Monday, 11 April 2016

Time: the secret ingredient

Text as published in Hiut Denim's yearbook number three. Illustration by Bjorn Lie
“There’s a shop around the corner, go buy some flour, knock up another batch, you’ll clean up.”

It was 1pm and we’d just sold out. The weather forecast took a u-turn for the better, Bristol was packed and we’d flown through 120 pizzas in a couple of hours.

Our dough won’t be rushed though, our pizza’s slow pizza.

It cooks in less than 90 seconds but starts life a week before. The starter is fed, a mix, a knead, knead, knead, knead some more - by hand. A connection to the dough, to the subtleties of how it evoles, but one that loses its romanticism on a 40kg batch. Next a slow sedate rise. We give the enzymes time to do their job, to break down the gluten into something which is both delicious and easy to digest - but not too long, when you lose the loft and the acidity becomes too pronounced. It’s a balancing act, one we’re committed to. We’ve logged 118 iterations of our dough formula and counting, dozens more before it made it to a spreadsheet, it’s anal to the extreme. Thousands of pizzas, each bake taking a step closer to the pizza in our mind’s eye. 

What does that pizza look like? Well it’s all about the crust, the airy bits at the edge consume 80% of our effort. Great pizza is simple, good ingredients on good bread. We focus on the bread and showcase the amazing produce on our doorstep as toppings. We aim for loft, structure, the point the crust is barely cooked through, the starches gelatinised, and char. Flecks of char, notes of bitterness which offset the natural sweetness of our tomatoes. The base must be thin but not crisp, foldable not rigid or brittle. When the dough’s on song it’s robust, extensible, translucent on the marble, you could read a newspaper through it if there was one to hand.

We do it because it tastes better, because it’s healthier, because we’ve yet to find a better way. No shortcuts. Flavour before profit is the closest we’ve come to a business model. Time is the secret ingredient.

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