Peter's Blog, March 22nd

It's hard to believe that we just launched PizzaQuest.com a few days before Christmas and now we are more than two months into our journey. The site has progressed nicely, with a lot of great content, including the Pizzeria Mozza webisode segments (nine in all) and a number of terrific video instructionals filmed in Boulder, a growing number of photo galleries and recipe photo essays hosted by Pizza Quest producer Brad English, numerous thoughtful Guest Columns, and over a dozen Peter's Blog postings. I'm amazed at how much ground we've covered and also how many videos we still have to share with you. Our filming covers only a small area of the pizza universe -- Southern and Northern California with a side trip to Boulder, Colorado -- so we're looking forward to getting back on the road to continue this amazing road trip.

When we filmed at Pizzeria Mozza we were extremely grateful to both owners, Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali, for giving us their special permission to bring our cameras into the restaurant, and for Nancy's generous sharing of her vision. The pizzas exceeded all our expectations and, though I write and teach about bread baking, even I learned some new tricks when we visited La Brea Bakery to see how the Pizzeria Mozza dough is made. This unending learning is one of the important things that this site is about, and the best part of learning is that the journey is full of so many unexpected surprises and opportunities.

For instance, as you saw briefly in the opening webisode segment, Pizza and Obsession, we stumbled upon the Taco Temple on our way to Cuyucos on the Central Coast of California. It wasn't a scheduled stop--we just happened to pass by and Brad recalled once having a great fish taco there. That's all we needed to hear as our van did a quick, screeching "ubie" and we pulled off the road for lunch.

But then, and I won't say too much here because we have a full segment to show you later, we were treated to mind blowing tacos and confirmation of the never ending serendipity of what it means to be on the road. This happened over and over as we traveled, the magic of the road bringing us unanticipated, unscheduled surprises while we headed to our scheduled stops (which also held their own unplanned surprises). As I write these words, I recall a Louis L'Amour book I read many years ago, I think it was Hondo (hard to remember for sure because I read so many Louis L'Amour novels, gobbling them all as if they were slices of pizza), so I may not have this quote just right but the essence of it has been an important reference point ever since. Hondo said, and I quote only as well as my memory recalls so it may simply be a paraphrase: "Some people think that the point of the trail is to get to the destination at the end of the trail. But me, well I just like to ride, for me the point of the trail is simply to enjoy the trail."

Our hope in sharing with you the various Pizza Quest adventures we had, and will continue to have, is to bring you with us on the trail. Yes, it's a quest so there is a goal in mind --perfect pizza, self discovery, fun, knowledge, aha moments, entertainment--but really, the point of the quest is to enjoy the quest, to abandon ourselves to divine providence and see where the trail leads. We structure it just enough to keep from getting lost, but sometimes even getting lost is part of the excitement of what the trail unveils.

 


We had a taste of that when Nancy Silverton showed us her original take on a Hawaiian Pizza just before Russ Parsons joined us at the table and, ironically, made some disparaging comments about the ubiquitous ham and pineapple Hawaiian pizza that he dislikes.  It was a delightful and revelatory moment for us all when he tasted Nancy's version and became an instant convert.

In the weeks to come you will see more such spontaneous moments of discovery, as we create a "pizza of the moment" with Chef Jensen Lorenzen  of The Cass House Inn, eat spoonfuls of salted caramel ice cream at San Francisco's Bi-Rite Creamery, shake vine ripened tomatoes off their stems at Stanislaus Tomatoes near Modesto, and toss dough with world champion pizzaiolo Tony Gemignani. I hope you have even a fraction of the fun I had as you watch these.

I keep saying that the journey has just begun, but the fact is, it really has barely begun. And, the deeper we get into it the more we realize it always is just beginning. Every time we think we've reached a peak another seems to appear just on the horizon.  C.S. Lewis, when asked where the beauty was to be found in art and literature wrote, "The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited." (The Weight of Glory, pg. 45)


This is how I feel about Pizza Quest: everything we are reaching for through pizza is really an evocation of something much deeper -- a yearning, a longing, for a deep truth and beauty that is always just out of reach, even when we grab it and taste it. Because, as soon as we have that moment of magic, it's gone again, slipping away into a memory that we want to recapture again and again. That's what really drives the Pizza Quest bus, the longing for a scent of that flower we once found, a tune we think we once heard, and, yes, a pizzeria that we may have visited and can't wait to visit again, hoping it is as good as we remember. it once was

More to come--much more....

 

Comments 

 
#1 Kevin 2011-03-22 07:12
Peter,
Thank you for sharing your (and ours) pizza obsession!!! Great job!!!!

Happy pizza trails to you!!!
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#2 madeline peters 2011-03-23 16:37
That is a great quote from CS Lewis. It is so true. At least for me, following this pizza quest is a discovery of new people, places, techniques, ideas. It makes me happy!
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#3 jaylundgreen 2011-03-25 20:03
Hi Peter! Love the blog. I have been reading though Crust and Crumb and Bread Baker's Apprentice. I noticed that the master formula's for biga are different between the two books. The idea of making white sandwich bread using a biga style pre-ferment as featured in crust and crumb sounded great. I followed the formula, but the dough never rose above the bread pans in the final stage. If I used the biga from BBA would it fix this? I also used the biga from Crust and Crumb to make biga style Ciabatta from BBA and it made great bread, but it didn't have large, irregular holes. Any tips?

Thanks.
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#4 Peter Reinhart 2011-03-27 12:39
Hi Jay,
Sometimes the issue is hydration. If your dough is not soft and supple, but instead is firm and stiff, add some more water to it to soften it up--this will help with the rising of the dough. It could also be a yeast issue, so adding an extra 1/4 teaspoon of yeast might help. As far as replacing one biga with another, I can't recall if the batch sizes were the same but as long as the weight of the biga is about the same you can certainly try that. The thing is that there so many different ways to make bread and we keep coming up with even more new ways and some seem to work for better for some people while others have more success with a different formula. Also, for ciabatta, the wetter the dough the better the holes so let me know if you think the dough can tolerate more hydration. Keep us posted!!
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#5 William Oehlkers 2011-09-30 12:48
Peter,
Ever since you featured Nancy Silverton's pizza, I have been looking forward to receiving her book, "The Mozza Cookbook." It arrived today, and I quickly turned to the section on pizza. However, my heart sank when I read that her recipe had been modified for the home oven. How can I contact her to find out what the brick oven recipe is like?

Rhode Islander with a brick oven in my backyard just waiting for her recipe
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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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