Peter's Blog
Peter's Blog, July 21st, Upcoming Book Tour
Peter Reinhart

As promised, here are the upcoming travel dates as I hit the road for the launch of my new book, "The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking."  I hope to meet many of you and if you are interested in any of the classes or presentations, please call the various venues for details and ticket availability.

August 15th: Draeger's Market Cooking School, Blackhawk (Walnut Creek, Calif.): Gluten-Free class (GF from here on)

August 16th: Draeger's Market Cooking School, San Mateo (GF)

August 17th: Draeger's Market Cooking School, San Mateo (Artisan Breads Everyday class)

August 18th: Talk and books signing at Omnivore Books, Noe Valley, San Francisco, 3 PM

August 20th: Sur la Table, Los Gatos (GF)

August 21st: Ramekins, Sonoma, CA (GF)

August 22nd: Ramekins, Sonoma (Artisan Bread)

August 24th: Sur la Table, Santa Rosa, CA (GF)

August 25th: 2:30 PM Relish Culinary Adventures, Healdsburg, CA (GF cracker workshop)

August 25th: 5 - 6 PM, Book signing at Copperfields Books, Healdsburg, CA

September 10th: Loretta Paganini's Cooking School, Cleveland, OH (Multi-Grain breads)

Sept. 11th: Loretta Paganini's Cooking School (Artisan Breads)

Sept. 12th: Western Reserve Cooking School, Hudson, OH (GF)

Sept. 13th: Western Reserve Cooking School (Artisan Breads)

October 12th (evening) and 13th (morning): King Arthur Baking Center, Norwich, VT (GF workshop)

November 17th: A Southern Season, Chapel Hill, NC (GF)

There will be more to come and I'll add them to this calendar as they do, but that's what's on the schedule for now. I'm working on other cities for other months but no dates set yet -- I'll post them here as they confirm.  Hope to see you there as we get to a city near you.

Peter

 
Hot off the press news
Peter Reinhart

This just came in today and I want to let you be the first to know about it. I recently filmed a serious artisan bread making course for an internet educational company called Craftsy. Well, it's ready to roll (oops, sorry about the pun) and the best news is that those who sign up via the following link can get the whole course for 50% off (it will sell at full value for $39.99 so you can get it via the link for just $19.99). My understanding is that this special launch price will only be good for a limited period, so check it out at www.craftsy.com/artisanbread for the special price and a more detailed description of the course. We had fun filming it and, if it goes well, I'm hoping we'll be doing more, perhaps on pizzas -- who knows?  Anyway, check it out and feel free to pass the word and link on to others. To get the special price, though, you have to use the full url above.

If any of you do sign up, let me know what you think -- this is a whole new educational platform and concept and they have lots of other courses, such as cheese making, baking with chocolate, cake decorating, and crafts of all kinds. It's very exciting -- can't wait to hear what you think of it.

 
Peter's Blog, July 11
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

Lots of new recipe ideas from Brad continue to be featured on the Home Page -- he's currently on a huge Banh Mi Pizza kick so be sure to read his posts, below, for some very clever and tasty treats.

Also, a quick calendar note to let those of you in the Bay Area know that I'll be coming through in a few weeks for the launch of my newest book,"The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking."  My co-author, Denene Wallace, will also be on this tour and we'll be teaching at Draeger's (Black Hawk and also San Mateo), Sur la Table (Los Gatos and also Santa Rosa), Ramekins (Sonoma), and Relish (Healdsburg).  We'll also be giving a short talk followed by a book signing at Omnivore Books on Saturday, August 18th at 3 PM.  In my next Peter's Blog I'll break down all the dates and post a proper calendar for August and September, so this is just a heads up.

Most importantly, I want to welcome our newest sponsor to Pizza Quest, DiNapoli Tomato Products. Of course, we've been touting our love affair with DiNapoli tomatoes for many months, both in our recipe postings and also in various videos, some of which are still to be posted. Many of you already know of the collaboration between Rob DiNapoli and Chris Bianco that has brought Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes to a select few pizzerias across the country (I'm proud to say that Pure Pizza, the pizzeria that I helped start here in Charlotte, uses these phenomenal organically grown tomatoes exclusively on our pizzas). But they also have a number of other superb products that set the industry standard.  So, when I say we're proud to have DiNapoli as a sponsor, I really mean proud.

Rob DiNapoli first wrote to me way back when we launched Pizza Quest just to wish us well and to tell me about his pending collaboration with my long time friend, Chris Bianco.  A few months later, when the first cans were filled, he sent me a sample, and also some to Brad, who went wild creating pizzas that are now in the Instructional section archives. When we visited and filmed at Pizzeria Basta in Boulder we saw a number of empty cans of the Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes and Chef Kelly Whitaker told us that he had recently made the switch (the next time we visited Kelly he had also switched his flour to Central Milling, which also later became one of our sponsors). You can see where this is heading; Pizza Quest is dedicated to the search for the perfect pizza and, as we like to say, the celebration of artisans and artisanship of all types.  We've been posting for eighteen months now about this ineffable concept, a level of quality that can't be summed up by a few words, that has so many facets that every week we have to make another attempt to locate, define, and describe it.  It's partly about the people and partly about the ingredients -- and it's mainly about when the people and the ingredients come together in a rare synergy that delivers a rarely experienced level of satisfaction and joy. That's what's been driving us and, I think, why so many of you keep returning to this site in order to let us share our journey with you (because, in reality, we're all on the same journey -- and you're "on the bus" with us). One of the unanticipated benefits for us has been not only experiencing these amazing people and ingredients but having some of them actually join us as sponsors. Central Milling, The Fire Within, Forno Bravo Ovens, and now DiNapoli Tomato Products all exemplify what Pizza Quest is about and we're honored and proud to have them all on our team -- heck, as sponsors they help drive the bus and make it possible for us to stay on the quest, and for this we are very grateful.  When you have a chance, click through on the banner ad at the top of this page (it rotates in with our other sponsors) and read about DiNapoli and, if you have a few minutes, follow the prompts on their site and watch the video Rob DiNapoli has made that shows you the whole process of how he gets those amazing tomatoes from the earth to the cans.

We like being associated with companies that represent the highest expression of their segment of the food world and we're glad that they like being associated with us, and by extension, with you, our readers. So thanks to all of you for supporting us and for supporting our sponsors.

Next week, a calendar of upcoming appearances and classes. Also, we've had good response to the recent FAQ series so if you have a question that you'd like to see answered in this Peter's Blog section, please post the question in the "comments" below and we'll try to address it. Till next week, may your bread always rise and may your pizzas all be perfect!

 
FAQ #3: Three Pizza Doughs
Peter Reinhart

 

Can you send me a recipe for pizza dough? I get this question a lot so here are three to get you going. We often refer to the first two recipes, below, in our instructional section and many of you already have them in your repertoire. But for those of you who are new, I'm reprinting them here in one place for easier retrieval. In addition, I've added a unique gluten-free recipe using sprouted gluten-free flour, along with the contact info for where to get the flour. I've written about this new development in the world of flour, sprouted grain flours, in previous posts so please refer to those for background. But here, for the first time, is a recipe you can use to make this dough at home.

We'd love to hear back from you, in the comments section below, with your results and also any questions that we can answer for the benefit of everyone.

One final note: in some of our pizzas we referred to the special Birra Basta dough we made last fall at the Great American Beer Festival with Kelly Whitaker and the folks from The Bruery. It is very similar to the Country dough, below. You can make your own version by using coarse, pumpernickel grind flour in place of the whole wheat flour and adding 1 tablespoon of dry malt powder (aka malt crystal), or use an equal amount of barley malt syrup.  You can also contact our flour sponsor, Central Milling, and order some of their Germainia flour and also a small bag of malt crystal, to make it exactly the same way we did.  I love that Germainia flour and hope to create a number of doughs in the future that use it.

 

Classic Pizza Dough, Neo-Neapolitan Style

(Makes five 8-ounce pizzas)

What makes this Neo-Neapolitan is that I use American bread flour instead of Italian -00- flour, but you can certainly use Italian flour, such as from Caputo, if you want to make an authentic Napoletana dough. Just cut back on the water by about 2 ounces, since Italian flour does not absorb as much as the higher protein American flour (if you use Central Milling's -00- flour you don't have to cut back on the water and it makes an amazing dough). Always use unbleached flour for better flavor but, if you only have bleached flour it will still work even if it doesn’t taste quite as good. If you want to make it more like a New Haven-style dough (or like Totonno’s or other coal-oven pizzerias), add 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. These are optional--the dough is great with or without them. As with the Country Dough, the key is to make it wet enough so that the cornicione (the edge or crown) really puffs in the oven.

5 1/4 cups (24 ounces by weight) unbleached bread flour

2 teaspoons (0.5 oz.) kosher salt

1 1/4 teaspoons (0.14 oz.) instant yeast (or 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast dissolved in the water)

2 tablespoons (1 oz.) olive oil (optional)

1 tablespoons (1/2 oz.) sugar or honey (optional)

2 1/4 cups (18 oz.) room temperature water (less if using honey or oil)

--You can mix this by hand with a big spoon or in an electric mixer using the paddle (not the dough hook).

--Combine all the ingredients in the bowl and mix for one minute, to form a coarse, sticky dough ball.

--Let the dough rest for five minutes, then mix again for one minute to make a smooth, very tacky ball of dough.

--Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, rub a little oil on your hands, and fold the dough into a smooth ball. Let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes and then stretch and fold the dough into a tight

 
FAQ #2: Why Do We Make the Dough a Day Ahead
Peter Reinhart

I get asked this one a lot. Or, more accurately, I get lots of e-mails asking some variation of the following question: What do I need to do to make the best pizza dough? Since that's a loaded question, subject to subjectivity and regional bias, I usually punt and focus on a couple of general tricks that seem to bring best results for nearly any kind of pizza dough.  The two most valuable tricks, in my opinion are, one, to crank your oven up as high as you can get it and, two, to make your dough at least one day ahead. The reason for the first suggestion is pretty simple: the faster you can bake the pizza, with both the crust and the toppings finishing up at the same time, the more moist and creamy (yet snappy) your crust will taste. Of course, if your oven is generating too much top or bottom heat and only half of the equation gets baked before the other half, all bets are off. Or, you may have to make some adjustments as to which shelf you use. Baking is a balancing act between time, temperature, and ingredients and it's usually possible to fix an uneven bake by simply adjusting one or more of those cardinal points. In most cases, it's usually the shelf but sometimes its too strong a convection.

But first you need a good dough and next week I'll provide three master recipes for pizza doughs based on my book, American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. But, in the meantime, assuming you already have a dough recipe that you like or want to improve upon, perhaps from another source, the first change you can make, if you haven't already, is to make the dough the day before (or, at the very least, early in the morning that you plan to make the pizzas). A few years ago very few people knew about this trick and most cookbooks provided recipes that treated pizza dough just like sandwich dough: mix, rise, shape, and bake. This made dough for pizza but, sadly, not for memorable pizza and, as our regular readers know, this site is all about shooting for great (i.e., memorable) pizza experiences.

This little trick begs the questions, why make the dough so far ahead? Why does it make better pizza? If you haven't asked these questions and are just taking my word for it, then I have failed you because another of our goals here is to explore how to cook, not just how to follow a recipe. What I mean is that ingredients have a certain functionality as well as having flavor, and the difference between a real cook and a recipe follower is that the former, after following recipes for awhile, develops an intuition about the functionality of ingredients so that you can cook without recipes because you know what the ingredient, or the technique, provides to the process. Sometimes, it just takes one piece of new information to trigger that aha moment in which everything becomes clear, as if for the first time. Making dough ahead of time is one of those pieces of information and I'm going to tell you why and, if you don't already know what I'm about to say, this may change your baking ability forever:

Flour consists of mostly starch, with some protein and a small amount of minerals and enzymes. Starch is, when push comes to shove, just sugar -- that is, it consists of complex weaves of various sugar chains such as glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, and the like,  that are so tightly woven together your tongue can't access the sweetness, and bacteria and yeast can't get to the sugars to ferment them. Fortunately, the amylase and diastase enzymes that also exist in the grain (and sometimes additional enzymes are added at the mill in the form of malted barley flour), act upon the starches and begin to break off some of the sugar chains, especially the glucose and maltose, and free them up for the micro-organisms to feed on, and also for our palates, and also for the oven to caramelize them when they bake. But it takes time for all of this to happen, at least 8 to 12 hours, so the refrigerator becomes our friend, slowing down the rate of fermentation so that the yeast (and, to a lesser extent, the bacteria) don't digest all the newly available sugar threads but leave some behind for our tongues and for the oven. The colder the dough, the slower the rate of fermentation and also the enzyme activity. If we hit the balance point just right, by the time we bake the pizzas (and also breads, to which this technique can be applied, as I show in my book, "Artisan Breads Everyday"), we can produce the most beautiful golden crusts (caramelization of the sugars), and the sweetest, nuttiest tasting crusts due to the acidity created by the fermentation, and the deep roasting of the protein threads caused by the high heat, as well as the remaining sugar threads still remaining for our own pleasure.  It's all about hitting that balance and, fortunately, while it is science, it is not rocket science and most of the work is done for us by the use of refrigeration and letting the ingredients work it out for themselves.

Next week, three pizza dough recipes.

 
FAQ #1, Sourdough Starters
Peter Reinhart

This will be the first of a series of posts that address the most frequently asked questions that I get from our readers.  I will just deal with one at a time, and will headline them FAQ with a number next to it as well as a word identifier, so this one will be FAQ #1, Sourdough Starters. That way, when someone wants to track one down in the Peter's Blog section each question will be easy to find.

So yes, this one is about sourdough starters, one of the great mystery areas of bread baking.  I will keep it short, as I have a much longer file that goes deeply into the subject and will send it to those who are serious about the matter, while not boring the rest of you here with the complicated stuff. This posting will be more like the headline news version.  If you want the file, write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to request it.

Just to clarify and get us all on the same page, sourdough starter is really another way of saying a natural leaven, composed of various wild yeast strains and also various bacteria stains that produce both lactic and acetic acid, all living in a medium made up of flour and water.  The starter can be kept either in a wet, spongey form or in a firm, bread-dough-like form. In either instance, there is usually no salt in a wild yeast or sourdough starter (the salt gets added during the mixing of the final bread dough).  The micro-organisms live in the flour mixture, which is replenished from time to time on a feeding schedule determined by the baker.  These starters take the place of commercial yeast, or can also be used in conjunction with commercial yeast, to raise the dough. Because of all the complex acids produced by the bacterial fermentation, sourdough (aka wild yeast) breads contain an acidic flavor complexity not found in breads leavened by commercial yeast alone,

Instructions for how to make a sourdough starter from scratch are contained in the file referred to above. What I want to address here is one issue that I hear about a lot: why isn't my starter bubbling away by the third or fourth day when I make it from scratch the way it's supposed to, especially since it started bubbling on Day Two?  Something has changed in flour, I believe, since I first started giving instructions fifteen years ago for how to make a starter from scratch.  This is just a theory, based on some sleuthing done by a chemist friend of mine, Debbie Wink, who analyzed the microbiology of her starters under a microscope, but it seems to be proving itself:  there is a lactic acid bacteria called Leuconostoc that seems more prevalent in grain these days and it has changed the way wild yeast grows in a starter.  At first, it mimics yeast in that it produces carbon dioxide, much as yeast does, when it ferments the natural grain sugars in the dough mixture. It makes us think that the starter has come to life and that the wild yeast is growing and multiplying -- but the yeast hasn't multiplied. Wild yeast needs an acidic environment in order to flourish, and this is exactly what the bacteria provides. But Leuconostoc, while slowly producing acid, actually doesn't like to live in it. So, while this bacteria, along with other bacteria present in the starter (mostly having come in with the flour, but probably some also some from the air), eats sugar and creates acid, while the wild yeast waits and waits until the Leuconostoc goes dormant, and then the yeast cells become active and multiply.  As a result, what used to be about a five day process now takes as many as 7 to 10 days. The problem, though, is that if if you just let the starter sit and wait, some unfriendly bacteria can land on the surface and create molds.  If you proceed to the next feeding cycle prematurely, before the starter starts to bubble and burp, it just sets it back another few days.

So, the best way to get through this middle, dormant phase is to stir or knead the starter (we call it a seed culture at this stage, prior to becoming a full-on starter) twice a day to prevent the invading bacteria from getting a foot-hold. It may take three or four days to finally wake up but eventually it will.  By this time the Leuconostoc will go dormant and the other, more flavorful acid producing bacteria will thrive, as will the strains of wild yeast that provide the leavening for your bread. Once the seed culture come to life, you can resume feeding it as directed in the instructions to complete your sourdough "mother" starter.

Note: one trick that seems to shave a couple days off the process is to use pineapple juice (or even orange juice) on the first day when making the Day One seed culture. The acid from the juice gets things going in the right direction, but you still may run into a dormant period in the middle phase.  Don't give up on your starters, though; they will come to life if you remember to stir or knead them twice a day during the dormant phase.

Again, for more details, write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and I'll send the file, or you can read about it my books, Whole Grain Breads, and also in Artisan Breads Everyday. Those of you who have your own tricks for making a potent wild yeast starter, feel free to comment below and share your methods.  Also, refer to our sourdough maven, Teresa Greenway's website at www.northwestsourdough.com for all sorts of great recipes, info, and photos.

 

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Vision Statement

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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