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Tonight I made two of my favorite pizzas. Both are from Peter Reinhart’s fantastic book American Pie and are completely devoid of red sauce, mozzarella, or even garlic. They also both use Napoletano dough that I made the day before.
The first is Pizza alla Pugliese. It uses sautéd yellow onions, smoked Gouda, olive oil, and black pepper.
The second is Pizza Rosa al Rosa. It uses thinly sliced red onions (they suggest torpedo onions but I have never seen those in Cincinnati. It also (a lot of) Parmigiano-Reggiano, rosemary, and coarsely chopped pistachio nuts. The nuts sort of caramelize and create a great flavor.
A few years ago I was very serious about baking bread and pizzas. My wife and I actually spent a lot of time planning to open an actual bakery here in Cincinnati (the working name was “Funky Brick Bakery”). Fortunately we eventually got our wits about us and relegated baking to a sideline hobby. One of the most weird and wonderful things to come out of the whole experience was a basic knowledge of starting and maintaining a sourdough culture. It is a living critter of sorts that is used as the base for doughs instead of using those little commercial packets of yeast. I haven’t maintained one in quite a while and it can be a lot of work but I recently finished reading the part of Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential where he talks about the very strange baker he employed to make fantastic breads and I got bit with the bug again. Today I decided to start up a new culture and document the process.
Day 1 – Mixing the Seed Culture Ingredients
I am working off a basic formula from the master baker and author Peter Reinhart. The first step is pretty simple. Take a cup of whole wheat flour and add some pineapple juice to form a firm ball, then flatten it down into a glass container with a piece of tape on the side so you know how big it is to start with. People use different juices and things to get a started started but pineapple juice is supposed to have a good acid balance for keeping away the bad gross stuff so the good gross stuff can grow. In Bourdain’s book the master starter culture was called “The Bitch” but I’ve decided to give this one a slightly more family friendly name. Say hello to Bernice! We’ll leave her at room temperature and check back in with her tomorrow.
2/3/2011 Update – R.I.P. Bernice
I am very sad to report that yesterday I got wrapped up in work and wasn’t able to check in on and feed Bernice. By this morning she had a nasty crusty funk on her and I had to throw here away. I’ll make another attempt soon.