Friday, March 28, 2008

American Flatbread and the Today Show

The folks at American Flatbread, it seems, can truly work their magic just about anywhere. Here they are at the base of Mt. Lincoln in Warren Vt., prepping for a Today show piece (see YouTube video), which where I found them on the afternoon of February 20, when my father popped into the lodge for a minute leaving me to poke around.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Christmas Loaves

Of all places, I found inspiration in a supermarket.

Shortly before Christmas we were in McLean and in need of a good spot to meet a friend staying in Loudon County. She suggested the cafe of a Wegman's grocery store, which is how I found myself mesmerized by the spectacle of team of Wegman's bakers feeding a monstrous cylindrical oven. The oven floor on this beast rotated and was driven by a large circular crank placed by its mouth. The baker would slide a handful of loaves into the oven. Turn the crank. Extract some golden loaves and slide in a handful more. Brilliant! But what was she doing there with that paper and wire mesh strainer filled with flour? I leaned over the Plexiglas divider. "Sample! Mister! Sample! Merry Christmas!" I was assaulted by a dramatic Korean assistant baker with a basket filled with samples. When I regained my composure (I startle easily) I could see the baker sifting flour over a paper stencil onto proofed boules. There, on the cooling rack I could see the result -- loaves adorned with snowflakes, stars and Christmas ornaments.

Not to be outdone by a supermarket, I went to work as soon as I got home. I shaped the doughs as usual but scored the top so as to leave a nice square of undisturbed dough. I spritzed them to make the dough surface nice and sticky and sprinkled flour from a mesh strainer over top a Christmas tree cutout, lightly tapping the side of the strainer. They came out pretty well, though placing them in paper bags proved a little damaging to the design.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mano de Dios

Who said I was a disciplined blogger? I never said it. Not a once.

It's not like I'm a complete slacker, though. Whilst away, I dedicated my creative energy to solving the backyard pizzaiolo's table-space dilemma.

This handy table-top device, which I modestly refer to as the "Mano de Dios," is constructed of cheap plywood and 1 x 2 boards cut and and assembled to mimic the functionality of the classic "sheet tray rack" ubiquitous in all baking establishments. I say "mimic" in the loosest sense because, make no mistake, this invention is (1) novel, (2) non-obvious and literally bursting with (3) industrial application (which, I think, just happen to be the three legal elements of patentability).

There are several accepted methods for using "the Mano." Pictured below is the classic technique known as the "Give 'n Go." Here the Pizzaiolo (me) stretches the doughs, places them on the floured boards and slides them into the Mano. Meanwhile the Pizzaiolo's assistant sometimes referred to as "Diego" (actually, here, Zencamel) prepares the doughs for the oven and returns them to the Mano where they await final placement in the oven by the Pizzaiolo.

If the Mano de Dios looks like something that might work for you, too bad. There's only one.