Discover more from Wordloaf
Friday Bread Basket 7/14/23
Welcome to the Wordloaf Friday Bread Basket, a weekly roundup of links and items relating to bread, baking, and grain. Before we get into this week’s items: Apologies, I made some significant mistakes in the tables I shared on Wednesday, as was pointed out to me by some helpful commenters. I told you that the math around other-than-100%-hydration starters is annoying, and I’d like to pretend that the whole affair was meant to illustrate this, but really it was me just being dopey in the tropical heat we are experiencing here in New England right now. The tables are updated now.
If you saved them, please replace them with the current ones, and I’m sorry if the screw-up meant you ended up with starters that weren’t properly formulated. (If you switched to 75% hydration already you need not start over, since a couple of subsequent rounds with the new formulas will get you there either way.)
Deep-pan deep dive
Dennis Lee’s Chicago food newsletter The Party Cut continued its series of articles by Brian Erst on Chicago pizza styles this week with an examination of deep pan pizza, a subset of deep-dish pizza:
The pizza style that Burt developed is both unique to Chicago and easily recognized by pizza makers on the East Coast and Detroit. Like the Sicilian-American pies developed in the New York and New Jersey area, it starts with a relatively low hydration dough that’s risen in a pan, topped with cheese, sauce, and other toppings, before being baked.
But like a Detroit pizza, Burt would line the sides of his pan with slices of cheese (in his case, mozzarella) that would caramelize in the oven. This caramelized cheese crust is controversial. Because Burt used mozzarella instead of a higher-fat cheese like the brick cheese used in Detroit or the cheddar blends used in new style Detroit-style shops, the mozzarella cheese does not turn brown so much as turn black.
A lot of people see that color and are immediately turned off by it, but it does not taste burned at all. It brings a deeply savory aspect to the pizza as well as some well-needed textural chew.
The thickness and density of the crust can also be off putting to some; occasionally people feel they are eating bread with pizza stuff on top. But at its best, the deep pan pizza is a flavor bomb. That crust is sturdy enough to hold a lot of toppings and a bunch of well-seasoned sauce. This is fork and knife pizza, to be sure, but it’s a glorious mess.
I’ve never had deep pan pizza, but I’ve been eyeing the pies from Robert Maleski’s Milly’s Pizza in the Pan (which get covered extensively in the story) from afar, and I’m dying to get out there to have them soon. (I’ll likely try to recreate it at home sooner than that, especially with all the intel in the story.)
Last Friday marked 95 years since the invention of sliced bread. The birthday served as an occasion for Jeffrey Rubel’s The Curiosity Cabinet to go into the story of when the US Secretary of Agriculture attempted to ban sliced bread:
Friday, July 7th marked the 95th anniversary of the invention of sliced bread. The first sliced loaf was sold in 1928 by a bakery in Chillicothe, Missouri. It was the greatest thing since, well, itself.
By the 1930s, a love of sliced bread had taken over America. These loaves were the epitome of American convenience.
However, in January 1943, about a year after the United States entered World War II, Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard instituted a ban on sliced bread. He said:
“The order prohibiting the slicing of bread [is] aimed at effecting economies in the manufacture of bread and in the use of paper.”
The pre-sliced loaves required heavier wrapping to stay fresh, and the government saw this as an unnecessary use of resources during a time of wartime scarcity. Wickard also hoped the ban would keep bread prices down: The Office of Price Administration had just permitted a 10% increase on flour prices, so Wickard ordered bakeries to stop activities that would unnecessarily increase bread prices, such as slicing.
Needless to say, this did not go over well and the order was rescinded barely two months later.
Bake for Ukraine updates
Flour Power is a new Substack newsletter from British food writer Felicity Spector, chronicling her travels in wartime Ukraine, with a focus on food:
FLOUR POWER: stories of food and resistance in wartime Ukraine - will help me give a platform to the voices of the incredible people I meet here every day. People who spend their weekends driving to the front lines to deliver aid. Who get up after a sleepless night hearing Russian missiles exploding outside, to open up their shops and cafes and try to keep life going. Who drop everything to help out when there’s yet another emergency inflicted on their land.
These are the stories I can tell - through the eyes of the wonderful non profit group I am here with - Bake for Ukraine, which was started by friends who worked together in the Ukrainian food industry for years - to support the work of bakers who give away free bread to people in need, and to share resources and knowledge about Ukrainian bread culture. We’re currently on a journey to purchase a mobile bakery to enable more flexible food supply to the people most affected by the full scale war.
Spector is behind a project to help build a mobile bakery for Ukraine, and many of the posts on Flour Power cover it. She is sharing free updates on the progress of the bakery, but all proceeds from paid subscriptions go toward the cause, so consider upgrading, it’s a worthy cause!
That’s it for this week’s bread basket. Have a nice (and hopefully cool) weekend, see you on Monday.