As I prepare to head out to Denver for what I referred to last week as "The Big Reveal," I want to share this week's Peter's Blog with our correspondent, Nick Birkby, a baker and beer maker in South Africa. The timing is perfect, as Nick has been doing a lot of experimentation lately with beer malts in pizza dough, which is one of the keys to our Challenge Pizza (the recipe for this dough was posted last week). Nick has pushed the envelope even further, as you will see below. For those who have been writing in asking for more details for how to work with malt in dough, Nick's report will be invaluable and, hopefully, spur you on. If so, please write to me at
to share your own adventures. As Nick points out, it's all part of the quest.
Every good quest should include a few exciting detours. Beer, much like pizza, rewards the passion of it’s creator. It allows the brewer experimentation, and is capable, at times, of layers of dizzying complexity. Beer and pizza are similar in that, in skilled hands, they can both be crafted with subtle simplicity or audacious bravado. They make for perfect partners, not just at the table, but in spirit. Both are capable of inspiring.
This contribution to the Quest takes us into some exotic territory. It’s been fantastic keeping up each week with the developments in the beer and pizza pairing saga, and my offering is simply another slice to add to the already exciting picture, .
What caught my imagination as a home brewer was the adding of brewing malt flavors, as well as colors, to a pizza dough intended to be paired with beer. I had been occasionally adding malt in small quantities to my loaves for some time with good results but, what i wanted to see was if I could get some of the colors of these tasty complex roasted malts into a pizza base. I love the beautiful rich colors that some beers have – golden copper through to amber and on to dark chocolate black. I envisioned a dark brown deep roasted malt pizza base to pair with an Irish Stout, and a reddish base for an Amber Ale.
Before I carry on, I should explain what role these specialty malts play in brewing. A brewer works with a recipe that uses pale or ’base’ malt as the largest proportion of the brew. It is, quite literally, the basis. Then, the ‘specialty’ malts are added in smaller amounts for their flavoring and coloring quantities. These malts are roasted and kilned for a longer time under different conditions by the Maltster, to produce different qualities and flavors that will allow the brewer to craft, say, a deep caramel Amber Ale or a coffee-like dry and roasty Stout. There are many types of specialty malts and most brewers love to experiment with them! Flavors can range from "bready" and toasty through to caramel, toffee and even fruity plum and raisin. Think of the base malt as the canvas, and the specialty malts (and hops of course ) as the paint!
Getting hold of these malts is very easy, as brewing is such a huge hobby and any home brewing shop will be able to help.
Using the fantastic Neo-Neapolitan dough (listed on this site ) as my recipe, what I did was quite simple. I steeped the coarsely ground up malt in some hot water until it had completely infused and cooled and then, once I sieved it off from the spent grain, substituted that for the water in the recipe. Because these malts are so good at releasing their flavors and colors through infusion, it wasn’t necessary to add actual ground malt to the dough. The results were quite exciting! From a flavor point of view it made a huge difference. Roasted malts add a lot of complexity, roundness and an unusually delicious flavor to the dough. It definitely augments the dough, but does not overpower it and, paired with the appropriate beers and toppings, it was really memorable!
Due to time constraints, I have not been able to pursue this ingredient and pairing concept as far as I would have liked, but perhaps that makes it all the more exciting. The idea is here, and now it’s up to the bold to venture forward!
The Neo-Neapolitan recipe was halved for these experiments. Simply double up it for more.
For the ‘Stout’ dough I used 30 grams of dark ‘chocolate’ malt to 300 mls of very hot water, infused and allowed to cool. Use it in place of the water in the recipe. The topping was brown mushrooms and bacon. I paired it with a sweetish English Stout
For the Amber dough, I used 50 grams of ‘Caramel 50’ ( Cara 50 ) with the same amount of water as above. The amber color was not as pronounced as I hoped but here is where I will experiment again. The topping was a mild chorizo, which happened to be at hand, and also happened to be amber! I paired it with one of my own malty Amber Ales!
Thanks very much to Peter for the invitation to contribute. All the Best, Nick.
Thank you Nick -- this is fabulous information! I can't wait to hear from our other brewer/baker/pizza makers out there. Meanwhile, anyone who will be in Denver this weekend for the Great American Beer Festival, or for any other reason, look for us at the Summit Beer Garden, 1902 Blake St., on Friday, from 6 PM till the coals die out (or till they throw us out). I'll try to post a follow-up on Saturday. Here we go.....