Fiori di Pizza / Pizza Flowers

posted in: Cooking, Savory, Sweet | 74

Another week, another Project Food Blog Challenge-Pizza.  I deeply appreciate you voting thus far, and I hope you like this entry enough to vote again. This time I had to reach deep into the caverns of my mad mind to come up with a pizza made at home worth weeping big salty tears over. Then I hatched a plan to spherify those tears, but that’s a tale for another time over a big-girl-sized glass of wine.  Not having a pizza oven at my disposal, I knew I had to think far outside the box (or oven, as it were).

The resulting pizza is one which, in its inception, involved a set of skateboard trucks (I wanted it to spin around at mouth height in front of the diner), air bread, and shards of tomato glass. Ultimately, the skateboard trucks seemed too dirty to be part of a dish you’d eat with just your mouth, the air bread too-puffy since I wanted it to be a one-bite wonder, and the tomato glass (in its early test versions, at least) too sharp for a tender mouth.

The skateboard trucks were replaced by a flower stem. I forewent the idea of spinning altogether, which I hope you’ll agree is for the best since psychotically complicated does not often a toothsome dish make. I replaced the air bread with the thinnest savory tuile crust I could conjure, and the tomato glass became tomato gossamer- still paper-thin but slightly less-piercing on the intake.

And so, pizza flowers-fiori di pizza- were born. The requisites of this challenge stipulated that we include a crust, a topping and a sauce. The glaring omission to that list would be cheese and so I embraced that as a fourth criterion.

I set about creating a noteworthy pizza and my thoughts inevitably wandered to toppings.  Crust aside, this is where the hot pizza debate often gets infernal, and sometimes ends with people slinging slabs of Canadian bacon across the table at capicola-clutching purists. In an effort to please both the old world and the new, I decided on a mashup of two classic pies- The Margherita (ciao Napoli, ho nostalgia di te) and good ole Pepperoni Pizza, which linguistically-speaking is a bastardization of peperoni, the plural Italian word for pepper.

I’m hereby naming my pizza the Mullet of pies because it possesses a little somethin’ somethin’ for everyone. The business front is there with the serious Margherita, but you can’t give up a little party in your mouth, so the Pepperoni is there to slather your salami.  If Mullet pizza like, totally gags you with a spoon like the full-on Valley girl you are deep down, like, oh my gawd, then think of it as the Ape-Drape or Long Island Ice Tease pizza instead. In some strange parallel universe these are considered euphemisms for Mullet.

Now that I’ve pissed off both sides of the pizza contingency and I haven’t even addressed the thin crust thick crust burnt bottomed floppy folding fork and knife folks, I’d better get down to explaining the business end of this pie. The pizza base, as formerly mentioned, is a savory tuile crust made from an adaptation of Thomas Keller’s cornet recipe in TFL. Initially I tried potato tuiles-too gloppy, semolina tuiles-to gritty, even rice tuiles-too Styrofoam. Finally I recognized that I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel because Thomas Keller has already done it for us, so I bedazzled his cornet recipe with a little extra butter and a dusting of semolina and eureka! I had my crust.

Phase two involved forming the crust into a flower base that would both affix to the stem and cup the petals, stamen and pollen I had planned. Egg shells proved instrumental here. I was able to nestle the crust rounds into the shells and create dainty little teacups worthy of the highest High Tea.

Affixing the crust to the stems was another matter entirely. I used gum arabic as the “glue” since it’s edible and tasteless. I bought six artificial tulips, cut off the petals and kept the stems, then got down to gluing my cups with a blowdryer and a steady hand. I had some time to ponder important matters during this epic blow-dry session since each flower took 15 minutes of hot air to perch precipitously on the teetering stems. I came up with a few gems I’ll share with you:

a. I have finally found a use for artificial flowers that doesn’t involve a rubbish bin,

b. floating particles of gum arabic that have blown into a nearby glass of Tempranillo do not add value to the mouthfeel, and

c. too much Tempranillo may have a causal relationship to an alarming new physical ailment I developed which I’m calling “shaky hand syndrome” or SHS for short.

After the blowdryer incident, the tomato gossamer almost turned the fiori di pizza coup into the fiori di pizza debacle. Genuine tears were shed during this portion of the experiment, and since this occurred the morning after, I cannot blame it on the Tempranillo. First I had to track down some esoteric sugars to mix with the tomato powder I’d made by pulverizing dried tomatoes. If you want to do this, I suggest locating freeze-dried rather than sun-dried tomatoes, since they will have less moisture, and moisture is the nemesis of tomato gossamer.  Regular sugar won’t work to make these because of several scientific factors including melting point and moisture content.

Suffice it to say that I took a cue from Grant Achatz’ playbook and made a neutral tuile base from fondant sugar, powdered glucose, and isomalt. I then pulverized it along with the tomato powder (in a 50 sugar to 10 tomato ratio), sifted it over a round template onto a silpat, melted it in a 200°F oven, and formed the gossamer into the waiting tuile crust cups in a pleasing petal shape. That all sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. I won’t delve into the details of my agony- the wound is too fresh- but all sorts of things went awry, including but not limited to breakage, clumping, glopping, and melting.

The topping and cheese represent the party part of the Mullet pizzas since they were fun and easy to make. I made a basil “dew” to pay homage to the Margherita. Basil oil is simple but it takes several days since you need to infuse blanched basil into oil before you strain it and give it a final day to decant before again separating out sediment.

I opted to include pepperoni in the form of “pollen” to stick with the floral theme. Pollen-izing involves rendering fat from a big hunk of pepperoni, then mixing it with maltodextrin to turn it into powder. It evokes synesthesia tasting something so familiar in such a different format- supersensory fun with science in the kitchen.

While reverse-spherified buffalo mozzarella bulbs are a little fat to represent stamens, they have a certain je ne se quois, and so they stand.  Spherification is the process of turning liquid into spheres using a calcium chloride bath. Reverse spherification differs in that it uses a sodium alginate bath instead.  Reverse works well with calcium-rich food, making it perfect for mozzarella. Buffalo mozzarella spheres benefit the pizza by providing a liquid element, but not drenching everything and destroying the delicate crust and tomato gossamer. If you’d like to see the technique, check out Ferran Adria’s helpful video.

The relationship between a diner and his/her food is beautiful, complicated, and evolving. We know it’s important to consider what goes into our bodies. Altering the actual mode of presentation helps resonate that point. Fiori di Pizza are designed to sit at mouth-height and easily pop off their stems in one bite. While each flower represents an entire pizza, the drastic skewing of scale as compared with a traditional pie is a play on quantity, and further, gluttony. Much like many far-greater (actual) chefs (I do not presume to the title) before me, I am on a quest to create the ideal bite.  I would rather have one mouthful of perfection than a thousand of mediocrity.

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74 Responses

  1. WOW!
    where did u get such idea?
    a vote from me.

  2. There’s playing with your food… and then there’s this! Simply brilliant Linda, talk about the complete package! Thanks for blowing us away, yet again… ;)

    Linda Reply:

    @Daydreamer Desserts, Loved your sweetza pizza too, J.

  3. So pretty Linda! I will think of you Thursday…which is when the Alinea dinner is. Beautiful pizza flowers and no worries I have a chronic case of SHS as well.

    Linda Reply:

    @Andra@FrenchPressMemos, I am quaking in my boots with jealousy, but the good kind, where I want you to go and have a ton of fun.

  4. Delicately beautiful.

  5. This is absolutely incredible! You totally blow the competition away. Fantastic job.

  6. Pure genius, and you totally embraced the challenge! You have a vote from me!

    For my entry, I made pizza for all the wrong times of day: some Deep Dish Pizza Cupfakes and Pizzas Benedict :) Come see if you’d like!

    Linda Reply:

    @Julie @ Willow Bird Baking, yours are so pretty. got my vote.

  7. Linda, you’re just in a different level in the competition… I am not sure if anyone can compete with your level of creativity. I always find your posts just truly amazing and completely out of this world. I think you need to create a post on your genius thinking process… lol.

    Linda Reply:

    @Adelina, that is too funny. and very sweet, of course, thank you.

  8. Your creativity and mad kitchen skills are astonishing, your writing witty and spell-binding. Best of luck to you in PFB, you continue to get my vote.

    Linda Reply:

    @Kelly Lenihan, sweet, thanks.

  9. Wow! What a masterpiece! I voted for you! Good luck!

  10. You are absolutely AMAZING! Love this!

  11. [...] contestant stood out, however, Salty Seattle made  Pizza Flowers!  How cool is [...]

  12. as always, incredibly artistic and creative!

  13. Holy crap! I am very impressed :)

  14. Whoa. That’s all I’ve got, is whoa. I’m not sure there are any other words that are sufficient …

  15. I can’t believe I have only just found your blog. Your beautiful pizza flowers mean I will have to go through your whole archive (this doesn’t often happen!). It’s a truly inspiring post. Thank you.

  16. ElleJay @cookinfor3.blogspot.com

    OMG how good looking!!!!!! I wish i recived those instead of normal flowers!!! A BRAVA from the land of PIZZA!

  17. @Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca), Someday I probably will have a restaurant, but for now, I’m content to while away the time in my kooky kitchen. Thank you:)

  18. Somehow…I just KNEW you were gonna go all crazy mad scientist with this one! Tee hee! You seriously have such fun playing with your food, and they legitly look like something I would love to pluck and devor, too!

  19. This is beautiful,
    I love the idea of eating “pizza flowers!”

  20. Are you for real? You are forever stunning me. You must have a restaurant, because if not, you are the most talented, undiscovered kitchen genius EVER.

  21. Stunned, simply astounding! Love it!

  22. Wow, is the simple word I can say! This is one of the best creative recipe of pizza I have ever seen! I am speechless, I wish I can eat these pizza flowers NOW!

  23. jennifer fish

    Again, Judy Jetson in her Quasar kitchen, out of this world and solar system. I remember now,,,I saw those p1zza poppies,late night Star Trek Series, Captain Curt and crew buddy up to the Oz Bar for Happy Hour Hors d’oeuves.

    Where do I vote?

    Linda Reply:

    @jennifer fish, I’ll put a link up tomorrow. Love you, thanks, beautiful.

  24. I love your creativity and more importantly your writing. You’re not just like the other bloggers that copy and paste a recipe, throw in some pictures, and then thank everyone for voting. I thouroughly enjoy reading your posts and I will most definitly vote for you even though I see you as my stronget competition. Good Luck and keep up the good work.

    Linda Reply:

    @Rooftop Gourmet, You are way too kind. I really appreciate it.

  25. om, amazing. no words, only I wish I could try one of these somewhere, anywhere!! You have my vote to the end! Good luck and please open a restaurant!!

    Linda Reply:

    @theveggie, a restaurant- it’s on the bucket list for sure, and thank you.

  26. Very creative and gorgeous!!!!

  27. I’m blown away! The amount of time, energy, and thought you put into these micro-pizzas is an accomplishment all in its self. The result looks wonderful!

  28. Linda, Linda, Linda. I really have no words. I feel brain dead compared to you…you’re so f-ing creative I can’t stand it. Bravo!

    Linda Reply:

    @Winnie, thank you, but you’re the rockstar. by the way, i’m thinking of borrowing an idea from your parents’ restaurant for my next post. will let you know if it manifests.

  29. Great job — so creative and definitely your spin on pizza.

  30. wow, these are very impressive. i would love to know what one tastes like. great job & good luck!

  31. Hilarious gems. Two thoughts:
    1) You say SHS, I think CAGE. Don’t be alarmed; just pour yourself another tipple. This, too, shall pass.
    2) “I would rather have one mouthful of perfection than a thousand of mediocrity.” Well said.

    Linda Reply:

    @Charmaine @ Speakeasy Kitchen, you are a seriously funny woman, Charmaine. We need to sweep the Masterchef halls together yet again.

  32. Amazing as usual. I’d really love to sample some. Great job.

  33. What an incredible unique way to make pizza! Nicely done!

  34. Oh Linda, they are beautiful but do you think *I* would ever be able to make them? I think you need a food ninja diploma first, right? ;-) Good luck!

    Linda Reply:

    @Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite, of course you could, silly:)

    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite Reply:

    @Linda,
    I think I need another visit to seattle to practice my Ninja Skillz!!!!

  35. Dang amazing!! I hope to join you in your secure spot in Challenge 6 :) !

  36. You made me gasp in delight at the sheer inventiveness of this piece. It looks like whimsy at its tastiest.

  37. this looks insanely delicious..which one of us is on the heavy drugs here? I think even I in my weakened chewless state could get my mouth around these.

  38. creative beautiful pictures

  39. This is the craziest thing ever! How totally fun.

  40. Gorgeous! Oh, to be a fly on your wall while you come up with the fantastic creations!

  41. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Evil Shenanigans, Paula, Barbara Kiebel, Jackie Lee, Ethan Adeland and others. Ethan Adeland said: u should start taking Valentine orders! RT @SaltySeattle: Fiori di Pizza: http://t.co/WxKpPPh u may want to look at my latest post #PFB2010 [...]

  42. I am stunned and in awe. This is pure art in its most awesome form. And I am dying to take a bite!

  43. you’re brilliant! this post is fantastic, you’ve got such amazing creative talent! well done, doll.
    Leila

  44. Linda, just when I think you can’t get any crazier you surprise me !!! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G !!!
    I’m impatient for next Sunday to see what you do with the cooler

  45. You’re really amazing Linda, this is art, so beautiful!

  46. Greg hit the nail on the proverbial pizza head…you truly are an artist..or a mad scientist; or I’m guessing a strange molecular combination of both!

    Well done.

  47. I could not wait for your take on pizza, and you did not disappoint! What a brilliant take on a traditional pie, and what a lovely presentation! I would gladly graze on your flower garden!

    Linda Reply:

    @Kelly @ EvilShenanigans, The last sentence of your comment could be interpreted several ways;)

  48. Once again, I am in awe.

  49. I would have never guessed this was food, let alone pizza. You are an artist! GREG

    Linda Reply:

    @sippitysup, I’ve always liked playing with my food:)

  50. Wow, are you kidding me? you went deep into the caverns of your mad mind on this one. This might be the new rage in the pizza world!
    Awesome job Linda, congrats!

    Linda Reply:

    @Ethan, thanks, love, xx.

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