Peter's Blog
Peter's Blog, February 8th
Peter Reinhart

 

We’ve received a nice thread of comments on Michael Hanson’s Guest Column, To Be a Sacred Baker, so I think he may have touched a nerve. One thing I realized after reading the article is that we’ve been using the word “artisan” very liberally here at Pizza Quest to help define what our website is all about, which we characterize as, “A celebration of artisans and artisanship.” Frankly, though, I am concerned that the word artisan has lost some of its ooomph or mojo in the food community, through overuse and clever marketing by supermarkets and advertisers (“Try our new artisan bread…”). So, when Michael coined a new identity for himself, sacred baker, I immediately liked it because it’s too new to be diluted by the marketplace and, because it is so new, it causes us to stop and think and maybe to even ask, “What does he mean by that?”

Michael described himself in his article as someone who transitioned beyond artisan baking into what he now calls sacred baking because that is what he felt called to do with his life, to stop making compromises, and that the concept of artisan no longer took him to that deeper level of connecting with his sense of personal mission. I remember a number of years ago when I was

 
Peter's Blog, February 2nd
Peter Reinhart

 

Hi Again,

On Friday of this week we will be posting a new Guest Column by Michael Hanson, a wood-fired baker, living and working in the UK. In his column, he tells of his transition from a career as a serious, professional, third generation baker to becoming an artisan, committed to cooking with fire as a way of reconnecting with the sacredness of it all. It's a fascinating piece.  While Pizza Quest is not only about cooking with fire, but is really more about the celebrating of artisans and artisanship in any number of areas (including those who bake using any kind of heat source, as we discussed in last week's Peter's Blog), Michael's guest column got me thinking again about the growing movement of wood-fired bakers and cooks, and how this niche has become an important trend (as opposed to a fad). I call the wood-fired oven community fire-freaks, and I

 
Peter's Blog, January 25th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

Ever since we posted the Instructional videos from The Fire Within Conference we've been getting a number of requests to discuss how to make a home oven perform like one of those wood-fired brick ovens in the video. It's tempting to say,"No way, can't be done," but the fact is that most of us don't own a brick oven and even those who do still have to cook much of their food in gas or electric home ovens. I've been hosting pizza parties at our house for years, well before I joyfully received my Forno Bravo Primavera oven, so I can attest to the fact that it can be done--that is, you can make killer pizzas in a home oven, even one like my weenie electric oven that doesn't go above 500 degrees Fahrenheit and doesn't even have convection.

So, here are a few tricks that anyone can use to make your oven perform at a higher level. This will come as no secret, but the key is to maximize what you can get from the oven by using thick pizza (ie baking) stones, not the thin 1/2" stones that break or crack after a few months. Our friend and world famous pizzaiolo Brian Spangler (of Apizza Scholls in Portland, Oregon), who uses an electric oven at his amazing pizzeria, is famous for saying, "It's not the source of the heat that matters, it's about the quality of the BTU's." This is true, to a point, but what most home ovens lack is both quality BTU's and also quality insulation. Home ovens simply do not hold their heat well, certainly not like a brick oven. But baking stones serve as thermal masses, much as bricks do in a wood fired oven, absorbing and then radiating stored heat back into the food. The addition of even one baking stone can make a huge difference, but some of our Pizza Quest Forum writers report the added benefits of using two stones--one to radiate heat from below and one from

 
Peter's Blog, Jan. 18th
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

Things are moving fast and furious, so here are a couple of updates: On Wednesday I'll post a new recipe, this time for one of my favorite toppings, balsamic onion marmalade. This is one of the most popular recipes I've ever developed and has appeared in at least three of my books. I have a new trick or two to add this time around and will give you some suggestions for how and where to use it, so check back on Wednesday.

Which reminds me to remind you: If you are just now joining us on PizzaQuest.com you may be wondering in what order to watch the webisodes? If you go to the Webisode page, all the previous weeks' segments will be there, though some may have moved to the archives at the bottom of the page. If you haven't yet seen it, start with what we call Pizza As Obsession, which is sampler reel of some of the places we've been--kind of like a movie trailer of coming attractions. After that, go to the Mozza Intro, then to Matt Molina, and finally to the newest segment, which posts this Thursday, LaBrea Bakery Part One.

If you go to the Instructional page you will see other videos, such as Kelly Whitaker of Pizzeria Basta making a buratta appetizer to die for; The Sweet Water Gypsies making a bacon, grana, and fresh mozzarella pizza; and Joseph Pergolizzi making a ricotta-garlic pizza. You can watch these in any order. We'll be adding a new Instructional OR a new Webisode segment every week on Thursday.

On Friday, read Part Two of John Arena's Guest Column on Pizza as Artistic Self Expression. If you are a fan of Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix), Spacca Napoli (Chicago), or Una Pizza Napoletana (formerly in NYC and now in San Francisco) don't miss his column. If you've never been to any of these benchmark pizzerias, don't miss John's column and then find a way to go to them. In other words, don't miss his column (and if you missed Part One, it's still up on the site.

Let me close by saying that I have gone on record many times with the following statement: "There are only two kinds of pizza: good and very good." In other words, I love all pizza, whether from a chain pizzeria, a single standing unit, or an artisan pizzeria--the only bad pizza

 
It Just Keeps Getting Better
Peter Reinhart

This week on PizzaQuest we introduce you to the Sweet Water Gypsies, two pizzaiolas from southern Utah. Look in the Instructionals section, posting on Thursday, for the video we made together featuring a wonderful arugula topped pizza with fresh mozzarella, grana padana cheese, bacon and crushed tomato sauce (the recipe for the sauce was posted last week). Also on Thursday, in our ongoing series of fundamental culinary building blocks, I'll post a new recipe, this one for an easy to make fresh basil pesto that you can use either before or after you bake your pizza (and it's fabulous on pasta too!).

We'll also be posting on Friday the first of a two part guest column series from John Arena, the multi-talented owner of Metro Pizza in Las Vegas. John is also a pizza historian -- maybe the only one in America-- as some of you who have taken his college course at UNLV on The History and Culture of Pizza know. In his guest column he explores various dimensions of pizza as an act of creative self expression, a subject close to our hearts here at PizzaQuest (after all, our sub-title is "A journey of self-discovery through pizza").  In previous weeks our guest columnists have written about the human need for community (Joseph Pergolizzi) and also the importance of respecting the craft and the craftsmen (Tony Gemignani). Each week our guest columnists will build on these kind of imperatives that drive the human spirit. I hope you have been finding them enriching, and I encourage you to jump in and and keep the conversation going by posting comments. We are building a community of our own here on PizzaQuest, and the best way to do that is for us to interact.

I keep getting e-mails from our readers asking about upcoming classes that I may be teaching. Because I'm working on a new book, I won't be doing any travel teaching for awhile, but will be sure to post my travel schedule when I have one. Writing a book entails long, lonely hours, usually in the middle of the night, and my deadline is July 1st, which seems like far off but I know how much still needs to be done. Until we put the book to bed I have to keep my focus on it, as well as on our weekly postings here, and the less frequent postings on my baking blog (http://peterreinhart.typepad.com). So, keep checking and, eventually, the road trips will start again.

Enjoy this week's offering and, for those who are just joining us, be sure to visit some of the earlier videos and features in each of the sections--use those buttons at the top of the page for the grand tour. And don't forget, next week we return to our Pizzeria Mozza webisode series, with a visit to LaBrea Bakery, where the Mozza dough gets made.

Till next week,

May Your Pizzas All Be Perfect!

Peter

PS  Don't forget that every time we post a new video or column, we move the earlier ones to their respective section, so you can still see them. If you're just joining us for the first time, you can catch up on all of the early postings and webisodes by simply clicking on the buttons above.

 

 

 
Peter's Blog, Week Three
Peter Reinhart

Here we are, already into our third week of PizzaQuest.com and the site just keeps filling up with more great content. If you check out Coming Attractions you will see our publishing plan and blueprint not only for this week but for the weeks to come. I won't repeat all that here but I do want to give you a few new updates:

--For those of you who read my baking blog, you know that I'm also working on a new book in the midst of all this Pizza Questing. If you are interested in becoming a recipe tester, click over to that blog for details. On January 15th the gates will officially open and we'll take the first 50 applicants. Everyone else will go on the waiting list till the next round, which will probably be in about two months.

--We have some great Guest Columns coming up in the next few weeks, including this week's posting from Joseph Pergolizzi, whom you have seen in action in one of our Instructional videos. Joseph has created one of the most unique artisan businesses in the United States, The Fire Within, and I'm proud to have him as a friend and Pizza Quest contributor. His thoughtful comments this week on the concept of what he calls The Third Place will broaden your frame of reference on community building. We'll be posting his column this Friday (Friday will always be Guest Column Day, just as Thursday will always be New Video day).

--Here at Pizza Quest we're looking into some upcoming opportunities to get back on the road. Nothing definite to report yet, but when we do get back on the "bus" we'll be sure to let you know in case you want to meet us there. We've even fantasized about getting a real bus, like Ken Kesey, and putting an antenna dish on the front and decorate it up to look like a big pizza. Don't know when, but it's going to happen one of these days. That'll be a bus worth getting on.

--This week, now that the holiday break has ended, classes begin again here at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, so things will be getting crunched for me. But we have so many terrific students that it's actually energizing being around them. A group of our students, along with their faculty advisers, have cultivated an organic garden right in the middle of center city Charlotte, a block from the school, and they even make their own compost with the kitchen scraps from all our cooking labs. We're looking to build a wood-fired oven in the middle of the garden in the next phase, so stay tuned. If any of you ever make it to Charlotte be sure to call the school and get on one of the daily tours, and ask your tour guide to show you the garden. If you are coming, write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and let me know. If I'm able, I'll try to meet you.

Continue to enjoy PizzaQuest.com, please add your comments to the various features, and, till next time,

May Your Pizzas All Be Perfect!

Peter

 

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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.

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

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