In reading today’s edition of the NY Times this afternoon I discovered an interesting article on Pizzamaking in the South of France. I have attached the links to the article and the recipes. The NY Times requires you to fill out a "member" form before you can read the articles, but I believe it's free. Anyway, if you don't feel like going directly to the link, I have also posted the article below and the recipes. The link is good, though, because it shows some really good PICTURES of some hot pizzas coming out of a classic wood burning stove in France! The dough recipe doesn’t really sound that great – no refrigeration, no special flour, a lot of yeast and extra virgin olive oil. But the recipe for “Provencale Basil Sauce” sounds really good!
Dough Recipe: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/23/dining/232frex.html
Recipe: Pizza Provençale: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/23/dining/231frex.html
Recipe: Provençale Basil Sauce (Sauce au Pistou): http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/23/dining/233frex.html
February 23, 2005
Southern France Makes Pizza Its Own
By DANIEL YOUNG
FRANCIS CRESCI'S decision to ban mozzarella at the pizzeria he opened here in 1956 was less a matter of taste than conviction. It echoed the insistence of his grandfather, an immigrant from Umbria in Italy, that nary a word of Italian be heard in the family's new home in Nice. The young Mr. Cresci thought his pizzas should speak either French or, like his grandfather, Nissart, a dialect with Italian and old Provençal influences.
"In every region of Europe the locals were eating foods produced on their land," recalled Mr. Cresci, now 78. "I reckoned there was enough cheese to choose from in France."
The nutty, buttery flavor of semihard cheeses like French Emmenthal and Cantal distinguishes much French pizza from Neapolitan-style pies made only with milky mozzarella. When the cheese is spread over a thin round of dough coated with tomato and herbs and then subjected to the relentless whoosh of heat in a brick oven, the result is a bubbling, molten masterpiece.
"C'est une pizza qui vive," said Mr. Cresci's son, Ludovic, who now oversees La Pizza, his father's business. Sure enough, that pizza is alive.
The Crescis were hardly the first to top their pizzas with French fromage. In the 1940's Chez Etienne, a pizzeria in Marseille, began using a layer of shredded Emmenthal. Etienne Cassaro, a son of the original owner, said the easy-melting cheese helped the overlay of sliced mozzarella spread out over the surface of the crust as it baked.
Too often, however, the pizzas the French make with their own cheeses are abominable. France may be the proud land of Camembert and Roquefort, but its citizens oddly tolerate globs of generic cheese on their pizza.
"Many of the people who go into the business are only looking at the profit margins," lamented Julien Panet, president of the Association of French Pizzerias. "They see it as requiring minimal investment and savoir-faire. There's no pride, there's no passion for culinary art."
Mr. Panet speculated that pizza is superior in the South of France, especially in Provence and along the Côte d'Azur, because the southerners know and expect more.
First, they are raised on a Mediterranean diet: they understand tomatoes, basil, olive oil and anchovies. Second, the region's proximity to Italy and its influx of Italian immigrants, vacationers and retirees has, over the decades, provided a steady supply of pizza cognoscenti.
Maybe there is also something in the rocks and the trees. The custom-made ovens first installed at the original La Pizza on the Rue Massena in the heart of Nice, and at a second, 400-seat locale that opened on the Quai St.-Pierre in Cannes in 1960, turned those meccas of people-watching into ones of pizza-watching. The baking stones were constructed, like many of France's finest bread ovens, with volcanic ash quarried in the region. Their fires were set ablaze with logs from the Riviera's lush pine groves.
The divinely thin crusts baked in such ovens constitute the hallmark of the best wood-fired French pizza: crisp but not hard, delicate but not brittle, charred but not burned, flour-powdered but not dry. They may be sampled not only at landmarks like La Pizza and Chez Etienne but often in the most unlikely of spots, be they modest bistros in villages like Vence and Joucas or brick-oven-equipped pizza trucks.
Among these spots is Pizzeria au Feu de Bois in the Noailles quarter of Marseille. The owner, Michel Gilabert, feeds his oven two woods: quick-burning pine to get the fire going and smoky oak to cook the pizza. And in Old Nice, Le Safari serves outstanding pizza almost as an afterthought to its pasta and seafood. Originally an African restaurant, Le Safari was reworked in 1973 by Gaston Bargioni and Henri Gastaud. Mr. Bargioni had no experience as a pizza baker but rolled out Le Safari's first pies anyway. "Everyone knows pizza in Nice," he said.
The pizza César, no relation to the salad, is a Le Safari specialty designed by Cesar Baldaccini, the French sculptor best known for the junked cars he compressed into solid blocks. He envisioned a simple pie of tomato, black olives and a certain green sauce that now does double duty atop the pizza Provençale (tomato sauce, herbes de Provence, ham, Cantal). As the Provençale bakes in a 750-degree oven, olive oil seeps out of the green sauce, from which it has acquired an emerald tint, and into the lavalike Cantal, a dreamy interplay of toppings.
So what is in that sauce? It is listed as just basil in one part of the menu and as a persillade (chopped parsley and garlic) in another. Mr. Bargioni said it is a combination of the two. The pizza maker, Lotfi Mahjoub, revealed its true contents: basil, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Essentially it is a sauce au pistou, the Provençal and Niçoise counterpart to the pesto of Italy.
Yes, Le Safari's pizza speaks French, too.
Recipe: Pizza Dough
Time: 20 minutes plus 90 minutes' rising
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3½ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
1. Pour ½ cup warm water in a measuring cup. Stir in yeast, and let stand until yeast dissolves and turns creamy, 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well, and fill it with yeast mixture, olive oil and a cup of warm water. Stir with a fork, incorporating liquid little by little, until a ball of dough forms. Turn dough onto floured work surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If dough seems dry and hard, add a few drops of water; if wet and sticky, add a little flour.
3. Shape dough into a smooth ball, dust it with flour, place in a large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest in a warm, dark place until doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes. Divide into 4 balls before using. Can freeze up to 3 months.
Yield: 4 10-inch pizza crusts.
Recipe: Provençale Basil Sauce (Sauce au Pistou)
ime: 10 minutes
2 garlic cloves, peeled
4 cups loosely packed basil leaves
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt.
1. Place garlic in a food processor, and process until finely chopped. Add basil, and process until finely chopped. With motor running, slowly pour in oil, and process until fully incorporated. Texture should be slightly thinner than a classic pesto sauce.
2. Season with salt, transfer to a covered container, and refrigerate for up to 1 week, longer in freezer.
Yield: 1 cup.
Recipe: Pizza Provençale
dapted from Le Safari, Nice, France
Time: 20 minutes plus 30 minutes' oven heating
1 35-ounce can Italian whole plum tomatoes, drained, seeded and crushed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
Pizza dough (see recipe, linked at right)
4 thin slices cooked ham, cut in strips
½ pound (about 2 cups) Cantal or Emmenthal cheese, shredded
Provençal basil sauce (see recipe, linked at right).
1. Place a pizza stone on lowest oven rack. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Let stone heat for at least 30 minutes.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine tomatoes, olive oil, herbes de Provence and 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until there is no liquid left in pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Divide pizza dough into four parts; form each into a smooth ball. Leave two dough balls out, and freeze rest for use another time. Place one dough ball on a well-floured surface, and pound with palm of your hand into a flattened disk. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough further, applying moderate pressure and rotating dough a quarter-turn between strokes. Applying more pressure with rolling pin, flatten to a round 10 inches in diameter and 1/8 to ¼ inch in thickness. Repeat with second ball of dough.
4. Transfer one portion of dough to a well-floured wooden pizza peel or rimless baking sheet. Spoon a thin even layer of tomato sauce over dough, leaving a ½-inch border untouched. Open oven door and put end of pizza peel in contact with surface of baking stone. Tilt peel up, jiggle it, and, as pizza slides onto stone, slowly pull back and dislodge pizza. Bake for 2 minutes.
5. Open oven door, slide oven rack if necessary, quickly top pizza with ham strips and shredded cheese. Dot surface with several teaspoons of basil sauce, and bake until edges of crust begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest while you bake second pizza. Serve immediately.
Yield: 2 10-inch pizzas.