Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pizza al Taglio Class at Vetri

Chef Spence Serves up Pizza #1
Last Tuesday we SEPTA'd into town to attend a class on Pizza al Taglio presented by Amis chef Brad Spence. Chef Spence had returned from Rome and a week working Gabriele Bonci the previous Thursday so this was probably a non-professional's best chance to get some insight into the Bonci magic.

The Vetri demonstration kitchen occupies a former apartment directly above the restaurant with very tight seating for 10 lucky guests. The kitchen is toward the rear of the building and a large "all purpose" space overlooks Spruce St. There are evidently plans to use this space for private events, intimate concerts in conjunction with the Curtis Institute, and so forth.

The class began with frequently refilled glasses of Prosecco while Chef Spence talked about the differences between Roman pizza al taglio dough and other types of pizza. The recipe is pretty simple:

Flour: 1000 grams
Water: 800 grams
Salt: 30 grams
Olive Oil: 40 grams
Yeast: 50 grams fresh, 15 grams dry (use less if you have more time)

Weigh Everything
Chef Spence strongly suggested using a combination of flours. In class we used a dough made from 900 grams of regular '00' flour and 100 grams of spelt flour.

Mix - Don't Knead
After weighing the ingredients into a large bowl they were mixed until a rough dough formed and all the ingredients were well combined.

About 45 minutes after the previous picture
The dough is then allowed to rise for an hour, folding it over on itself every 15 minutes. After the initial rise it goes into the refrigerator for 24 hours.

With the dough explained it was time to try some pizza - that's the one Chef Spence is cutting up in the picture up top. It's just tomato sauce topped with a bunch of prosciutto, arugula, and a drizzle of olive oil.

At this point we shifted from Prosecco to a red wine and began to make our own pizzas. The ten of us divided into 5 teams to build personalized pizzas.

Some old guy came in to try some of Chef Spence's original pie while we worked.

As the pizza baked we drank more wine and chatted about Rome, pizza making, pizza eating...

After about 20 minutes at 500° F the pizzas started coming out. And you know what?

Every darn one was delicious.

Then someone mentioned Nutella.

Oh yeah.

Chef Spence grabbed a left over dough ball, stretched it onto a tray and popped it in the oven while someone went in search of a jar of Nutella.

All of it?
Yep... all of it
Spank It!
As the evening wrapped up Chef Spence and the staff packed to-go boxes with the left over pizza and most of us stepped out into the upstairs dining room for conversation, coffee, mignardises, and grappa. Fortunately, I wouldn't have to start my car for another 90 minutes... (thank you SEPTA).

A fantastic class, with wonderful people, a beautiful space, and a dynamic chef with a contagious love for his craft. Watch the Vetri website and grab the first class that grabs you - you won't regret it.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Biscuits and Gravy Benedicts

Biscuits and Gravy Benedicts

Recipe by William Colsher
Yield: 2 servings
Calories per serving: Half of 'em
Fat per serving: HaHaHaHa
  • 300 grams Milk
  • 1 Dried Ancho Chili

  • 4 Large Eggs - 2 per serving

  • 185 grams AP Flour
  • 185 grams Cake Flour
  • 12 grams Baking Powder
  • 12.5 grams Sugar
  • 3.25 grams Salt
  • 113 grams (1 stick) Cold Butter, cut into half inch chunks
  • 165 grams Milk or Butter Milk

  • 160 grams Bulk Breakfast Sausage
  • 40 grams Rendered Bacon Fat
  • 15 grams AP Flour

  • 250 grams Bulk Breakfast Sausage
Cooking Directions

    Ancho Milk

  1. Cut the ancho chili in half and remove the stem and seeds.
  2. In a small sauce pan combine the milk and chili and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool, then transfer it to an airtight container.
  4. Seal the container and place it in the refrigerator overnight. Place the bowl of the food processor and the metal blade in the freezer.

  5. 63° Eggs - Part 1
  6. Preheat a water bath to 63° C. Preheat your oven to 425° F
  7. Place the eggs in a bowl so they do not bang around and lower it into the water bath.
  8. Into the pool with the 72 Hour Short Ribs
  9. Cook for 50 minutes. If the eggs are not to be served immediately they may be chilled in an ice bath and refrigerated for 2 or 3 days and re-warmed at 55° C prior to service.

  10. Biscuits

  11. Combine the dry ingredients and sift them into the chilled bowl of the food processor fitted with the chilled metal blade.
  12. Add the butter and pulse the mixture until it is well combined.

  13. Add the milk in a stream and continue to pulse just until a ball begins to form.

  14. On a floured surface roll the dough out to about a half inch thickness. 

  15. Cut 3 inch circles and place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
  16. Bake the biscuits in the 425° F oven for 15 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

  17. Sausage Gravy
  18. Bring the Ancho milk to a simmer in a small sauce pan.

  19. Melt the rendered bacon fat in a saucepan over medium and add the crumbled sausage. Cook until the sausage is well browned.
  20. Sprinkle the flour over the sausage and mix well. Cook, stirring, for a minute without browning the flour.
  21. Slowly add the Ancho milk, whisking constantly. 
  22. Continue cooking, whisking until the mixture thickens. Add more milk if the mixture is too thick or beurre manie if too thin.

  23. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  24. Sausage Patties

  25. Make 2 sausage patties per serving and fry over medium heat until done to taste. They should be as wide as the biscuits and as thick as you like them.
  26. Cover and keep warm.

  27. 63° Eggs Part 2
  28. Bring a sauce pan of water deep enough for the eggs to be completely submerged to a simmer.
  29. Crack the large end of a 63° egg and carefully trim away the shell and membrane back to the widest part of the egg shell.

  30. Ready for a quick poach

  31. Bloop the egg out into a small bowl and carefully lift it out with a slotted spoon. Discard the loose white bits.
  32. Carefully transfer the egg to the simmering water and gently give it a spin. Let it cook for 30 seconds. Just long enough to firm up the white. Gently set the egg on paper towels to drain and repeat for each egg.

  33. Assembly

  34. Halve a biscuit horizontally and place the halves on a plate.

  35. Place a sausage patty on each biscuit half.

  36. Carefully place a 63° egg on each sausage patty.
  37. Cover the whole thing with sausage gravy.
  38. Serve immediately.


Biscuits - I'm the worst biscuit maker on the planet. Feel free to ignore that recipe and use your favorite.

63° Eggs: If you don't have an immersion circulator (why not?) poach 'em the old fashioned way. Once you make 63° Eggs you'll never go back to the old way.


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