Of course baking is all about theft, some forms of which are more acceptable that others. At one end of the spectrum it’s nice to be able to say “We all learn from each other” and to acknowledge where ideas come from. To adopt this line you also have to contribute something from time to time. At the other end of the scale people lift whole recipes, enter them in competitions and win not inconsiderable sums of money – I’m not pursuing that theme today but I don’t have Alzheimer’s either (although I couldn’t remember how to spell it).
Back to pizza. Some time last year I was contacted by a businessman from the Big City. He and his partners were intending to establish a restaurant down the road from here with a strong emphasis on sourdough breads and pizza. They knew all about me; everyone in the big cities knew I was the person to talk to between this side of the Snowdonia Mountains and Dublin (i.e. the Irish Sea) on the subject of sourdough. To cut a long story short, apart from a weekend course for the partners and the prospective head chef, the promises of our mutually beneficial ongoing relationship came to nought. Which didn’t surprise me because I never did believe in Fairy Godparents. But it did start me looking into the art of the pizza and made me reform my sloppy approach or at least made me experiment.
My first theft (I never intended to permanently deprive, Your Worship) was to convert Carol Field’s pizza dough to sourdough and I quite happily used this formula for years although I confess I often gave it a single four hour prove because I wanted pizza for lunch (the remaining dough might well sit in the fridge for a further four or five days by which time it was good for glazing purposes). I’ve always had trouble with Peter Rheinhart’s books but in my diligent search for the perfect pizza dough for said restaurant (despite everything they launched with a yeasted base) I bought his American Pie, read it and experimented with it. However, it was the Cheese Board Collective from which I purloined and adapted my current and much loved formula, my version here.
If you look through the posts since last February and now you’ll find a number of pizza experiments all of which have been very toothsome if not 100% successful.
Today’s attempt stems from a number of factors (and a theft of course). Most of the past twelve months I’ve been making really thin crisp bases – 150g for a 285mm pizza tin. But, a few posts back, you will see that I paid a visit to Jay in Trefriw when he was scratting his cider apples. Joe Firebeard was in attendance. He’s working on his pizza business and designing a classic airstream style trailer to house his oven and he ran up some pizza for lunch. His tins where a little wider and deeper than mine, but his dough weighed in at 500g as opposed to my 150g so you can see that the whole thing is a different concept.
A few years back we used to visit Bath frequently when Sue’s mother was alive and one of the restaurants we used to do was the Firehouse Rotisserie who specialise in South West style American food including what they call a Bajo California chicken pizza. So I stole it.
So Sue broke a tooth and I have to sell lots of bread because she needs a crown and we really need to get to France for a month soon. So we have some left-over chicken and, when we have that, I usually do my stolen Firehouse pizza. But she’s worried about the temporary fix to her tooth. So I think let’s try out a Joe-type thicker base which might be crusty but is still easier to chew.
I managed to take a few photos when we were groaning a little after sharing the first half. I made an uncooked Salsa Tipica (chopped tomatoes, jalapenos, onion, coriander, lime juice), fried an onion, mushrooms and the chicken. On top of these two layers sliced avocado and mozzarela. A pretty deep filling. I had a hearth of quarry tiles on the bottom of the oven which I heated to 250C. The tin went in at the top of the oven for 20 minutes, then 10 minutes on the hearth.
That shows how deep the filling was. But while the crumb was soft the outside and base was properly crisp.
The rim was fully an inch high.
I started to understand why Americans call it pie.
I hope you read Jeremy’s Stir The Pots blog and products of his love affair with pizza. One of my ideas of heaven would be to have a weekend bake with him playing with pizza. Reckon I could thieve a lot in the course of it.