Peter's Blog
Peter's Blog, Oct. 1
Peter Reinhart

Here's the first question that came, from Doc.Dough. He must be a doc, for sure, as it takes a little study to understand the question -- but I'll take a stab at it and then all of you can chime in with comments.

Over on TFL I see lots of people slavishly following very exacting instructions without understanding what the instructions are intended to convey. Perhaps Peter could attempt to articulate the difference between importance and exactness or in some way provide some useful guidance to set expectations a little lower with respect to the behavior of sourdough cultures in the amateur's kitchen. There is the "you have to do it enough times to have seen it go wrong occasionally" method of teaching, and there is the parametric sensitivity derivatives analytic approach which is fine for the science crowd but pretty useless for the average home baker. Is there a happy medium?

I think the answer is both yes and no. Let me see if I can elaborate: there are dozens of legitimate ways of making and keeping a starter. I have offered to send a file on the subject to anyone who requests it (write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to make the request -- hundreds of you already have), but the main thing to remember is that a starter is just a medium for the cultivation of wild yeast and lactic acid and acetic acid-forming bacteria. The speed of development and the creation of a hospitable environment for these micro-organisms is partly determined by temperature and also by what organisms are already living in a dormant state on the grain and, to some extent, in the local air.  The biggest mistake I've seen in recent times is that people abandon their starter in the early stages (we call it the seed culture stage) because they think it is dead, or it isn't activating on the same timetable as described in whatever method they are following. Other errors include trying to jump start it with commercial yeast (which is too fragile to survive the acidic conditions and will die and then give off glutathione which wreaks havoc on the gluten), or thinking that their old "mother" starter is no good after sitting in the fridge for months so they throw it out.

It is true that an old starter will turn to mush in the fridge and is not structurally sound enough for using in a loaf, but it only takes an ounce or two of it to re-establish it in a new, strong, viable "mother" starter in a day or two since the micro-organisms are still viable even if the dough itself is spent and chewed up by the acids.

There are a number of theories floating around about why it seems to be taking longer for a new

 
Peter's Blog, Sept. 28
Peter Reinhart

Two quick things: The home page here is getting kind of long so I will soon be trimming it and sending some of the older pieces into their respective archives, which you are always welcome to open with the buttons at the top of the page. I'll also be shortening some of them with a "continue reading" tag at the end. But util I do that, for those of you interested in our recent Peter's Blog Q & A thread, which is now located about halfway down the home page, I wrapped up that very interesting thread with a request for more questions (see thread item 26) so we can start anew. Let's move the response to that request to this posting just to keep it further up the page.

The other item is some happy news for our Pure Pizza team here in Charlotte. We just got our first major review, by Helen Schwab who is the restaurant critic for the Charlotte Observer. You can check it out here: http://events.charlotteobserver.com/reviews/show/14288405-review-pure-pizza

I'm super proud of everyone and I think we're doing something very special there. Please check us out when you are in Charlotte (those of you who came to the Jon Stewart Daily Show tapings, held across the street during the DNC, consumed a lot of our pies -- thanks for spreading the word).

Enough bragging and kudos -- now back to Q & A -- bring them on.....

 

 
Peter's Blog, Sept. 15th, Cold Fermentation
Peter Reinhart

In my recent Peter's Blogs we received a number great comments, including an offer to engage in some dialogue on dough methodology from Scott123. Rather than answer his first question in a Comment box in the previous post, I thought it might be best to make it the topic of a new Peter's Blog, and we can keep all the comments related to this question here, and deal with subsequent questions each in their own blog posting. Who knows, we might end up with a nice collection of useful information, all nicely archived. So, the forum is open and let's start with Scott's opening salvo.

He's raised an interesting question: does long, cold, overnight fermentation create a flavor that would universally be considered superior; that is, an inarguable benefit?  To answer this, I think, requires more than a simple yes or no, but an explanation as to what happens during the fermentation stage that would lead to the opinion that this is a way to improve flavor.  We've discussed this here in the past, though in an abbreviated manner, so let me draw it out more

 
Peter's Blog, Labor Day, 2012
Peter Reinhart

Hard to believe that it's already September -- how did that happen? Meanwhile, Charlotte is gearing up for the big convention this week and everyone is wondering what life will be like after it's over. We'll know soon enough.

But first, before I forget, I need to let you know that there are still places available for the Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free class coming up on Wed., September 12th at the Western Reserve Cooking School in Hudson Ohio.  If you can make it, contact them at www.wrsoc.com/   or call (330) 650-1665.


Since I just got back from the inaugural teaching tour for the new book I can  honestly say that the class is a lot of fun and those who attended the eight classes we did in the SF Bay Area all loved the products and were amazed at how easy the method is.  In addition to the upcoming class at Western Reserve  (I'll also be doing an artisan bread class the following day there), I will be at the upcoming Bookmarks Book Festival in Winston-Salem this coming Saturday, Sept. 8th, along with Steven Raichlen and a slew of authors from all genres. If you are in the area, please do come by. My demo is Sat. morning at 10:30 AM, and details can be found at http://www.bookmarksbookfestival.org/

The Bay Area tour was a big success. Denene Wallace, my co-author, is an inspiration, as she not only figured out how to make diabetic friendly gluten-free baked goods of all types using nut and seed flours instead of grain flours, but also, in the process, weaned herself from five insulin shots a day down to zero. She was a terrific collaborator both on the book and in the classes, telling stories in her delightful Georgian twang ("Do I really sound like I'm from the South? I don't hear it -- do they?" ) and also sharing all her hard earned baking tips.  Sadly, she won't be with me in Hudson -- I'll be going solo this time -- but she will be rejoining me in November (the 17th) in Chapel Hill at A Southern Season. Anyway, we did cooking schools, radio shows, and I even re-connected with some of my old friends from the Brother Juniper's Bakery days. The main thing we needed to find out, since this was our first tour, was whether those who came to the classes would love the products as much as we do. And they did!!!   So, mission accomplished.  For more details on the book and, to write to us about this aspect of our work, go to our website at www.thejoyofgluten-freesugar-freebaking.com

Now, onto the long thread in the recent Peter's Blog. As I mentioned in the last posting, I was thrilled to see so much passion and sharing of knowledge. For some of you it was probably TMI -- not everyone cares about potassium bromate and the various nuances of fermentation, but many of us do. But I hope you all read each of the comments as they amounted to a wealth of narrative and information. My guiding mantra, which I wrote a whole book about once ("Bread Upon the Waters") is: "Reverence the reverences of others, not the things they revere."  So I don't feel that I have to agree with every point regarding NY pizza by the slice, or the choice of flour, to get excited by the degree of caring expressed by the various correspondents, and I want to honor that passion.  There were great points made regarding some of the things I've written in the past, such as how much water to add to tomato puree to make sauce (I did write 1 3/4 cups for my marinara sauce recipe in "American Pie" based on a very thick puree I used, but should have added, "or as needed" -- good catch, Scott).  So let me make just a few points, below, to clear up

 
I'm Back
Peter Reinhart

This will be quick. Just wanted to say I'm back from Northern California where the book launch went exceedingly well ("The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking" is even being featured this week on SeriousEats.com in their "Cook the Book" section). But I'm still catching up, digging through a pile of mail and newspapers, and also getting ready for the new season at Johnson & Wales University during faculty orientation week. But I'll be posting a new Peter's Blog within the next few days on the highlights of the California trip, plus additional travel news updates, as well as some remarks on the fabulous "comments" thread in the posting below, which has surpassed 103 the last time I looked -- though I'd like to continue it on the entry posted just above it to allow others to join in with a fresh slate (thanks to Allen Cohn for becoming numbers 102, 103 and beyond, but your input is so good I hope you'll keep it coming on the newer posting where it won't get lost way down the queue) . We also have some new recipes coming from Brad, new webisodes in the editing studio at this very moment soon to appear, and more guest columns still to come.

Anyway, as soon as I catch up on my sleep and my mail, I'm jumping back in.....

 
Thank you!!
Peter Reinhart

Wow, what a response thread we've had to the "Peter is an idiot" quote from Scott123. There are about 100 comments in the thread, but mostly from about five people who needed consecutive posts to contain their thoughts. Thank you all for great, thought provoking comments. And thank you Scott123 for your full explanation (and for backing off the "idiot" line -- I totally get where you're coming from and love your passion and expect that you and I will become great friends when we can spend some time over a slice). Thank you also to Pappy, Tony, and Norma, as well as those others who jumped in to either defend my honor or add insight to the debate. There might be TMI for some of our readers regarding the fermentation and bromate issues but for those of us who live and breathe the subject all I can say is, Wow!  I learned some new things from all of this and I am so glad we could provide a forum to get it all out there.

I'm still on the road for the launch of the new book but I do plan to address some of the important points brought up by everyone, but not till I get home next week. However while I think of it, Scott is absolutely correct that 14 oz. of water is crazy -- maybe I was thinking of tomato paste and not tomato purée. But I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of "American Pie" while out here on the road so I still need to look at what I wrote and why. Scott brought up so many good points that I feel I owe him a proper response when I land, so give me some time. But, the short answer to his critiques is that Pizza Quest came into existence partially to keep the story I began in "American Pie" going, including to go deep as well as broad (that book was, of necessity, more broad than deep and thus vulnerable to the justifiable critiques that are now coming to the fore). I feel that this discussion is providing that missing depth and hope we can all continue to keep digging.

So, since 100 comments is a lot to ask everyone to follow, let's start a new thread right here for anyone who wants to still jump in. Meanwhile, I have to get back to the tour and will return here as soon as I can. Thank you all for your intense passion -- I love it!!!

 

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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.

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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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