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My guilty foreign flour affair '00'

My guilty foreign flour love affair

If you love pizza as much as I do, and like to make it at home, read on..

Maybe I’m late to the game on this, but I’m in love with Italian yellow flour ‘00’!

If you like to play with dough, you NEED to try it out. It is just so fun to work with. And it tastes great. I just love the texture it lends to the dough too. Although it looks like finely ground cornmeal, it is indeed wheat flour but milled differently, very fine supposedly, I guess by Italian standards because it is coarser than ours.

Being a girl that promotes local food pretty religiously and for some time now, naturally I buy all my flour from the mill next door (Le Moulin Bleu, St-Roch de l’Achigan).

My guilty affair with this imported flour started with my first No.900 pizza a couple of years back in Quebec City. It was simply the best pizza! Even my fussy François agreed. Dressed only with good tomatoes, cheese and salami and dripping with olive oil, it was the thin, blistered but soft-chewy  crust that made it extra-special.  Maybe this would be an occasion to use the silly word ‘toothsome’.

Since my first year of professional cooking 24 years ago and early job in an Italian restaurant (Picolo Diavolo in the village), I have been making pizza. And I have the burn marks to show it on my arms. I don’t make it at Jardins Sauvages except for fireside friend parties, the occasional catering event as finger food, but yes, regularly for us at home, for me. It is never a meal, but the perfect snack, say late night or during a kitchen shift. I always have dough in the freezer, if not a ready-made pie. François likes it white, which is good especially loaded with wild garlic and crinkleroot and some wild greens (so green). I prefer it red with my put up tomatoes, cheese of course and something salty like a cured meat or olives, definitely some spice and occasionally maybe even something sweet like a pickled pepper or ratatouille. But only as a garnish, absolutely not too much topping.  But I have a hard time not putting too much on the pizza, like on my plate.

Anyway, the important thing is the crust. The dough at that first spot I worked was a thin crust baked in a wood oven, back when that was a new thing on the scene here; it was rich in that it had milk, eggs, a bit of sugar and all purpose flour, more crisp than chewy. I’ve come back to it several times over the years, after experimenting, but most often doing a simple basic 3hr affair with 65- 70% hydration, just salt, yeast and a touch of olive oil. But now, all while working on the chew, I do like to add one egg for the crisp/taste factor, otherwise a basic dough.

Of course, I went through the no-knead trend but although it’s a neat trick, you have to start the day before and it doesn’t really produce the best results. Especially with bread dough, I have ditched the no-knead laziness however often it saved my ass in the past (the Instadough recipe I learned at the Cordon Bleu was a go-to when busy)..  No longer with Leonard (my beloved levain who passed a while ago), I now have a younger less complex starter that sometimes requires work in the days before, but I prefer to make the final dough same day and yes, knead. I make pretty good bread given my set-up, and I enjoy it. If I was in the city and had a fantastic bakery around the corner, I would probably outsource but here, it happily makes sense that I bake my own bread.

All that said, I have never been super ecstatic with my pizza dough, often settling, always fiddling. It’s also in my nature. I can’t just follow a recipe, always working on the ultimate one that I forget to write down.  In any case, I know I don’t have the proper oven, can’t attain those ideal ultra-hot temperatures. And yes, I tried a baking stone, rocks from the river and etc. At one point (this must have been early in our relationship), François spoke of building me an old fashioned bread oven; he has the plans and the stones. But we both know that’s ridiculously inefficient in terms of the wood we would need to burn for our small, sporadic operation and a family of 2; ideally that sort of thing would be for a community of bakers or a full-time bakery/pizza place.

Besides the fancy 900 degree oven I will never have, I figured I might come closer to that crust I dream about by trying the famous yellow flour used at No.900 and by many Italian pizza aficionados..

And yes, it is pretty amazing! Mind you, you can’t follow a regular recipe for it, but I just played within my ratios and added the flour needed.  It’s incredible how elastic it gets. 1 cup of 00 weighs 200g compared to around 150g for most all-purpose or bread flours.  But it absorbs less water, so you need more flour than you think. But if you’re working in cups, you end up not being too far off I realized.. Since I usually work with weights in bread, I stopped following any recipe, followed the feel and the fermentation. With the extra flour in weight, I saw I had to up the salt. I haven’t found that you need more yeast, but maybe a pinch. It depends again on if you’re using a starter or what your timeline is. If you have a starter or want to take it slow, you will add less yeast, say. Don’t be too harsh, punching down your dough and such, it’s good to be gentle. I am often tempted to roll out but stretching by hand apparently gives a better crust.

Dough balls for the freezer. Takes no time to thaw for same day pizza if not overnight.

It’s still not perfect, but steps and bounds ahead, for a home kitchen.  You can see my recipe template below and others too.

This could have been rolled or stretched thinner, less topping. But it was still delish.

I said I would use the 20lb François gave me as a Xmas gift, because it was a super gift and I don’t want to be wasteful. I have been using it in my bread at la table too (along with Le Moulin Bleu, say 50:50 or just to feed the starter or just to finish) much to my waitresses’ bafflement, given our local credo. I told them it was just a fling. But I’m almost out, so I don’t know. Maybe more than a fling, because I might have to buy more, if only for my home pizza snacks. You can get it at specialty Italian stores or suppliers, not too hard to find in the big city or online I suppose.

And it makes the most fantastic pasta too! I use half Moulin Bleu bread flour and half '00'.

Fliing or not, the Moulin Bleu will remain my go-to and should be on your radar too. Local and organic, especially known for their buckwheat.. I don't know, but it doesn't really make much sense to import flour. So torn.

My more-or-less recipe (pretty darn good but still room for improvement)

2x large or 4 x medium 12’ pizzas:

10-15g yeast (1-2 Tbsp or 1-2pkg) active dry*

400ml water (slightly warm to body temp) or 1 egg + 350ml (total a little more than 1.5 c)

15g (1 Tbsp) sugar

700g+ 00 flour (around 3.5c), more like 550g of AP flour or Moulin Bleu bread flour+

20g (1Tbsp salt)

20ml olive oil (1 big Tbsp)+

Mix water, sugar and egg, add yeast. Add a third of the flour and mix. Allow to hydrate a little, say 20min. Add another third of the flour, salt, oil and start mixing. Once you have a sticky homogeneous mass, add the rest of the flour except for a bit, that you will add as need be. Knead at slow/medium speed, adding more flour as required until a uniform mass /loose ball forms, and then knead a little more, but not too much. Like 5 min total by machine. Until it is an elastic, stretchy, slightly but not too sticky ball that gently pulls off the dough hook or your hands (by hand it will be longer, more like 10min). Let rise covered for 1hr or until double. Cut into 2 or 4 portions and roll into balls. At this point, I put them on a greased tray and freeze, wrapping the next day for later use. Then you pull out a ball and let thaw in the fridge overnight or on the counter for a few hours, before rolling out/shaping. . If you are cooking soon, then let the dough rise another 30min-1hr before rolling out (onto a greased floured pan). Once stretched or rolled out, top and let sit while your oven heats up.  Cook for about 10 min in a 450F oven.  Go higher with a stone if you can. The hotter the better if your pie is thin, not too much topping.  I have found that unrealistic in a home oven setting and with my pizzas. Because you want it to be cooked through and toasted, not burnt. Out of the oven, Brush with olive oil or good oil of choice.

*I find that if you’re not in a rush, it is best to use less yeast and take more time..

Our favourite toppings:

Tomato sauce (with garlic and oregano) spread very thin, you should see the dough through the sauce, cheese (ideally a blend of grated firm cheese like cheddar and/or parmesan-style, with some mozzarella or fresh cheese), prosciutto or salami, green onions, basil, hot pepper

Ratatouille spread very thin, cheese (same as above), olives

Bechamel or cream sauce or just drained fresh cheese with herb pesto (or a ton of chopped herbs and greens), some grated cheese, thinly sliced onions or wild garlic (optional: bacon)

Wild mushroom sauce, cheese

Wild Herb pesto, fresh tomatoes, cheese

3 Pizza dough recipes http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2012/07/print/the-pizza-lab-three-doughs-to-know.html


Posted on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at 02:32AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

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