Webisodes
Webisode #4: La Brea Bakery - Part One
Peter Reinhart

Here we are, at the famous, original LaBrea Bakery (not the facility that makes all the par-baked bread that is shipped across the country and sold at supermarkets, but the one that Nancy Silverton founded to serve the people and restaurants of Los Angeles). It takes a bakery to make all the dough required by a place as popular as Pizzeria Mozza because they produce anywhere from 500 to 700 pizzas a day, and that's a lot of dough to make--probably somewhere around 300 to 400 pounds of dough balls! How fortunate that Nancy, who no longer owns LaBrea Bakery, has such a close relationship with it because, even in the expansive Mozza kitchens there's definitely nowhere near enough room to make this much dough with this much complexity. What you're about to see in this segment is the application of the artisan bread making technique that Nancy mastered when she created LaBrea Bakery, now applied to a normally simple product called pizza dough.

We were greeted at the door of the large building in an industrial part of town, by Production Manager Jon Davis,  who took us inside the production area and showed us everything except the "secret ingredients" and the actual formula. In this segment, we'll see the preferment (aka poolish, or sponge) being made and then added to the final dough, which comes together beautifully. Next week, in LaBrea Bakery Part Two, we'll see what happens from this point until it arrives at Pizzeria Mozza where it is transformed into ethereal pizzas.

I often speak and write about bread being the result of a series of transformations: wheat transformed into flour; flour transformed into living, leavened dough; and dough transformed into bread. Of course, with pizza, there is one additional transformation: bread dough into pizza.  I define a transformation as a radical change of one thing into something totally new and other. For instance, living wheat is killed when it is pulverized into flour, all it's life giving properties now destroyed. But when it is combined with salt, water, and leaven (yeast) it changes into a new substance and comes back to life as dough where it continues to transform itself through the biological activity of yeast, bacterial, and enzyme activity. When it is put into the oven, however, the dough gives up this life; the yeast is killed, as are all the living organisms in the dough that brought forth its unique personality and flavor, but in the process the dough is transformed into bread. That is, it goes in alive and comes out dead, but it goes in as dough and comes out as bread. In one analogy, it is like a caterpillar goes into the oven but a butterfly comes out--yes, a radical transformation. In rare instances, such as often occurs at Pizzeria Mozza, there is yet one additional transformation that takes place (and here I stretch the metaphor to, possibly, the snapping point, but bear with me): pizza transforms itself into deliriously happy people!. Or more accurately, the people are transformed by the pizza into a state of pure culinary bliss.

But I get ahead of myself. For now, just glory in the transformation of flour into dough and, as we continue this series on Pizzeria Mozza in the coming weeks, we'll go through the whole string of marvelous transformations together. Enjoy!!

 

 
Webisode #3: Pizzeria Mozza's Matt Molina
Peter Reinhart

Matt Molina - Pizzeria Mozza:

In the previous video segment you met Nancy Silverton, the visionary behind Pizzeria Mozza, and in this segment you'll meet her Executive Chef and Head Pizzaiolo, Matt Molina, the man who makes the magic happen every day at the oven. Matt is a great guy and has been working with Nancy since he was a young chef, cooking at her previous restaurant, Campanille (awarded Restaurant of the Year by the James Beard Foundation when Nancy was still there). As you will see in some of the close-ups in this segment, there is something different about the Mozza pizzas; they have a compositional beauty that goes beyond the norm. The char on the dough is spectacular, they bake for somewhere between 5 to 7 minutes, which is longer than at traditional Napoletana pizzerias, but this allows the crust to get deeply baked and remain crisp while you eat the slices (unlike with Napoletana pizzas--which usually require a knife and fork--you can actually pick these slices up and hold them, yet somehow the crust remains moist and creamy). And, as you will see, the garnishing work at Mozza establishes new benchmarks for presentation, whether with finishing salts, fennel pollen, or greens.

This episode sets the stage for those to come, when Matt will make pizzas for us and discuss some of his favorite ingredients. But, before we return to Matt, and later to Nancy, next week we'll head over to the LaBrea Bakery, where the dough for the pizzas is made. As those who follow my writing know, I rank the crust of any pizza as worth up to 80% of the experience, with good toppings as merely a bonus (though the toppings at Mozza are far more than a bonus--they are stars in their own right). We'll get a peek next time at how the Mozza dough is made and maybe, if you watch closely, you'll pick up some tricks for your own pizzas.

In the meantime, enjoy this segment with Matt Molina, part-2 of our 7-part webisode series, as we go deeper into the exciting world of Pizzeria Mozza.

 
Webisode #2: Intro to Pizzeria Mozza
Peter Reinhart

When we launched our first official pizza quest in the summer of 2009, we began in Los Angeles at one of my absolute favorite restaurants, Pizzeria Mozza. It is the creation of Nancy Silverton (many time James Beard Award winner) and superstar chef Mario Batali, probably the most influential Italian chef in America today. Mario, who rarely allows filming in his restaurants, was kind enough to give us his okay to bring in our crew.  And Nancy, who oversees the growing Mozza universe -- there is both Osteria Mozza (a restaurant/mozzarella bar), and Pizzeria Mozza in adjacent locations, was a most gracious host.

In this short intro video, you'll see Nancy, along with Los Angeles Times Food Page Editor Russ Parsons--who expands upon last week's homage to the obsessiveness of pizza makers--and Kristine Kidd, of Bon Appetite magazine, as we sit around one of the Mozza tables surrounded by some of the most beautiful and delicious pizzas imaginable.

This is a short episode, an intro really, to the upcoming episodes that we'll post in the coming weeks that will take us into the LaBrea Bakery where the Mozza dough is made (for those who don't know, Nancy Silverton was the founder of LaBrea Bakery), and then back to Pizzeria Mozza where head pizzaiolo and executive chef Matt Molina will show us how he turns the dough balls into the distinctive pizzas that have established Pizzeria Mozza as one of the greatest pizzerias in the world. We'll then return to Nancy and the gang for more table talk as we devour those incredible pies! So, lots more still to come. Till then, enjoy this first, up close taste of Pizzeria Mozza, and know that there's more to come….

 

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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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