Pizza Grand Prix postmortem

webercam.com is largely a lab notebook of my adventures in cooking and amateur food science. Tonight I was invited by Jim of CMH Gourmand to attend the Pizza Grand Prix held at Wild Goose Creative and show off my cool toy, a modified grill that cooks pizzas. I had a blast. I love to share pizzas I make and gain feedback.

Hardly a well composed post, I just wanted to record some quick notes (I'll keep the post going a few days).

•I made a total of about 18 pizzas in 2 hours, 225 g crust each and mostly topped with Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

•Bethia brought some lovely ham from Thurns for a topping. Very nice. I snuck a few pieces of ham for myself too - thanks much Bethia.

•Lorence of Lorence's Kitchen brought some provolone and a nice mixture of sauteed mushrooms and shallots. It made great pizzas and Lorence was lucky that mixture made it to the pizza, it was very nice. I also enjoyed swapping parenting stories with him.

•Quantities: I only used about 2-3 lbs mozzarella (just BelGioso - a favorite commercial "fresh"), 1 28 oz can tomatoes (lightly salted), big bunch of chifonnade of basil, 9 lbs of dough [multiples of: water 400 g, flour 600 g, salt 12 g, olive oil 30 g, sugar 10 g].

•My contraption needs a good 40 minutes to come up to full temp (ca. 680-700°F).

•Karl of Wild Goose suggested lump as a fuel in between charcoal briquettes and wood in order to get another boost in temperature. Thanks Karl, I'll be trying this next time I get a shot (if my family's not too sick of my experiments).

•Jason gave me a Pumpkinhead Ale from Shipyard Brewing Co that I saved until all was shut down, put away and I was relaxed. I savored each and every mL. Thanks Jason.

•I got to speak to a co-owner of Surly Girl. Wow. I didn't even know it. How cool.

•Can you believe a French Ph.D. candidate was even present? How cool is that?


I'm ready

Tonight's the Pizza Grand Prix. My Firedome, 10 pounds of dough, simple toppings and I will be in attendance.

I heard Padma and Colicchio may also show up.

ps Sorry Jim, I had to pack the car early; still there will be some good photo ops @ 5. I also get to the airport 3 hours early.


Meatloaf on the grill

I walked by my cafeteria's meatloaf entre today and felt a rush of inspiration.

On the way home I dropped in to Weiland's Gourmet Market to get meatloaf mix. Meatloaf mix is 1/3 beef, 1/3 pork and 1/3 veal. I don't know anywhere that has it except Weiland's. I got a few pounds, separated it into 1 lb portions and went to work on tonight's dinner.

I took 400 grams of the heavenly mixture, and added 7 g salt; Ruhlman salts meat at a reliable rate of 40 g / 5 lbs. I use this ratio a lot in cooking. Cooking meat you only get one shot to get it right. Can't really eat the meat raw to check spices, can't salt after it's cooked, just have to get it right. After salt, anything goes. I added milk (1/4 C), my bread crumbs (fu#k Panko, mine are better, 3/4 C), pepper, oregano, basil, egg, parsley, mixed gently and tossed on the grill with a think skim of bbq sauce on top. Vents full open, indirect and cooked 40 min to an internal temp of 160°F, wrapped and let rest for 15 minutes or so and served with tater tots and broccoli. What a dinner. Nothing left.


Firedome using Stubbs charcoal

It's (Pizza) Grand Prix week! We're prepping the kettle for a very short road trip to the Wild Goose Creative (bicycle rack transporter and all). Last night I did a quick dry run to check out the fuel I'll be using while making Pizzas.

I ran my Firedome through a dry run to check the fuel, condition a new piece of clay and take some measurements. The dome ran for 3 hours at 600+ °F which was about the same temp as the clay surface. Great temperature uniformity. After the PGP, I'll be trying seasoned wood chunks to boost the temperature. For now, I'm ready. See you there.


I'm going to start making myself one of these

When Sodexo serves mini corn dogs, she jumps at it. Kills me.


cracked wheat bread

cracked wheat bread, originally uploaded by Seligmans Dog.

I like to bake whole grain breads, but often have problems. When I say whole grain, I don't want all rough milled flour, I want a significant fraction of the grain to be whole grain just hydrated to soften it. The biggest problem? I like my grainy bread to be for sandwhiches and enjoying with cheese; for that I prefer a boule shape. The inherent challenge with this shape and having whole grain in the ingredient list is often a doughy undercooked center. The whole grain retains so much moisture (which is great for shelf life), but it creates two different environments of cooking, the exterior and middle. Kind of like breast and thighs on chicken.

I tried a recipe I really liked recently. Inspired by Bittman's Food Matters (thanks Bethia!). I use more water than Bittman's recipe and let the grain steep for a long time prior to mixing to insure no crunchies in the final bread. I made this Sunday afternoon and it's still as good as the day it came out of the oven. This is a big deal for me. I like Frankie to have her bread from home and don't always have time to bake bread daily.

Cracked Wheat Bread
• In a bowl used for rising add:
Cracked wheat (coarse or fine), 1/2 C
Boiling water, 2.0 C
• Let sit until convenient (an hour or so, I let it sit all day).
• Add:
salt, 1.5 teaspoons
grain flours mix, 1/2 C (I have a tub of spelt, wheat and rye flour mixed)
unbleached white (need some structure), 2 Cups
vegetable oil, 2 tablespoon
dry yeast, 1/2 teaspoon
• Mix until the thing forms a ball and kind of knead with wooden spoon in bowl
• Let rise at least 12 hours.
• Form into a boule and let sit on parchment covered with a dry dishtowel for about 8 hours. The dough's not very sticky, typical of nice grainy doughs. Use a bit of flour to prevent any tackiness if you need while shaping.
• Slide into a 425°F oven; I cooked it on a sheet pan that preheated in the oven and toss a 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of the oven.
• Bake 45 minutes at 425°F, remove and let thoroughly cool.