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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Culinary School - Session 45: Pizza and Focaccia

Culinary School: Session 45 (12.01.14)

Pizza and Focaccia

Pizza and Focaccia... a fitting, flat-bread end to the culinary school tour of breads...

Pizza: Good or bad, I will never say "no" to a slice. Deep-dish, crispy, greasy, soggy, stuffed-crust, meat lovers, extra cheese, no sauce or even cold the next day... it's all good. But a classic Neapolitan pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil... that is perfection!

With a few simple tricks, it's actually possible to make a decent Neapolitan pizza in a conventional oven. I guess I can hold off on my plans to convert half of my apartment into a 1,000 degree brick oven. 

Check out the recipe.

Focaccia: Working at Osteria Morini, I now start my day making close to 50 pounds of this bread. If I screw up while making a meager 1/2 sheet tray during next session's exam, I'll hang up my whisk and apron.

Baked Pizza

Exam time...

Practical Exam #5. It's the ticket to a month of Petits Fours, or Mignardises. Prepare yourself for the upcoming bounty of intricate confections rendered in miniature. But first...

Bread Exam Agenda:

  • 3 perfect Croissant
  • 3 perfect Pain au Chocolat
  • 3 perfect Brioche a Tete
  • 3 perfect Corn Muffins (really?!)
  • 1/2 sheet tray of (perfect) Focaccia

Since the exam involves multiple yeast doughs, the Brioche and Croissant dough were made during this session. Just look at that beautiful Offset Book Turn in that laminated Croissant dough! Look at it!!

Offset Book Turn in Laminated Croissant Dough

- Ingredients Running Tally -

Ingredients used to date (12.01.14):

  • Flour: 22,000g
  • Eggs: 10,400g (208x)
  • Sugar: 10,805g
  • Butter: 12,560g
  • Milk/Cream: 11,595g

- The Recipes -



For those who love olive oil, look no further... 

In many ways, Focaccia is the olive-oil enriched, increasingly leavened cousin of Pizza. Both are simple flatbreads with toppings that usually highlight regional ingredients. But while Pizzas have become vehicles for mounds of meats and vegetables, Focaccia has remained comparatively simple. A loaf of Focaccia may include only one or two simple toppings, often woody herbs like rosemary and thyme.

Focus Techniques:
- Using an extended bulk proof to develop the gluten structure. Rather than knead the dough for an extended period, Focaccia bulk proofs for three hours prior to shaping. The gluten structure develops through the fermentation without oxidizing the dough.
- Using high quality olive oil. An ample amount of olive oil is used to enrich the Focaccia dough. Additional oil is used to coat the sheet tray and the surface of the bread during baking. Using a high-quality, flavorful olive oil is critical in creating an excellent final product. 
- Selecting appropriate toppings. Given the baking time and temperature for Focaccia, not all toppings are appropriate. Woody herbs like rosemary and thyme fare best in the heat of the oven. Herbs like basil will scorch.

Unbaked Rosemary Focaccia

Rosemary Focaccia



What is bread, but flour, water, salt and yeast? So too is pizza. 

It doesn't get much more simple than this. There are no 

Check out the recipe for this Neapolitan Pizza Dough!

Focus Techniques:
- Forming the Pizza. Rolling the dough into a round disc would overly de-gas the Pizza. Instead, the dough should be gently stretched into a circle.
- Blind baking the crust. In order to create a crispy crust, the Pizza dough is baked for several minutes prior to adding toppings. By blind baking the crust, much of the water content in the dough evaporates. If the toppings were added first, the moisture in the dough would not be able to escape in the heat of a conventional oven (the situation is different in a 1,000+ degree pizza oven). The end product would be a soggy crust.
- Using a baking stone. The Pizza is best cooked on a surface that can transmit a consistently high heat. Using a baking stone that has been pre-heated in the oven will better approximate the heat transmitted from the floor of a Pizza oven than would a cold sheet tray. 

Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Neapolitan Pizza

Fresh Green Peppers

Sliced Mushrooms

Fresh Red Peppers


Bowls of Pizza Toppings

Pizza Crust with Sauce

Mushroom Layered Pizza

Mozzarella Cheese Layered Pizza

Tomato Slice Layered Pizza

Baked Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Pizza

Eating a Slice of Baked Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Pizza

The Remains of the Baked Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Pizza

Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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