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Archive for the ‘Main Dishes’ Category

Roman Wood-Fired Oven

The Stamp Family Roman-style wood-fired oven

In my everlasting quest to make the perfect pizza, it’s always been about the dough.  I’ve made hundreds of pies, each time striving for the balance of good structure, depth of flavor, and workability.  The outcomes have ranged from revelatory to disastrous, but I’m assured—save a few singed eyebrows and flour-coated jeans—that no one has been harmed by the experimentation.  From cracker-thin, high-gluten crusts with a gratifying crunch to pillowy, pliable pies that rise and fall with the heat, the permutations of just a few simple ingredients are seemingly endless.

One thing is certain: the perfect pizza contains some combination of flour, water, yeast, and salt.  The fermentation of carbohydrates in flour is the primary means of flavor development in good dough.  Over time, enzymes help break down the flour’s starches, making simple sugars accessible to the yeast, which then converts the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.  While the CO2 provides leavening and structure, the alcohol—though most of it bakes off in the oven—provides flavor and aroma.  The more gradual the process of fermentation, the more slowly and completely the flour will release its natural sugars, which leads to a more flavorful and golden, caramelized crust.

High-quality flour is of the utmost importance.  Just as a cheesemaker seeks out milk with the greatest flavor potential, a pizza chef should select a flour or blend of flours, offering the promise of excellent flavor, structure, and workability.  Minimally processed flours that have not been bleached or bromated (a chemical treatment for preservation) will yield a more flavorful dough and will contain more natural yeasts and microbes. High-protein flour, also known as high-gluten flour, will help produce stiffer doughs while soft, low-protein flours will add suppleness and stretch-ability.

Personally, I like to make pizza that falls somewhere between the categories of Napoletana and Americana-style.  For me that means a thin crust pizza that is chewy, with an open structure and a blistered exterior.  I use a combination of Mulino Marino Tipo 00 Flour—a low-protein, cylinder milled flour that is fine and soft—and Buratto Flour—a higher gluten stone-ground flour, which contains some residual fiber and germ from the wheat.  A 50/50 split, as recommended by Fausto Marino, helps keeps the dough airy, soft and pliable while providing the structure and depth of a coarser, higher protein flour.  Although it may be against the DOC (Denominazione D’Origine Controllata) regulations for true Pizza Napoletana, I add a substantial amount of olive oil to my dough to add richness and to make the dough less sticky and more workable.  I am a great proponent of delayed-fermentation, the process by which cold temperatures will slow the process of CO2 production and lead to more complexity of flavor.  In a procedure similar to that of Pain å l’Ancienne—a  rustic, chewy peasant’s bread with a focaccia-like structure—I use ice-cold ingredients and immediately put the formed dough into refrigeration for a fermentation of 24 hours or up to four days.

Three Types of Pizza

Three buffalo mozzarella topped pizzas — Magherita (with tomato and basil), Veggie (with zucchini, beer braised chard, and caper berries), and Meat and Potatoes (with Surryano ham, potatoes, caramelized onions, and pickled jalapeño pepper)

I’ve adapted the following recipe from Peter Reinhart, a longtime instructor at Johnson and Wales University and author of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  The exact proportions of flour, water, and oil can and should be adjusted based on ambient temperature, humidity, mood, etc.:

Yields 6 12” Pizzas

2 ½ cups 00 Flour
2 ½ cups Buratto Flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
1/3 cup olive oil (optional)
Up to 2 cups ice water (about 40ºF) as needed
Cornmeal for dusting

1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl or a stand mixer. Slowly incorporate the cold water and oil with a metal spoon (if mixing by hand) or a dough hook.  Mix the dough at medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes until you’ve created a smooth dough that will clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom.  Add more flour or water as needed to achieve a springy dough that is sticky to the touch.

2. Transfer the dough to a generously floured surface and divide (using a moistened dough scraper or a knife) into six pieces, or more if you would like to make personal-sized pizzas. With floured hands, gently roll each piece into a ball between your hands, tucking your fingers under the ball to create surface tension, and place on a sheet pan with parchment and flour, with ample room to grow. Sprinkle the dough with flour and loosely cover with plastic.  These doughs can rest overnight or up to three days, and can be frozen at anytime for future use.

3. On the day you would like to bake the pizza, remove the balls of dough 2 hours prior to firing. When you take the doughs from the refrigerator, delicately padding them out into discs around 5 inches in diameter and sprinkling them with flour and a few drops of oil.  Cover loosely with plastic.

4. Preheat your oven (conventional or otherwise) to the highest temperature your appliance allows (generally 500ºF-550ºF, or 700ºF-800ºF in a wood/coal-burning oven). Preheat your baking stone at this time.

5. When dough has sufficiently relaxed (if too resilient and unworkable, let sit longer), gently stretch the dough to desired thinness using heavily floured hands. A rolling pin will collapse the structure and destroy many of the CO2 bubbles in the dough, so take care to stretch with your hands, but never to the point where the dough is transparent.  Transfer the stretched, untopped dough to a pizza peel or the back of a sheet pan generously dusted with semolina/cornmeal.  Top conservatively and always season with salt, pepper, and olive oil.

6. Cook your pizza to desired doneness on a brick shelf, pizza stone, or simply on the back of a sheet pan staying reticent of the extremely high temperatures. Rotate your pizza halfway, and look for a finished pizza to be charred on the edges with deep caramel color.  Let cool (or not) and enjoy.

 

Rory Stamp is a classroom instructor, Wine Buyer, and cheese monger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

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Castelmagno

Last week, Ihsan shared with us a few memories from one of his early cheese sourcing trips – a 1993 trip to the Castelmagno region of Italy. In that post, he described one of his revelatory food experiences: Gnocchi al Castelmagno. Since that trip, he has been working on recreating the dish at home. Here is the current permutation of that recipe, one he says gets pretty close to that amazing, first taste! (more…)

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A Bite of Mil Fromages Mac and Cheese

Every Sunday in our Cambridge shop, the kitchen staff get the day off and a cheesemonger helps to make our “Sunday Sandwiches” – small Iggy’s rolls with a varying assortment of toppings. We always  do a vegetarian option or two and then we regularly make some ham and Brie sarnies, sometimes dubbed the “Huron Classic” and at other times, “The Frenchman.” If time allows, that cheesemonger will also whip up an additional dish for the sandwich window. One such Sunday, I had enough time to make a casserole dish of mac ‘n’ cheese. Availing of our “cheese bits” bin, I think I used 35+ cheeses in the end. So, it was only a slight exaggeration when the dish was dubbed “Mil Fromages.” (more…)

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Toasted Orzo Parmigiano Reggiano Mac and Cheese

A couple of months ago, I had the good fortune to have a late afternoon lunch at B&G Oysters in the South End. With a natural affinity for all things dairy and, in particular, for a good mac and cheese, I ordered the orzo from their list of “sides” to go with my lobster roll.

It arrived in a small ceramic dish, hot from the oven. I pierced the crumb topping with my spoon and scooped up a bite. A little puzzled because there were some darker colored bits in amongst the cheesy creaminess, I thought that there was a little prosciutto surprise in there. (more…)

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Grilled Cheese: Comté and Fieschi's Confettura di Cipolline Borretane

Grilled Cheese: Comté and Fieschi’s Confettura di Cipolline Borretane

Grilled cheese sandwiches are classic American fare. Many of us associate this archetypal melty sandwich with childhood and/or with camping trips. I recall one particularly memorable camping trip when, after a hard day of canoeing, we finally reached our camp site. Situated on a beautiful Maine lake, the spot was picturesque and well-poised for swimming. We were hungry when we arrived but absolutely famished by the time we got camp set up. First thing on the agenda? Dinner. We made grilled cheese and tomato soup and, boy, did it taste like the best thing ever! That was the day when I became a firm believer in the saying, “hunger is the best sauce.” However, our enjoyment was also, undoubtedly, due to the inherent deliciousness of grilled cheese itself and the classic pairing with tomato soup. (more…)

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Dehydrated Morel Mushrooms

Dehydrated Morel Mushrooms

The months of January through early April in New England signify a time of rest and re-growth on the farm. While fields are quiet and covered with snow, farmers are offered a brief respite from harvesting. This time is used to select seeds and finish crop plans for spring. Naturally, this also means a lull in local produce available here at the shop, as many crops are out-of-season or grown in limited quantities at this time of the year.

Luckily, West Coast farms are able to offer and ship fresh, organic and sustainably harvested fruits and vegetables during the early months of the year. Here at our Cambridge location, we have been working closely with small family farms and foragers who practice similar growing methods to the farms we work with in New England. Among these are Foraged and Found Edibles, a purveyor and harvester of wild edibles from Northern California to British Columbia, from the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide. (more…)

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Marco Giacosa Tagliolini con Tartufo

Tagliolini con Tartufo

Shortly before Christmas, a display went up in front of our wine section: stacks and stacks of beautiful boxes of egg pasta. Brand new to the shop, the pasta was made by a gentleman named Marco Giacosa in Alba, a town in the northwest of Italy. (more…)

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