Join me for the first ever Wood Fired Oven Podcast interview! I am super excited to chat with Adrian - check out his Instagram profile @Agesfirekitchen. He is without doubt one of the most talented home pizza making cooks on Instagram! Check out his profile and enjoy some of the most perfect looking pizzas on the planet.
This interview is a Masterclass on how to make the very best Neapolitan pizza - right at home. We also chat about his Zesti wood fired oven - including technical specs and customisation options, and why he likes it so much. Join our discussion on the various woods he uses to light up his oven, why you might consider using diastatic malt in your pizza dough and why using a 70% biga preferment might just be the best way to make amazing pro class pizza!
We also talk about some amazing chefs and YouTube personalities who have influenced Adrian's wood fired oven journey. These include Clive - The Wood Fired Oven Chef (Youtube), Italia Squisita (Youtube), Davide Civitello and Enzo Coccia from La Notizia.
Grab yourself a free copy of Adrian's amazing pizza making spreadsheet!
Head over to my website at woodfiredoven.cooking and sign up to receive our news. We will send you a copy of his spreadsheet as a way to say thanks! There is no doubt his spreadsheet will seriously up your pizza making game - its absolutely free, make sure you get a copy.
This is one episode you do not want to miss. Join me in our extended interview for an amazing chat with Adrian as he shares some of his incredible wood fired oven and pizza making knowledge with you.
You can grab Adrians amazing pizza dough recipe at my website at woodfiredoven.cooking
Check out @Agesfirekitchen on instagram - do it right now.
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G'day, welcome to the wood-fired oven podcast, where I take a deep dive into the techniques, recipes and history of wood-fired oven cooking. My name is Mark an obsessed and somewhat curious fan of outdoor cooking, especially with my wood-fired oven. Follow my podcast in your favorite app and listen in as I go searching for the best recipes, tips, and advice to both supercharge our cooking skills and motivate you to light up your favorite outdoor cooking gear this weekend.
We'll g'day and welcome to this week's episode. I am very excited because today, finally, I'm hosting the first ever wood-fired oven podcast interview. It's a long distance interview. My guest and I live in different parts of Australia. This episode has been in the planning for a while, and I'm very grateful and very pleased to welcome to the show, Adrian, an amazing wood-fired oven, home cook, actually, to be fair he's a pizza making guru, which is super exciting for me because I'm certainly not. Welcome to the show, Adrian.
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me and congratulations on the podcast.
Oh, thanks mate, it's a lot of fun. Mate it's absolutely fabulous to have you on the show, chatting with me about wood-fired oven cooking and your obvious passion for food and cooking with fire. And I've been looking forward to this chat, all week. Before we begin, I just want to encourage anybody listening to the podcast to follow Adrian on Instagram @agesfirekitchen, that's A G E S fire kitchen ages fire kitchen. Also, you can check him out on Facebook as well. I'll leave links in the show notes as well, and you will immediately see why I've invited Adrian to the show. Ah Adrian your pizzas are without doubt some of the nicest most perfect looking pizzas I've seen in my life. And that is no exaggeration. Your passion for food is evident.
No you're welcome. I'm really looking forward to learning about your process and your recipe for making your gorgeous pizzas. I know the listeners on the podcast here, are about to listen to a masterclass really for home pizza making cooks certainly upping my game for sure. I've got a lot to learn about making pizzas. I'm sure the listeners are going to get a huge amount of fabulous knowledge from this episode. Before we get into a deep dive on pizza though tell me a little bit about what got you into wood-fired oven cooking in the first place.
Yeah, thanks. Well it's, it was fire. I've always been drawn to it. Even like growing up when I was a kid, whenever there's a barbecue or dad lit the fireplace nine times out of 10 I'm throwing things into the fire and somehow burning myself. So I would always find myself going back for more, every time I'll end up burning myself.
So it was just some type of fascination I had with it.
Why do you think, why fire? Why? I mean, you obviously do a lot of cooking in your oven. Why fire, why not just do it inside on an electric stove?
Well, I find that fire brings people together. You know, you light a fire in summer, like at a barbecue, you're going to stand around it with a beer. You light a fire in a winter, you're going to huddle around it to keep warm. But I find that there's something primitive to the nature of fire. Like Lucky said, you know, cooking with, conventional ovens, whether it be stoves, barbecues, whatever, it's very convenient. So if you cook with fire or in this case, a wood oven, it's an occasion and it's an event. So I think people are drawn to it because it's something that they can look forward to.
Yea I find it very connecting too, you know, it's historically I guess, we've been cooking with fire since year one. And like you say, I think we are drawn to fire and it's like a magnet for me. I just, I really love it. With regard to your oven I see that you use a Zesti Zesti. Is that how you pronounce it?
Yea, Zesti Wood Fired Ovens, they are actually a family business in, Perth, Western Australia.
So they've been in business for around 20 years and they make both residential and commercial wood fired ovens and they do sell, locally as well as ship internationally.
Have I seen him on master chef? Were they on master chef at one point?
I think they were in, in the earlier years.
Yeah. Right. Okay.
I'll need to check that, but yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm
Speaker 1 (00:04:43):
Pretty sure I've seen them on TV. So what particular oven have you got?
So I've got the Zed 1100,
Right. And you chose that why?
Well there's a couple of reasons. The first thing that drew me towards the zesty oven was the stunning stainless steel art.
Can I say that is spectacular actually. I mean, I've just been flicking through your Instagram feed again, and that arch is amazing worth buying it just for the arches. It's gorgeous.
Yeah. It really sets off the rest of the oven. Like, I mean, I liked the look of the rusty ovens,
but I live in a small home and I feel that a rustic oven might actually look a little bit out of place with my Alfresco area.
New Speaker (00:05:25):
I find that the stainless steel alloy dome, it's like a nice sleek looking, you know, centerpiece for my area. So it's actually quite nice
Speaker 1 (00:05:36):
Easy to keep clean, Adrian?
Uh, yeah [laughter] I mean, the dust comes in from the side,
Story of my life
but wipe it down with a wet rag to give the clean. And usually twice, once or twice a year, I'll wipe down the stainless steel with a really like a food grade oil.
Oh right, okay
Which I've somehow stumbled across at Ikea of all places,
Oh right, love Ikea
Because it's a thin and food grade, you know, it's not like a, an olive oil or something like that, which is going to go rancid over time
Yeah, sure. There's a very fine, very fine is it?
Okay. All right, yeah.
New Speaker (00:06:13):
So that keeps it clean and looking brand new.
Speaker 1 (00:06:15):
So Adrian is, is it a portable or fixed oven you've you've ended up with
Yeah, it's actually a portable and that was a, an important factor for me, like deciding to buy a wood oven is a considerable investment, especially if you're getting like one of the largest styles. So I spoke to the team at Zesti and they said that they can design me custom stand on industrial casters.
So if I ever decide to move house, the oven's coming with me.
Yea, so that's a huge plus aye, I mean, is your oven portable in the sense that you can move it around your house if you wanted to, or is it the chimney up through your roof or how,
Yea I've got it installed in place. So like you said, the chimney is going through the roof, but as it, as it comes, you could have have it anywhere. So, you know, we live around anywhere.
Yeah. And, and so the big, heavy casters is, so I think, well it looks pretty heavy. We'll talk about the specs of it later, but yeah, that's one disadvantage I've got with my oven. Probably the only one, but, it's here forever. Yeah. It's not coming with me, but yeah, I can build another one.
Would you go through the process of building another one?
Oh, that's a good question. Uh, yeah, absolutely. I was talking to my wife the other day about, the projects that I seem to land myself in and I actually really enjoy the building process. I'm quite a creative and probably fair to say I enjoy building these things just as much as, as using them. I spend a lot of time when I build it, thinking about how I'm going to use it. Uh, so yeah, I was saying to the manufacturer the other day that I actually missed the building process.
So yes on the next house, I've already told my wife. Yeah, you need to budget that again. And yeah, yeah. Anyway, we'll work on that
An important thing for me, like you said, you know, how are you going to use the oven was like, I need to be able to use it all year round.
I don't want to not light the oven because it's cold or raining or anything like that.
So that's why I decided to build it under the main roof of the house.
And I closed off the area with retractable blinds. So I've essentially built myself another room.
That's a great idea, yea
Yea, so when it's four degrees and raining in the middle of winter, I'm still running around in short sleeves because its keeping in the heat,
Adelaide gets so cold.
Oh my God. To be fair though, Adelaide actually, uh, it's either really hot or it's really cold, but yeah
We do have the, in between days
Oh you do, in fact, I was there for work not long ago and it was a beautiful mid twenties day. So, and I've got a soft spot for Adelaide. It's a gorgeous place that you have down there.
Yeah. So, because I wanted to put the other under the main roof of the house, weight became a consideration. And I was really nervous about putting a four or five ton oven, you know, by the time you put the stand and then the oven on top. I was just worried about that on the side or on the edge of my Alfresco area.
So even with some of the lighter ovens, you know, somewhere, something around the one ton, they didn't really cater for all of the other things which I was looking for. And, you know, I probably could have got an engineer to come out, survey the area and say, yep, yes or no.
But, in the end, the Zesti's at 1100, which weighs in at about 240 kilos.
Wow that's great, yeah that's brilliant, yeah
And with the stand you're probably looking at about 350,
Ah, thats brilliant
So weight was no longer an issue.
So what is it a custom stand or do they, do they do that as stock? What was the process?
They do both.
So they've actually got a couple of different models and I think in the past year or two, they've released a more condensed stance, so you can put it on the standard bench space
Right. Okay. Yep. So you can build your own kitchen bench and okay. Yeah. Gotcha.
I basically just whipped up something together in AutoCAD, told them, told them the height, the width and everything that needed to be.
Oh wow, okay
And yeah, it wasn't a problem for them
So was that standard, was that stainless standard? Is that what they've made it from?
Yup or the frame of the stand is all stainless steel, the same as the top part,
but the, all the doors and the sides are, powder-coated the same color as the dome
All right, so the frame itself is stainless. Yep. Got that. What about the doors at the front of the base? What have you done with that?
Yea so the, both of the doors at the base and the two side panels are actually the same powder-coated color as the dome itself.
Which is a black Onyx Pell finish, which looks great under different lighting conditions.
It's beautiful. I've had a look on your feed and it really does look gorgeous. It's a beautiful oven
Yeah. Not to mention, it's like a high gloss finish as well. So I find that the high-gloss really compliments the stainless steel.
Yep. And do you keep your wood in the section under the other oven behind the doors?
No I don't. Actually built a small section off to the side, which, just got some cabinetry, which I'll put together and I'll just stack it in under there. Basically I keep most of my sometimes tools inside of the oven.
Yeah right, okay good idea. Yeah I'm struggling for a bit of a shelf space with mine, all of my under oven is taken up with my ironbark. So,
And you don't find it difficult with a rain getting to it?
No. So I've built a wooden doors over the front. The design of the base it has about, because probably about 15 centimeters rise from the patio. So there's a bit of a lip into it. So, no my patio could flood and no water would, get under the base. In terms of rainwater, no, I've never had never had an issue with rain getting in,
In behind the doors, into the, into the wood. It's nice and cozy under there for it. So it gets nice and warm.
So tell me a little bit about your warmup in your cool-down times.
Yeah. So obviously, you know, you, you look at all the aesthetics and all that type of gear, and then you get down to, you know, the functional aspect of the wood oven. So the warmup times are pretty quick for the Zesti oven. It usually takes about 60 to 90 minutes to get up to pizza temperature.
What! So what we are talking in, what 400 odd degrees or something plus where you cook it.
And you know, that was also important because if you want to do something spur of the moment you do have that option, you know, it's going to take an hour to get up to throwing a roast in or something like that. So, I didn't want to spend two and a half hours just to turn the oven on, then let something cook for another 2 hours.
Yea sure, and what about your cool-down? How long will you retain heat last?
It's not too bad. It usually calls down by about 20 hours from my experience. So, but that all depends on how hot you have the oven and you know, what time do you shut down the oven the night before
Yeah, I mean, 20 hours. That's really respectable though. And that gives you a lot of latitude the second day to do all sorts of cooking in your oven.
Yeah. Tell me a little bit about some of the other specs of your oven, the size of the floor. Some of the other bits that we haven't discussed.
Yea okay. So immediately there's the aesthetics. So you've got all of the stainless steel is 3 16 Marine grade, which is corrosion resistant. So you are protected from the elements, even in coastal areas. And then you've got the, alloy dome capping, which is as we already discussed customizable.
So you can pick from a whole stack of different powder-coated finishes. So like I said, I went with the Onyx black appeal, but, you can also go with, you know, bright reds and yellows and blues and greens, you know, whatever's going to suit your area
Yeah. Did you have to wait long after ordering it for it to turn up?
I ordered it just before Christmas. So it was around about a month, but that was because of the Christmas break and all that type of thing as well. So I don't know what it's like post COVID.
Yeah gosh yea,
It wasn't, it wasn't too bad.
So you've had it two or three years now haven't you I think.
Yeah I think it was about 2018 I got it
Yeah, so tell me a little bit about the actual internal dome itself.
Yeah, so the internal dome is actually a single piece, 18 mil thick refractory dome. And that's reinforced with stainless steel needles
for additional strength.
But, the dome is actually wrapped in a 50 mil fiber ceramic blankets for installation. And I think that's rated up to about 250 degrees. In fact, the blanket is the only thing between the refractory dome and the alloy cap. And I think you'd be amazed how cool the dome is to touch to cook.
So have you ever done temperature checks on that? I know with my oven, we've got a couple of layers of this blanket underneath the render dome. And if that oven is 450 degrees inside, it's, it's sitting at about, I dunno, 25 degrees on the exterior of the oven, if that, when I shoot the infrared thermometer at it. It's amazing. Yeah.
I probably should have done a test for this in preparation for the podcast.
I do remember I did check that when I first got the oven and at a guess, I want to say it was around 40 degrees.
Yeah sure yeah. These modern ovens though, I mean, they're amazing, the insulation is incredible.
Yeah absolutely. So the dome sits on 25 mil refractory Fibrex, try saying that five times fast.
[laughter] Thats a it's a tricky one
And, that actually comes in quite handy because like, as we discussed, there's not as much thermal mass as some of the thicker bricks. So it heats up a lot quicker.
And also due to the way that heat works, you know, the transfer of heat from hot surfaces to cold surfaces, the 25 mil bricks also allow the oven to quickly recover from cold spots, caused by placing a cast iron pot or baking trays and all that type of thing, even pizzas.
Draw heat from the bricks. So I do find that the thinner bricks do help in the heat recovery.
Yeah. That's interesting. Yeah. Right. And what do they rest on the bricks or is it straight onto the bench or what do they do there at the manufacturr?
No so they've got a 60 mil ISO board, which is essentially a compressed ceramic installation material and that insulates, whatever is underneath, up to about 1,260 degrees I think it is.
It's incredible isn't it? What about the size of the actual working surface inside the oven?
Yeah so the oven floor is about 800 mil wide by a thousand mil deep.
That's interesting actually, because that's very similar to mine, which is about 105 centimeters in diameter. Yeah.
Okay. So is that internal width?
Yeah, that's the internal, yeah. As far as I'm aware of that, it's the, yeah, I think it is. I'm fairly certain, it's the don't quote me, it's the working surface, I think, but, you know, it's, I like the width, like yourself, you know, I like to put lots of stuff in there. Have plenty of room to move around as well. I find the more room you've got, the more hot and cold zones you've got to play with in the oven.
And their versatility is really great so
Yeah, I mean, having the footprint of the actual oven itself is, or the custom stands that zesty built for me was 1200 by 1200 mil.
So and because I've got it under the Alfresco area, I was, you know, I didn't want it to take up too much real estate. So, you know, when I was looking at the different ovens I could purchase, I didn't want to get something which is too big, but so it was sort of a happy medium between the larger and smaller ones,
But looking at your pictures and looking at some of the ridiculously lovely pizzas that you've got inside there [laughter], it does appear that you've got a fair amount of working surface inside that oven though
Yeah, you do. So, I mean, when I'm cooking pizzas, the fire's always off to the side, but whenever I'm cooking your roasts and stuff, the fire's at the back. So I can slide trays in and out. In fact, that was one of the nice things about the oven as well. The mouth of the oven is actually 575 mil wide. So if you've got two pans, which are, you know, 25 centimeters, each it's quite easy to slide them in and out and manage your temperatures.
Yeah. That's, that's interesting. I'd be interested on your view on this. I had a podcast listener, email me a couple of weeks back, and he was asking about the pros and cons of having the fire located at different positions in the oven. And I gave him a response really in with regard to the experience I've got with my round oven, but I'd be interested in your thoughts on the fire placement in your oven, where you tend to do it. You've mentioned you have it on the side. What about when you're cooking other things? Do you find that you always have a fire in the same position, or do you mix that around?
The only two positions I use is the side for pizza and that's because every Pizzaiolo that I follow has on the side,
[laughter] Yea I know, it's on us to do something different. Yeah I know
Yea exactly, but whenever I cook roasts and all that type of thing, the fire is always at the back, because having the fire so close to the mouth of the oven, it means that you're not going to get that variable temperature range by moving the trays in and out. So I would always have the fire at the back when cooking anything, but pizza.
Yeah. And that is generally what I do as well. I think from a purely romantic perspective where I've got my oven positioned if I have the fire at the back of the oven, I can go back onto the deck, sit in my chair, drink a glass of red wine and see the fire. But if it's not, if it's off to the side, I can't see it. So for me, I love looking at the thing as well [laughter]
I know where you're coming from with that
Fairly addicted to fire. Now there's talk about pros and cons of your oven.
Yeah. Well, look, I don't like to do pros and cons because what's important to me isn't important to everyone else.
And vice versa, like would I recommend Zesti wood-fired ovens to other people, 100% with one small caveat.
Don't expect the Zesti domestic ovens to have the same heat retention as a full brick oven in locking it in. Now we briefly mentioned this earlier,
the thermal mass between the two are not the same. So you can't expect the same performance. It's not a fair shootout.
Not, it's not is it, no agreed,
But, does the oven have good heat retention? Absolutely. Like if I shut the oven down after night cooking pizza, when I wake up in the morning, the oven is still be about 220 ish.
You can, you can throw a roast in, and then by the evening, the oven is probably going to be at about 70 degrees. In fact, the couple of times where I've cooked like a lamb shoulder.
Oh I love it
in another low and slow style, I've put the lamb shoulder into the oven, first thing in the morning, and didn't even look at it until about 6:30 [laughter], and the bone came out clean, so success
I think that's genius. I think for folks who might be listening to the show, haven't got a wood-fired oven, I would imagine that they are thinking of getting a wood-fired oven, probably primarily for pizza, but there is so much that you can do with these ovens and day two cooking day, three cooking even is some really exciting times to use this retain heat.
I know where you're coming from, but I like I live on my own and whenever I have a pizza night, the entire Saturday is just a mess. [collecitve laughter] I'm doing the shopping, I'm chopping the wood,
Yeah busy right
I'm preparing the ingredients and the laptop thing. And then, you know, as the pizza night goes on, you're having a few wines
You wake up Sunday morning, hung over.
Yea thats right [collective laughter]
I don't even want to think about cooking in there anymore.
Well there you go, okay. Fair enough too.
So yeah, like, I mean, that's, that's another thing like for me cooking on the second and third day, wasn't really an issue.
Right so that wasn't a priority for you, cool
Yeah not at all
But it's a nice to have option to cook for the next day, but not essential.
Okay good. Let's talk about wood. Do you have a preferred wood that you like to use, do you mix it up depending on what you're doing in the oven? What do you do?
Yeah absolutely. Absolutely. I actually use two types of woods. So red gum is quite easy to find in south Australia.
So that's my, that's my staple.
New Speaker (00:22:45):
Your go to
Yeah. I use it for absolutely everything. And the other one I use is olive wood and quite fortunate that a friend of mine has a family farm. So every now and again, when they prune the olive trees, he'll bring me a couple of boxes of olive wood.
Okay. I'm a bit jealous now.
I only use the olive wood when I cook pizzas because I find that the olive wood seems to have a higher intensity flame, which is ideal for a good crust and char on the pizzas.
That is interesting.
But as soon as the pizzas are done, I switched back to the red gum.
So, I use iron bark. Now I have actually tried red gum. It's pretty hard to get red gum up here in Queensland. And for those who don't know Australia too well, south Australia, Adelaide Queensland, they're certainly not the same place with regard to climate and iron barkers is certainly easier for me to get. I've got used to ironbark, I've been using it now for a couple of years. It's super hot and produces such little ash at the end of the night. I really love it, but the one downside of ironbark is, I get splinters and I used to get really bad splinters and it doesn't matter if I'm chopping my wood, which I hate chopping wood. But if I'm reaching under the oven, when it's dark to get a new piece of wood to put on the fire, if I'm not wearing my gloves, as I'm sliding my hand into grab the piece of wood, I'm going to get these damn things in my fingers. And two weeks ago, I got such a deep splinter I ended up at the doctor to try and get it out.
He couldn't get it out. He yeah, he just said, look, I can give you an injection. I said, no, you're not. So he said, well, you're just going to have to wait for it to work its way up. It took two weeks to work its way out.
And it would have been total length about eight mil. It was, it was, it was terrible. Anyway, enough of my story. Splinters, do you get it with red gum? And do you find that it's a splintery wood?
I find I get more or I'm pretty lazy, so I don't wear gloves at all.
[laughter] You're a brave man Adrian, I don't know how you do that, seriously, I'm wearing welders gloves, welders gloves!
It's a rite of passage I feel like if you don't get splinters you haven't earned it and just drives. But I find that I'll get more splinters when I'm actually chopping the wood as opposed to using it.
So whenever I get like a dozen splinters in my hands, at least it's all in one day and then I spend the next few hours picking them all out
Yeah, your lazy Sunday after your pizza
Pretty much and in fact, I'm actually going to get some tomorrow as well.
[laughter] Ah right okay
So I'll let you know how that goes.
Great. So talking about cutting wood. Yeah. It's not my favourite pastime. How do you go about doing it?
Well we don't all have triple cut logs like you guys in Queensland
[laughter] Oh thats gold mate. Yeah. Okay. I am a bit lucky there.
Yeah so I usually go down to the local Depot and hand pick them.
I specifically look for logs that don't need a lot of splitting.
If I do need to split them, it's only going to be a one-off. So hand picking them is highly recommended in my book, if you've got the option too yeah.
So what sort of quantities are you? Are you purchasing at a time?
It depends if I can steal the Ute from my dad.
or if I'd have to go down to my own car, if I get the ute, I'll try to load it up as much as possible.
But if I'm putting it in the back of my car and probably getting maybe a hundred kilo at a time.
Okay. Yeah, that's good. So are they selling it by the hundred kilo blocks or how does the Depot sell it?
At the place that I go, you basically drive onto the tray, weigh the car before and after
Okay. Now that's nice and simple. Sure. Yeah. Okay. So if you do have to split it, when you get home, are you using an axe, what are you, what are you doing?
I've actually got a unique little device called a kindling cracker. It's actually a cast iron unit, which has a splitting wedge that points up and that's set inside of a safety ring. So to split a piece of wood, you placed the wood inside of the safety ring. So it's resting on top of the splitting wedge and then you just strike it with a sledgehammer and the wood actually falls away either side of the wedge. So I basically got sick and tired of using a normal sledgehammer and then have logs flying towards my shins.
And that hurts right, that really hurts.
Yeah it really does
Yeah, I see that the kindling cracker was made by the Kiwi's! Go the Kiwi's.
Yeah it was!
How good is that? Yeah [laughter]
Yeah I know, and I'm not a hundred percent sure on this, but I think the story goes, the concept of, it was actually a science project by a young school girl.
and her dad was an engineer who actually put it into production
Oh, that is, that's cool. So aside from your red gum and olive wood, have you tried other types of wood?
No I haven't, but I have been looking into trying other words and there's another type of word in Adelaide, which we seem to have called blue gum,
which I'm led to believe has got similar burning properties to red gum. So a similar burning temperature, a similar, you know, reduction to ash.
But I haven't tried it for myself and I'd actually be quite interested to see if anyone out there has tried it.
before as well. So save me from doing the research.
Yeah [laughter] Well if there are any listeners out there listening to this episode, you can get in touch with us at WOODFIREDOVEN.COOKING, let us know, really interested to hear what other types of wood you're using in your wood fired oven, whether you be in Australia or anywhere on the planet, we'd love to hear about that. How much wood do you think you go through on a typical Friday pizza night in terms of weight? Have you got a sense about that?
No, I've got no idea to be honest.
Like would it be a couple of beer box size, something like that, or,
Because of got a cabinet, which is full of wood essentially. I'm just picking them off in pieces as, as needed. I usually use one bit of wood per pizza.
I always try to keep the flame going.
Yeah, yup. So you're not sure
Sure to be honest. I couldn't tell you
I think I'd probably go through maybe 30 if I was doing pizza and I wanted to get the oven really hot for another couple of days, retain heat cooking. I'd probably go through 30 to 40 kilos of wood. Which sounds a lot, but actually iron bark really heavy, you know, it's a
Yeah. But you've also got the larger oven as well.
So that's going to take a lot, a lot more time to heat up.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And actually it's a good point. It probably takes me about two and a half hours to get it to temp.
So it does take a while, but you know, if I'm putting that on, early mid afternoon, I just sit in front of the oven on a Saturday afternoon and yeah, just drink wine. It's pretty good.
[collective laughter] Good way to spend the afternoon
Yeah, it is. It's great. Okay. Let's talk pizza.
Now clearly you're amazing at cooking pizza,
You're too kind
No well, not really because for those of you who aren't yet following Adrian on Instagram and you should be by now, if you're listening to this podcast, your pizzas really are quite stunning. Let's have a bit of a chat. Talk to me about the journey you've gone through to get to this stage of your, of your cooking.
Well, my first, some of my first memories of pizza was mum making some homemade pizzas inside of the Weber (BBQ). So I guess that's where my fascination with pizza may have started, but in about 2015, my parents bought a wood oven as well. And that sort of.
Is that Zesti as well?
Funny, you mentioned it. Yes, it is
Ah good stuff, wow, very good
New Speaker (00:30:21):
Yes it is. Yeah. So that's where my obsession started with wood ovens. So the first pizza night comes around and it's like, okay, mom, teach me your recipe.
And my background is Italian heritage.
Ah, now I wondered that Adrian, I wondered that. Yeah, very good. Can I ask a little seg-way, whereabouts in Italy I love Italy, Roman history for me is fabulous. Where abouts?
Yeah. So my mum is from Benevento, which is just outside of Napoli. And my dad is from Ascoli, which is sort of mid Italy, but on the Eastern side
Right. Just a little segue. I just love Italy. Our family has visited Italy a number of times. We particularly like Verona. I love my opera, go to the Arena di Verona Northern Italy. And it's just such a magic place. Love, love, Italy.
'Vita bene' (Live well)
Yeah, it's gorgeous. So, right. So your mum was cooking pizza in the Weber (BBQ) oven and so you're trying to duplicate her recipes, how'd that go
Now anyone who has an Italian mother would know that there are no recipes.
[laughter] Ah there you go
I basically got the ingredients and I said, okay, here are the ingredients, go ahead and make it. And I'm sitting there with my notebook taking, you know, how much flour using this. And they turned my back to walk away and all of a sudden mom's added more water or whatever. And it's like what did yu just do there?
[laughter] Ah bravo
It was, it was interesting [laughter]. So because she made that dough turned out, fantastic.
Yeah, of course.
Yeah. Then, you know, fast forward a month or two, and I have my first pizza night at their house. So I invite my friends around.
and mum and dad went out of town. So I had the oven to myself, so.
[laughter] No stress,
[laughter] No stress. So I try to reproduce the recipe and failed miserably. [laughter] This thing was hard as a rock.
Yeah. It was unusable.
[laughter] Oh no
And obviously, you know, being a first timer, I've got no idea how to correct any of this.
So I quickly just jumped online, looked up pizza recipe, because meanwhile I've got guests arriving in four hours.
And the fans of Jamie Oliver recipe.
Ah genius, lovely
And this was like a two to three hour process from needing to cook.
So I followed the recipe and sure enough, it got me through the night.
Oh good, good plan B!
So yeah, just number one, I started to do a few more pizza nights here and there. And you know I started to learn a little bit more and I was actually talking to a restaurant owner and he said for immediate improvements, look for good quality flour.
So he recommended two types Le 5 Staggione and Caputo. So he goes, if you use any of those, I guarantee you, without changing any of the rest of your recipe, you're going to notice improvements.
And sure enough, he was right.
Interesting. Can you pronounce the first one again? Adrian?
Le 5 Staggione. So the five stages I think translates to
Right, okay, sure. So do you order this online? Have you got a local supplier? I mean, Adelaide full of foodies
Yeah, there's local supplies in most places, but I think if you want some of the fanciest stuff, you do need to get an account with a distributor.
For the stuff which I use, its all local
Yeah, that makes sense, and so that made a big difference, yeah.
Just playing with these different, interesting. Yeah right, okay,
So after a while, I've started to find that the dough was very yeasty. And, you know, when you, considering your making dough in three hours, you're using large quantities of yeast.
So I began to do some research and the more I researched there's just like hundreds of different recipes and they all claim to do things, you know, the world's best recipe,
But why are they all different? And that's one thing that sort of stuck with me and I really wanted to like nail down why these were all different. So a couple of things I picked up one was how to scale recipes by using Baker's percentages.
Okay. So what are Baker's percentages?
So essentially it's a method used to maintain consistency for a recipe at any scale. So it doesn't matter if you're making one kilo of dough or 20 kilos, but the first and most crucial thing about Baker's percentages that you need to be aware of is everything is measured by weight.
You know, cups, teaspoons and tablespoons are not accurate measurements.
So like, even with liquids, we weigh the liquids as well.
Really?! Okay, sure
So even for like, for instance, you've got water and oil, you know, a cup of water and a cup of oil was going to be the same amount,
but they both have different weights, they've got different densities.
So everything we do is weight.
Speaker 1 (00:35:25):
Okay, an you think that really does improve your consistency with your results?
Yeah, a hundred percent.
Because you know, the weight of something is never going to change.
So, you know, if I weigh something at my house or at your house,
It's always going to weight the same. If I get a cup of flour at your house and a cup of flour at my house, the cups we use, the volumes will be different.
Yep, sure, okay. So you need a pretty good scale then [laughter]
Yeah, absolutely. So since we're all home cooks, we're going to be dealing with small quantities of things. So you may also need to invest in a jeweler scale.
Okay, what's a jeweler scale?
So it's basically a scale that's capable of measuring small quantities, approximately like 0.1 of a gram.
What! That's tiny.
Yeah, well when you consider how much yeast we're using in some of these recipes, especially for really small quantities, you need that type of accuracy.
So you're talking minuscule weights of yeast, are you?
Right. Cause it's going to multiply it to bacteria, it's living. Yeah right, gotcha
And I mean, you can find these things on eBay for about 15, 20 dollars
Can you? Okay. Do you want to walk us through an example of using these bakers percentages? That might help to unpack it and make it a little easy to understand?
Yeah, sure. So Baker's percentages are percentages given to every ingredients in the recipe with respect to the total weight of flour that we use.
So for example, let's use a thousand grams of flour.
So flour is always the key ingredient. Everything else is going to reference the flour.
The flour, gotcha.
So the flour is always 100%. So 100% of a thousand grams of flour is 1000 grams.
Let's say we want a hydration or water content of 65%. 65% of a thousand grams of flour is 650 grams of water.
Okay, I see what you're doing, yup
So if we go onto salt, we want a salt content of 2.5%, 2.5% of 1000 grams of flour is 25 grams of salt.
And with yeast, and this is why we need the jeweler scale,
Let's say we want 0.1% yeast. 0.1% of a thousand grams of flour is one gram of yeast.
Yeah, that's nothing. You could never do that with a teaspoon.
[laughter] No you can't
There's just no way. I see what you're saying. So by working with percentages, you can scale that up to different weights of flour. So, yeah. Gotcha. I see,
So now, if you're doing 20 kilos of flour or you scale it down to 500 grams of flour, those percentages are always the same. You just multiply it to whatever the weight of the flour is,
So that way you can get your consistency.
So another one of the key things that I learned when I start going down these rabbit holes was the relationship between yeast time and temperature.
And there was actually a forum post that I found where one of the moderators did some amazing work in calculating the theoretical fermentation times for different temperatures and yeast quantities.
And that's basically where my spreadsheet was born.
[laughter] Okay, hang on. So you've drafted up a spreadsheet to do all the hard work for you. That's pretty hardcore, Adrian.
[laughter] Yeah, well like I said before I don't do things by halves
It doesn't sound like it. Okay. So your computer is controlling your pizza.
[laughter] Yeah, pretty much.
I love it.
Welcome to the matrix.
Yeah [laughter] And there's another one coming out I hear, that's great news.
Yeah I heard that, Well I copied all of this data into the spreadsheet.
And then I was just by using some basic maths and some complex formulas, I can essentially punch in the number of dough balls I want to make, the weight of each ball, the Baker's percentages that I want to use for my recipe, what type of yeast I'm going to be using for my recipe.
The temperature that the dough will be fermenting at, as well as the time I need to make the dough.
Wow, that's great.
As I'm entering all of these parameters, it just spits out exactly what I need to do.
That's genius. That must save a lot of time though, and I guess for consistency, like you say, you are going to get consistent results cause you're doing the same things the same way every single time.
Yeah, absolutely. And like, I find that I'm quite open about giving out the recipes and the things that I've learned for that matter. Like if you ask me as, you know, we're having this conversation, I'm giving you pretty much details that the spreadsheet will pump out for me. But nobody gets access to the spreadsheet.
Ooo it's secret
It's under lock and key.
It's Adrian's secret sauce. And that is fair enough. I'm a little bit like that with my cheesemaking. I've got these run sheets and you know, that, that is kind of Mark's secret little formula to how I make my Stilton or yeah.
Have you tried Mozzarella?
Yes. Yeah, I have
I think that needs to be an episode,
[laughter] Funny, you mentioned that, episode 15, no, it is planned for a future one. I've done the mozzarella two ways. Obviously cow's milk mozzarella, but I've done a 30 minute mozzarella, which is dead easy to make, it's all online. But if you want to take it a little more seriously, it's an all day event. It usually takes me about seven or eight hours for the whole process of the mozzarella.
But man, and the reason that you do the long version, as opposed to the short version is the acid development. It's slightly more acidic, the longer the process. And it's amazing. Like I kid you not actually any home cheese that you make, if you know what you're doing, you're following a nice run sheet with a spreadsheet, and yet you spit the same thing out every time, you do get consistent results. The great thing about mozzarella is you can freeze it. So when I make it, I've got a big 24 liter VAT that I make it in.
And it makes a lot of mozzarella.
And then we bag it up and we freeze it and it will thaw out beautifully. And then it goes on top of the pizza. In fact I've still got some in the freezer, I think from about seven months ago.
And if we brought that out it would still be stunning. Yeah. It's great stuff. So, you should try making some mozzarella, Adrian.
It is on the list of things to try
Ah look, you know, with all of these things, you know, the way I look at it is the information is all out there.
You just need to go searching for it.
You know, there's lots of like, even these days, there's lots of apps you can use to calculate pizza recipes, or you can go onto online calculators. But I found that by doing the research and the maths, and, you know, all the spreadsheets, apart from the work that the guy in the moderator on that forum did, it really did help me to learn a lot more about what I'm doing and the process involved.
Gotcha, right, okay. So, your pizza journey
Yeah, so in about 2018, that's when I bought the Zesti wood-fired oven
And that's when the pizzas started to become more frequent. So each pizza cook was an experiment with different hydration, different fermentation times, different salt measurements. So basically trying to hone in on what I liked. And in 2019, I went to go visit my cousins in Perth.
And one of them, there is a crazier pizza guy than I am.
So he introduced me [inaudible] Okay, yeah so he introduced me to the concept of contemporary Neapolitan pizza and pre-fermented dough, and I had no idea what this was at the time.
Yeah right, me neither
Basically there's two methods that you could use Biga and Poolish. And, you know, probably most listeners these days would have heard them, or maybe seen them online. But for those who haven't Biga preferment is a dry 45 to 50% hydrated flour.
And what happens is the next day you complete the dough by adding all the missing water content and salt.
Where with Poolish, the Poolish pre-ferment is 100% hydrated flour, and you complete the dough by adding the missing flour and salt.
Okay. That's interesting. So the only difference between the Biga and the Polish is the hydration amount, essentially.
Yeah as far as I can tell, yeah
So I make a ciabatta bread. It's an average one, it's okay. The family likes it, kids like it. So that's a tick, but I make the Polish the day before,
And that does have equal quantities of, I'm looking at my run sheet here for my ciabatta bread [laughter]. It's got equal quantities, ah yeah. That's got a thousand grams of flour and a thousand grams of water. Yeah, right.
Yeah, so there's your hundred percent hydration, pre-ferment,
You're already halfway there [laughter]
Yeah, well it would be nice if it was a little better, but hey, all these things are working progress aren't they.
Yeah, it's a lot of fun to make, and it is a pretty difficult, well I find it being so wet the next day, it is pretty hard to handle.
Yeah. Well, it's funny you say that because sometimes that could just be, improved by using different types of flour.
And I'll come back to that in a second.
There was a YouTube channel called Italia Squisita
Oh, love them! Love them! They're great.
Oh you know them?!
Yeah. Well, I've watched a few of their episodes [laughter], they're great!
Yeah, I love them. I found them great for Italian cooking.
and they're really informative and detailed in certain parts, but in the early days they didn't have subtitles. And my Italian is nowhere near as good as it used to be [laughter]. So I pick up on every like few words, and it's usually enough to piece together what I need to do, but there's always a couple of key details that I was missing out on. And, you know, once they started adding the subtitles and that's when I found all the pieces starting to fall into place. Cause there's all the information that I was missing out on.
So basically from that website, I learnt about the proteins and flour as well as something called the W factor
Speaker 1 (00:45:18):
W factor? Right
Yeah, so the W, now I'm not going to pretend to know a lot about this, but essentially the W factor is a measurement of the gluten strength of the dough.
So the higher the W the stronger, the gluten.
You hear people talk about like strong flours.
It's because of this doubling factor. So a higher W, will have a higher strength, gluten, and most high quality Italian flours, will have data sheets online where you can actually look this up.
Ah right, that is pretty hardcore. Yeah.
I mean, you won't find that for every flower.
but, at least the brands that I use, they do have it online.
And then you've got the proteins, the higher protein flours tend to lend themselves better towards longer fermentation times,
as well as better water retention.
So when you're doing those ciabatta breads, which I'm guessing somewhere around 80% hydration.
You're probably going to find it handles better because it's stronger gluten.
as well as it's handling the water better, so
Oh cool, yeah. I'll check that out.
Look into that
Yeah, good on you. Good tip there. All right, now that sounds great.
So I was making my doughs and I wasn't paying attention to any of the types of flour. I was just using the double zero standard for both steps, but from that Italian Squisita site, I learned that preferments seem to benefit from using the higher W in the higher protein content.
for the pre ferments and the lower W and lower protein contents when you complete the dough the next day,
Ah okay, that's interesting, yeah right
And another key, was the percentage of pre-ferment that you have for your dough. If the percentage is too high, you may not get the same results without introducing, some additional sugars.
So how do you go about preparing your dough then.
Okay, let me just preface this by saying I'm not a professional, I'm self-taught, I don't have all the answers.
You've got quite a few though
Yeah but I know what works for me
I mean, come on, but to be fair, your pizzas are some of the sexiest, most spectacular looking pizzas on Instagram. Seriously. There's about two profiles I go visit, and you're one of them to get my pizza fix. Seriously, [laughter] their ridiculously perfect. And, can't wait to come around to your place to try one
Thanks for the kind words. Look, you know, it's a journey. Like you start somewhere and you get somewhere else by, you know, trial and error and all that type of gear. So, but as far as the process, how do I prepare the dough, I use these days, I've been using the Biga method.
and I find it's more fragrant, digestible and the lighter on the stomach.
Okay, yeah, right
And I also find that the Biga helps to improve the gluten strength.
when you're cooking the pizza dough, the stronger gluten will try to vaporize, but that steam basically puffs up the crust, s o you get some beautiful area crusts on the sides, and I'm talking like maybe an inch thick as opposed to
you, know a centimetre or so.
Okay, so if the gluten was weak, it's just not going to create that lovely bubble, is that what you're saying?
So the stronger the gluten, the more elastic that crust bubble is, is that how it works?
Yeah, absolutely, so I'm basically trying to trap air in the crusts and not dough.
Right, okay, gotcha
So I'll put a lot of effort into trying to get that
Speaker 1 (00:48:47):
And is that tricky to hydrate?
Yeah, it is. So unless you've got a good mixer or I think they prefer to use a smaller mixer for it. You may actually find that the Poolish method is easier.
if you've just got like a smaller kitchen aid or something like that.
New Speaker (00:49:03):
Yeah, right okay
So to walk you through the process, let's assume that we're going to make five or six dough balls, each weighing about 280 grams.
And we're going to use a bigger pre-ferment of 70%
So is that the standard sort of quantity, six dough balls? Is that what you'd normally do if you're having people around?
No, I'll just use that example because that will require about a thousand grams of flour
Yeah right okay
So it's just an easier number to explain the process, on average I'll probably do 8 to 12 dough balls, whenever I do a pizza night.
Do you freeze your pizzas? Your leftovers? Do you tend to do that for your Sunday recovery? [laughter]
They do get, there's always one or two leftover and I'll usually have them during the week, bring them into work [inaudible]
[laughter] Okay, so you've talked about this 70% Biga pre-ferment. Why, why 70%?
Because it will leave you with 30% flour with unfermented natural sugar.
So really it can be anything, like I'm still experimenting myself, but I find 70% really works well for me. Like it's quite common, you see people say a hundred percent Biga,
but one of the issues I seem to have had with that, is depending on how long you've fermented, the Biga for, there may be no natural sugars left in the flour for the yeast to eat. So by the time you go to make the rest of the dough balls, you're not going to get a good rise.
But there are some ways around this as well. Like I mentioned a bit earlier, like you can add a little bit of sugar or some honey or diastatic malts to give the yeast a bit more sugars to feast on.
So what's some, that's a new one for me, diastatic malt, what's that?
So it's essentially like a neutral additive,
that can introduce sugars without affecting the taste of the dough. Most likely you probably use it when you make breads or sour doughs and all that type of thing.
But I have seen people use it in pizza as well.
But I'm a bit of a purist [laughter], so unless it's one of the four key ingredients, it doesn't go in the dough [laughter].
So, for the full recipe, we go back to our bakers percentages of flour, 100%. So 100% of a thousand grams is our thousand grams of flour, but we're going to split that with our bigger percentages. So, because we're doing a bigger pre-ferment of 70%, that's going to be 700 grams of flour used for the Biga, and then we're going to complete the dough the next day using our remaining three.
Gotcha, so what type, you've tried a few things, I think, but what type of flour do you use?
Right. So, as I mentioned earlier, the preferments tend to perform better when you use a higher protein and higher W.
where, when you complete the dough, we use lower protein and lower W's.
So I use two types of flour when I make my doughs. I use Caputo Manitoba.
Which I use for the Biga, and that's Typo 0, not double zero
Not double zero, interesting
Yeah, and that's got a protein of 14.5%.
Thats high, yeah
And a W factor of 370 to 390.
So the higher, the W factor, just to confirm that's for,
For the preferment
Yeah, so that's the strength of the gluten.
The strength of the gluten
Thats quite high, gotcha
Yeah. And then to complete the dough, the next day, I'll just use Kaputo Classica, which is your typical double zero flour. It's got a protein of 11.5.
and a W somewhere around 220 to 240.
So the specs on those they're a little bit different aren't they? Okay.
Yeah quite a lot
So, when we complete the dough, the flour must always be weaker than the flour that we used in the Biga. So that was one of the keys that I picked up from the Italian Squisita Youtube page.
Right. Okay. That is interesting.
So for the hydration of the dough, I've been using 70% hydration, so 70% of a thousand grams of flour, 700 grams of water,
Are you using tap water, or are you using a bond filtered tap,
Filtered, tap water.
Gotcha. Yep. Okay. All right.
So that water is actually split to 50% hydrate the Biga. So this is where the maths sort of starts to get a bit out of control.
So 350 grams, of water or beef for our Biga and the other 350 grams of the 700 total will go towards completing our dough.
So just a side note though, if you're starting out, higher hydration doughs are difficult to handle. So, you know, I recommend working your way up to it. Start out with 60 to 75%.
until you're more comfortable.
Thats a good tip, sure
Yeah, so then we get onto the salt content and you won't need this until the second stage when we complete the dome. But I use about 2.3%.
What type of salt, Adrian, do you use? Are you using flaky salt? Dissolves easier? What, do you use?
Just sea salt
Just standard crystalized sea salt.
Nothing special. Just run of the mill.
Okay. Your sure your spreadsheet spits that out for you. It's just standard run of the mill [laughter]. Just standard run of the mill salt.
It just says salt [laughter]
Not pink Himalayan, nothing. Okay. Nothing special.
Actually there are a couple of people I've seen use it. I haven't tried it for myself, but
Is that right there, ah there you go.
Probably worth a go.
I like to have the salt a little bit lower than the standard 2.5%, but that's purely by personal taste.
And I find that if you do have pizzas, like the next day, sometimes 2.5 to 3% salt is a bit too salty. You don't taste it at the time you pull it out of the oven. You can taste it after.
Speaker 1 (00:54:48):
Ah, is that right? Okay, yeah right.
I like to keep it at about 2.3.
So 2.3% of a thousand grams of flour, 23 grams of salt.
Now for preferments 70% or above. Typically, I like to add all of the bigger in one hit.
However, when you do pre-ferments less than 70%, I like to split the yeast in proportion to the bigger percentage.
Okay. So why would you just put the yeast into both stages of making the dough like that?
Because this way we can avoid the full amount of yeast over fermenting, smaller quantities of flour, and that can become quite acidic.
Thats genius, right
And you know, this isn't anything that I've read anywhere, it's just something I've learned from personal experience, but when you think about it, it sort of makes logical sense.
Yeah thats clever, it does. Yep. Gotcha.
And the other thing is like, you also need to be aware of what type of yeast that you're using.
So not all yeasts, are the same, you know, so for my recipes, if you're going to be using fresh yeast, I'll use 0.3% of a thousand grams of flour, which is three grams of fresh yeast.
Active, dry yeast is about 0.1, 3% of a thousand grams of flour, which is 1.3 grams.
And if you're using instant yeast, I would use 0.1% of a thousand grams of flour, which is one gram.
Yeah. Right. Okay. So you definitely need to know a little bit about the different yeasts that are available I guess, if you're going to pull this thing off. So for the benefit of some of the listeners who might not know about the different types of yeast, what is essentially is the difference between active, dry yeast and instant yeast?
Well, apart from the instant yeast slot being slightly more powerful, the active yeast needs to be activated. So you dissolve it in water. Sometimes you might try to balloon that a little bit with a little bit of flour, but usually I just dissolve it straight into the water
where instant yeast can just be thrown directly into a dry mix.
Speaker 1 (00:56:50):
Ah okay. Straight with the flour. Okay. Well then that's a really great breakdown on the recipe. Let's talk a little bit about the process. Cause I mean, I guess that's equally as important.
Yeah, so let's say I plan on cooking pizzas at 7:00 PM on a Saturday night, that's the target point for my dough to be fully fermented and ready to use.
So the process actually starts at about 6:00 PM on Friday night.
So you rewind the clock. Yeah, gotcha
Yeah, so that's when I begin to prepare all the ingredients as to make the Biga. So like we just discussed earlier, I've got 700 grams of flour, 350 grams of water and three grams of fresh yeast.
Ah, okay. So I picked up that before, so you are using fresh yeast. Where on earth do you get fresh yeast from? I can't, seriously I can't find it anywhere. I mean, maybe it's a Brisbane thing. I dunno. We're not quite as foodie as Adelaide.
I think you might be surprised most supermarkets will have it, especially if they've got a deli section,
Yeah so, but I do find that you do need to ask for it.
So you're saying I'm not looking hard enough
Or you're just not asking [laughter] one of the two.
I didn't know that though. That's interesting. Okay.
But it does look odd when you walk into somewhere and ask for like 10 grams of yeast and they charge you like 20 cents for it [laughter]
Is it? So thats interesting, so you can, you can pick and choose. So do, do you get it from Coles? Is that where you're getting it from?
We've got a place here called Tony and Marks, which is a fruit and veg type of place. And we also have, Foodlands, which is your general supermarket. We would get all of our groceries and they have it as well.
Ah, okay. Well that is really great to know because you know, you just have to go to pretty much any channel on YouTube and you know, most of them are using fresh yeast. I'm a bit jealous cause I haven't tried it, but I do love working with yeast, but
Well, the one thing that I don't, that annoys me about fresh yeast is that they're highly perishable. So you're buying it every time you want to make dough.
Oh are you?
So if you do want to be making dough every weekend, it may actually be a benefit to you switch over to either active, dry or instant yeast,
because you've always, you'll always have it on hand and it'll last a few months.
Ah, okay, so there are some benefits with not being a hundred percent pure.
[laughter] Okay, right
To begin the process, I'll get my bowl full of the 700 grams of flour and then I'll dissolve the yeast into the water, and then I'll slowly pour the water into the flour, but don't add it all at once. I mix it slowly with a spoon. Yup. And once that little bit of water has been absorbed, then I'll continue to add more water to the mix and continue to stir until all of the water is absorbed in usually about four or five different pours.
And note that we're not actually needing the Biga, we're just simply trying to hydrate the flour.
Cause we don't want to be developing gluten at this stage. I don't know why, it's just something I read
It's too early, okay [laughter]
So once all the water has been added, I like to put a lid on the container and then shake it around for a few minutes. And this is, we can scrape down the sides and the bottom of the container with a spectacular and then just continue to shake it. And basically what we're trying to do is incorporate any loose flour that there might be
Just a silly question here, but what size container at this point are you using? Like if you're, if you've got your 12 sort of dough balls that you're preparing, are we talking a big, I mean, when you say container with flour, I'm thinking my mind, my big cheese vat type food grade, huge containers and they're big, yeah,
These don't have to be big at all,
because at the end of it, end of the day, it's not a large quantity that we're working with. And when you put all the flour into the container, you will, you'll immediately know if you need to use a bigger container or not,
because all you're going to be doing is adding water to it. So yeah. It's not going to get any more than that.
Yep, gotcha, okay
So once the Biga is complete, it should look like a stringy shaggy mess.
I've seen that on your profile, Adrian. It's pretty cool.
For some reason I only get the before shots. I always forget to take it after [laughter]
[laughter] It looks amazing though. It's not what you'd expect that it's going to turn into the most amazing looking pizza at this stage, right?
Yeah, absolutely. So I'll cover the container in cling wrap and poke a few small holes in it. And some people say to use an air tight container, but personally, I don't like to trap the carbon dioxide,
inside the container, which is caused by fermentation,
Makes sense, yup
like a little escape valve, more than anything.
And then I'll put the Biga to sleep for about 16 to 18 hours at 18 degrees Celsius, and I've emptied out the bottom shelf of my wine fridge,
[laughter] Now you're talking
[laughter] Yeah, so I can put the Biga in a container and know that there's a constant temperature of 18 degrees all year round.
Yeah. Got you. So what can we do if we don't have a wine fridge to keep it at this lovely constant temperature?
Well, before I got a wine fridge, I just used the drinks cooler or an esky
Hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on. Chilly bin, actually,
A chilly bin, is that what they're called?
that's what we call them no, no [laughter].
Hang on. So for the listeners who don't know, I'm a Kiwi, Adrian's an Ozzie, we have this interesting dialect difference between the two countries and in New Zealand we call an esky like a cooler box. We call it a chilly bin, which is pretty self descriptive. Right? It's a bin that's chilly, but over here in Australia, they call it an esky. So yeah, this whole, this whole trans Tasman things. A source of great amusement for my Ozzie work colleagues over here, but okay. So if you didn't know, if you're not in Australia or New Zealand an esky, it's a box that's cold, chilly bin, anyway. Sorry, I digress.
Alright so I'd get my chilly bin [laughter]
[laughter] Good man!
and then I'll get a frozen bottle of water and stick it in there.
And then I just got the little thermostat and actually measured what the temperature was inside.
So it took me quite a while to, you know, trialing different bottle sizes and quantities of water inside of those bottles to try to get to a temperature, which I was sort of aiming for. But once you've got that water bottle, you've got it. Every, every time you're done put it back in the freezer.
Yeah, right okay
So it was a bit of trial and error. But apart from that, if you don't have one of those, then the only other stable temperature in the house that I can think of is your oven.
Yeah good idea
Electric oven, not the wood oven.
now obviously that's with the pilot light turned off.
And I think that'll probably give you a temperature of, you know, 13 to 18 degrees.
But that's just a guess.
Yeah. That's a good idea though.
Yeah, so after lunch on Saturday, the Biga should be ready to use. So when it's fermented correctly, the Biga should actually smell sweet,
a little bit like yogurt.
Yum, yum, yum
Yeah so, and if you put your ear to it, you can actually hear it quietly crackle.
Is it talking to you?
Yeah, pretty much [laughter]
That's cool. That's great.
Yeah eat me! Do it now!
If you, if you do get the smell of acid, it means that you've left it too long, but it is still good to use.
But next time you try it either use a little bit less yeast or don't leave it as long to ferment.
It's always going to be a little bit of trial and error.
So from there I scraped the Biga out of the container and using some scissors,
I'll cut it into small pieces. Once it's fermented, it actually grows into one large, mass. And to try to hydrate that, all together in one hit is actually quite difficult. And that's why I cut it into smaller pieces. Right. Like smaller pieces are going to hydrate faster than one larger mass.
Yeah makes sense
So I placed the Biga pieces into the mixer. So we need to add the final 350 grams of cold water to get the hydration up to 70%.
But you don't want to add it all at once because the dough won't hydrate correctly, if you added too much water.
So I want to save about 50 to 70 grams of water and add that slowly a little bit later as the dough comes together.
Okay, so you mentioned cold water. Why cold water? Why not warm or tepid water?
Because we want the final temperature of the dough to be room temperature,
by the time we've finished mixing.
And the friction caused in the mixing process, whether it be by hand or using a mixer.
Will slowly increase the temperature of the dough. So if we use cold water, it helps to prevent the dough from overheating. So we're starting at a lower temperature.
Ah Gotcha. That makes sense, yeah right okay.
Yeah, so I turn the mixer onto its lowest setting.
and begin the mixing. So the dry pieces of Biga will now slowly start to break up and hydrate and the water will actually start to look Milky.
So after a few minutes, I'll add the remaining 300 grams of flour to the 700 grams that we've already used,
and there's our thousand grams of flour.
And continue to mix until the flour has been absorbed. And then we can add our 23 grams of salt and then I'll continue mixing for two or three minutes.
By this point, you should start to see the dough come together into a larger, solid mass. So now we can turn up the speed of the mixer.
Now we take the remaining 50 to 70 grams of water that we put aside, and we can slowly start to add it little bit of a time. And you'll notice that every time you add a little bit of water, the dough will break up and then reform.
Ah, that's interesting.
We continue to do this, and every time you drizzle a little bit of water, wait for the dough to fall apart, and come back together again, before you add anymore and keep doing that until all of the water has been absorbed.
So how long generally does this whole mixing process take?
Some people go by a time. So they'll say, you know, 10 to 15 minutes, other people say it goes by room temperature, 22 to 24 degrees. But personally I go by two parameters. So I'll go by the temperature of the dough being room temperature, 22 to 24 degrees, or by the mixing bowl being clean.
So a correctly kneaded dough should actually pull away from the sides of the bowl cleanly.
It shouldn't be a stickiness.
So whichever one comes first out of those two.
So what are you using to temperature check your dough?
The infrared gun.
Okay, so that's nice and easy. That's a real quick way of doing it. Yep, gotcha
So once the mixing is complete, I'll let the dough rest for an hour. Undercover. Try not to let too much air get to it and then we're ready to ball up. So I'll portion the balls into 280 grams, put them into an airtight container and let them proof for two to three hours, depending on the room temperature, if it's a hot day or not.
Okay, and are you using a proofing box for this step at all?
You mean like one of those temperature controlled chambers or just
No, like one of those stackable white dough boxes that you can get, those sort of commercial ones
Ah, okay. Yeah, I do.
I've actually got two of those commercial trays, where I can fit about 15 dough balls,
and they've got a lid to go with it,
but I've also got a couple of smaller rectangular food containers, which I just found at the local supermarket.
They're about the size of an A4 piece of paper.
and they're about maybe five to seven centimetres high.
And I find that great, cause you can actually put them inside of the fridge quite easily, if you want to use the fridge,
for part of the process.
So after about three to four hours, the dough balls should be ready and ready to cook. Now, if your guests still haven't arrived, you can put the dough balls into the fridge to stop the fermentation from continuing or overgrowing.
And slow it down. Yeah.
And that's one of the benefits of having the smaller trays. So just remember if you do put the dough balls into the fridge, take them out about half an hour beforehand to let them get back up to room temperature before using them. So finally,
you're at the time where we ready to eat and cook them, make sure you're using a nice big flame inside of the oven. You want the steam caused by cooking to get caught in that strong gluten, and that's going to give you the big, beautiful crusts full of air.
Speaker 1 (01:09:19):
Glorious! [laughter] I should add here that Adrian has very graciously allowed me to pop up this recipe on my website WOODFIREDOVEN.COOKING. That's brilliant, mate. That's a very grateful for that. Thank you for that.
Yeah, and if any of your listeners, do you want to reach out to me direct, can you follow on Facebook or Instagram. Send me a DM with your email address and I've actually prepared a stripped down spreadsheet that you can use, which should step you through pretty much everything which we've discussed. So feel free to reach out.
Speaker 1 (01:09:49):
And do do that. And if you haven't signed up while you've been listening to this podcast, head on over to Instagram right now and head over to Adrian's profile @agesfirekitchen, same on Facebook as well. You tend to use Instagram a little more these days?
Yeah, yeah I do. I rarely use the Facebook, but every now and again.
Yeah same. Yup, it's nice and easy to use. And yeah that's great. Yep. So go ahead and do that. Reach out to Adrian and he'll send you that stripped down spreadsheet. That's super generous. Talk to me about your favourite toppings.
Toppings, okay. I like the simple ones, I've got to admit the,
Speaker 1 (01:10:23):
Ah yum, yeah same
Marinara is probably my favourite at the moment.
So, you know, the sauce oregano and enough garlic to kill the vampires.
[laughter] Yeah, oh thats such a great topping mix, its great
And then like obviously the Margarita as well, fior di latte and basil, beautiful flavours
Yeah, and thats classic right. That is honestly, well, I've gone through phases actually. You know, I'm putting far too much on my pizza. The margarita I man, that's where it's at for me at the moment, particularly if you can get some really nice tomatoes, you know, tomato sauce for the base, beautiful,
really, really beautiful. Do you grow your own Basil?
I have in the past, I haven't, I didn't grow it last year, no I did grow it last year. Come to think of it. It was the year before that I didn't,
but I've actually toyed around with growing some San Marzano tomatoes as well. So I managed to get my hands on a couple of seeds and I've had mixed success.
Some years they've been good, and some years they've been pretty average, but I've managed to keep the seeds going. So we'll see how this year go.
Oh well done
It's getting close to planting time.
Yeah, actually it is. So when it that hasn't gone so well, what has happened to the San Marzano tomatoes? Cause I've done it twice now over two seasons and I might've actually reached out to you when this happened, but [laughter] my San Marzano tomatoes, they developed beautifully, but every single damn, tomato was rotten at the base and it must've been something wrong with the seed batch. I just don't know, but what's happened to yours when it hasn't worked,
Ours have been the flavour thing.
Yeah, they just don't taste sweet at all. We have had one or two years where they did taste really good.
I have, I had heard of that happen,
where they do seem to rot a little bit. But I don't know the answer to that question.
The tomato, if you chop that end off actually was great, but it was a, very disappointing. I mean, I looked after these things for a long time and my six plants that I grew in pots, ah no, I I had to chuck them out.
What about other flavours, you enjoy using?
One of the fancy ones we try like that surprises a lot of family and friends, is my Mortadella pizza.
Mortadella pizza. So that's, that's Italian sausage meat, is that right?
Like, is that like a luncheon sausage?
Yup, sort of a cured meat
Okay. And that's, well my understanding that that's very Italian it's from, well the traditional stuff is from Bologna in Italy yeah
Yeah, I think so. Not quite sure of the origin of it, but I know it tastes good.
[laughter] That's great
But so yeah, essentially I make it by spreading ricotta onto the base of the pizza. So it's a white pizza
You should try making ricotta by the way.
It's nice. Oh yeah, mozzarella, ricotta. Anyway, another story.
I'll hit you up later for those recipes [laughter]
And my spreadsheet [laughter]
[laughter] So once the ricotta's down, I'll put a slice of Mortadella for every slice of pizza that I'm going to be cutting up.
Then I'll sprinkle some crushed pistachio nuts over the top.
And then drizzle some Vino Cotto over the top as well. And I find that the sweetness of the Vino Cotto really cuts through the saltiness of the cooked mortadella. So it's actually a really nice combination.
That sounds lovely. Vino Cotto, that's a cooked wine I think isn't it?
Yeah I think it's just reduced, reduced,
New Speaker (01:13:47):
It's just a little bit thicker
All the best food seems to come from your heritage land central Italy. I haven't actually had it, but I understand it's a, it's a strong ruby colored wine, not too sweet.
I think the Italians enjoy it with their, with their cheeses, bless them. And their desserts and things. Have you had it on its own? I mean, do you drink it?
Never. The only time I've ever used it.
Speaker 1 (01:14:11):
Well I got the idea from my brother who said that he tried cooked mortadella with thickened balsamic vinegar.
Ah, so it's gotta be pretty similar.
Yeah. So I obviously went looking for the balsamic vinegar and I got only find the runnier stuff, couldn't find the thickened one.
And I thought, okay. I picked up the bottle of Vino Cotto and it looked thicker and I thought, well, I'll give this a go. And it just worked. So,
Oh, that is great. That's genius. So presumably you've got a photo of that on your Instagram profile somewhere have .
Yeah there'll be a few of them [laughter]
Yeah [laughter], have to go hunt those out. Oh my gosh. Now speaking about your profile, just a few minutes before this interview, I went through your profile probably for the hundredth time [laughter] and I see that you've experimented with coffee infused dough.
Now I'm a huge coffee drinker. I love my coffee. I love my red wine. Coffee sounds great. Never thought of that, thats genius
Yeah, this definitely isn't one for the kids. [laughter] So I saw a video from Vito Iacopelli
Making a chili infused dough.
Oh my gosh.
He made a Nutella infused dough.
Oh the kids would love that.
Yeah, there was even another one where he used CBD oil.
Is that right?! [laughter]
I saw like, and that just opened up, you know, what else can we do with this? And it just got me thinking, why not coffee?
Have you tried different types of coffee, are you coffee drinker?
I am, and no I haven't used, different types of coffee, but the first time I made it, I just used the coffee itself. And I found that the flavour of coffee, you could tell it was there, but it didn't really cut through.
So it wasn't as in your face as I wanted it. So the next time I made it, I actually included some unfiltered coffee grounds.
And that was the, the winner.
And that did the trick, yeah
Yeah. Put a bit of Nutella and some cherries over the top and
Stop it, stop it seriously.
Yeah very good
Oh, that sounds great. Other ways to flavour the dough, Adrian, have you thought about other options?
I guess it's all about substitution. Like what can I replace? Can you add something to the flour? Can you change the liquid? Um, and then once you've made that decision, you have to consider your toppings, you know, what's going to compliment whatever you've just done. So,
Speaker 1 (01:16:29):
What about the future? I mean, have you got plans for the next biggest and greatest pizza?
Yes I have. You'll have to wait and see,
but I can say,
[laughter] Oh come on now!
I can say it is a dessert pizza.
Yes, so I know how I'm going to do the dough, but I don't know how to execute the toppings. So,
that's a, I need to do a bit more research.
Okay. So when can we expect to see that and hitting your profile?
I've got no idea to be honest [laughter]
Oh come on, pre-Christmas sounds good to me [laughter]
Yeah, okay done. I'll try and do it pre-Christmas
We'll hold you to that. Absolutely. I use my smokers a lot. I've got three of the things.
Yeah. I love, absolutely love them. I really enjoy experimenting with the different, the smoke meats. Not only on my pizza, but by cooking in the wood-fired oven in general. So, you know,
You put the smoking, what do they called?
Oh like the the pallets.
The pallets! In the oven?
Well, yes and no. So what I'm talking about here is my standard low smokers.
Low smokers, okay
Yeah. Then I might use the weekend before and then smoke up a pork shoulder. I just love doing pulled pork. I mean, I do ribs, lots and lots of stuff. I've been smoking meats a lot longer than I've been using my wood fired oven. Really love doing it. I really liked the fusion of the flavours and the fusion of the cooking style.
So then I'll bring this cooked, smoked meat into my a wood-fired oven podcast I did not long ago was beef cheeks and red wine.
And that had a whole handful of some smoked pork as well. And man the flavours of that, that smoked meat brings to food cooked in the wood-fired oven, it is divine. And, but I've also used some of the smoked chickens that I've done meat on the pizzas as well, which is, which is really nice.
Pellets you're talking about, I've recently bought a couple of big bags of pellets and yeah, it's something that before Christmas, I'm going to start experimenting with, How I can incorporate some of this directly into the cooking inside the wood-fired oven itself as well. I think there's huge scope there.
Yeah smoking meats isn't something I've ever, ever played with before, but, you know, obviously it's something that I'm interested in learning. So yeah, maybe another episode for ya,
[laughter] Definitely on the radar, that one. But do you think the,
Do you think the smoking inside the wood oven would actually affect or seep into the bricks or anything like that?
I don't know. That's a great question. I mean, the design of a wood fired oven does not lend itself in its current form and its standard form to actually smoking meats at all. It's just not designed for that purpose. In fact, you know, I mean we get very little smoke out of our ovens, so there's going to have to be a, some thought put into how we can capture the smoke and play with that smoke. You got to get clean smoke too,
when you're smoking meats. You don't want dirty smoke, can be done I understand. It's just going to take a bit of thought. In terms of it seeping into the bricks, I hope so, [laughter] I don't know. I mean, it's a bit like these a gorgeous 2000 year old ovens, down in Naples near Pompeii there. You know, I don't know, something about bricks, something about fire and smoke. I mean, heck you know, let the brick absorb everything it can and, and maybe it'll turn out to be a better oven, I don't, I don't know.
Man, look we're really fortunate with YouTube these days, books that we can buy, there are so many chefs that we can follow. We're spoiled for choice, well you are in Adelaide in particular I think, with the restaurant culture down, down your neck of the woods, what chefs or restaurants have influenced your cooking style? Who have you learned from the most?
The guys that I've learnt from the most, or my Mount Rushmore of Neapolitan pizzas,
is, a couple of guys. So Davide Civitello
Ah genius. Yeah.
Franco Peppe from Pepe in Grani.
And my personal favourite Enzo Coccia from La Notizia.
Oh, he's legend isn't he.
In fact he's, La Notizia, is actually the first pizzeria to be recommended by the Michelin guide as well.
So you know he's taken the next step with it.
Yeah, that's incredible.
But you know, when it comes to you know contemporary Neapolitan pizza, I look to a couple of guys like Vincenzo Capuano or Salvatore Lionello. So apart from the, the big, beautiful cornicione that they've got or the, the crusts.
These guys tend to push the boundaries of toppings too,
trying to get a bit more gourmet with the dining experiences. So they've got a lot of different types of pizzas,
and then you've got, you know, honorable mentions,
[laughter] the king of Pizza Romana, Gabrielle Bonci.
Guys like, you can't talk pizza without talking Vito
You can't, he's a lot of fun right, he's a lot of fun, yeah
Yeah, although I do find his earlier ones,
Ones, bit more informative.
A bit better. Yeah, no, I agree, yeah
But yeah, you can still learn a ton from him. And then you've obviously got the YouTube channels. Like we already mentioned Italia Squisita
I think they've ,put out a book haven't they, haven't they put out a cookbook recently?
I don't know, if they do, I'll probably need to get it.
Yeah, I think it's an Italian though. I think, oh, don't quote me. I'm pretty sure they, I think I saw it advertised somewhere anyway, yup
Okay. And the last one I'd say was, would be the Wood Fired Oven Chef Clive.
Oh, absolutely mate.
Yeah, I love his channel,
you know, I'd hope that anyone listening to this podcast would already know about him, but if you don't please check it out. He's fantastic.
He sure is, and I a hundred percent agree with that. I must have watched all of Clive's episodes at least five times. [laughter] I enjoy pouring a glass of red wine on Saturday afternoon sitting outside in front of my oven and actually watching Clive cook at his oven [laughter]
Yeah, I mean in my opinion, he's, you know, a massive influence to a lot of home cooks around the world, especially with wood-fired ovens, you know, sort of spearheading the wood oven movement if you want to call it that
Oh he absolutely is, yeah
Yeah, so you know, I love how his episodes explored, you know, unique recipes, like a lot of them that I've seen, but never even heard of.
But I also like, and this is going to sound a bit weird, but how he promotes the romance of cooking with the oven as well.
You see I don't think that's weird. I think when I was looking into getting my oven, it was the first time I came across Clive, you know, we're researching our ovens and we find Clive on YouTube. And I agree. I think he's a, he's a huge promoter of this style of cooking and the romance of cooking with fire in general. I think. And the great thing about Clive is he's very happy to answer questions as well. You know,
he, he seems like a great guy. Side note Clive, if you're listening [laughter] would love to have you on this podcast [laughter]
Yeah. If you get him, I'm definitely tuning in for that one.
Yeah, yeah. See Clive there'd be lots of listeners Clive, so yeah, I'll be in touch. We definitely have that on the cards. Fingers crossed. Let's talk about cooking in general. So we've covered off dough, we've covered off your oven, we've covered off a pizzas. Let's start talking about some, some other things that you might've done. Have you experimented much with Cazuela in your wood fired oven? I mean, I have, I love to cook with them. You've got some pictures up on Instagram of some of the beautiful dishes you've done. You tell me a little bit about that.
Yeah so, I don't actually cook a lot of other things. It's something I need to get better at.
Like pizza is my main focus,
but yes, I do have a Cazuela dish and the times I've used it, I've usually cooked Capretto or sorry, goat.
Capretto, your Italian is actually pretty good [laughter]
Yeah, [laughter], it's been wearing off over the past few years.
It's a lamb shoulders, like a nice low.
and slow the next day.
And I even stole Clive's steamed mussels recipe a couple of times. So that was really good as well.
I'm sure he won't mind. I've stolen so many of Clive's recipes too [laughter]. I suppose a goat is pretty easy for you to source in Adelaide. I actually tried to get some goat last weekend. For another podcast episode I'm working on, and the only thing the butcher could offer me was a lamb shoulder already chopped up into little bits.
and I was terribly disappointed. Is it fairly easy for you to get nice goat pieces down your way?
Yes. One of my close friends,
Oh come on!
owns a butcher shop.
[laughter] Oh your joking! So you've got an Olive grove mate and you've got a butcher mate.
Yeah I'm pretty lucky
Come on, you're pretty spoiled [laughter]. Why should a podcast listeners, why should they consider using a Cazuela, Do you think?
I feel like it's an incredibly forgiving piece of cooking equipment.
Yeah, it is
Like I've burnt food in there because the oven was too hot. Like most of the time when I'm cooking, I'm cooking on the way up,
to 400 degrees. So the oven is always either too hot or just past the point where it should be. So, because I use the lid, all of the steams and juices of the meat, are trapped in there and the meat just doesn't seem to dry out. So,
it was only a little bit charred, so yeah. Very forgiving piece of equipment.
Yup, do you bake bread often in your oven?
Yeah, I do. I haven't for a while though, but I'll typically do sourdough,
and every now and again, I'll do a ciabatta.
All right. So about half an hour before we got on to record this interview, I just happened to show my wife the picture on your profile of the sourdough. Now this might be going back a year or two, and it's like, it's like, it's a painting.
Like it's so ridiculously perfect. It was actually, it looked gorgeous.
I think I know the picture you're talking about and it's probably the only one that looks like that [laughter]
[laughter] Man, it's amazing. Wow. We love sourdough, but we just haven't mastered it yet. I mean,
It's a lot of work, like.
yeah, it is.
Yeah, you know I've toyed with sour dough. I've killed, probably about five different starters.
Right, yeah [laughter]. And did you do, did you do a lockdown starter, like the rest of the world?
Yeah I did.
Yeah same [laughter], yep
But I found that unless you're going to be doing it every weekend, it's just not worth the hassle.
I did find something online, which talked about dehydrating sour dough.
So I've actually dehydrated some,
Ah thats interesting
but I haven't bought it back to life. And that was about two or three months ago, so I'm probably due.
Just out of interest, what was the process of dehydrating? It, is this where you bread it very thinly,
and then it's like, flaky. Is that what you've done?
Yup absolutely. So just on a sheet tray.
A bit of parchment paper.
And then, like you said, spread it down nice and thin and then stuck it in the oven with the pilot light on for a day or two.
Is that right?
And then, because I think with the pilot light on the oven gets to about 25 degrees.
Yeah right okay. So it's pretty easy to do?
Yeah, it is. It's just a matter of being patient.
Yeah. That's surely gotta be easier than feeding the thing every day, yeah
Yeah, like I said, I haven't brought it back to life yet, so [laughter]
You might have killed it.
Yeah, we'll se how that turns out.
[laughter] Does the Zesti lend itself to a particular type of bread? Yeah.
Not necessarily type, but can you do breads in there? Absolutely. Like the benefit of cooking bread in a wood oven, is for me, has got nothing to do with like flavours or anything like that. It's a quantity thing. You know, you can probably do like four, five, six loaves in a wood oven,
but if you're baking bread in a Dutch oven, you're going to be doing one at a time.
Like personally, if I'm cooking bread in the wood oven, I'll remove all the flame and embers, or I'll just use the residual heat from the oven the next day.
Yeah, similar process for me, I wrap a towel around a pizza peel, a wet towel, and mop out the bottom of the floor as well to get rid of all the ash and make it nice and clean. Yeah. What about a favourite cooking tool?
Not really a cooking tool, more of a dope preparation tool. It's a Madia.
Ooh you lucky guy. They look gorgeous!
Yes. Yeah, they do.
Then for those of you who don't know what a Madia is, it's a rectangular wooden box and the sides are sort of inclined towards the base. And traditionally it's used to hand knead dough and you can also let the dough rise in it as well.
Ah right, okay
So back in the day, Madia's were actually quite large and you usually have like.
3, 4, 5 people around it, kneading the dough, mass quantities.
to make bread for the village. So
Why is it your favourite tool?
Well, my dad loves woodwork.
He understands that I've got an unhealthy fascination with dough,
so he decided to make me one as a gift.
So you've got a woodworker, you've got a butcher and you've got an olive grove guy, yeah you are spoiled
I'm lucky, but yeah, so essentially there's a sentimental attachment.
to it. So
That is really neat.
Yeah its pretty cool
That's great. Next cooking tool for purchase, what, what do you think?
I don't feel like I need anything at this stage, but at some point I probably like to get an Andiron.
A good idea.
Yeah, I don't think I've got any issues with, you know, airflow or ash,
but I do feel that it will probably improve the quality of flame in the oven when I'm cooking. And the only thing that's really stopped me from getting one so far is most of the andirons I found online all seem to be quite large. So I need to find a smaller one that doesn't take up too much real estate on the oven floor.
I'm a huge fan of my andiron I think it improves the flame a lot, I think. And I think ultimately the flexibility of the wood-fired oven in general really. I've recently dropped a podcast episode on using my andiron in my wood fired oven and it's, I mean, you don't, you don't need one, like it's not a compulsory tool, is it, for, for successful cooking in a wood fired oven,
but from a nuance perspective, I think there are some subtle benefits and it is, you know, if you can find one small enough. Yeah, you might, you might enjoy playing with that.
If anyone out there knows where to find a smaller one, hit me up
Yeah [laughter]. A favourite all-time recipe you have cooked in your wood fired oven Adrian.
I think it's clear, pizza.
Yeah, pizza, pizza. Why, why do you think you've gravitated? Maybe it's your heritage. Why do you think you've gravitated to this, ultimately?
Hopefully it's clear, like, you know, so far we've been talking over an hour about pizza. How can, how can four ingredients be so complex?
It's amazing isn't it?
Yeah. So you never really know how it's going to turn out until you take the first dough ball out of the dough box.
and at the end of the day, even bad pizza's, good pizza. So,
Yeah, that's true. Except, except except if the toppings you put on are too wet, disintegrates on the wood-fired oven floor, and then it's hard to get the thing out. It can be a disaster.
[laughter] Don't don't ask me how I know.
Ah, its alright, I know how you know [laughter].
I've been there. I've been there.
Like, to be honest, if you're getting a lot of holes in your pizza.
It's most likely a stretching technique.
So yeah. If you find that your pizza base is paper thin before you add the topping, you're most likely going to end up with Calzone.
Oo yum. Okay, yeah gotcha [laughter]. Family traditions to continue Adrian?
I hope so. But not just family, like whenever friends come over with their kids, I like to get them involved, you know,
for a couple of reasons, the educational aspect, you know, you can teach them how to stretch, how to do the toppings, or if they're a little bit older, how to cook the pizzas,
you know, a picky eater might even be more inclined to eat something that they've made.
And, you know, it's a fun experience for them as well.
Yeah. I'd agree with you there. We had some friends around not long ago for one of my pizza nights. Pizza was great, but you know, not Adrian great. But they brought their young kids along, you know, five or six year olds and they, they just love putting the pieces together and kids can be picky.
Did you get smiley face pizzas?
No. No, we didn't. We didn't no. I don't think we did actually. We got a lot of stuff on the pizzas.
and thus, a couple of them never really came out of the wood-fired oven.
Yeah, my nieces will do the eyes with the olives,
cheese for the nose, and then the mouth with pepperoni, or something along those lines
As does she eat the olives, though,
Yeah they do.
Really! Well that's amazing. Okay [laughter]. Oh my gosh, now you obviously love your red wine too.
What's your favourite and why?
We're spoiled for choice over here. There's so many,
Yes you are!
One of the wines that I buy every year without fail is Oliver's Taranga in McLaren Vale. They've got a HJ reserve Shiraz, which is incredible every year. So that's probably,
my favourite at the moment. What about yourself?
Yeah. Well, look, I love the Barossa Valley. I've been drinking red wines out of the Barossa Valley,
for about 20 years, but I'm just showing Adrian on the little video thing we got going on here. A little secret here. We actually worked, we were discussing wine prior to the interview and he mentioned this a Oliver's Taranga vineyards and I have never had it before. So I thought I would open this bottle now take a sip, and hold you to that and see what it's actually like. So this is, this isn't actually from the Barossa is it? It's from McLaren Vale. So tell me a little bit about McLaren Vale and Barossa. I mean, yeah, you can probably drive to the Barossa valley, your lucky thing in about an hour from your place. Can you?
Yeah. And since they finished doing the roadworks, I can get from home to the Barossa probably in about 45 minutes without a single traffic light.
The problem is for me, I would live there. So I'm just taking a smell of that. Now see that, that's just so gorgeous. I mean, I love red wine is just it for me. This is, this is probably for me, probably more, one of the more expensive bottles of wine I've would've bought for a while. Uh, but okay, just stand by listeners. Hang on a minute, [laughter], just taste this. Oh, holy moly. Oh, that's gorgeous. Right? It's, it's smooth, but it's deep and it's rich. Okay. Hold on. Sorry. Sorry. I'm not going to edit this out either by the way. Hmm. Hmm. Oh, it's dusty too. Like I love my big reds.
Yeah its definitely one of my favorites at the moment.
Oh yeah. That's just, yeah. Well thank you for the recommendation. [laughter] that, that is just great. Oh, geez. I just love it. McLaren Vale, is it so from Adelaide, describe where,
So its heading South
Okay, so that's heading south.
So a lot of the locals, when I travelled into Adelaide, a lot of the locals raved about McLaren Vale and they even say, oh, the wines from McLaren, their better than the Barossa, have you got a thought on that?
A bit different,
like Barossa, you've got your big bowl, reds. McLaren Vale was usually your lighter reds. Like there's a big trend going on at the moment where they're doing you know, your grenache and a lot of new Italian and Spanish varietals getting introduced down there.
So, but yeah, as far as Shiraz 's go from the McLaren Vale I think that's one of the best,
That's one of the better ones. Yeah. And with your wine fridge, you can probably get a fair few bottles of those in your fridge? [laughter]
Yeah, absolutely [laughter]. I've got them going back to about 2014, I think.
Ooo, have you really?
So, I've only been collecting ones for a few years now, so,
there's only a handful that I collect year in, year out. And that's one of them.
Is that right? Oh that's a great tip. Well thank you for that. Do you like to cook with wine?
Not really, but I'll usually have a little bit of like white wine, if I make a pasta sauce,
Is that a taste thing? You don't like it or you just haven't experimented with it?
Haven't experimented, yeah, more than anything.
Yeah, I love cooking with red wine with beef. Just yeah. Blows my mind, it's great. I noticed another thing that you do, you make your own sausage as well. And this has actually been on my wish list for years, to do,
this. Tell me a little bit about your history with that while I drink this red wine [laughter],
Cheers by the way, cheers
[laughter] Salute as we say. So, yeah, growing up, we just had a tradition where we would as a family, we'd kill and butcher a pig every winter to make the sausages and steaks and all that type of thing. And eventually it just sort of got to the point where grandparents started to get older. There's more kids running around that it just became a bit too difficult to do.
And the tradition just sort of fell by the wayside. But so in the past few years, my brother and I have started doing smaller batches on our own, mainly for two reasons. One to keep the traditional life.
Yeah, that's cool, that's great
Yeah, but also to teach the kids that meat doesn't magically appear on a plate,
and there's a process to it.
But these days I'll usually get my local butcher down at Specialty Foods or the mate of mine [laughter].
Yeah your mate, your lucky mate [laughter]
And he'll get like a pork shoulder, mince and D gristle it for me. So he's done all the hard work.
And so really all we need to do is season the mince, pipe it into the casings and then let them cure.
Okay. So it's not an overly complex procedure?
Not anymore. Like back when we used to do the whole pig, we'd spend two full days.
Speaker 1 (01:37:03):
Oh wow, yeah sure
Butchering, and all that type thing. Now we're done in about half a day.
How do you go about curing the sausage?
It's actually a lot easier than it sounds.
It's really as simple as hanging up the sausages in the shed for a few weeks.
Yeah, it's, we always do it on the June long weekend because in Adelaide,
that's essentially the coldest time of year.
Sure is [laughter]
[laughter] Yeah, so the cold temperature actually helps the sausages dry out slowly, which is key.
Ahh, yeah, sure. Okay. How do you know when they're ready?
It's probably impossible to put a time period on it. It's more of a feel type of thing. So there's real, no answer to it. You just have to, you want them to be firm, but not hard.
Tell me how you've incorporated making sausage with your cooking in the wood-fired oven.
Well, each time that we've done sausages in the past couple of years, I'll usually take a kilo or two of the mince,
and put it aside and make a special batch just for cooking.
This is basically using the same recipe that I used for the cured sausages, except less salt.
So just to go back to Baker's percentages, I use them for making sausages as well.
Ah right, interesting
Yeah. I mean, it just,
it just works.
So except instead of using flowers, as your hundred percent, you're using meat as your hundred percent.
Ah, right okay
So if I'm going to cure the sausages, I'll probably use about 2.5 to 2.8% salt.
And if I'm doing a batch to cook with, I want it to be a lot less than that.
So about 1.5 to 1.8%.
Gotcha. How do you freeze them?
Vacuum sealed bags,
Ah yeah they're great aren't they?
portion them up into maybe 50 to a hundred grams in each vacuum sealed bag.
And yeah, into the freezer
Throw them into the freezer. Nice and easy. Flavours and techniques, with regard to this, that you think you might try in the future?
We actually tried a new one this year. My brother wanted to do a garlic and white wine.
Oh, that sounds so good.
And that actually turned out really good.
Although we were a bit heavy handed on the garlic [laughter].
[laughter] But can you be too heavy?
[laughter] Yeah, no complaints from me.
Yeah I mean, there are no vampires in Adelaide, it's,
Not anymore [laughter]
[laughter] Not anymore. Failures in the wood-fired oven. Man, I've had my fair share, but maybe it's a rite of passage too, though. You surely, you've had a few failures and I mean, you know, your Instagram profile doesn't show them, but I bet you have,
Yeah. Look, you know, show me a person, show me a person who hasn't failed and I'll show you a liar.
Like, there's been way too many, like from burnt food to using dead yeast. It's,
You know, it's, it's been a journey [laughter]
But, you know, there's been times I've gone full pizza Nazi,
and shut the oven down because I wasn't happy with the pizzas that I was serving
That's commitment. That's commitment. Yeah. Gordon Ramsey would be proud of you [laughter]
Yeah well my guests weren't [laughter].
No! No! [Laughter] You have to crank up your electric. Oh my gosh.
But you know, like all things, you get better by learning from failures. So,
Yeah you do
and you know, for all the home cooks who are out there who are too scared to fail when guests come over.
You know, you're not a professional cook, you're not a professional restaurant, your friends and family aren't paying customers, you know, it's okay to fail.
Yeah, man that is such good advice. And I'll remember that, I'm a bit of a perfectionist myself, really
And at the end of the day, there's always Uber Eats as well.
Oh there is! Yeah. And, yeah theres Maccas just around the corner,
From my place, oh dear [laughter]. We are coming to the end of this interview, I guess. Finally for those just starting out with cooking in a wood-fired oven, chat a little bit about the learning curve that's involved, if you're just starting out with a wood-fired oven, some of those challenges, I suppose, that everyone faces
For me, how to manage heat and knowing the right temperatures to cook different foods at. You know, like we've discussed, you know, I'm usually cooking on the way up to pizza temperature almost 95% of the time.
So personally I need to get better at keeping a slower growth in temperature.
If that's what I'm trying to do to cook a roast or something,
before we dive into the pizzas, you know, if you get your oven too hot immediately, there's no real way to regulate,
the temperature apart from, you know, pulling it in and out of the mouth constantly.
Yeah. It's difficult, isn't it?
Yeah, and you know, it's even more difficult if you've got multiple trays going, if you've got a roast in one, vegetables in the other and depending on the size of your oven as well can be very tricky. And honestly, you know, I feel like that's my biggest weakness. Like my focus is just so much on pizzas. I don't experiment enough with all the other foods. So that, that is one thing I really do want to experiment more with.
I think one of the greatest benefits of using a wood-fired oven for me anyway, is its versatility, I think. I mean, you've become an expert really, and let's be honest with cooking pizza in your wood fired oven, and would like to experiment with other dishes more. I've experimented a lot with other dishes in my wood fire oven, but I haven't really focused in and zeroed in enough on pizza, which I think goes to show you can cook so many different types of foods in the wood-fired oven. It just lends itself so well, to experimenting with all sorts of different cooking styles I think.
Yeah, totally agree.
There's no doubt that learning to cook successfully with fire takes time. It takes patience and failure along the way. Adrian mate, it's been great to hear about your personal journey with your wood fired oven, your passion with cooking with fire. I've just learned a great deal from you, listening, and I'm sure the listeners have learned a lot as well.
No, thank you very much for the opportunity. It's been fantastic and nice to put a face to the name.
Oh yeah. Look, it's been great. Look, I'm going to do a future podcast episode where I make some pizza from your recipe and your process. And I'm looking forward to doing that already. Thanks so much for being so generous with your time for this interview,
Yeah no problem at all.
And on behalf of those listening to the wood-fired oven podcast, thank you very much for joining me today. Just a reminder, as we wrap up this interview, please make sure that the very next thing you do, right now, is head over to Instagram, if you haven't already and follow Adrian @agesfirekitchen, and you can also check him out on his Facebook page as well. Don't forget to drop Adrian a DM, a message and send him your email address. Adrian is very happy to send you his stripped down spreadsheet that will help you digest everything we've just discussed over the last couple of hours or so. That's really generous Adrian and thank you very much for providing that to the listeners of the show.
No worries. Thanks again for having me. Once again, congratulations on the podcast. I've been a, enthusiastic listener.
Oh, thank you so much. I really hope listeners out there have enjoyed this interview with Adrian. I know I have. Thanks for tuning in this week. I really hope you are planning on cranking up your wood fired oven or other outdoor cooking gear, this weekend. Stay safe, have fun and go cook with fire.
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