Peter's Blog
Peter's Blog, "Bread Revolution"
Peter Reinhart

 

Hi Everyone,

On Oct. 21st my new book, two years in the making, will at last be available.  The following is an interview I did with myself in order to give an overview and provide background on the book.  I won't be selling these directly, but encourage you to support your local book store or, if you prefer, purchase it online.  I'll be at King Arthur Flour's Baking School this weekend (Oct. 24-25) for the first official class based on the book.  Also, at Sur la Table South Park (Charlotte) on Nov. 8th for a demonstration class.  Please check with both of these venue to see if places are still available. I'll post future classes right here, so please check back from time to time. Thanks!

 

Ten Questions and Answers with Peter Reinhart, author of Bread Revolution: World Class Baking with Sprouted and Whole Grains, Heirloom Flours, and Fresh Techniques (Ten Speed Press, Fall 2014)

What is this book about? A few years ago, I realized there was a growing movement for bread using flour made from sprouted wheat and other sprouted grains. One of the few millers in the country making this kind of flour asked me to test his sprouted whole wheat flour. I was extremely impressed by the flavor. It was better than any 100% whole wheat bread I’d ever made, even those using advanced bakers’ tricks such as preferments and slow cold fermentation. It was smoother (no rough, scratchy taste in the back of the throat), sweeter, and softer than the usual whole wheat breads, yet I made it with only the sprouted flour, salt, yeast, and water. I started playing around with it, along with other types of sprouted flours, such as gluten-free versions and even sprouted bean flours, and felt that this represented a new frontier for bread bakers.

In my explorations, I also learned about other new developments in the world of bread, such as using sprouted grain pulp, regional-specific heirloom flours, and even flour made from dried coffee cherries, grape skins, and grape seeds. Just when I thought the baking community had explored pretty much everything there was to know about bread, I saw that we were actually in the early stages of yet another revolutionary phase. This book explores some of these developments through formulas and profiles of some of its pioneers.

What is the difference between sprouted flour and sprouted pulp?

For the past 50 years, there has been a popular alternative bread on the market made with sprouted grain “pulp” or “mash.” The two most well-known brands are Ezekiel Bread and Alvarado Street Bakery. The grains are soaked, germinated, and then slightly sprouted. It is then ground into a wet pulp in a machine similar to a meat grinder. Other ingredients are added--yeast, salt, sweetener, and pure wheat gluten--and a very tasty bread emerges that is, technically, made without any “flour.” The sprouted pulp requires pure wheat gluten (also called Vital Wheat Gluten) to replace the gluten that is destroyed during germination and grinding. It was assumed that any bread made with sprouted grain would require this additional gluten in order to be light and airy.

When a few millers decided to try drying the sprouts without grinding them, and then milling the dried sprouted grain, it made a very fine flour that tasted different from non-sprouted grain. To everyone’s surprise, the gluten wasn’t destroyed in the sprouted flour and, when reconstituted as a dough, it performed like regular bread but tasted better and contained the health benefits brought about by sprouting. Now we have two ways of using sprouted grain in bread--dry flour and wet pulp—both of which provide the benefit of better nutrition and better flavor.

 

Can you explain more about the nutrition? It has long been known that when grains, seeds, and beans are sprouted, their nutritional value increases dramatically. Not only does the mineral and vitamin content increase but the starches are also affected by enzyme activity, releasing their natural sugars, and digestibility improves while lowering the glycemic load.

Now, just how much of the nutritional potential that survives the baking process is still being studied, but we’re seeing a lot of anecdotal evidence that shows positive digestive benefits. Of course, the fact that the sprouts are also whole grains is already a positive from a pre-biotic sense because of the increased fiber. I expect to see a lot of encouraging new studies emerge in the next few years.

 

What about the flavor? Why does it taste better? A seed or grain kernel is a highly concentrated package of nutrition designed to nourish new growth. Enzymes, which are small proteins that act as keys (or scissors) to break up carbohydrates or long protein chains, begin to activate when the seed is hydrated and germinated. There are a lot of implications of this activity but one is that nutrients are freed up, as are various sugars that can serve as food for both yeast and lactic bacteria (the good kind), resulting in better flavor and a richer color (that is, better eye appeal, not to be taken lightly when it comes to how we enjoy our food).

Do you address the gluten-free movement in Bread Revolution? I did not want to repeat what I wrote in my previous book, The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking, but Bread Revolution does offer a few new gluten-free recipes that feature sprouted gluten-free flours and nut flours. New information is coming out every day to clarify some of the misconceptions and false assumptions surrounding gluten and other allergens, so this category will continue to be an important part of the bread revolution.

Any new discoveries about sourdough bread? I keep learning more and more about the micro-biology underlying sourdough bread, so I included my latest findings in this book. As the research shows, there is something very different about bread made with natural wild yeast starters (aka natural leaven) as opposed to commercial yeast. I think that even more information is still to come that will show the health and digestibility benefits of naturally leavened bread, both whole grain and white flour versions.

Besides sprouted grains, what other “new frontiers” are happening in the bread world? The book takes a peek at flours made from grape skins and grape seeds, as well as varietal grape seed oils. In addition, I profile a new grain product called ProBiotein that serves not only as a healthy pre-biotic fiber supplement but also acts like a sourdough starter when added to bread dough. Flour made from the dried outer husks (called the “cherries”) of coffee beans also shows great promise in both culinary application and also in the natural healthcare market. In the last chapter, I explore the next new frontier by profiling a baker who has come up with a unique method of creating one-time-use starters.

How big do you think these new frontiers will get? Gluten-free went from a fringe movement to a multi-billion dollar industry, but not every new bread frontier tips over into something major. Sometimes a small wave can lead to a larger one later on, though; for example, I’m not convinced that grape skin flour will make a huge impact in bread baking, per se, but it clearly has many other nutritional and flavor implications that could inform health care products. I do believe sprouted grain flour is going to be a game-changer, which is why it’s the focus of this book.

You also wrote about an unusual sourdough bread method. Can you give us a little preview? A baker friend taught me a new method that involves making a starter using hand-squeezed (through a cheesecloth) apple, pear, or peach juice added to flour. He influences the flavor by resting various ingredients on top of the starter bowl to draw out particular micro-organisms. He uses parmesan cheese, coffee beans, and different types of fruit to create subtle flavors. He uses the starter only once, instead of feeding it to keep it going, because he worries that the starter will change its flavor profile if it is refreshed, which will cause him to lose control of the taste. A very interesting chapter.

What’s next? Are there bread frontiers not yet seen; any predictions? Considering that humans have been making bread for at least 6,000 years, it’s amazing that we’re still learning new ways to make it even better. Enzymes, bacteria, new strains of yeast, selective and directed seed breeding, small regional mills using locally-grown flour--the growth never seems to end. I think we’re actually headed into a golden era for bread. I’m thrilled to see what’s next!

 

 

 
"Bread Revolution," my newest book
Peter Reinhart

Just a quick announcement to let you know that on Oct. 21st my latest book will be released. I'll post a Q&A about the book on the 21st, so please check back then for that.

Last week, I did a fun teleconference with PMQ Magazine (aka Pizza Marketing Quarterly) as part of their "Think Tank" section.  It aired live via Skype but I believe it will also soon be posted as a podcast. In it we discuss the new sprouted flour options and other developments in the world of doughs.  Check at pmq.com for more details, but I'll post here when I know the podcast is up and running.

There may still be slots available for my upcoming demo class at Charlotte's Sur la Table Cooking School. Call the store for details if you live in the Charlotte area. I'll be in Vermont on Oct. 24th and 25th for a hands on workshop based on "The Bread Revolution" at King Arthur Flour's Baking Education Center. There may still be a couple of slots available so contact them directly via their website if you are interested (and to get their great catalog!).

More next week when I post the Q&A. Have a great week!!

Peter

 
Interview with Liz Barrett
Peter Reinhart

Note from Peter: Liz Barrett is the Editor at Large for PMQ Pizza Magazine, one of the world's major sources of all things having to do with pizza. Her new book just came out and Liz agreed to answer a few questions for us.  I wanted to post some of the photos from the book, including its great cover shot, but our technical problems are preventing that for now, so I suggest you link over to her website and Facebook page to see more or, better yet, buy the book, which is chock full of American pizza history, folk-lore, and guest interviews with many pizza luminaries (including one by me). Enjoy!

--Tell us about your new book, “Pizza: A Slice of American History,” and about that fabulous cover shot.


I was approached by Voyageur Press to write the book, and I happily accepted the challenge. We tossed around a couple of ideas for the book but landed on one that would tell the history behind the different pizza styles that exist across America as well as the ingredients used in each. The book is written for anyone who loves pizza—which should be just about everyone. At the same time, the book honors those in the industry who have dedicated their lives to crafting the pizzas we’ve all grown up with, no matter where we live. The cover shot was chosen by the book’s cover designer, Diana Boger. It’s a 50’s-style pizzeria located on Catalina Island in Avalon, California. Oddly enough, right before the book was released, my sister Shannah went to Catalina Island and posed in front of the pizzeria, not knowing it was on the cover of my book. Talk about a small world!

--What has it been like being a writer and editor for a major pizza magazine? What are some of the most unusual stories you’ve covered and who are some of your favorite pizza heroes?

Well, being able to write about something you’ve loved your entire life is a true blessing. Folks always ask me if I get tired of eating pizza, and honestly, I can’t imagine ever getting tired of it. I consider pizza a blank slate; you can have it so many different ways, how could it ever get boring? The pizza industry is full of interesting characters, which also makes it fun. I learned early on that every pizzeria has the BEST pizza, and that the debates about pizza can get as heated as a political debate, so make sure there are  no sharp objects around if you’re going to disagree with someone about where the best slices are. As far as pizza heroes, I think that anyone who is brave enough to embark on their own pizzeria business, putting out a delicious product and quality customer service, is a hero in my eyes. There are too many to list here.

--You’ve seen about every kind of pizza that has been or can be made. What, in your opinion, are the keys to crafting a great pizza?

At the risk of sounding “cheesy,” it really does have to do with the love that goes into a pizza. And when I say love, I mean the human touch. When I see a pizzaiolo behind the counter who is kneading the pizza dough, carefully applying the tomato sauce, and meticulously applying toppings, that pizza tastes exponentially better than a pizza that goes through a pizza press and an automatic topping machine. This isn’t to say that those other pizzas are bad, they’re just different.

For folks who are interested in competing on the U.S. (or any) Pizza Team, what are the things judges look for when determining who makes the team? In terms of the pizza itself, how much is about the crust and how much about the toppings?

There’s an acrobatic and a culinary division of the U.S. Pizza Team. For those competing in the culinary trials, the pizzas are judged on taste, appearance, and commercial viability. When I was running the competitions, I usually advised competitors not to overthink their pizza, and just keep it simple. When you’re working in a competition environment, using ovens you aren’t used to, with fluctuating temperatures, you don’t want to worry about a loaded pie not cooking all the way through. From my experience, one of the main reasons pizzas received low scores was because they were not cooked thoroughly enough, and the majority of pizzas that won, were topped with simple ingredients.

--Everyone has a favorite pizzeria, or maybe a few, so we know this is a subjective, debatable question, but can you tell us about five or six of the best pizzas or pizzerias you’ve ever experienced, and what makes them so?

I agree that this is a subjective question, which is why I usually don’t answer it. My tastes are always changing, since I’m always discovering new and wonderful pizzas and pizzerias. With that said, I have certain pizzerias that I revisit when I’m traveling….some of which include, but are not limited to: Keste, Motorino, Grimaldi’s, and John’s in New York; Spacca Napoli and Coalfire in Chicago; Varasano’s in Atlanta; Sally’s in New Haven, CT; and I’m sure I’m leaving out some great ones, which is why I avoid that question. Luckily enough, I have an award-winning pizzeria, which I adore, just 30 minutes from my house, called TriBecca Allie Café, in Sardis, MS. I like it so much that I even had my wedding reception there this past July. After all, everyone loves pizza!

--What do you see ahead as the most important new trends in the world of pizza?

We’ve seen more and more general restaurants adding pizzas to the menu in the form of flatbreads and personal-size pizzas; it allows consumers to enjoy pizza in more places, but also takes away from the traditional pizzeria experience. Additionally, the build-your-own (fast casual) pizza craze has taken off, with restaurants such as 800 Degrees and Top That! Pizza offering a Subway-esque way for customers to build their own pizzas. And, while I don’t consider it a trend, online ordering continues to grow and advance, with options to order via the press of a button on your smartphone, something that was unheard of just a few years ago.

--Finally, how can our readers get your book and access your web site and travel schedule if they want to get their book signed?

The book is available in bookstores and at all of the online booksellers. I’ve set up a page on my website with more information about the book, signings, and a link to the Facebook page at:  www.writtenbyliz.com.

 

 
WheatStalk this Weekend
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

I'm on my way to Chicago for the bi-annual WheatStalk Conference, our version of Woodstock, where 250 serious "bread-heads" gather for workshops, lectures, demo's and all things bread. I'll be leading a wood-fired pizza workshop.  Lots of fun!!!  I'll blog about it right here when I get back. (And I'm sure at least one pizza quest adventure awaits us in the Windy City -- not yet sure where we'll go, but how can anyone be in Chicago without hunting down some Chicago-style?)

Unfortunately, we're still having technical issues with loading photos, so Brad's post is still waiting in the wings. We may have to start posting some of these things without the photos, at least until we get it worked out. Believe me, we're trying. In the meantime, thanks for your support and hang in there with us.

Sincerely,

Peter

 
Peter's Blog, Quick Update
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

We have a new posting from Brad coming soon, all about a killer Lamb Merguez sausage pizza that he came up with in his Primavera 60. However, we're having some technical issues with our photo posting service. As soon as we clear that up, we'll post it.

Also, I have an interview coming up with Liz Barrett, Editor at Large and writer for PMQ Magazine (Pizza Marketing Quarterly) about a new book she just released called, "Pizza: A Slice of American History." The book just came out, and can be found at Amazon and other book stores if you want to check it out and order it now. I'll post that interview as soon as we put it all together (and also get the technical issues ironed out that I mentioned above).

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that more great content is on its way, so keep checking back.  More soon....

Peter

 
Rest in Peace, Robin Williams
Peter Reinhart

I first saw Robin Williams perform about a year before his career took off, when he was doing stand up in San Francisco, where I lived at the time. I was about 28 years old and I went to a comedy club, called The Boarding House, with a friend, having heard rumors of this hot new comic. About ten minutes into his frenetic routine my friend and I looked at each other, our mouths agape, and simultaneously said, “Unbelievable!”  It was unlike anything that anyone else was doing; spiritual, profane, gross, sublime, full of popular culture and also arcane historical references, like someone took the lid off the universal Pandoric subconscious and just let the genie out to roam at will (and this was years before he played the genie in Aladdin, which was the most perfect casting in the history of cinema). He acted out a slow motion tai chi dance in one of his routines, while spouting witty one-liners in concert with the movements, to illustrate how he could manipulate time, perhaps giving us a glimpse into how he experienced reality and how different his experience was from ours, like an athlete in the zone. “Reality, what a concept,” was a getaway line for him.

I’d long been a fan of Jonathan Winters, who was clearly one of Robin’s main inspirations, but that night was like watching Jonathan Winters on steroids to the tenth power (of course, we later learned it was probably fueled more by cocaine, but in those innocent days I’d hoped it was au naturale).

After the second time that I saw him perform I tried to send him a note, via one of the club managers, to ask if he would let me interview him. I was, at that time, a seminary student and a regular contributor to a theological magazine called Epiphany Journal and I believed that Robin Williams was operating about as close to the “Eternal Now” as was humanly possible, and I wanted to know more about his process. There was an Icarus-like quality to his ambitions and I feared that the wing-wax might soon melt but, as a performer, he flew as close to the sun as I’d ever witnessed; it was both inspiring and scary. I never got a reply to my interview request and I doubt that he ever received it, but it was as near as I ever got to him, though I followed his career earnestly till the end.

I saw him perform a few more times during that break-out year, and when I went to catch his set at a different club, about twelve months later, just as he was about launch Mork and Mindy (he’d already done a legendary HBO special, so he was no longer my/our little San Francisco discovery), he was clearly off his game. Normally, (if such a word could ever be used in association with Robin) he had a very clever way of pulling out of a bad joke sequence by stopping the show and directly addressing the audience with a straight face, declaring, “So this is what must be known as Comedy Hell.”  Then he’d go off on a comedy hell riff, invoking demons and inner voices that would magically turn things around and win back the crowd. (He also had a “Comedy Heaven” routine that he’d use when the audience was too easy on him, admonishing us by saying, “Now you’re laughing at nothing.” Brilliant!) But on this night even the Comedy Hell trick wasn’t working, so he kept sputtering, working hard to turn it around, sweating profusely, drinking lots of water, knowing that it just wasn’t happening, a little panic entering into what seemed like his coked-up bravado.  It was hard to watch but I was glad I got to see him in this situation, though disappointed that he wasn’t as mind boggling as before, because everyone knows that these are the situations that really test a comic’s mettle. It was painful but, by now he was a veteran trouper and he managed to pull out of the tailspin enough to leave us hungry for more, applauding for him wildly; an A for effort. It was on that night that I began to wonder how long he could keep going at this pace before imploding. Amazingly, it took thirty five years, though who knows how many crash and burns he went through along the way -- we do know of a few, but probably not all. Every time he got clean and sober I breathed a sigh of relief and hoped he could keep bouncing back. But his resilience, as we now know, had its limit.

There’s no way to know just how much each performance took out of him, but if any of you have ever laid it all out there (“Left it all on the field,” as they say in sports) -- and I know many of you have -- you know how it is both exhilarating and draining, how there’s always a cost. When I heard of his death I became profoundly sad and it hasn’t surprised me that so many others were equally saddened. Great artists have a way of becoming transparent to and sharing with their audiences their deep longing for something always just out reach. Robin’s performances, at least the early ones I got to witness, and also some of his best film roles, caused us to believe that, even while still out of reach, the things longed for were nearer than ever to our grasp, maybe even achievable but, oh my, at what a cost. The sadness I now feel is a kind of melancholy, putting me in touch with my own longing for what C. S. Lewis called the great “I know not what.”  When Robin performed, the “I know not what” seemed almost graspable. But, because it is, in reality (yes, what a concept), still always just out of reach, the quest for it can sometimes wear you out. I wish we had another twenty years of him, but that’s just selfish.

I’ll find my own way to stay renewed in the quest of my own longings, and wish I had been able to help him keep bouncing back. A lot of people are wishing that, even those of us who never knew him. But what a joy it was to live, if even vicariously, in the slipstream of his unbelievable energy.

 

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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

Peter's Books

American Pie Artisan Breads Every Day Bread Baker's Apprentice Brother Juniper's Bread Book Crust and Crumb Whole Grain Breads

… and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on Amazon.com

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