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Peter’s Blog, February 24th

Written By Peter Reinhart
Friday, 24 February 2012 Peter's Blog

Hi again.  We’ve kept a lot of recent postings on the home page because we’ve been getting a number of new viewers and one thing I’ve noticed is that most people tend to stay on the home page rather than explore the archives or section categories (I know this thanks to Google Analytics!!). So, we’re going to leave things up as long as we can before they automatically default to the archive section to allow as many of you as possible to catch up to some of the ongoing topic points. But I do encourage you to visit the various sections, as you will find lots of golden oldies there and, to our great surprise, we’ve been astonished to see how much material we managed to post in just over a year. If I didn’t have a conflict of interest I’d say, “Quite impressive!”  Oh look, I said it anyway.

One of the recurring themes that you will see in these past (and future) postings is the celebration of the artisan spirit and what we think is their expression of greatness, whether in pizza or in any pursuit.  Chris Bianco once told me that he’s tired of hearing the word “passion” bandied about so frequently when it comes to greatness because he doesn’t think it is the vital defining quality that everyone else thinks it is. I believe I know what he means and, perhaps, a better way to utilize that passion word is to frame it within a larger definition of greatness. Passion probably is, as Philosophy 101 would term it, a necessary but not sufficient cause. Passion, as many of us might also say, has become a cliche. And here on Pizza Quest one of the things we strive to get beyond is cliche. So the question still stands: what is the defining quality of greatness?

We’ve focused in these articles and webisodes on technique, method, ingredient quality, the virtues of local, organic, wholeness (as in whole grain), authenticity, tradition, and, of course, on passion. I’ve cited another quote of Chris’s that he gave me when I was writing “American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza,” when I asked him what was the secret to his amazing pizzas; his response was (after citing the quality of the ingredients and the dedication of his growers and suppliers as necessary but not sufficient causes), “It’s me, I’m the secret. I can teach people my tricks and techniques but I can’t teach them to care as much as I care,” and this drills down a bit closer to the core of the matter. But we’re still always drilling even deeper, trying to capture that elusive something that would answer, once and for all, “What is the secret to greatness?” Yes, caring more than anyone else is yet another necessary but not sufficient cause, but even that doesn’t scratch the itch beneath the itch. So what is it then?  Do you see why we call it a quest?

I’m a firm believer that the most important things we strive for are ordained to be elusive, like a carrot on a stick and even when we find what we’re looking for we rarely recognize it in the moment, and then we realize, later, that now it’s just behind us, a memory. That’s what most people refer to as nostalgia, looking back to happier or significant times with a kind of regretful longing, as if things will never be quite that good again. But a truer, deeper, and more literal meaning of the word nostalgia (and I’ve written about this in earlier blog postings) means, “A longing for one’s true home, yet to come.”  C.S. Lewis is my go to guy for this one and he believed that this longing is more a forward thrusting, not a backwards glance to the past, though the emotions this longing evokes are often similar. Whether it touches upon a distant memory or is an intuition of a memory not yet experienced, outside the realm of time but nevertheless a future reality — well, those are two sides of the same coin, and another vague and ambiguous way of defining that coin is “soulful.”  Yet even as I write these words I’m reminded, again, that the more we try to define it in words the more elusive it becomes. But an encounter with it somehow rings within our own beings, our souls, and whether in the moment or after the fact, we recognize it when we see it.  We’ve been defining this encounter as “memorable,” as a way to distinguish it from other experiences that are merely good, status quo, or expected. An “abnormal, memorable moment that opens a door into a longing for something true, something lasting, maybe even eternal, maybe home…,”  and then it’s just out of reach again, and it becomes an inconsolable longing.

And that’s why the search for the perfect pizza is both a great metaphor and also an earthly delight. Because, fortunately for us, in this quest we do have a chance from time to time to encounter a real, literal slice of nearly heavenly joy and to establish new reference points and new memories for greatness, even if we can’t quite put our finger on the words. And then we get to start again….


Jay Lundgreen

I haven’t traveled the country or anything looking for the prefect pizza so my experience is somewhat limited. Though I am quite picky when it comes to pizza. For me, the best pizza I have ever had is my own. I use the Pain a l’Ancienne dough for the crust. It turns out amazing every time.

I always think of pizza crust as either present or not present. If it’s present in any way it’s good pizza. If it is present in every way it’s amazing pizza. Is it present in taste? Meaning can you actually taste the crust, or do the toppings drown it out? Is it present when you take a bite? Does it have crunch? Or is it just soft and feels like it’s just there to hold toppings? I’ve been meaning to try the Pizza Napoletana recipe from BBA, but the a l’Ancienne is so good and EASY to make that it is my go to recipe.


btw, i turned pro (making pizza) last year 😀 if you ever get lost in the philippines, please do check us out!


Pizza is all about the crust!

It’s just like a sandwich is all about the bread. How many times have you had a sandwich and the bread isn’t “present” as you say? I always ask myself why they can’t get that right! For that matter, how many great burgers are made average or annoying because the roll isn’t right?


Hi Peter.
Great blog. Love it. I have been working on pizza since I bought American Pie early last year. I finally got the courage up to attempt my first ever loaf of bread (ciabatta – from Artisan Breads Every Day – I love all of your books). The crust did not turn out as crsuty as I would have liked (oven was set up as suggested for hearth baking). Wonder if I should try a higher temp, like 550 for maybe 10 minutes..? I plan to try the lean bread this weekend.
Anyway, thanks you, Peter for all you do. I am having so much fun learning to be a bread baker and pizza maker.
Rick in Atlanta


Yes Rick, do raise the oven temperature just as you said. Home ovens don’t hold the heat as well as commercial bread ovens and in many cases we need to set them higher than I originally suggested. This should promote more oven spring, larger holes, and ultimately, a crisper crust. But don’t forget to lower the oven back to 450 for the second half of the bake or you could easily burn the loaves. Write to me at and let me know how your next batch turns out.

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Vision Statement

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
The Bread Bakers Apprentice
Brother Junipers Bread Book
Crust and Crumb
Whole Grain Breads

...and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on