Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pizza Lessons

I wanted to talk a little about my pizza class. Sure, it's not hammering and drilling, but boy was it a blast. There were even a couple of real men in the class, if you can believe that one, as well as a real-man in training (your's truly). As I mentioned, we had to jet up from Nashua to get up here in time.

The class is held at the King Arthur education center, and it's this amazing kitchen with beautiful big windows and fabulous wooden, butcher's block bench tops. Nothing beats a wooden surface to work on when it comes to bread.

The interesting thing about the class is that they do a lot of things differently than I do. It was very enlightening. First off, they don't really knead the dough, they do a couple of other things. Secondly, they don't use flour when the "knead", they just work the dough on the bench top. And thirdly, it made me realize how sadly deficient I am in terms of kitchen utensils, especially a pizza stone. Actually, I'm deficient in many areas, but we won't go there.

We were slated to make two types of dough, a regular white bread crust and a whole wheat. The white crust was incredibly simple, using all purpose flour only, and didn't take much time at all. The wheat crust required the use of a sponge. All the mixing was done with a flexible spatula/scraper (no spoon), and we added the olive oil to the dry, which I found strange and am still not sure why. It has something to do with the texture, but I wasn't prepared to question authority.

Instead of kneading, we worked the dough with our fingers and then chopped it up with a scraper, thereby cutting the gluten to get the proper texture. Again, no flour, or just a dusting on the surface. Then we folded the dough over a few times and then it was done. We left it to rise and worked on the whole wheat dough, which was pretty much the same process.

We then divided the white dough and used half to make some sort of bread, I believe called fougasse, which was awesome, partly because it was so simple. Then we made pizzas using fresh mozzarella and other assorted toppings. The teacher said that the biggest mistake people made is using too many toppings, which results in a soggy pizza. You have to have toppings, however. And I have to confess, not only do I love the sauce, but I think using commercial mozzarella tastes better. Fresh mozzarella is more gourmet, but the flavor is subtle, maybe too much so.

Either way, we made two pizzas and a fougasse, which meant I had dinner for that night. The pizzas looked beautiful, though again, they were a bit too gourmet. You need more working class flavor when it comes to pizza, and gourmet will only get you so far with the general public. You have to know your audience.

Whatever be the case, I loved the class, and would love to take more. The crusts might need a little tweaking in terms of flavor, but the texture was right on. We are one step closer to making our ideal pizza.

Just a quick side note - since I've been doing so much real man work my hands are taking a beating. Not only do both my wrists ache, but my fingers and hands are covered with cuts and filled with splinters. Well, just as my fingers were on the mend, I cut my thumb at baking class. They provided us with a snack of bread and goat cheese. The bread was amazing, I can only dream of making bread like that... or take the class. Yes, they have a class just for making that bread, called Vermont Sourdough, which happens to require a pizza stone! Anyway, I was helping myself to my 4th or 5th piece when the bread knife slipped and almost cut off the tip of my thumb. Not only was I bummed at cutting yet another finger, but I spilling blood all over the place, and I needed to use my hands. I did a quick makeshift repair with three or four bandages, and then it was back to work on my dough. Kind of a bummer.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to julosstock for the picl

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