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Modernist Bread Preview: What we've seen so far


Chris Hennes
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1 hour ago, weinoo said:

Every dead Neapolitan pizzaioli is rolling over in his or her grave. And the living ones are probably using some awesome Italian curse words.

 

And I seriously hope that the places where I enjoy some of the best pizza anyone has ever tasted never resort to using polydextrose or soy lecithin powder in their doughs.

 

 

 No worries — they offer a non-modernist recipe too. 

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

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17 minutes ago, cakewalk said:

And I don't care what anybody says, but I don't ever want to read a 115-page recipe!

Volume 5, page 120. 

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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On 11/5/2017 at 1:37 PM, Anna N said:

 It’s here. It is here.  Someone very kindly made a gift of it to me when it was first released and today it arrived at my house. Enjoy the unveiling. 

 

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253BBF94-154D-46F7-9C8C-277DB7898878.jpeg

Oh how great!!!!!  You are going to be a busy baker :)  

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Indeed, what's funny to me is that baking breads, according to many hundreds of books passed down through the generations, has always been about the touch and feel and indeed the sound of, doughs and finished breads.

 

Now it appears to be about measuring stuff to the hundredths of a gram. 

Edited by weinoo (log)

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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33 minutes ago, weinoo said:

Indeed, what's funny to me is that baking breads, according to many hundreds of books passed down through the generations, has always been about the touch and feel and indeed the sound of, doughs and finished breads.

 

Now it appears to be about measuring stuff to the hundredths of a gram. 

 

 I suspect the best we can do is agree to disagree. I hope it remains a world that can accommodate traditionalists as well as modernists. 

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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51 minutes ago, weinoo said:

Indeed, what's funny to me is that baking breads, according to many hundreds of books passed down through the generations, has always been about the touch and feel and indeed the sound of, doughs and finished breads.

 

Now it appears to be about measuring stuff to the hundredths of a gram. 

 

 

It feels almost as though this type of conversation has been had before over certain subjects over the last couple years...i can't quite put my finger on it though.....

 

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In this case it's not even necessary to agree to disagree: the book presents both Modernist and more traditional recipes, which I think is only natural considering the team they assembled to produce it. Modernist Bread is a distillation and expansion of our past bread-baking experience, not a rejection of it.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I'm not agreeing, nor am I disagreeing, just throwing in my $.02.  I like to think there are a few things still in the kitchen that are sacrosanct...Neapolitan pizza dough being one of them.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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1 hour ago, jmolinari said:

 

It feels almost as though this type of conversation has been had before over certain subjects over the last couple years...i can't quite put my finger on it though.....

 

I just couldn't remember either...

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Yowsers... UPS left a package  that I could barely haul into the house today... 

 

down the rabbit hole!!!

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"There are no mistakes in bread baking, only more bread crumbs"

*Bernard Clayton, Jr.

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I got it last week. It's an incredible reference for sure. I agree it has both traditional recipes to modern so it will appeal to all. 
I've only touched the surface but the pictures alone are incredible throughout. 
I've made the Surfer Sourdough (Robertson) and the Poilane inspired Miche recipe so far with a cold 24hr proof on both.
Great results on both but very different breads to compare. I was intrigued by the Miche recipe having so much starter in it >120%. Normally when I made sourdoughs it was 20% area. The Robertson recipe was a high hydration dough as well compared to the Miche. Last year I viewed the SFBI online class with Robertson who shared his sourdough oat bread recipe and walked through making it. It's delicious and highly recommended.

 

I've only scratched the surface as you can imagine.   My only question so far: The book has an amazing amount of detail in terms of ovens and cooking times and temps. In fact each recipe tells you which oven is ideal yet it gives you times and temps for every other option practically!  Yet for a deck oven which I'm using for the lean breads it states to bake at 470F.  It doesn't differentiate top and bottom heat. In fact in book 3 I believe there is a cutaway of a deck oven and talks about the top heat at 525F and it's effect with the bottom at 470. I've always been taught to cook higher for high hydration doughs at least to start.  I think its going to be personal preference. I baked my recent sourdoughs above in 2 batches: one set at 470/470 and one 525/470 both for 30 mins. The results were both great but obviously one with more color. 

I highly recommend the book. Price is high but think about the 4+years of work that went into it and there is no other reference out there that can match it. 


Best

 

 

 

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On 11/6/2017 at 10:49 PM, Chris Hennes said:

 

The Modernist variant of the Neapolitan dough (page 5•120) calls for polydextrose and soy lecithin powder.

 

*face palm* And here I thought that, without Chris Young, the Modernist team would have a little more common sense when it came to pizza.

 

Now, just to be clear, I've been championing polydextrose for about 15 years. At the time,  commercially, it was all over the place, but, I was the one who put it on the home baker's map (in a low carb context- google it if you don't believe me).  Even though I moved away from low carb many years ago, I still use polyd once a month, and, while I've never made pizza with it, the way it alters the temperatures for starches to gelatinize and proteins to denature, the possibilities for baking have always fascinated me.

 

But anyone with half a brain in their head would clearly know that the millisecond you add polyd and lecithin to pizza dough, it's association with Neapolitan pizza is no more.  It's not resting, it's not stunned, it's not pining for the fjords.  THIS IS AN EX-NEAPOLITAN PIZZA!!!!

 

I guess that if you have zero respect for Neapolitan culture in your first book, it only makes sense that you're going to continue to crap on it in your second.  I really thought, and continue to think, that Nathan is better than this.

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1 minute ago, scott123 said:

 

But anyone with half a brain in their head would clearly know that the millisecond you add polyd and lecithin to pizza dough, it's association with Neapolitan pizza is no more.

First, this isn't their "Neapolitan" recipe, it's their "Modernist Neapolitan" recipe. Second, what characteristic of the pizza do they change so much that it is no longer recognizable as "Neapolitan" pizza? According to the book the two ingredient essentially counteract each other in the final product. The lecithin is added as a dough relaxant to make shaping easier,  and the polydextrose to counteract the lack of crispness that the lecithin causes. Here the Modernist twist isn't designed to change the end product, it's designed to make the dough easier to work with.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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15 hours ago, weinoo said:

I'm not agreeing, nor am I disagreeing, just throwing in my $.02.  I like to think there are a few things still in the kitchen that are sacrosanct...Neapolitan pizza dough being one of them.

 

Respectfully, Mitch, when I was getting my ass handed to me the last time I criticized Nathan for attempting to redefine Neapolitan pizza, this was your response:

 

On 2/26/2011 at 7:46 AM, weinoo said:

We understand that you're a purist - that's great. But for most of us, this technique will work just fine, thank you.

 

What happened? Did you evolve on this issue? :)

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Also, by taking my statement of 6 years ago out of context, you're implying that the previous statement had something to do with either polydextrose or soy lecithin; it didn't back then -  but here it does. And I may still stand by that statement I made 6 years ago, but I refuse to reread the entire conversation as my sous vide rig is coming to temp and I have to weigh hundredths of a gram of some other much more fun substance.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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8 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

First, this isn't their "Neapolitan" recipe, it's their "Modernist Neapolitan" recipe. Second, what characteristic of the pizza do they change so much that it is no longer recognizable as "Neapolitan" pizza? According to the book the two ingredient essentially counteract each other in the final product. The lecithin is added as a dough relaxant to make shaping easier,  and the polydextrose to counteract the lack of crispness that the lecithin causes. Here the Modernist twist isn't designed to change the end product, it's designed to make the dough easier to work with.

 

Jimmy Beard used to think that if you added soy sauce to a dish, it would make it Chinese.  You couldn't really fault him for it much because it was a very different time.  But chefs have historically had problems with cultural awareness.  They exoticize, they oversimplify, they guess, they throw figurative darts at dartboards to see what sticks, and the end result has always been ignorance. As time goes by, and cultures mingle, and native representatives set the record straight, this kind of myopia is far less pervasive, but it still exists.  Heston Blumenthal is the patient zero of the most recent incarnation of the Neapolitan pizza ignorance virus. Much like Reinhart almost a decade before him, he donned his outsider goggles, peered at this cultural treasure that he had almost no knowledge of, made a bunch of very wrong guesses, and the modern misperception of Neapolitan pizza was born.

 

The viral vector tracked from Heston to Chris, Chris to Nathan/Modernist Cuisine, then to Andris (Baking Steel) and Kenji, and collectively, these voices were able to spread this misinformation to millions of ears. Sure, you have quite a few domestic Neapolitan pizzerias creating authentic offerings, and you also have an online obsessive pizza community that knows their stuff, but this is all just an infinitesimally small drop in a bucket compared to the millions of page hits Serious Eats sees in a month.

 

If Modernist Bread were the first book, and they presented the idea of 'fixing' the handling ability of Neapolitan dough with novel ingredients, I might say something along the lines of "Ummm... are you sure that Neapolitan dough needs to be fixed?" and left it at that.  But Nathan and friends have played a very critical part in the dismantling of Neapolitan culture, and this further hubris only excavates an already deep wound.

 

Nathan, to his partial credit, took most of my criticisms to heart and eventually (and quietly), made corrections to his book, and, while I'm happy to be vindicated, even quietly ;), it doesn't alter the overall damaging impact on the collective knowledge of pizza.

 

Reinhart, as I mentioned, did a great deal of damage in his own way with American Pie, but, imo, he gets to play the Jimmy Beard it-was-a-different-time card, and, to his vast credit, he has, for the most part, atoned for his sins. Until Nathan and friends recognize the impact they've had and publicly come to terms with the part they've played, I am going to continue to go out of my way to shine a light on their cultural insensitivity, regardless of how slight the current infraction might be.

 

The idea that Neapolitan pizza dough needs to somehow be 'fixed' is preposterous, but there is far more to this than just that.

Edited by scott123 (log)
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2 minutes ago, scott123 said:

the modern misperception of Neapolitan pizza was born.

 

I think you'll find page 5•102 a very interesting read -- it's called "The conflicting stories of the history of pizza." On the next page, where they lay out the various styles of pizza the book includes, for the attributes that make a pizza "traditional Neapolitan" they list:

  • Crispy bottom
  • Bubbly crust
  • Leoparding
  • Sparse toppings

Which points here do you disagree with?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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26 minutes ago, Chris Hennes said:

 

for the attributes that make a pizza "traditional Neapolitan" they list:

  • ...Leoparding

 

Leoparding, huh? How can 'leoparding' be an attribute of traditional Neapolitan pizza when it's missing from the official definition?

 

On 2/25/2011 at 4:07 PM, Chris Hennes said:

Right, it goes without saying that one cannot use this technique to make an official "Pizza Napoletana," by definition. It is then simply a matter of making the best reproduction we can (or, perhaps simply making the best-tasting pizza we can!). The DOP standard lays out what we are looking for in excruciating detail, including the final temperatures of the various ingredients. And it says not one word about "char."

Read it here.

 

:) 

 

Kidding aside, 6 years ago, Nathan accused me of judging his book prematurely, and, while, in that instance, my criticisms, for the most part, all stood the test of time, perhaps, in this instance, I am jumping the gun.  If given the opportunity, though, I will always take the chance to remind all those sycophants who mercilessly tore me to shreds years ago, that they were wrong and I was right. In other words, to all my haters, past and present "na na boo boo stick your head in doo doo." :)

 

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7 minutes ago, scott123 said:

Leoparding, huh? How can 'leoparding' be an attribute of traditional Neapolitan pizza when it's missing from the official definition?

 

My mistake here, I was paraphrasing. Here's what the book actually says:

Quote

Thickness: very thin

Quality attributes: crispy bottom, bubbly crust; traditionalists like those char marks on the crust called leoparding

Toppings: traditionally pretty sparse; "true" Neapolitan pizzas feature only sauce, cheese, tomatoes, and herbs.

 

That said, where you and I differ most fundamentally is that I don't care at all what the "official definition" says. This is due mostly to the fact that the definition focuses not just on the qualities of the finished product, but on how you must arrive there, whereas I only care about the finished product. 

 

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Just now, Chris Hennes said:

That said, where you and I differ most fundamentally is that I don't care at all what the "official definition" says. This is due mostly to the fact that the definition focuses not just on the qualities of the finished product, but on how you must arrive there, whereas I only care about the finished product. 

 

 

The official definition has been honed for centuries by master craftsman to achieve the best representation of the finished product- the qualities that put this product on the map. Let me ask you this.  Does the manner in which one arrives at Parmigiano Reggiano matter?  Are you really enjoying those Wisconsin knock offs?  The manner in which Neapolitan style pizza is defined is just as critical to the quality of the finished product.

 

You can achieve great pizza without any kind of road map whatsoever.  But Neapolitan pizza has a great deal of wisdom and science behind it that makes it so beloved.  You can respect Neapolitan culture while innovating simply by losing the 'Neapolitan' label. Just make pizza- any kind of pizza. The sky's the limit!  But if you're going to make Neapolitan, then the road map is critical, just as it's critical to Parmigiano Reggiano.

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