Author Topic: Pizza Raquel  (Read 219325 times)

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Offline Pizza Rustica

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #625 on: November 03, 2008, 09:52:03 PM »
PFT,

I cannot begin to tell you how much I have learned from and enjoyed your posts. I have devoured your posts as well as the hard work and discoveries you've made along the way.

If I may indulge in a few questions? I am having trouble with my room temp rise. I don't have the mr-138/148 or equivalent temp controls and have been doing room temp rises with the RT rise in the mid to high 70 degree range. My rise after 12-15 hours seems to have at least doubled and tends to result in flat dough balls. I am using your Raquel formula, but without the KASL as I don't have any yet. After balling and rising for 4-6 hours the balls tend to come out somewhat flat and a hour or so into the bake process the remaining balls are extremely flat. I assume its over fermented, but in reading the posts everyone seems to use the generic rise times of 12-15 hours or more without a lot of problems. Questions, if you please. Do you believe I am over proofing the dough? If so suggestions? Do you knead and punch down after your rise? if so how long typically do you knead the dough and what is your technique for kneading prior to balling? I haven't been kneading after the RT rise. In fact I have been trying to not disturb the dough. In retrospect, I understand that the kneading process actually gives the dough new life with food so I would assume this is an important step I have not been employing. I assume your 22 hour rise includes the balling phase, if so what is your base period for the rise? What oven temp have you found to work best with the Raquel formula? Sorry for the long post of questions, but any help from the master would be greatly appreciated.
Russ


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #626 on: November 03, 2008, 10:43:14 PM »
Russ,

I, too, await with interest for pftaylor's response to your questions. However, in the meantime, you may want to take a look at a recent thread at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,7225.msg62332.html#msg62332 in which I described the results of significant experiments I have conducted to make a long, room-temperature fermented dough, without benefit of a ThermoKool or equivalent unit, even though I have a ThermoKool unit.

Peter

Offline pftaylor

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Pizza Raquel
« Reply #627 on: November 04, 2008, 07:00:55 AM »
JimmyMak,
The last pizza is aptly named Tampa Verde. It features a sourdough crust, imported Prosciutto, honey ham, fresh mozzarella, Sini Fulvi Romano, organic basil, and fresh organic baby arugula topped with grated Regiano Parmesano. 

Pete-zza,
Thanks for assisting. No telling how long my response might have taken with my travel schedule. Fortunately I have a moment this morning.
 
Pizza Rustica,
We have all sat where you’re sitting right now wondering what we’ve done wrong. Fact is pizza is the ultimate expression and culmination of one’s prior efforts. With pizza, one gets exactly what they deserve.

A pizza may appear opaque to the untrained eye. But it is a veritable mirror which provides a pristine view reflecting the precise impact of what one’s efforts were leading up to the final moment of truth – the bake. Err at any of the prior steps and the result can be anything from a minor issue to catastrophic failure.

If only we knew how to look in the mirror. I have spent a lifetime peering into the pizza mirror of truth wondering how such a seemingly simple concoction can be so elusive. Learning to make killer pizza consistently is no small triumph as a consequence.

My baseline suggestion would be to initially focus on the 20% (of the effort) which delivers the 80% (of the results). Rip and replace anything not necessary or proven to be helpful. Keeping it as simple as possible as you go. Then, and only then, once robust results become routine and you’re certain you’ve dialed in your intended results, should you get jiggy with expanding your base and extending your reach into the pizza hinterland.

Let’s see if I can help you from what you’ve posted. Remember that making changes are notoriously difficult to measure when making more than one at a time so proceed prudently. I view this process as being painstakingly iterative.

My suspicions center squarely on the following areas:
- Rise temperature is too high. A room temperature rise should be somewhere between 64F to 72F. Too much heat equals too much yeast activity. The concept of a room temperature rise is akin to a marathon instead of a sprint. The goal is a steady pace of fermentation not a big bang.   
   
- Too much yeast for the rise temperature. If dough doubles and then goes flat it sounds to me like the yeast are out of food. What does your finished crust look like?

- Not enough salt relative to rise time, amount of yeast, and rise temperature

- Rise period too long relative to rise temperature.

The macrodynamics governing whats going on here are; time, temperature, yeast, and salt (flour and hydration are of minor importance relative to the big four above). And they are completely controllable by you. But only if you treat them as a system of interactions.

In order to do so, one needs to properly understand the relationship of one to another. The interaction of time, temperature, yeast, and salt is what you are struggling with. It is what perplexes every aspiring pizza crafter at one point or another.

I will end my response here and await your reply. Kindly analyze your dough management and preparation process in light of the above and ask yourself a couple of high-level questions:

- What might I have too much of?
- What might I not have enough of?

Make a pizza or two and report back with photographs so we can all view into your mirror and learn to make better pizza along with you. 
« Last Edit: November 04, 2008, 07:17:06 AM by pftaylor »
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com

Offline Pizza Rustica

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #628 on: November 05, 2008, 01:52:46 AM »
Pete-zza,

I did read your long fermentation attempt and concur that what you experienced I am likewise experiencing. I particularly noticed that you re-kneaded and punched down the dough whenever you felt the dough became unmanageable and exhausted. This seemingly simple step is one that I have avoided for fear of adversely affecting the dough. But what I think you found was that it was required due to the long fermentation and the exhaustion of the food supply for the yeast. It seems from your experience to have allowed your dough a much longer and more successful lifespan ( is it simply the dough fountain of youth I've been searching for?) I await your input. As always I and countless others greatly appreciate your insight and efforts to help us more dough challenged bodies.

PFT
As you suggest it truly is a journey and I have enjoyed my ride along the way learning, experimenting and most joyfully eating the result. Our backyard was a project that came in way over budget and took way too long, but I am consoled everytime I fire the oven and crack a cold beer.

My formula is simply yours:
Flour 1650G San Felice/sometimes 100%; last version 30% San Felice/70% AP flour (pics are of 100% San Felice)
Water 60-63% range
Sea Salt 45G
Ischia 50g

Thanks to an obliging wife and the fact that smoke started coming out of our lowly kitchen aid I was both determined and fortunate to acquire a Santos fork mixer. It does wonders for my manhood. Its like looking under the hood of a early 70's muscle car knowing that tremendous potential sits waiting for someone to step on the throttle and take it where it really wants to go.

In thinking thru your post, it seems almost too obvious that the answer is simply overfermentation, but I conclude that it probably is so. I am unskilled enough to recognize when to stop the 1st rise based upon the growth of the dough to less than/more than doubling or somewhere thereabout. As I mentioned I have been doing RT rise and here in Calif. until last week it has been rather warm thus the 75 degree +  room temp rises. I have tried putting the dough in our 55 degree wine cooler, but it seemed like after 15 hours there was virtually no rise. So I'm sure there is a point of finding the right balance but again some helpful tips would be appreciated. Namely how to tell when the 1st rise is sufficient; method and duration of 2nd kneading; It seems to take me only 1-2 minutes of kneading and then I begin to lose the beautiful texture of the dough and it turns rough and begins to show some edges to it. I have attached several pics for consideration from a couple different attempts. You will notice the somewhat flatness of the dough balls in the pics. One pic has two types of dough balls 100% San Felice and the 30/70 SF/AP. The others are 100% SF.

I thank you for your assistance and guidance.

Additionally, I was able to stop by Pizzeria Mozza in L.A. and will be posting several pics from my experience. You will notice in the Mozza pics the coloration of the crust. As has been mentioned here before it is quite crunchy almost too much so, but nevertheless I and my boys enjoyed it thoroughly.
Russ

Offline pftaylor

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Pizza Raquel
« Reply #629 on: November 05, 2008, 08:29:54 AM »
Pizza Rustica,
Thanks for the rapid response. Let’s see if I can help based on what we now know from the enhanced detail of your dough management process and photographs provided. Your pizza looks very well done I might add.

Let’s tackle your situation as if it were mine here in Tampa. We’ll get to the end and see how we did. From the details in your post, let’s say I wanted to make a batch of dough and I was faced with the facts you provided (and some I assumed):
- Desirous of a room temperature rise at an average of 75F
- 50g of fully activated starter without additional IDY/ADY added as a booster
- 1650g Flour
- 1L purified water (equals a 60.6% hydration depending on starter consistency)
- 45g sea salt
- Santos fork mixer
- Wood-fired oven at 800F plus

Based on the above facts I would employ the latest Pizza Raquel dough management process (which you should already have) and proceed down one of two main paths:
- Shortened rise (less flavor and less digestible) with no other changes
- Longer rise (more flavor and more digestible) with necessary changes

For a shortened rise, I would make the batch of dough according to the specifications above and adjust the bulk rise time to approximately eight hours. Then hand-knead until springy (using the punch & fold technique), cut and ball. Rest for four hours. Form skin, top with favorite toppings, and bake. Then just before I put the first bit in my mouth I would close my eyes, take a hearty bite and not try to stop my toes from twitching by just submitting to Raquel’s distortion field of pleasure.

For the longer rise (twenty-two hours or so) option, I would implement a couple of upfront small yet significant changes. First, I would cut back on the amount of starter (to about 35g) and/or increase the amount of salt slightly making sure to never go over 55g (55g is safe whereas 60g can lead to trouble in my experience). The initial bulk rise should be about sixteen to eighteen hours. Then hand-knead until springy, cut and ball. Rest for four to six hours. Form skin, top with favorite toppings, and bake. Then just before I put the first bit in my mouth I would close my eyes, take a hearty bite and not try and stop my eyes from rolling into the back of my head with pure unadulterated bliss. Just submit to the pizza and repeat until full.   

From an appearance standpoint, I would expect the dough balls not to rise much during the bulk period and hardly any at all during the second rise. I would expect to see some bubbling though. Also, I wouldn’t expect to see a ball shape either which is indicative of an overly tight dough. Your photographs show a relaxed dough mass which is emblematic of a room temperature, highly hydrated, naturally leavened dough prepared properly. My dough balls never actually look like balls anymore and yours shouldn’t either.

I trust the above is useful in your pizza making.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #630 on: November 05, 2008, 11:15:55 AM »
Pete-zza,

I did read your long fermentation attempt and concur that what you experienced I am likewise experiencing. I particularly noticed that you re-kneaded and punched down the dough whenever you felt the dough became unmanageable and exhausted. This seemingly simple step is one that I have avoided for fear of adversely affecting the dough. But what I think you found was that it was required due to the long fermentation and the exhaustion of the food supply for the yeast. It seems from your experience to have allowed your dough a much longer and more successful lifespan ( is it simply the dough fountain of youth I've been searching for?) I await your input. As always I and countless others greatly appreciate your insight and efforts to help us more dough challenged bodies.

Russ,

When I replied to your post, I assumed that you were making a commercial-yeast version of the Raquel dough. Sorry about that. However, I believe that the principles are the same with a naturally-leavened dough although perhaps not as pronounced. pftaylor made an important statement about fermentation temperature. Life would be made much easier for you if you used a unit like the ThermoKool (or equivalent) unit to control the fermentation temperature. Variations in room temperature require that you learn how to make dough like a skilled Neapolitan pizzaiolo would. If you did this for a living and made dough day after day, you would learn the unique behavior of your starter culture, how to reliably maintain it, and how to adapt the dough (along the lines discussed by pftaylor) to the varying environmental conditions. As a casual home pizza maker not on a regular pizza making schedule, it is harder to achieve success with a starter culture or preferment time after time and within the window of usabillty you have selected. I found that making a long (20-24 hour), room-temperature, commercially-leavened fermented dough was a real challenge--one of the toughest in my experience. To do likewise with a natural starter or preferment is even harder in my opinion if you are working with room temperatures. Unfortunately, for the volume of dough balls you have been making, you will not be able to use a unit like the ThermoKool unit to control the fermentation temperature. You will need a more commercial solution.

Like you, I once did some experiments with naturally-leavened doughs using a wine unit. I described some of my results at Reply 43 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2951.msg25809/topicseen.html#msg25809 and also in the related post at Reply 94 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,986.msg25807.html#msg25807. As noted in the above posts, I found my wine unit to be too cool and I had to take measures, as described, to help elevate the dough temperature during fermentation.

You might also be interested in a test that I conducted with two Neapolitan-style doughs in which one dough ball was fermented at room temperature and a second dough ball was fermented in my wine unit, as reported at Reply 96 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,986.msg25896/topicseen.html#msg25896. As it so happened, I used the dough fermented in the wine unit to conduct another experiment--specifically, to see if I could "kill" the dough by overfermentation. I described the results of that additional test at Reply 1 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,5505.msg46570/topicseen.html#msg46570.

Peter
« Last Edit: November 05, 2008, 11:19:22 AM by Pete-zza »

Offline Pizza Rustica

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #631 on: November 07, 2008, 12:16:01 AM »
Pete-zza,

I agree with your thoughts, the difficulty of trying to do room temp rises in varying conditions is difficult for a novice like me to say the least. The weather here has turned quite a bit colder in the last week or so and now I must make further adjustments to a process I am still trying to figure out. I will indeed explore the Thermakool unit as a possible resource in an effort to control the one variable only mother nature can control. The amount of balls made in the pics were for a large party for my son's birthday. I normally make smaller batches of dough. I will hopefully be firing the oven this weekend and will be able to report back on my results.

PFT,

Your insight is very helpful. Shorter rise, less flavor vs. longer rise, more flavor is an easy decision for me. In my quest for a great tasting pie the longer rise and better flavor will win every time. Your earlier comments about making small adjustments seem to make perfect sense. Set up the basic parameters and then fine tune by controlling and adjusting the variables. Like my kids baseball coach always says" good hitters always make adjustments". Reducing the amount of starter will hopefully offset the higher room temp rise. Excellent suggestion, I will try dropping down the starter level as suggested. I may tinker with the salt a bit, but so far I am happy with the taste levels of salt at present formula. Your comments about the form and nature of the state of my dough balls are reassuring.

If you don't mind my asking, you seem to have gone back to the Patsy/Varsanno starter. In recalling some of the older posts I thought Jeff V, yourself and others had concluded that Patsy's didn't use a starter and did not use an old dough/chef for their dough process. If so, how do you explain the taste levels both you and Jeff V seem to find so tantalizing? If their dough is made fresh daily (or the previous night) without starter and/or old dough what in the process and/or ingredients do you attribute to the excellent flavoring? Your thoughts and insight are appreciated.
Russ

Offline pftaylor

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Pizza Raquel
« Reply #632 on: November 07, 2008, 08:24:05 AM »
Pizza Rustica,
It was not a pleasurable experience to disprove varasano's belief about Patsy's having a starter. I had to uncover the unshakeable facts for myself before I could get past that point. But instances such as that have taught me the value of self discovery. In God we trust - all others bring evidence...

That said, the varasano starter (origin East Harlem/ATL/& Parts Unknown) I have is most assuredly superior in every way to the Ishcia or Camaldoli starters. Why? Well, for me, the varasano starter exhibits all the properties I could want in a starter:
- Fast to activate (one or two refreshment cycles is all that is necessary)
- Not finicky after being in the refrigerator for extended periods of time
- Imparts a pleasingly distinctive lactic acid taste to Pizza Raquel's Bubble Burst crust which melds well with mozzarella
- Superior puff
- Less susceptible to going acidic (sour) with long room temperature rises

I suppose if I kept the Italian starters more active they might perform better. But for the frequency I make pizza, they are problematic at best. If I had more time or the inclination to devote to them, perhaps I could get them to perform better. But I've gotten to the point where having to constantly worry about whether or not a given starter will activate or not is not something I want to do.

And it's not as if I didn't try to make them work either. I spent countless hours activating them only to determine the following (based on my pizza making experience):
- Between the two, the Camaldoli starter activates faster than the Ischia
- Both require two full days or more of refreshing every 4-6 hours to fully activate - which is not compatible with my travel schedule
- The Camaldoli produces a more lactic acid taste better suited for pizza but only for up to 18 hour rises (generally)
- The Ischia produces a more acidic acid taste better suited for bread
- The Ischia starter produces more puff and a more competent feeling dough

So in the final analysis, the varasano starter is better suited for my style of pizza making.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2008, 03:09:23 PM by pftaylor »
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
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Offline trosenberg

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #633 on: November 08, 2008, 05:29:40 AM »
Dear PF Taylor, I love your writing as well as your passion.  There is something comforting in knowing there are others who share one's obsession.  Now that you have me wanting to abandon the starters I have been nurturing for the past two years I guess I have to get some of Varasano's starter. 
Trosenberg


Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #634 on: November 08, 2008, 08:24:06 AM »

- Between the two, the Camaldoli starter activates faster than the Ischia
- Both require two full days or more of refreshing every 4-6 hours to fully activate - which is not compatible with my travel schedule
- The Camaldoli produces a more lactic acid taste better suited for pizza but only for up to 18 hour rises (generally)
- The Ischia produces a more acidic acid taste better suited for bread
- The Ischia starter produces more puff and a more competent feeling dough


pftaylor,

I think frequency of use can make a big difference. I used to think Ischia was a very sour culture, so I didn't use it very often - maybe once every month. Then I started using it more frequently and the flavor profile changed dramatically. Now I use it once a week or more and the flavor is very mild. It only takes me a few hours to activate my most frequently used cultures with a single feeding. You need to take your cultures on the road with you. Just keep them in little 3 oz. bottles so TSA doesn't confiscate them.   ;D

Your biggest fan,
Bill/SFNM



Offline Pizza Rustica

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #635 on: November 10, 2008, 11:58:29 PM »
PFT,

Amazing. If the Varasano/NY starter did not originate from a dough with starter or old dough being added to the new dough, how did the subsequent capture of the dough/yeast achieve its amazing flavor characteristics from a fresh dough product with I believe baker's yeast? If we are able simply to assume we can capture a wild yeast in the essence of a great establishment using fresh dough, what possibilities does this open up?


Here's a few pics from the latest batch. Still working on the dough/RT rise. Unfortunately it has turned colder and thrown off my RT rise. I tried the rise in my garage at lower temp using the same 50g starter and found very little if any rise. After 15 hours bulk there was not any increase whatsoever. Dough was too cold and didn't want to warm up. As a result the crust had very little oven spring and much too dense. Obviously, back to your comments starter vs. temperature need to be adjusted. I really need to work on achieving a consistent rise for the dough. In regard to your useage of the Thermakool. Do all the dough balls fit into the unit? if so how are they packaged after balling?



Russ

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #636 on: November 30, 2008, 07:26:27 AM »
Pizza Rustica,
Interesting question about culturing dough and forming a starter. My guess is he started from a chunk of Patsy's dough and the local yeast strain took over after a period of time.  Quite inadvertently perhaps.

Anyway, attached are a handful of photos depicting:
- A pepperoni pie,
- A mushroom/onion/ricotta/fresh mozzarella kitchen sink type pie
- A few slices showing Bubble Burst
- A classic Raquel

Happy holidays...
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com

Offline JConk007

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #637 on: November 30, 2008, 02:17:24 PM »
PFT ,
Just curious what type of oven you are using? Did not catch that info yet, 2 stone? Those  pies sure look great whatever it is. I have not experimented with a starter yet but getting some nice results. Moved indoors so I have a lot of things I want to try. Any recommendation for a starter? Frankie G? Sourdo.com? Is it hard to keep going?
thnaks

John
I Love to Flirt with Fire! www.flirtingwithfirepizza.com

Offline widespreadpizza

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #638 on: November 30, 2008, 04:25:04 PM »
PFT,  I know we are on similar paths right now... but heres my IDY room temp,  then retard version of raquel.  Couldn't help but show you,  I too have pretty much settled in on the 50% KA bread/special 50 % caputo.  This one came out about 5 minutes ago,  it's gone.....   touchdown patriots!  thats a real ugly start for pitts. -marc

Offline pftaylor

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Pizza Raquel
« Reply #639 on: December 02, 2008, 09:36:25 AM »
JConk007,
I am using a custom built ultra-low dome wood-fired oven which uniformly bakes a pie at whatever temperature I so choose. Want a perfectly baked pie in thirty seconds? No problem!

Sixty seconds? Sure - sign here ____________.

Two minute pie? Yeah, but why would you want to?

Seriously though, it was the result of an intense collaboration with an oven builder and refractory expert with more than twenty years experience. Cad/Cam optimized design, cost-no-object refractory and insulation materials, etc. In a nutshell it is, in my opinion, the ultimate pizza specific oven.

Regarding starters, I could write for a month and not cover all the pertinent details. My recommendation would be to try any of them out and see if the extra work is worth it for your style of pie. Care and feeding of a starter requires true effort – sort of like keeping a pet. 

Suffice to say that use of a wild yeast starter incorporated into a naturally leavened room temperature dough management process and baked in a wood-fired oven is my definition of the optimal process for producing stupendous pizza.

Hey widespreadpizza,
Your pies look delicious and vaguely familiar. Keep up the good work.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com

Offline pftaylor

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Pizza Raquel
« Reply #640 on: December 21, 2008, 07:36:55 AM »
Had a few guests over the house for wood-fired Pizza Raquel over the weekend. It always amazes me how pizza brings everyone together.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com

Online jeff v

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #641 on: December 21, 2008, 04:45:46 PM »
Very nice as usual PFT. Question for you since I've enjoyd this thread so much-

Where are you now in regards to Raquel? There? Plateau? Still working, and if so on which area?

Just Curious,
Jeff
Back to being a civilian pizza maker only.


Offline pftaylor

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Pizza Raquel
« Reply #642 on: December 22, 2008, 08:00:07 AM »
Hi jeff v,
Where am I currently at with Raquel? Simple question with a complicated answer. It really depends on what facet of Raquel you are referring to. I’ll take a stab with a high level explanation and see if my glide path makes sense.

The most honest answer to your question is; I am intensely curious about finding out about the twenty percent of learning which gets me eighty percent of the way there. My journey has been a series of ripping and replacing anything which doesn’t work with some other method, tool, or technique which does. A very Darwinian-esque approach for sure. Tools help but building pizza knowledge is the supreme accomplishment. Right now, my array of tools is greater than my wisdom in optimizing the use of them. But I am learning every day so it’s only a matter of time. That time may take a lifetime but I am a patient man…

When I put your question in the context of what I consider the ultimate expression for pizza, the easy answer is a wood fired pizza with a naturally leavened crust topped with your favorite flavor combinations. It is a dream come true for me and I can now die in total peace as a result of the venerable Raquel Oven. In many respects it symbolizes the end of my journey as well as a new beginning. The Raquel Oven clearly had the single biggest impact on my pizza making from a tool perspective. I do have some good news to report; the new vent and cosmetics will be finished sometime in Q1 2009. I know, I know, I’ve promised completion before. But this time I’m certain of it. The vent is redesigned and the mold is finished. Checks have been written.

Over the course of my journey I’ve baked hundreds of pizzas in a 580 degree home electric oven and an 850 degree gas grill. The fact is, in my experience, pizza comes out different in those than it does in a wood fired oven even with identical bake times. They may look the same (not really identical but close enough) however the resultant crust is fundamentally different because of the lack of live flame and balanced heat. I was fortunate to be in a position to take the wood fired oven concept to an extreme with an ultra-low-dome and cutting edge design which incorporates the latest refractory and insulation technology and materials. Bottom line is I achieved my goal of producing a perfectly uniform balanced bake at any temperature I so choose. Are there other ways of getting a perfectly balanced bake irrespective of temperature? Well maybe but in my case the answer was clear – it takes an ultra-low-dome design. And that clear answer worked so I’m happy.

I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me with respect to operating the Raquel Oven. There are so many variables to get one’s arms around that it is a field of study all to its own. As an example, I have exhaustively researched the use of various available woods and have concluded that a certain strain of Oak has the ability to produce the very best heat profile for pizza making. Though I must admit, I do enjoy the fragrance of Shagbark Hickory wafting through the air. Burning Shagbark Hickory produces a scent which reminds me of my early childhood in Pennsylvania. I still have a stack of it left and truth be told, I enjoy throwing a log in just before the first pie is slid in for heat blasting.

An early experiment I tried was to get the fragrance of hickory infused into the Raquel crust. It never really worked in the end but it did lead to a whole new way of thinking about food.

My failed efforts to infuse additional flavor into Raquel’s crust led me to observe how other chefs cook other foods with their wood fired oven. Last year I noticed a most fascinating technique while in Paris. The chef used dried grape branches in his wood fired oven to infuse aromatic flavor into oysters. And boy did it ever. The oysters were delicious. Well, I decided to use the same approach to infusing additional flavor into Raquel’s crust. Only problem is when I opened my wallet wide and bought grape branches (not easy to find in Florida I might add), they didn’t produce the same effect on Raquel. In hindsight, the oysters were in his oven for about eight minutes and Pizza Raquel was in my oven for only about a minute. 

But for me the whole point of grape branch experimentation was to get to the extreme limit of what’s possible in making and baking Pizza Raquel. And the only way I know how to do that is by doing and learning.

So that is my answer. I am in the optimization stage of pizza learning and baking. I have the best tools available and the determination to find out what’s possible irrespective of what’s been done before by me or anyone else. I’ll stop there for now.

Happy holidays
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com

Online jeff v

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #643 on: December 22, 2008, 12:07:34 PM »
I thought you'd say that!  :P

I hope your able to enjoy the moment as you learn-especially with all the tools you have at your disposal now. It's too bad about the grape vines, but it makes sense. Experimenting with different woods/herbs/branches has been a fun part of wood grilling for me.

A couple of follow ups-You mentioned hundreds of pizzas done in the home oven, and on the grill. How many have been done in the WFO? Following along it seems there have been a some big leaps in your pizza making and many small ones. Do you see any big leaps in the future or mostly incremental ones that lead to something big? How are you going to measure these?

Thanks,
Jeff
Back to being a civilian pizza maker only.

Offline pftaylor

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Pizza Raquel
« Reply #644 on: December 22, 2008, 05:02:34 PM »
Hi Jeff,
If I had to guess I would say I have made between three hundred to four hundred pies and about twenty calzones in the Raquel Oven. The gaps or leaps left for me to close, off the top of my head, are as follows:

Supply chain optimization. Tampa being a pizza wasteland consistently challenges me in sourcing ultra-premium ingredients. In particular, cheese. I have struck agreements with wholesalers to source the three hard cheeses I prefer to use; Sini Fulvi Romano, Ricotta Salada, & Parmigiano-Reggiano. BTW, once I tried the real Parmigiano-Reggiano, I vowed never to go back to that acrid, powdery Parmesan, either – despite its $20/lb price.

However Bufala Mozzarella, with its pitiful shelf life, takes a real effort to properly source. I’ve given up and switched to Fior de Latte Mozzarella. Since I only make pizza a couple of times a month, I’m not sure I can ever overcome the freshness issue with distributors and Bufala.

I’ve toyed with making my own Fresh Mozzarella cheese from scratch but the taste has been suspect at best. The direction I am now headed in is to buy a good curd and make it fresh. That’s how my buddy Chris in Phoenix does it and his cheese was epic – in my humble opinion. The specific leap issue I have identified as being upgradeable is not related to the usual concern I typically read about – puddles, poor melting and burning. No I’ve fought those battles already and now my concern is the optimal mixing and matching of a lactic acid flavor profile to offset the acidic acid flavor of tomatoes. I remain convinced this is a treasure trove of contrasting opportunity just waiting to be uncovered.

It is why I exclusively use a lactic acid dominated natural leavening as well. I have a sense that the wafer thin crisp veneer of the Raquel crust can maximally combine with the creaminess of the right Fresh Mozzarella and contrast it against the acidic tomatoes to take melt-in-your-mouth flavor to new heights. I love contrasting flavors and I think this area justifies suitable exploration.

Another area worthy of investigation has to do with Caputo Rosso flour. I have a sense that it might, just might, be better suited for my style of artisan pizza making. I find Caputo Pizzeria flour produces too soft a crust for my guests and most importantly me. Americans innately want to pick up a slice and begin eating with their hands. Tough to do, in my experience, with a well made Caputo Pizzeria based crust over ten to twelve inches in diameter. The toppings just seem to fall off the slice tip and make a mess of it.

Frankly, I fail to understand why Caputo Pizzeria flour is so revered by so many. While I appreciate its flavor and high quality specifications, it is just not the right flour for my application. I tend to pile on the topping and need a level of rigidity that Pizzeria has issues with. I have found that a suitable work-around for my taste buds is to blend it 50/50 with KA Special or 66/34 with KASL. I’m hoping that the Rosso will negate the requirement of blending that its softer brother does. We’ll see.

Perhaps the granddaddy of all leaps is technique. It needs to be discussed in relation to proper process and procedure. I still have a lot to learn to match my process and procedure to my style of pizza. Problem is, there is no roadmap because I’m not emulating any known style of pizza. Though if I had pay homage to the real masters, I believe the Neapolitans have no peer and have mastered a very demanding style of pizza crust.

Their process and procedure is unbelievably complex yet elegant when properly executed. And it requires a certain set of tools in combination with the right process, procedure, and discipline to produce genuine pizza Napoletana. I have begun to understand the pain Marco carries within him on this topic because nearly everyone who claims to make pizza Napoletana doesn’t. It is sinful to be honest. I just shake my head at those that claim to make the real thing. Both famous and not. Nothing in the realm of pizza could be further from the truth. Even those that claim to make Napoletana style make me laugh with wonderment as to exactly where they believe they veered from being truly authentic. Marco should be revered for his undying efforts at enlightening the masses on pizza Napoletana.

I sometimes wish I didn’t mind authentic pizza Napoletana’s lusciously soft crusts, mini-me diameter skins, and somewhat soupy middles which necessitate the use of a knife and a fork. But the fact is I do. I rail against those aspects of pizza Napoletana instead of embracing them. I cannot help but view them through the optics of being defective. I truly wonder if harder strains of wheat were available to Neapolitans through the years if they wouldn’t prefer to pick up a slice and eat it with their hands. The sensory impact would be huge as a result and most assuredly is the definitive way to eat pie in my opinion.

If it sounds like I’m tortured on this point, I guess I really am because I just wish I liked it more than I do. It would make my journey easier to complete. I could just catch a flight to Naples and train under any number of masters and be done with it.

But pizza making has never been easy for me because I just cannot stomach defects so obvious on any level. I pay ridiculous attention to every detail big and small when it comes to Pizza Raquel and I want it to be perfect not compromised in any way.

I can’t emulate the elite New Yorkers either because they absolutely have no aspect of their pizza making which, in my opinion, is worth emulating. The questionable use of bromated flour and coal ovens might produce glorious taste at the expense of one’s health. The outright use of inferior ingredient quality is reason enough to look in another direction.

But which one? Chicago is out of the question because I can’t relate to pizza as a casserole on any level. California can’t distinguish between bread technique and pizza. Their crust is the absolute worst of the lot but toppings wise I can appreciate their reach. But since crust is the show, I can’t get my arms around it either.

So I’m resolved to go it alone and wander in the wilderness to find my own way. Selectively borrowing a little here and there from known styles while inventing new technique and applying my collective knowledge as I go to forge a new end-in-mind. Problem is I don’t know what I don’t know. So I just keep on grinding away at a goal which may not exist for all I know. Or I might not know when I get there.

But I have reason to hope. Pizza Raquel is stupendous now and I have no reason to believe she can’t be improved in some way.

We’ll see.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com

Offline shango

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #645 on: December 22, 2008, 09:33:39 PM »
Quote
Neapolitans through the years if they wouldn’t prefer to pick up a slice and eat it with their hands. The sensory impact would be huge as a result and most assuredly is the definitive way to eat pie in my opinion.
PfT,  This is an interesting comment.  The Napolitans do eat pizza by picking it up and biting it, in fact the perfect Napolitan pizza,(the entire pizza) should be able to be folded into a "wallet" ( I believe in Napoli it is called a "libretto", but I could be mistaken). 

In fact, while eating pizze in the city with a local couple, the gentleman mentioned that pizze and chicken were the 2 foods acceptable to eat with your hands.  Believe me this is truly the most satisfying way to eat a Neapolitan pizza.

I do understand that Raquel is a different creature, and has her own subtleties and nuances, and I respect you for letting us all get to know her so well.  Thank you, good luck, and good eating.  Can't wait to see the next batch.

I believe soon we will have even more to talk about, pizza, of course!

cheers,
-E
pizza, pizza, pizza

Offline Essen1

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #646 on: December 22, 2008, 10:13:06 PM »
Quote
PfT,  This is an interesting comment.  The Napolitans do eat pizza by picking it up and biting it, in fact the perfect Napolitan pizza,(the entire pizza) should be able to be folded into a "wallet" ( I believe in Napoli it is called a "libretto", but I could be mistaken).

Shango,

I'm from Europe and have been to Italy a few times and have many Italian friends back there. I have seen Italians fold their pizza in half and then eat it. However, for as long as I can remember I have seen pizza being eaten all over Europe with a fork and knife until I came to the United States, where it's eaten with your fingers.

I don't know if that procedure refers back to the Italian tradition or if it is just a convenience thing. A couple of Italian friends, who ran a pizza shop back in Europe, told me that pizza is mostly eaten by folding the entire pizza in half. It must have somehow evolved into cutting up the pie into slices and eat them separately by hand.

Maybe someone can find out the history of it or perhaps Marco, as an Italian, can shed some light on it.

Mike

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."  - Albert Einstein

Offline shango

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #647 on: December 22, 2008, 10:24:42 PM »
found an image from one of my favorite pizzeria in Napoli...

pizza, pizza, pizza

Offline David

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Re: Pizza Raquel
« Reply #648 on: December 22, 2008, 11:12:37 PM »
 
Wishing you all Seasons Greetings and a Happy New Year !

David

« Last Edit: December 23, 2008, 06:15:41 PM by David »
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Offline pftaylor

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Pizza Raquel
« Reply #649 on: December 23, 2008, 08:13:15 AM »
Hey guys,
I immensely enjoy follow-on discussions like these because when I write long posts I never know what facet is going to spur additional discussion. I just hope that someone does pick up on a point or two so that we can have further exploration. It’s how I like to learn. On the other hand, It is somewhat deflating to write long posts and have them go by without a passing remark. Now however as they say, the game is afoot.

Shango, you picked a good point. Neapolitans do eat pizza with their hands. Of course they do. But I’m not sure though that they traditionally eat slices with their hands. Marco early on had offered that explanation up to me privately so I was well aware of the technique of folding half or even an entire pie then picking it up and eating it. Not the same thing in my libro.

In the original post, picking up an entire pie was not the central point I was trying to get at. I was specifically referring to Neapolitans picking up a slice. Which some may do but the common practice is to use a knife and a fork due to the crust’s softness. Wouldn’t you agree? Later on in the post I further clarified the point now under discussion:

“I truly wonder if harder strains of wheat were available to Neapolitans through the years if they wouldn’t prefer to pick up a slice and eat it with their hands.”

One of the things I had wondered about with picking up an entire pie and folding it is this; aren’t you then turning the pie into a makeshift calzone? The problem for me is when I want to eat a pizza, I do so by eyeing up the selection of slices and choosing the one which best suits my eye. A minor point to some but to me, it adds to the allure of the experience. I personally fail to understand the charm of folding up a pie and gavoning it down without the opportunity to selectively bite the exact spot I desire. I do so enjoy the opportunity of biting the specific ingredients I want such as just biting the spicy tomato sauce and crust but not the cheese. It seems to me that folding up a pie would take that away from me.

I also know the NY tradition of rolling up a slice from its tip to the rim, sort of like a pizza roll. Surely you have seen that as well. That doesn’t make much sense to me either. Why would anyone do that unless they were in a hurry? 
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com