Finally, pizza night arrived, much to my and my in laws delight, and, Fabrizio's relief. At last he can have some peace, that is until we start pestering him for when the next pizza party is slated to take place.
It all started about two years ago in the spring when my father in law decided that we needed a wood burning oven on the premises for me to ply my bread baking trade to a different means of bringing the bread to the table and kicking up my baking skills a notch or two. Papa also wanted to have a decent pizza as our attempts in our regular and convection oven, weren't too bad, but just not quite pizzeria style quality and he had faith in me. I think it didn't hurt that when my in laws had their friends over for one of their famous big dinners, one or two of them always brought some of their home baked, oven fired bread along for the sampling. Again, my in laws have never failed to praise my bread and secretly hope that I will make a loaf or two of my black olive bread for any of those big dinners, so they had bragging rights expanded as well. It almost goes without saying that the rest of the feast is always memorable, thanks to their tireless effort to "put on the dog" as my parents use to quaintly state, and the fact that they had all those years to perfect the art of entertaining with good food and drink from their "La Baita" restaurant days. Their commercial gelato maker is always prominently featured as well in these feasts as my father in law has perfected the art of a banana gelato, that is rich tasting without all those cholesterol inducing ingredients. He won't say exactly what is in it either, but, I can tell you that it is a very brief list.
After much discussion about which oven to purchase and and why, naturally, with some disagreements over the details, the day arrived, just before Italians go on holiday for the month of August, when we became the proud owners of a wood fired oven and it was actually in our possession. You can read about it's arrival here.
Now, if you think that it would be a straight forward proposition to install it, test, tinker around with it, adjust and go into full blown use of it, like I did, then, you would be wrong. Like so many things that seem straightforward in Italy, it is a long serpentine route to the destination and even a bump or two along the way, a bit of back draft, too much snow on the roof, too little dry wood of the particular kind you need, or just too hot, just too, too, tooooo long in coming. But, what do you know, the time arrived last night. Arrived indeed and enjoyed by all it was.
The second most asked question of me from acquaintances, right after how Fabrizio and I met is, "Do you miss America?" I always reply, that aside from easy access to my family and friends, other than virtually, I miss the direct and often expedient way that things get done in America, the directness, the convenience, the immediateness, that is, at least for me, quintessentially American. Yes, I do sometimes miss that very much indeed and occasionally a movie in English at the movie theater.
Fabrizio's parents digging in at last
on Davide's naturally leaven pizza pies
Definitely worth the wait!
Luckily for us, Fabrizio's old friend Davide, a former colleague and one of the local kids that hung around the Villar Perosa Hotel in the days when Fabrizio worked for the Agnelli family, and currently the maestro of the pizza department in our Pinerolo Eataly, came over to help us get off on a positive start to our wood fired pizza and bread adventure. You can see Davide hand tossing pizza dough here, as I got a much better photo of him in action over at Eataly than I did last night. I was too busy trying to ask questions and absorb his techniques to get too many decent photos. Big thank you Davide!
These are our leftover pizzas ready to warm up and top fresh today in the oven that is still warm enough to heat them through..mmm, mmm good!
If you're looking for a pizza dough that performs well, a good one to try is from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Peter's book is a great resource of accessible yeasted dough information and will have you making great pizza, foccacia and artisan breads in no time. It has a lot of instruction, but I think you will find the info invaluable. You can find a copy of the recipe here in it's entirety, but I do recommend buying the book as it is well worth every penny if you love to make great bread.
We all ate ourselves silly and there seemed to be as much enthusiasm for my pizza dough as there was for Davide's. That bodes well for my future of making pizzas for my in laws!
It was a fab evening with the fab folks that work over at Eataly. When you're in Pinerolo, you just have to stop in and try Davide's pizza as well as Chef Roberto's delicious cuisine. If you're lucky their wives, Michelle and Monica just might be taking your order and serving you some of Eataly's high quality food. Naturally, a meal isn't complete without a digestivo from our friend Enrico's line of Genepy and Barathier. Those of you familiar with it will savor the flavor and those of you unfamiliar will just have to come and try some whilst you're here, as you won't find Genepy outside the Italian and French alps.
It was so exciting to see them puffed up and browned to a hue sometimes difficult to accomplish.
Naturally, there is some tweaking to do and I look forward to it, but when we pulled open the door and found all these lovelies inside, my heart skipped a beat. I love cooking and baking has always fed my soul, making fruit and chocolate desserts rich in cream and butter is always a thrill, but baking bread speaks to me in a way that seems to satisfy a very basic instinct of mine, making our daily bread. Firing up the wood oven stirred my connection to the weekly town bake that used to be so common over a good portion of Europe and the wood stoves I cooked on in the states many moons back as well. Then I think of the Egyptians who are credited with being the first bread bakers, burying their terra cotta pots in a fire pit and when I feasted my eyes on these, I felt transported back and then some.
Be still my beating heart.
Fabrizio steals the show and my heart as well!
I love that even though my bread is still the same recipe that I have make hundreds of times over the years, it seems to now have a new personality and that, is so very exciting. I look forward to this next phase of the journey. I think we will be looking toward offering some special weekends perhaps dedicated to the wood fired oven classes, coming up in the near future. Stay tuned.