Peter's Blog
Peter's Blog, August 2nd, 2011
Peter Reinhart

Susan and I spent the weekend in Philadelphia for a Reinhart family reunion and to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday, and I had chance to revisit some of my childhood haunts and spend time with old friends prior to the big event. I had planned to stop at Mama's to pick up a cheese steak (the best!) on our way in from the airport, but our flight got delayed and there wasn't time, so Mama's will have to wait till the next trip -- drat!! But the chocolate croissants at George Perrier's new The Art of Bread, in the now trendy town of Narberth, about a mile from my childhood home, filled the void the following morning. This was not the Narberth of my youth, though Ricklin's Hardware Store and Mape's Five & Dime are still there, serving as the requisite retro icons necessary in a renewed and transformed village, sitting astride some impressive fromageries and patisseries.

While we were in Philly, I got an e-mail from Brad English, who was up the road in NYC, filming a television commercial (that's what he does when he isn't shooting Pizza Quest webisodes or cooking on his grill), telling me that he had just discovered Tony Gemignani's new restaurant, 900 Degrees. The name refers to the oven heat that he uses to make his world championship Margherita pizza, which you will see on an upcoming webisode when we visit with him at his San Francisco location, Tony's Pizza Napoletana. But, that name and temperature barely describes the enormous vision behind Tony's restaurants (he also now has a place in Sacramento and more are on their way), the main feature being that you can get almost any style of pizza and, for each style, he has the appropriate oven. Again, you'll see all this when we show the webisodes later this month, but if you want to get a sneak preview go to his website, www.900degrees.com   and also read Adam Kuban's fine review on SliceNY at: http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2011/06/900-degrees-almost-as-many-pizza-options.html.

Here's a few photos that Brad took when he had lunch there -- the pizzas were made by Tony's protegee, Audrey Pagnotta Sherman, who you will also see in our SF webisodes -- we met her there while she was studying with Tony. She must have passed the tests because she is now the lead pizzaiola at 900 Degrees! More on all this later, when we have some footage to show you, but we're excited to share this news and it was good timing for Brad to be there while I was in Philly, about to have my own pizza adventure at the now famous Osteria, quite arguably (according to my mother, who knows such things) Philadelphia's best restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osteria is part of the James Beard Award winning Marc Vetri's growing restaurant empire. Marc is one of the finest chefs of Italian food in the world, and his first restaurant, Vetri, has earned every award possible and put him into Michelin territory. But, it's small and uber-expensive, so a few years ago he opened Osteria, along with culinary partner and Executive Chef Jeffrey Michaud, and

 
Peter's Blog, July 26th, St. Martin
Peter Reinhart

A week away from pizza--it was hard. Every time I passed a pizza place on the island of St. Martin I had to fight the desire to check it out as an act of PQ duty. But it was our vacation, Susan and I, and that included a vacation from anything that would draw us back into the things we were vacating. Let's face it, sometimes you just have to empty out and, frankly, the food in St. Martin (more so on the French side, not the Dutch side of the island) is considered some of the best in the Caribbean.

 

 

We designed a great routine: a short visit to a small, humble boulangerie in the morning for a chocolate croissant and a cappuchino or a cup of tea; some serious ocean time; lots of reading (for me, a great novel by Anne Patchett called "State of Wonder" -- remember that you heard about it here when the book awards are announced in the fall) as well as a book on the history of Google called, "I'm Feeling Lucky," (great title--a fun read), along with trying to catch up, futilely, with the bottomless pile of articles from The New Yorker that have been collecting on my I-Pad and in the growing stacks in my bathroom, office, suitcase -- they multiply like rabbits and there's no way to keep up, yet I'm totally addicted… well, you get the picture. Reading, swimming,  enjoying time together uninterrupted by deadlines and teaching schedules, and, at the end of each day, eating

 
Peter's Blog, July 12, 2011
Peter Reinhart

Today (Monday) we made pizza dough during the first day of our week long Kid's Baking Camp at Johnson & Wales. I'm jazzed, because tomorrow we're going to actually make the pizzas with my 14 campers, all between 13 and 15 years of age. These are great kids and today, on Day One, we made killer chocolate chip cookies, wonderful soft dinner rolls, and flaky blitz biscuits. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will be making apple pie (if pizza isn't "American Pie" then apple pie truly is), French bread with pre-fermented dough, and, of course, individual pizzas. Later this week we'll make pate choux filled with pastry cream, bagels, soft pretzels, focaccia, and banana cream pie and quiche, and who knows what else. In the class room next to mine there is a group of 9 to 11 year old kids baking up a storm -- I saw lots of great looking cup cakes today. Upstairs there is a group of 11-13 year old kids. There is also a hot foods class for another group of kids of various ages -- the school is filled with kids hungry to cook and hungry to feed each other their food.

What I love about this camp is how easily these kids pick up the techniques and how well

 
Peter's Blog, July 5th
Peter Reinhart

A Primer on Flour
Hi Everybody,
I've been getting a lot e-mails asking about flour and how all the different types work for pizza. Here's a quick, and by no means comprehensive look at some of your options. There is so much good flour available that you can't go wrong, but with all the interest in Italian style flour as well as the various types of American flour, it might be helpful to know the following:


-- Italian "Tipo" Double Zero (--00--) Flour is favored by people who have been to Naples or to one of the new American VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) pizzerias and love the soft texture and natural sweetness. The term "double zero" refers to both the purity of the flour -- culled from the endosperm (white part) of the wheat berry and very finely milled, usually of moderate protein levels (about 9.5% - 10.5%) comparable to American All Purpose flour. It has wonderful extensibility (as opposed to elasticity) which makes it easy to stretch for pizza. It also does not absorb as much water as American flour, and doesn't require as long a fermentation period to release it's wonderful flavor. It does not usually come with malted barley flour, as American flour does to promote browning, because it is designed to be baked at very high temperatures for a very short time (less than two minutes, usually closer to one minute) so the malt enzymes could cause it to burn. The most well known brand, now available to the American marketplace at some specialty stores and via the Forno Bravo e-store (and from Orlando Foods via their distributors, if you have a pizzeria), is Caputo. Another brand, of similar quality, is San Felice, but it is harder to track down if you don't have a pizzeria. By the way, "Italian" flour is not made with only Italian grown wheat but rather a blend of wheat, some of it from the USA, that meets the specifications (specs) of the mills. Also, there are a few -00- types, some used for pasta, some for bread, and some for pizza, so be sure to get the right one for your situation.

--American Double Zero (--00-) Flour is a new option, now available via Central Milling and possibly other mills. But the American version tends to  contain higher protein flour (close to 11.5% - 12%) than the Italian brands, but yet retains the Italian extensibility qualities due to the specific wheat selections. It feels very soft because it is finely milled, and absorbs far more water than the Italian brands. Llke the Italian, it is unbleached and retains a beautiful, golden hue. Central Milling now makes a few types, some with malt and salt added, for pizzerias or for home cooks not planning to bake at super hot temperatures. The Central Milling flour is certified organic and has a soft, sweet flavor very similar to the Italian brands. Ordering info listed in a previous Peter's Blog.

--Unbleached Bread Flour is available at all supermarkets, produced by a number of major mills such as General Mills, King Arthur, Pillsbury (now owned by General Mills), Con Agra, and many regional mills (used primarily by restaurants and bakeries). The protein level is somewhere around 12.5% and the flour makes excellent bread, pizza, and focaccia, especially when made at higher hydration levels than the Italian flour. Because the protein level is higher, it has a chewier texture, a kind of al dente quality, that many of us find appealing. It is usually sold with a very small amount of diastatic malted flour added, which helps promote browning due to the enzyme activity of the malt.

--High Gluten Flour is often favored by American pizzerias because it is so strong that it can be stretched or spun out into larger pizzas, up to 18" in diameter and in some places, even wider. The hardness of the protein (gluten) is offset by the addition of oil or shortening, up to 6% and in some instances 8% of the flour weight, and usually some sugar or sweetener is also added. While the artisan pizzerias tend to steer away from this flour, the general public loves pizzas made with it because of the large slices and ability to hold a slice straight out without "droopage." I think of it as street pizza or college pizza -- loaded with cheese and other toppings. This flour is hard to find at supermarkets but restaurants and pizzerias can order it from their distributors and, if you want to use it (it is especially favored for bagels, multi-grain and rye breads, as well as for this style of pizza) you might be able to buy some from your local bakery or pizzeria.

Final note: While everybody has their own favorite types I always fall back on this truism: There are only two kinds of pizza -- good and very good; it's hard to make bad pizza unless you burn it. So stick with what you like and play around with the other types as you expand your repertoire. American (and Canadian) flour is the best in the world and usually finds its way into Italian and French brands, so remember that it's really about finding the type (tipo) of flour suited to your preference and then learning how to use it. And, of course, there's only one way to learn how, and that's by making lots and lots of pizza.

 
Peter's Blog, June 28th
Peter Reinhart

Last week I reported on our recent quest and pizza/beer challenge at The Bruery in Orange County (Placentia, to be more precise--their tap room is open to the public on weekends if you happen to be in the neighborhood!). I just want to add a few words this week on one aspect of our experience there, something I addressed on film during the taping but, since it won't run for awhile, I thought I'd write about it now while it's still fresh in my mind.

As we learned more about the art and craft of beer making during our tour of The Bruery facility, I kept thinking of the old saying that "beer is liquid bread." I've always taken that seriously because there are such obvious parallels, mainly, the proper fermentation of grain to evoke its full potential of flavor.  But what I realized perhaps for the first time, even though I've toured breweries before, is how much more difficult beer making is than bread baking, how much more complex it is, how many subtle choices the brewmeister has to make, gets to make, in manipulating the ingredients to create, hopefully, amazing flavors. We''re all flavorists, those of us who cook, and it's also a truism that the primary purpose of serious cooking, aside from delivering nutrition so that we can stay alive and thrive, is to deliver flavor. This is what culinarians pay all that money for when they go to expensive culinary schools--to learn how to deliver flavor. I've joked before about the reason pizza is the most popular food in the world is because it is the perfect flavor delivery system -- dough with something on it -- and I still believe that. But artisan beer making functions and delivers flavor on a whole other level, one that is dependent on

 
Peter's Blog, June 26th
Peter Reinhart

Yes, I'm late with this posting. I promised it by Thursday but, as so often happens, time got away from me and I couldn't get online from where I was. But here I am, to tell you only a bit about our latest quest. It may take a while before we get it all edited and posted, so this is just a little advanced notice to let you know what's coming. It all began a few months ago when Kelly Whitaker, of Pizzeria Basta, told us about a great micro-brewery whose beers they feature at Basta called The Bruery, in Orange County, Southern California. Turns out that our Pizza Quest producer and columnist, Brad English, lives not too far from there and, so, he checked it out and became friends with the creative beverage team there. One thing led to another and, before we knew it, we all found ourselves back at Pizzeria Basta, this time with The Bruery owner, Patrick Rue, who was there for a special beer and food pairing. I'll go into more detail on this part of the adventure when we post the webisodes, but the bottom line is that we filmed the food and, also, some great table talk in which, after Kelly, his beverage director Al, and Patrick explained to us their creative process of matching food with beer, we decided to challenge Patrick to match beer with pizza. That is, Kelly and I proposed that, instead of the usual approach of having a chef match the food to the beer, that instead, we create a unique, signature pizza, present it to the Bruery's brewers, and have them create a beer inspired by the pizza. Patrick accepted the challenge.

This was all back in early May.  So, to make a long story short,

 

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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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