I was happy to lend a hand to Josh Berger's new website project: joshfoxbread.com I think it turned out great- take a look.
Imagine my surprise when reading through the annual "Best of Humboldt Local Foods" awards and I see the third place award. First place went understandably to internationally acclaimed cheese maker Cypress Grove Chevre. Second Place was local favorite Brio Breadworks. But this third place award was for JoshFox Bread. How is it that this position is held by a baker working just two miles away and I had never heard of him?
Josh, whose last name is actually Berger, is capitalizing on the California Cottage Food Law of 2013 which allows people to make and sell food from their home that would not be dangerous if unrefrigerated. Section 114365.5. (a) of the law states essentially, if you left the food out for a couple days and ate it, could you get sick? Gross simplification aside, this means yogurt is out but granola (and fortunately bread) is in.
After some quick texts, Josh invited me to come pick up some bread. Texting is the new ordering system; his customers text to find out what he's baking that week and then text their order. He bakes and they come by to pick up later in the week.
The shop is a studio off his home and visiting it makes you cheer for the underdog still fighting this world of bakeries that churn out thousands of loaves of flavorless bread each hour. Josh is milling grains, mixing & aging dough and baking a few loaves at a time in a tiny Rofco oven while coaxing every bit of flavor out of each loaf.
As we chatted in his shop, a constant stream of customers came in to pick up their breads. Josh greeted each by name and bagged their bread order. Most choose to add a couple cookies or crumb buns to their bread order.
Josh is proud of his extended fermentation technique where he chills the dough overnight to build complexity and depth in each loaf. This technique is not often used by industrial bakeries that prioritize production rates over flavor. He also takes the time to roast and mill whole grains like buckwheat groats for the loaves.
It would be simplest if he made one master dough and mixed in additions to that dough, but each loaf clearly comes from its own recipe. The San Joaquin Sourdough, for example, is a Tartine style bread with a mahogany crust and open crumb. This recipe uses a sourdough culture instead of commercial bread yeast.
The Sesame Wheat is a tighter crumb with the flavor and aroma of dark roasted sesame seeds and malted barley.
The “SRK” loaf is a surprising "Khorasan" ancient-wheat sourdough that balances the sweetness of raisins with fennel seeds. Unexpected and perfectly harmonious.
Finally, the favorite of many, for good reason, is the “Abricot” loaf which has generous chunks of apricots amongst a richly baked buckwheat and rye dough. This bread is delicious smeared with a strong gorgonzola or simply toasted as a breakfast treat. It’s like having bread with generous serving of jam mixed in.
These are some of the breads of a man who knows what he's doing. He trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York and worked for several local bakeries before opening his home kitchen to make the breads he believes in.
The shop in Arcata is tiny and not entirely easy to locate. Josh dreams of opening a store front someday soon and I think that would be good for the business. But if you want to catch a little of the passion and love for grain that a dedicated baker has, send him a text and pick up a loaf or two while he's still in a cottage food kitchen.
JoshFox Bakery 1372 #A Lincoln Avenue; Arcata, CA
Text (914) 582-8806 or email JoshFoxBread@hotmail.com
Pizza as light, healthy food? Pizza that is easy-to-make-at-home yet upscale and gourmet? You bet. There is a new cookbook that delivers all this in 240 gorgeous pages.
Suzanne Lenzer has been working behind the scenes for years with Mark Bittman at the New York Times and with various food magazines. "Truly Madly Pizza" is her first solo cookbook and it is terrific.
As mentioned, the photography in this book is gorgeous. Suzanne not only is a professionally trained chef but also a food stylist and the images throughout the book are mouth watering and luscious. Unlike some cookbooks that present cuisine in a pretentious and lofty manner, these images illustrate down-to-earth, simple, wholesome food. Every ingredient is essential and allowed to shine just as it should in the food.
And the food is divine. Unlike some pizzas that end up more like casseroles, Lenzer has stripped the recipes down to the minimal essentials. This keeps the pizzas light, healthy and fresh. Her pizza recipes often follow a three-flavor profile such as "Pancetta with shaved brussels sprouts and teleggio", "Pears, maple-glazed pecans and pecorino" or "Summer squash with lemon zest and ricotta". By simplifying the recipes to 3-4 toppings, each ingredient is essential and offers balance. For example, in "Broccoli rabe, soppressata and an egg" we see how the bitter earthy greens balance the sweet rich egg and the salty meat.
Her dough recipe is not complicated either. Unlike some authors who dictate specific countries for flour and mandate long fermentation periods for the dough, Ms. Lenzer is more relaxed in her approach. I suspect this is intended to be non-threatening to home cooks unfamiliar with the craft of the pizzaiolo. When you read the text she certainly recommends using weights instead of volume for measuring ingredients and allowing the dough time to fully develop, but the master dough recipe does not come across as pedantic. For all her efforts to keep things easy, I was surprised she did not emphasize the no-knead/autolyze approach to dough development which favors allowing the dough to sit instead of kneading by hand or with a machine. Perhaps she wants to appeal to the time conscious cook who doesn't want to wait so long for the dough. The dough recipe can be described as thin crust neo-neopolitan as it includes olive oil (unlike neopolitan pizza which usually does not have olive oil) and a fairly stiff 60% hydration. To make pizzas a regular event at home, she even recommends freezing the dough balls for a quick weeknight meal.
The book is divided into eight main sections: "Pizza dough", "Sauces, spreads and smears", "Fruit and vegetable pizzas", Charcuterie and meat pizzas", "Poultry and seafood pizzas", "Sticks and other snacks", "Salad thoughts" and "Master recipes".
These are not traditional pizzas. With combinations like "Old bay shrimp, pickled red onions, sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes" or "Curried cauliflower with tomatoes and cilantro" we know these are pairings are the result of many tests and sleepless nights thinking of how to balance one ingredient off another. You won't find these pairings in any other pizza cookbook that I know of.
While all the pizza sections are excellent, the snacks and salads should not be overlooked. In typical Mediterranean fashion, these parts of the meal are simple, elegant and understated. "Marinated gigante beans" is a good example of this; these are nothing more than large creamy flat beans marinated in olive oil, lemon and herbs. I sometimes kick myself that it takes a cookbook author to remind me that great cooking can be this simple. In this same vein, recipes like "Grilled peaches with prosciutto and mint" or "Endive, celery, apple and fennel salad" really shine for both their tastiness and simplicity.
If I had a complaint about this book, it would be the lack of more photos. Each of the 40 color photos is so rich and inviting, we are left wanting more. Many recipes exist in text only and it would be helpful to see how they look in finished form. Case in point: some people may not be familiar with 2/3 of the toppings in "Peaches, bresaola and burrata" and certainly unfamiliar with how peaches might look on a pizza. That said, there is not a photo in the book that disappoints.
While not an encyclopedic book on pizza, this is the best cookbook I have seen on the fresh California style pizzas first popularized by Ed LaDou, Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck. Ms. Lenzer has brought her own vision for where this style can go in a book well balanced between offering meat and vegetarian pizzas, salads and snacks. Her warm, funny voice remains encouraging and innovative and this book will be treasured by both novice and experienced cooks alike.
Truly Madly Pizza, Rodale Books, ISBN 978-1623362188, MSRP $27.50
I have tried a lot of online wine clubs over the years. Most seem to be selling overpriced wine from questionable wineries and lining their pockets rather than filling my glass with delicious wine. Online wine services have been the last thing I ever thought I would be recommending yet I think I have found an exception to the no-good-wine-online rule.
NakedWines.com is an oddly named yet revolutionary wine experience for online buyers. Their winemakers are talented independent wine makers who were sometimes making less than 100 cases per year. By financially supporting these talented craftspeople, NakedWines.com members can help the winemakers increase production and pass the products of their labor on to those who helped support them, the "Angels" or members of NakedWines. Hence the term, "Customer supported winery".
Think about it. Why is wine so expensive? Often these costs go into multimillion dollar estate tasting mansions, expensive advertising or marketing. NakedWines tries to minimize these expenses to get great wine into your home at an affordable price.
These are not cheap wines. If you are looking for another two-buck Chuck, you won't find it here. Most of these wines retail for around $20-30 but "Angels" (NakedWine members who voluntarily deposit $40 month into their account for their future wine purchases) get the wine at roughly half price. So how do these $10-12 bottles taste? Well, they are as good as I've had and I have had some very good wine over the years. These wines could easily compete with $30+ wines. Of the five wines that I've tasted so far from my "Discovery Case", I found four that I would purchase again without hesitation. Use my recommendation and get a $100 voucher to grab a "Discovery Case", I bet you will be blown away at the quality wines you receive for a very low price. (Disclosure: at this point I do not believe I get any credits for recommending this company. I will change this if I find my link gets me any credit with the company)
As you rate each wine, you can enter your opinions on the NakedWines website (or full featured app) and often the winemaker himself (or herself) will respond to your comments. Seriously, how often have you commuicated with the winemaker of wines you've purchased? Me? Never. When I recently reviewed a wine and clicked that I would not buy it again, I was contacted and asked if Naked Wines could credit my account for the bottles I did not enjoy I said yes, and immediately my account had been refunded for the price of the two bottles. What great customer service!
If you're in California and want to drop by their showroom, they regularly have food and music events to accompany wine tastings. They also have "Meet the Winemaker" events where you get to learn about the winemakers you are supporting. Sometimes the winemaker will even bring some food to serve with their wines. This is building customer loyalty one drinker at a time rather than through a marketing blitz.
This is a win-win situation for wine makers and wine drinkers.. Small winemakers want to make great wine but need funding to make that happen. Wine drinkers want the best possible wine but are getting ripped off when most of the price of the bottle is going to marketing. Naked Wines helps you directly support great winemakers while getting their top notch product to you at an affordable price.
For an in depth article on NakedWines, click here.
You remember the Uuni oven that I wrote about earlier? Well, now they have a new Kickstarter project that is very cool. It is nesting glass dough proofing bowls with a nice wooden lid that doubles as a cutting board. These remind me of the aluminum ones that are offered elsewhere, but the transparent glass is a nice feature when monitoring the dough proofing process. Good luck to Kristian on this new project. Seems worthwhile to me.
The Pizza Bible is due out in less than a month. This book is poised to be THE definitive book on all pizza styles by world champion pizza maker Tony Gemignani. FGPizza has a special arrangement with Tony so that all books will be autographed by Tony and available for a Pre-Release price significantly lower than the $29 list price. I've ordered mine!
My electric log splitter arrived yesterday and the thing is a great tool for anyone who burns wood in a brick oven or fireplace. It arrives fully assembled. It is electric, so it will be reliable. To operate, place a log in front of the wedge, hold down two buttons, one with each hand (safety feature) the hydraulic ram engages and the log is split in two. Within 5 minutes, I made this pile of very hard hawthorn wood logs:
If you enjoy splitting wood by hand, this tool isn't for you but if you would like an easy, reliable way to split wood at the touch of a button, then you won't be disappointed. Available at FGpizza.com.
If anyone was going to write the definitive Pizza "Bible", it would be Tony Gemignani. He is the chef and owner of seven pizza restaurants. He is also proprietor of the International School of Pizza in San Francisco where he certifies chefs from around the world. Gemignani, an 11 time World Champion, has been making pizza for more than two decades and takes every style of pizza as seriously as anyone could. If you would like a signed copy to be delivered in October when the book is published, click here.
Last year I reviewed the adorable Uuni wood pellet fired oven and made some improvement suggestions. Kristian and the folks at Uuni listened to me and other users and have released the gorgeous new Uuni 2.0 oven. The upgrade list is outstanding. http://uuni.net
The Uuni remains the smallest and most portable wood fired oven that I know of. It can cook at over 800° F (450°C) using inexpensive wood pellets. An in depth hands on review of this oven will be coming soon.
One of the leaders in the mobile pizza trailer business is firewithin.com. They recently updated their site with beautiful photography, an updated catalog and other offerings.
While other mobile pizza trailer companies simply build the ovens, firewithin.com also provides support with classes on running a wood fired catering business and a business manual. Workshops are scheduled throughout the year with one coming right up in June. If you are thinking of going mobile, this is one company well worth investigating.
The Ankarsrum Original Kitchen Machine has been around for almost 60 years in Sweden. It has gone by a number of different names over the years but remains one of the best mixers in the world. The price of this unit may seem higher than the disposable mixers on the market but you won't be replacing this heavy duty unit every few years either. This is a top of the line mixer for serious home cooks.
The unique design allows easy additions of ingredients and viewing of the dough without interrupting the mixing process by stopping the machine. Bread bakers know there is nothing on the market today that mimics hand kneading of dough as does the action of the Ankarsrum roller and scraper—A fine textured, smooth elastic dough is your result.
There is a standard assortment of accessories that accompany the mixer. There are additional optional accessories available for a wider range of mixing, blending, chopping and grinding.
My favorite store for the home chef, FGPizza, now carries the Ankarsrum Original® Mixer, high capacity stainless steel bowl w/cover, roller, scraper and dough hook, poly beater-bowl with drive shaft and standard whips, the new cake beater whisk, and instructional DVD for $799.95 with free shipping.
Some things just aren't worth it. You ever grow your own onions? They don't taste all that much different from store bought ones, in my opinion. Home grown tomatoes on the other hand are well worth growing yourself.
Now I don't work on my own car anymore because cars have gotten so darn complicated and some people feel the same way about bread. Making something like an english muffin must be complicated, right? Couldn't be farther from the truth. And the results? As tasty as a homegrown tomato.
An english muffin is little more than an overgrown pancake and about as easy to make.
There are english muffin recipes that use baking powder or soda that take less time to make. They are tasty, but this version is especially satisfying.
Combine 285 grams of flour, 220 (up to 270) grams of warm (100°F) milk or buttermilk, 1/2 tablespoon of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast, and 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Mix until a dough forms: about 8-10 minutes.
Why such a range on the milk? Depends on many things. High gluten, very dry flour will require more liquid than moister all purpose flour. Add the minimum, mix, and add more until the dough is slightly sticky yet velvety soft.
The dough should pass the "windowpane test". Place the dough in an oiled bowl and allow to rise for about an hour or until doubled.
Divide the dough into 6 balls about 80-90 grams each. Try to achieve a round smooth ball. This isn't easy because the dough is so sticky. Make a pile of cornmeal and flatten each ball into the cornmeal. Cover the disks with plastic wrap and allow to proof for another hour.
Now the fun begins. Pre-heat your oven to 350°. Heat a griddle to about 300° or low-medium and oil or butter the surface. Spray oil works well too.
Gently transfer each muffin to the oiled griddle.
Cook for about 5 minutes on each side and then transfer to the oven to finish the cooking. Bake for 5-10 minutes in the oven.
Allow to cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Split each muffin with a fork.
I have been working on this Winter pizza recipe for some time and think I have it perfected. December is hardly the time for a lot of fresh vegetables on pizza, but kale is available almost year round in my area. This pizza incorporates the creamy, sweetness of Cambozola cheese with the bite of red onion and the crisp texture and earthy taste of kale chips.
Pre-heat oven and baking stone to 500°F or higher.
For this pizza, I use a pizza dough with 10% whole wheat flour, but this is optional.
Start with 4 cups of either kale or loosely packed winter greens including varieties of kale, chard and tatsoi or mustard greens. My favorite is Lacinato kale but Redbor looks stunning on the pizza
Toss the greens with 2 Tbs olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 of a red onion thinly sliced as shown below.
Stretch 250 grams of pizza dough to a diameter of 10-12 inches.
Top first with about 3-4 oz of Cambozola cheese slices then all the greens and onion. Bake for approximately 8-9 minutes at 500°F. The kale will become crispy like kale chips with the creamy Cambozola underneath.
This is the first in a series of small pizza oven reviews.
About a year ago, Kristian Tapaninaho created a Kickstarter project for his ultra-small wood fired pizza oven idea. The concept was brilliant: combine a small metal oven with a gravity fed wood pellet hopper and a battery powered fan. The response to his crowdsource funding was overwhelming. In two weeks he was fully funded and ready to begin production in the summer of 2013. The result is a high temperature pizza oven that heats up in about 10 minutes and can make great pizzas.
The Uuni, which means 'oven" in Tapaninaho's native Finnish, arrives in a surprisingly small box.
Assembly is easy with only a phillips head screwdriver and perhaps a pair of pliers required. The oven consists of several components. The oven chamber itself is about 48 x 36 x 12 cm or 17 x 13 x 5 inches. At the back of the oven is a combustion chamber, wood pellet hopper, air regulator and battery powered fan.
After assembly, the lighting of the oven is not obvious from the instructions, but fortunately, Kristian offers a youtube video on this topic.
Once the fire is going, the pellet hopper can be filled. Be sure the fire is going strong or the added pellets can put out the fire. After about 10 minutes, the oven is hot enough to bake. (500-700 °F) I was astounded not only at the speed this oven came to temperature but at how little fuel it required.
The pizza I made went in for about a minute before it was ready to turn. Another minute and I checked and turned it again. 45 seconds later it was ready to eat. Great crust, nice char, creamy soft crumb and some smoky taste. A little ash was visible in the cheese but not excessive. I think a longer heat up time would have given a crisper bottom crust, but it was acceptable.
The workflow for baking should remain the same.
1) Make your pizza 2) add pellets if needed 3) tap the chute to be sure the pellets are not stuck 4) put your pizza in the oven.
The one time I did not follow this workflow, the pellets got stuck and the pizza took much longer to cook and was excessively smoky tasting and ashy. I never found the bottom to be as well cooked as this photo from the manufacturer.
This kind of oven, like the rocket oven I made a while ago, tends to heat and cool quickly so monitoring the fuel becomes a high priority as there is little stored heat in the oven. At the end of this review I link to some propane fueled ovens that may provide greater ease of use but will not, of course, offer any wood fired smoke taste to your pizzas.
What are the best features of this oven? First the size is adorable. This little oven would be perfect on an apartment balcony, a tailgate party, or a barbecue. The combustion chamber detaches and fits inside the oven and the whole thing would easily fit in the trunk of a car to bring to a party.
The speed of this oven is also noteworthy. As mentioned, it will reach 500-700 °F in 10-15 minutes. The economy of fuel use is also revelutionary. I baked two pizzas and ran the oven for about 20 minutes using about 2 cups of wood pellets. This is less than the kindling I might use to start my masonry oven. The quality of the bake is very good. It is not exactly the same as baking in a 900 °F Neapolitan pizza oven, but it is better than most home ovens. Finally, the cost of this oven, at just over $300 is thousands less than one might pay for a masonry oven.
Are there any downsides? Yes, a few. The included pizza peel, for example, is functional but hardly satisfying. I would much prefer a sturdier peel (or this one you can cut on) to the sheet of aluminum they include with the oven.
Some parts of the oven seem a little flimsy but given the low price, this may be inevitable. The bracket holding the door handle especially seemed to flex more than necessary. I haven't decided if the handles are chic and minimalist or look like they came from someone's garage wood shop. Perhaps a little more refinement in the handles such as nicer wood and little sanding could be achieved at minimal additional production cost. While the battery pack has a little shelf to sit upon, the whole battery contraption seems more like a prototype than a refined product,
Finally, I found maintaining constant and consistent heat to require more effort than I expected. I could not get a crisp bottom on the pizzas I cooked. This is not a propane fueled oven that you can set and forget. Links to some of those ovens are at the end of this review.
So who is this oven designed for? The ideal user would be someone looking for an outdoor pizza oven who appreciates the results of high temperature wood heat but does not have the space , time or budget for a masonry oven. They have already added a good thick stone to their home oven but want more yet do not have space or budget for a large masonry oven. Comparing this little oven to a masonry oven is comparing apples to oranges. While both can cook pizza, a large masonry oven allows the cook to watch the food baking, stores heat for baking bread and is large enough to roast all kinds of foods. The large oven also uses a lot of wood and takes hours to heat up. This little oven bakes pizza and thats about all it does, but it does it efficiently.
The Uuni is available at these locations for about $325. For even more ease of use, there are propane fueled alternatives to this oven such as the Pizzeria Pronto , The Kettle Pizza Grill or The Blackstone Outdoor Oven with rotating pizza stone. I have not tested these ovens but want to suggest potential alternatives for those shopping for this size oven.
Have you ever wanted to do something really right; the way it should be done? Like making sourdough bread over the course of several days or building a wood fired oven? Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor have brought that thinking to the craft of making chocolate. In spades.
As fine woodworkers, they know that hand crafted trumps machine produced and they bring that artisan heedfulness to the chocolate they make starting by hand selecting the cacao beans they roast themselves. Roasting takes place in a Royal #5 coffee roaster that they lovingly refurbished.
"How did we go from building furniture and wood boats to making chocolate? For as long as we can remember, we have been making things by hand. The time and care required in fitting a mortice or shaping a plank is not unlike the process of hand crafting chocolate from the bean. We have never shied away from a challenge in order to produce a beautifully finished product. It is just part of who we are."
"It is amazing, that even to this day, most wooden boats are built almost entirely by hand. Even the most complicated of machines can't shape the changing bevel on the edge of a plank or the face of a sawn frame."
"Patience and care must be taken to fit all joints water tight. It is not a fast process. We feel like much of the patience required to build a boat carries over to the chocolate making process. We don't rush the process, often repeating steps if they are not done right the first time, scrapping an entire batch if we are not proud of the product."
Using only two ingredients (cacao and sugar) these men coax the flavor out of every bean into the most exquisite bar of chocolate you may have ever tasted.
Other chocolatiers add emulsifiers, cocoa butter or vanilla to enhance their chocolate but Adam and Dustin see those ingredients as covering up the true flavor of the chocolate. The entire process of roasting, grinding, aging, molding and tempering can take a month to complete, but the result has all the nuance of a fine bottle of red wine. They have as much similarity to a Hershey's bar as a wood fired Neapolitan pizza does to a frozen supermarket pizza.
Every aspect of their process is old-school and thoughtful. Even the labels are original artwork of the lumber schooner C.A. Thayer which traveled from Humboldt Bay to San Francisco.
Why illustrate the art of a ship building on a bar of chocolate? "We chose our [this] illustration to highlight a craft that is near and dear to us, the craft of a Shipwright. In our minds the pinnacle of wood-craft is boat building. The complex, and constantly changing curves of a boat hull represent the greatest challenge to the woodworker.
"The most hands-on approach we could take was to start with the raw cacao. We are able to source the finest fair-trade cacao and preform all the steps in-house to turn the raw ingredients into delicious chocolate, all in our small factory in Arcata, California.
This entire process takes over a month to complete, but allows us to make some of the finest chocolate possible. We only use organic cacao and organic cane sugar in our chocolate. By not cutting corners, or taking shortcuts in our process, we are able to leave out vanilla, additional cocoa butter or other emulsifiers, in hopes of capturing and highlighting the subtle flavor nuances in the cacoa we source from around the world. We hope you will get as much enjoyment eating our chocolate as we do making it."
At the current time, there are six chocolates available
(my tasting notes- your impression will certainly be different):
Until I tried Dick Taylor chocolate, I had no idea of the subtle complexity that chocolate could possess. Some may be surprised at the slightly higher price of this kind of fine chocolate. But this is a chocolate to savor and relish on the tongue not to gobble thoughtlessly. One of my favorite desserts is a glass of port, an ounce or so of Dick Taylor chocolate and some fresh fruit. Doesn't get much better than that. As Michael Levine said, "Chocolate really is the perfect food."
I celebrate those of us who are returning to a slower, more thoughtful way of crafting the things we enjoy. Keep up the good work, Adam and Dustin. If you are in Arcata on a Monday when the tasting room is open, be sure to drop in. Also available online and in many stores.
Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate | 5301 Boyd Rd. Arcata, CA 95521 | (707)843-9255 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos used by permission.
Bill has been trying to make the perfect pizza for over 4 decades. He's still working on it.