Author Topic: Sicilian Sea Salt  (Read 3106 times)

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Offline pftaylor

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Sicilian Sea Salt
« on: January 06, 2005, 11:54:30 AM »
I would be interested in feedback on whether or not Sicilian Sea Salt is considered a higher quality ingredient for pizza making than either regular sea salt or table salt. In particular, I'm interested in learning if it is considered sweeter than other salts.

The Italian bakery/market in St. Petersburg, Mazzaros, where I buy all my fresh pizza ingredients has it on the shelf for about $3.00.

Mazzaros (mazzarosmarket.com) is a full fledged Italian market which carries DOP certified San Marzanos tomatoes (Sclafani @$3.99 for 28oz & Cento @ $2.99), Grande Skim Milk Mozzarella, 00 flour, fresh yeast, EVOO from Italy, and hundreds of other authentic high quality products. While they have a web site, they do not currently ship but plan to do so in the coming months. Anyone who lives in the Tampa/St. Pete area should drop by to experience a true Italian market dedicated to carrying all the best.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Sicilian Sea Salt
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2005, 06:11:33 PM »
Are you thinking of the Sicilian sea salt in the context of a condiment or as an ingredient to be used in a pizza dough (or possibly both)?

Peter

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Sicilian Sea Salt
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2005, 09:44:18 PM »
Peter,
I think both perhaps. Although I'm not entirely sure and that's what is driving me crazy.

Sicilian Sea Salt is used by Una Pizza Napoletana in NYC as a primary ingredient in their authentic Neapolitan pies. The owner's dedication to the reproduction of ancient pizza-making techniques made me wonder if it's use could improve the flavor of the dough and the toppings. From what I can gather, he uses it both ways.

Since I've never tried it I am truly curious as to the benefits it would bring to my humble pie making efforts. It seems to me that Sicilian Sea Salt could be incorporated in many ways including dough, sauce, and as a condiment. So it stands to reason that it could have a huge hidden impact on overall flavor.

For the past several weeks I have been laboring to brighten my sauce. I have not been very successful. I have managed to make it sweeter by adding sugar. However I am no closer to my reference standard of Patsy's Pizza sauce. I don't prefer a sweeter sauce, just one that is fresher and brighter tasting. I know they use San Marzano tomatoes so I am hopeful to be able to get reasonably close one day.

So I guess the real question is can we collectively determine how to reverse engineer Patsy's sauce so I can finally get a good night's sleep?
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com

Offline Steve

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Re: Sicilian Sea Salt
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2005, 10:10:02 PM »
Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue's very funny, very Rabelaisian food columnist and author of The Man Who Ate Everything, must have the best job in the world. When he was researching "Salt Chic," (Vogue, March 2001) he first bought up all the exotic salts he could lay his hands on, then commissioned minute chemical analysis reports, and finally hopped on a plane for Scicily where he asked scientists attending a conference on molecular gastronomy to serve as salt tasters, in order to determine whether expensive premium seasalts are at all distinguishable from table salt like Mortons. Along the way he raved about Oshima Island Blue Label Salt, a very rare Japanese salt "evaporated from the primordial seawater around Oshima Island in the middle of the vast and empty ocean, forty five minutes by plane from Tokyo" and available only to Japanese members of the very exclusive Salt Road Club and, of course, to Jeffrey Steingarten.

I suggest that you pick up a copy and read this very delightful book!
« Last Edit: January 06, 2005, 11:34:27 PM by Steve »
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Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Sicilian Sea Salt
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2005, 10:45:04 PM »
I have some Sicilian sea salt but, unfortunately, it is combined with basil so I can't separate the two flavors.  I also have some Baleine coarse sea salt from France.  The Sicilian sea salt seems to have a smaller crystal size than the Baleine sea salt and can be reduced to a finer size by crushing it between your fingers.  It's harder to do that with the Baleine sea salt.  I think both salts are intended to be used more as condiments rather than as ingredients for a pizza dough.  Certainly they can be used on top of a pizza as a condiment or in a sauce, but its utility in a pizza dough is much less clear.

I can confirm from my research that Una Pizza Napoletana uses Sicilian sea salt as a condiment for its pizzas but I have not been able to determine whether it is also used as an ingredient for the dough. There is no reason why the Sicilian sea salt can't be used in the dough also, but I think it may be a waste of a good--and expensive--salt that is better reserved for other uses.

All salts, whether they are ordinary table salt, Kosher salt, or sea salt (fine or coarse) are essentially the same chemically, being primarily sodium chloride.  The differences are how they are produced and processed.  The sea salts are harvested from beds through evaporation and have more minerals and no additives or anti-caking agents.  So they are more natural (they can even have different colors and flavors) and may have a bit more mineral nutritional value but not necessarily a significant value over other salt forms when incorporated as an ingredient in a pizza dough.  Ordinary table salt is usually mined from underground deposits, stripped of some of the nutrients during processing, and supplemented with additives (including iodides) and anti-caking agents (so that the salt crystals don't clump).  It is not as natural as sea salt but it won't behave much differently from a chemical standpoint when used in a dough.  Kosher salt has larger crystals (flakes) than the other two forms and is lighter than the other salts, and usually has no additives (although it may have anti-caking agents), but, again, its performance in a dough is not materially different than the other forms of salt.  

I have read of tests that have been performed to compare the effects of all of the above forms of salt in yeasted dough products and the results seem to suggest that people can't tell the difference.  My personal experience is in line with those test results.  Even when I lay out all the forms of salt I have on a table and taste them, the differences are minor. 

As for your tomato sauce "brightness" dilemma, have you tried adding red wine vinegar and/or lemon juice to your sauce?  This is something that Peter Reinhart recommends in his book American Pie (he recommends 2 T. of the red wine vinegar and/or lemon juice for a 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes).

Peter
« Last Edit: January 06, 2005, 10:49:14 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Sicilian Sea Salt
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2005, 10:09:42 AM »
Thanks for the high quality feedback.

Tonight I'm going to test out Pete-zza's idea for sauce brightness by adding Regina's Red Wine Vinegar to my San Marzano crushed tomato based sauce. Also, I'm going to pick up a jar of Sicilian sea salt and use it as a table condiment only. I do not want to vary my sauce by two ingredients at once at this point.

I also received word from one of my relatives in Long Island that they are planning a trip to Tampa near the end of this month. Hopefully my bribe of free golf and salt water fishing will be enough so that they will bring a quart or two of Patsy's sauce as well as 3-4 pies with them. My wife thinks I'm half nuts at this point, and I might be. But I should have enough quality ingredients lying around to come close to duplicating Patsy's magic.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Sicilian Sea Salt
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2005, 10:52:30 PM »
pftaylor,

You are correct after all about Una Pizza Napoletana (UPN) using Sicilian salt in its dough.  See http://www.sliceny.com/archives/2004/10/una_pizza_napol.php and click on the menu thumbnail photo (in light yellow).  Although not specifically mentioned in the text in the thumbnail photos, it appears that the dough is made using what is often referred to in the baking trade as a chef, which is a form of starter or sponge.  Bakers will save a piece of dough (the chef) from the previous day's effort and use it as a starter in the dough for the next day.  I have read that some pizzaoili in Naples use sponges and sourdough principles in making Neapolitan pizzas, but it is virtually non-existent in the U.S. in a commercial operation.  This is what UPN seems to be doing.

Since the UPN dough is allowed to ferment for 24 hours and then an additional 12 hours, all at room temperature (according to the text at the above site), this strongly suggests that the yeast is natural, not a commercial yeast.  I don't think you can leave most doughs that have more than minuscule amounts of commercial yeast for 36 hours at room temperature (especially in a hot pizza baking area) and survive.  The crust based on the techniques used by UPN should be loaded with flavor, not to mention the quality added by using DOP San Marzano tomatoes, imported buffalo mozzarella cheese, and a high quality olive oil (I tend to doubt that the olive oil comes from the Campania region since that region is not noted for having high quality olive oil).  All of the above helps explain the high cost of the pizzas at UPN.

Peter
« Last Edit: January 09, 2005, 11:50:34 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Sicilian Sea Salt
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2005, 11:48:11 PM »
jftaylor,

In an earlier post you mentioned about having some relatives bring some Patsy sauces down with them when they come to visit you.  If I am not mistaken, there are really two Patsy's in NYC (not counting Patsy Grimaldi's)--the Patsy's mini-chain of pizzerias (including the East Harlem location) and the Patsy's Italian restaurant.  The latter is the restaurant in the theatre district that was once an old haunt of Frank Sinatra.  There is only one such restaurant in only one location and it specializes in typical Italian fare.  It also sells its sauces both online and in many upscale food stores.  See, for example, http://www.patsys.com/news/newSauce-Pizzaila-12-2000.htm

I may be wrong, but I don't believe the Patsy's pizza people sell their pizza sauce.  In fact, I am hard pressed to think of any pizza establishment of any note that does that.  Most places would prefer to keep their sauces shrouded in mystery, as trade secrets.  You may want to confirm whose sauces your relatives might be bringing when they come to visit.

Peter

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Sicilian Sea Salt
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2005, 11:34:26 AM »
Pete-zza,
When I was in NYC last(late Oct) I was offered by the Patsy's on the corner of 34th & 3rd a quart for $2.00. Since I had 3 more days in the city before going home, I declined. The pizza maker was going to put sauce in a plain plastic container for me. It is not on the menu. He claimed that he sells it all the time to people who want to make pies at home.

Also, I tried to spice up my standard sauce this weekend with red wine vinegar and lemon juice but it was not even close. I will have to wait for my relatives to bring a few quarts at the end of this month to reverse engineer my recipe.

The Sicilian sea salt by the way was a hit. It made a noticable flavor improvement in the crust as well as the fresh mozzarella.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
www.wood-firedpizza.com

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Sicilian Sea Salt
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2005, 11:57:18 AM »
Thanks for the clarification on Patsy's.  I suspect it won't be easy reverse engineering the Patsy's pizza sauce without a list of ingredients.  But you should at least get a feel for the characteristics of the sauce, like sweetness, saltiness, spicyness, herbs, thickness, etc. 

I tried using some of my basil Sicilian salt as a condiment on one of my pizzas recently and didn't care for it.  It had an artificial, odd flavor.  I think it was because of the basil getting in the way of the salt.  I might try using it in the dough to see if I can notice it there, for better or for worse. 

Peter
« Last Edit: January 10, 2005, 12:01:55 PM by Pete-zza »


 

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