Webisode #4: La Brea Bakery – Part One
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!!
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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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