Peter's Blog
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,

 
Peter's Blog, June 14th
Peter Reinhart

 

Welcome back everyone.

I mentioned in the Coming Attractions about how much I enjoyed the recent Jon Stewart rant about NY pizza.  I found it at: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-june-1-2011/me-lover-s-pizza-with-crazy-broad" --  but you can also track it down via a Google search under Jon Stewart Pizza (one of these days I'll have to figure out out to put one of those click here buttons into these postings). Anyway, I'm sure most of you have already seen it and, aside from the many satirical levels on which it worked (let's face it, all comics will lament the day when they don't have either Sarah Palin or Donald Trump to use as foils -- it's as easy as shooting ducks on an Alaskan pond), I found Stewart's rant especially insightful as a social commentary on how important pizza really is to us. In some ways, he did a better, or at least funnier version, of what fuels Pizza Quest--the deep passion and connection many of us feel -- though clearly not The Donald -- to pizza.

 So, yes, it was really funny --in some ways brilliant, albeit a bit profane (but hey, it's about pizza, so we'll cut him some slack!)-- but more importantly, it reinforces what we've been saying here since Day One: there is something about pizza that touches us deeply, not just because it tastes good but because of what it represents.

So what does it represent?

Obviously, to Jon Stewart -- and not just to him but to so many of us, which is why his rant was so brilliant-- it is a trigger point, a symbol of cultural identity. In the instance of the rant,

 
Peter's Blog, June 7th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

I promised to tell you how to get your hands on some of that great flour from Central Milling, as well as the "Super Sprout" sprouted whole wheat flour from Lindley Mills. So first, here's the number for Keith and Nicky Giusto at Central Milling, in Petaluma, California: (707) 778-1073. Ask for Keith or Nicky and tell them you read it right here. Before you do, check out their website at www.centralmilling.com/  They have many types of organic flour but what you should be asking for, if you have a wood-fired oven, is the new Double Zero (-00-) "Normal."  You can also ask them about their Double Zero "Reinforced," which I think is more appropriate for a home oven. If you can talk them into selling some other types as well, go for it!

As for Lindley Mills, call them in Graham, NC at (336) 376-6190 and ask for Joe Lindley. You can tell him you read it here. OR, you can also order the flour via the King Arthur Baking Catalogue, which many of you probably already receive (if not, get on their mailing list--the catalogues are fun to read and they have all sorts of cool things for sale). It won't indicate "Super Sprout" or Lindley Mills but will be sold as Sprouted Wheat Flour. Wherever you get it, you'll have fun working with this flour. Next week I'll post some recipes for making pizza dough with all three of these flours (Normal, Reinforced, and Sprouted Whole Wheat).

I don't know the price of any of these, so you will have to work that out when you call them, but I have a feeling there are lots of great pizzas ahead for all of us. We'd love to post your photos and pizza ideas if you come up with anything fun and exciting. Just let us know.

One more note: we're starting a new webisode series on Thursday from california's Central Coast. We'll be spending most of the time (there are a number of segments coming up) at The Cass House Inn, but we're going to kick it off with a stop we made as we were headed there, at the wonderful Taco Temple in Morro Bay, CA (you saw a snippet of this on our very first webisode, still posted at the top of the Home Page). Now you'll get to see more of what got us all excited when we made the detour. Be sure to check it out on Thursday. Till then,

May Your Pizzas All Be Perfect!

Peter

 

 
Peter's Blog, May 31st
Peter Reinhart

Hi Again,

As the song goes, June is busting out all over. So many cool things happening everywhere that I wanted to mention a couple of them for those of you who, like me, enjoy discovering things at the front edge of the wave, before the rest of the world catches up.

Two that I'm tracking are the following: If you've followed some of the "Comments' we've received every now and then from Rob DiNapoli, of DiNapoli Tomatoes, he and Chris Bianco have teamed up for a signature line of organic canned tomatoes that will be available only to restaurants (sorry folks, not the general public, at least for now). I recently got to taste them in action

 

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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

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

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