this page now, and plan to come back in a couple of weeks for my next installment. I promise it won’t be a bore! My golden rule at the BreadWorks is, “Did you have a great time?”  Great food, coupled with friends and music, seem the perfect combo to me.

More to come, for sure...

Bob

 
Don Antonio by Starita opening in Atlanta
Brad English

I haven't been to Atlanta, where my brother lives, for quite awhile.  But, I just got word that Roberto Caporuscio is opening a new Don Antonio by Starita there.  I have been lucky enough to meet Roberto and even luckier to have eaten a number of his pizzas in NYC!  I think I now have a new excuse to go visit my family in Atlanta.

I thought I would spread the word as Roberto helps spread artisan pizza around the world!

Below is link to the article I wrote about visiting Don Antonio in New York, where I enjoyed their famous Montanara Starita, which is a lightly fried dough topped with tomato sauce, smoked buffalo mozzarella, and finished in the wood fired oven.  If you haven't tried a fried dough, you will be pleasantly surprised by it's lightness, it's crisp crust, and warm soft interior. If any of you have a chance to check it out, let us know here in the comments section how you liked it!

Don Antonio by Starita

102 West Paces Ferry Road NW

Atlanta, GA

www.DonAntonioPizza.com

 

Here's a link to my visit to the New York pizzeria…enjoy!

https://www.fornobravo.com/pizzaquest/contributors/45-guest-bloggers/421-montanara-starita.html

 
Wood + Fire
Brad English

What is it that makes a great pizza?

I've been on a personal quest searching for the answers to this question for some time.  I've traveled and eaten more than my share of pizza.  I've also spent many hours slinging my own pies in and out of my home oven in all in an attempt to further understand and expand this quest.  I'd say I've even gotten pretty good at it!  I've made some of the best pizzas I've ever had right here in my electric oven baking pies at 550 degrees. At least you'll have to trust me on that because the pictures look like they are good tasting pies!

Every once in a while I end up being "wowed!"  When that happens, it usually means I'm sitting in a pizzeria with a wood fired oven.  There is something different that the intense heat, fire and smoke bring to a pizza.  My crust is getting better all the time.  I get good puff, some bubbles, and I even manage to get some decent char in my home oven.  But, it's not the same as when Tony Gemignani, Kelly Whitaker, or so many other amazing pizza makers pull a piping hot pie out of their oven.

So, one can wish. One can ponder.  One might even go as far as I have and try to build a wood burning gas grill oven out of my existing grill!

I am happy and sad that a new chapter has begun in that journey.  Wood and fire and oven has come to the English household!  I'm happy because I've wanted one for so long!  I'm sad because now I have no excuses in my quest to be the one to make that perfect pizza!

Yes, I got a new tool, or toy to play with.  A rather large crate came to my door a couple of weeks ago.  It had the words "Forno Bravo Primavera 60" stenciled on the side!  It took some doing, which I'll probably chronicle in the forum, but I can report that it is indeed now up and running!

I was champing at the bit, or chomping.  I champed and chomped as a few loyal and brave friends came over to help me set this oven on it's stand. Let's get this baby set up, fire it up, and make some pizza!  Well, maybe not so fast.  I have made some pretty amazing pizzas in my home oven.  I figured I could now just slide my pizzas into the Primavera and out would come my best pizzas ever.

Well, yes and no.

First I had to learn patience.  It takes 5 days of building "low" temperature fires to finish curing the oven.  As I began the process I remembered filming with Chef Jensen Lorenzen at The Cass House Inn in Cayucos, CA.  Jensen and Peter were talking about his new oven that Jensen and his wife had recently installed.  I remember Peter saying to him, "Over time, you'll figure out how to drive this thing."  As they talked further he discussed how each oven cooks differently and, as it cures and ages, it will continue to evolve in its performance.  I always thought that was interesting.  I recall how much respect he seemed to have for the oven as a sort of participant in the pizza making process -- like it was an ingredient rather than a tool.  It was similar to so many conversations I have heard over the years when a winemaker talks about coaxing the full flavor potential from the land and elements out of their grapes.  It's not just having a good grape, but how and where it's grown.  What soil is helping to feed the vines and how the weather and climate conditions stress the grapes, which creates a better grape.   In both instances, the artisans learn to work with the elemental factors to coax "perfection" into their finished product.

Cooking with fire is definitely a challenge.  Fire is not just heat, it is alive and moving and unpredictable.  It breathes air and exhales smoke and heat.  There is something primal about cooking with fire.  It's never the same - you are always involved and adjusting things when cooking with open fire.  A home oven is a highly controlled heat box.  There are variations in how things cook, how each oven cooks, but in general the home oven is a relatively predictable platform to cook with.  You set the exact temperature and it hits it.  Try building a 300 degree curing fire and keep it in that range for 8 hours!  Now, that's a dance!

I have always been driven to cook with fire.  I think it's about being interactive with the food I'm cooking.  I have a gas grill, which is the easiest application of that desire and also somewhat predictable, but I also pull out my Weber Smokey Mountain cooker to patiently smoke my ribs, fish or other things that need that kind of slow time and attention.  When I want to cook a perfect piece of fish I pass up my oven and gas grill and use the bottom half of my Weber smoker to fire up some lump charcoal and, with added wood chips, try to dance a little with flames and smoke to bring that piece of fish as close to perfection as possible.  I think there's no better way to cook fish!  We'll see how the WFO does!

Hey, I have a Wood Fired Oven, baby!

After 5 days of firing for about 8 hours, at low and rising temperatures each day, I was now ready to take this oven out on the open road.  It's like breaking in a new engine -- you have to drive it slowly for some time before letting it open up.  In this case, it's just to get the water out of the mortar and make sure that it doesn't blow up on you from intense heat creating expanding steam pressure within the structure.

It was time!  Today, more wood; more fire!  The temps were rising!  There's a point at around 800 degrees F. when the black carbon from the fire burns off the inside of the dome.  That's one way to know when you are finally pizza hot.  I'm only a few weeks into driving this oven, but let me tell you it was quest-worthy just seeing that!  I knew it was supposed to happen.  I was looking for it to happen, but when it did, I had a lump in my throat.  I was officially speeding down the highway!

OMG I have a pizza oven right here in my backyard!

I'm going to cut this "I got a Primavera 60" chronicle off here and call this Part I.  I will continue to tell the next part of my story as I figure out how to control this baby! Many of you reading here already have a wood fired oven and can probably relate and hopefully look back with pride and remember how you felt your first time.  For those of you who haven't I hope my journey continues to motivate you to pursue and push your own quests forward.

Thanks to a few of my brave buddies who came over to help me install this thing.  I had a plan and they followed me -- though skeptical at times, we continued our march forward.  Nobody was injured and no backs were hurt during the process!  A few weeks in, they still haven't made it back to try some of my initial test drives!

Stay tuned for some more to come as I venture into this new arena.  I can tell you now that an already difficult task of making pizza and simultaneously taking pictures will now be even more difficult!  I may have to innovate!

 

 
Soccer, Coffee...Pizza?
John Arena

When trying to pick the great pizza cities of the world there are a few places that I call the “usual suspects." Naples, for many reasons, is often considered number 1, followed by a chorus of voices shouting about New York, Chicago and, for the real pizza fans, New Haven. All of these places can make a legitimate claim to pizza supremacy but if you are serious about pizza you should consider adding another city to your bucket list. Sure, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Phoenix have become great pizza destinations but I’m thinking of a place a bit further south.

There is a city that most pizza fans don’t even think of that can make a strong case for being the Pizza World Headquarters and that place is (drum-roll)…Sao Paulo, Brazil. Wait New Yorkers, stop gnashing your teeth and keep reading. Think about it; first off, Sao Paulo has a multi- cultural population of 32 million people! The economy in Brazil is very strong, with a vibrant middle class that eats out often. And here’s the key part: Sao Paulo is full of Italians or, more accurately, people of Italian descent. That’s right, a recent survey showed that 30% of the college students in Sao Paulo claimed Italian heritage.  In the early 1900’s, at the same time that Italians were pouring into the U.S., a huge number of paesani were headed to the warmer climate of Brazil, seeking work and opportunity. So, for many of the same reasons that pizza found its way to Brooklyn it also ended up in Brazil, and believe me it is thriving. There are 7,000 pizzerias in Sao Paulo alone. We’re not talking about low quality chain places either. The vast majority of these restaurants are wood-fired, artisan pizzerias offering hand crafted pizzas with unique toppings that reflect the abundance and diversity of Brazil’s food culture.

A few weeks ago I travelled with legendary pizzaiolo, Jonathon Goldsmith, of Chicago’s famed Spaccanapoli Pizzeria. I was invited to Sao Paulo to speak at "ConPizza," a gathering of 500 innovative and dedicated pizza makers from all over Brazil. I was brought in to teach, but the truth is the teacher became the student because the Brazilian pizza makers have a lot to offer and can hold their own with pizza exponents anywhere in the world. From delicious Pizza Ripieno (stuffed crust pizza) filled with the creamy Catupiry, a local cheese that’s great on just about anything, to the gorgeous Pepperoni Bread offered at my friend Carlos Zoppetti’s Pizzeria Bari, Brazilians are creating their own spin on pizza that is as much a reflection of their unique influences as Deep Dish is to Chicago.

Pizzerias in Brazil range from beautiful rustic places like Pizza No Roca, a multi award winning restaurant where they lovingly create world class pizzas using meats and produce raised on their own farm, to Veridianna, an opulent multi-level pizza palace that features a tuxedoed musician playing a grand piano on a glass stage. It would take a lifetime to visit all of the great pizzerias of Sao Paulo but it would be a life well spent. The passion and pride of pizza makers like Andre Cotta of Pizza Presto will make a believer out of you.

 

With the World Cup coming to Brazil, and fantastic espresso available on every corner, it’s a great time for every pizza explorer to head south.

 
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?

 

 

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