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Flour, Yeast & Dough Fermentation with Massimiliano Prete

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

Today we had a workshop with the talented Massimiliano Prete from Gusto Divino. A lievitista, Prete believes in the connection between food and happiness, using his doughs to spark joy among happy customers and UNISG students alike.

Opening Gusto Divino, one of the first gourmet pizzerias in Piemonte, Chef Prete took part in shaping the revolutionary world of contemporary pizza. Creating a perfect balance between innovation and tradition, contemporary pizza pays homage to authentic flavours while elevating structure with precise and creative fermentation methods.

With Gusto Madre and now Sestogusto under his belt, Prete is not just a pizza maker but rather a dough specialist. Refining and playing with flours and yeast to develop a whole range of unique pizza crusts, each one is amazingly different from the next, yet still with such an artful mastery of the ingredients and the process.

Interestingly, Sestogusto was the name chosen for the latest venture as it denotes the sixth taste, which researchers suggest explains the sensitivity of the mouth to the taste of carbohydrates, which is what makes us so enamoured by breads. Great name choice for Prete if I do say so myself!

According to the chef, “Life is like a good dough. If it gets warmth and keeps alive, it grows, changes and makes you happy.”

On that note, we began our day on a very happy note with a simple recipe for pizza dough. This is a formula that Chef Prete then manipulates based on what he would like the final result of his dough to be like. Add more water and get a fluffier texture, but have less moisture and expect a crunchier outcome.

Even the yeast can play a factor in what the final dough will look like. Before last year, I always though yeast came in a dried format, however, yeast can be in a solid, liquid or even a cream, in the case of lievito madre.

Likewise, even the flour makes a difference since wheat flour contains different levels of proteins based on the milling process. For example Tipo 00 should be used for pastries, while pasta would use a Tipo 1 and a bread with a crisp crust would typically require a heartier and denser flour like Manitoba.

To test this theory, Chef Prete served us a loaf of his sourdough, made with his lievito madre, also known as mother yeast. Let me tell you, I’ve never been one for a crusty loaf of bread but the crackle of this loaf when I bit into it, was something else. With a soft and airy crumb, the crisp crunch of the sourdough created an incredible juxtaposition. I was in carb heaven!

As we continued our lecture, we waited for our pizza doughs to rise until finally, it was time to watch the master at work! Since Chef Prete is a specialist in his field, he serves up a variety of pizzas at his pizzeria–some fluffy, some crunchy, some classic. In fact, Michelin-starred chef Gabriele Bonci even declared one of Prete’s pizza varieties as “un soffio d’aria” or a breath of air.

We began with La Classica dough which is made with lievito madre and has a longer fermentation time. This dough uses entirely Italian stone-ground wheat flour that's rich in fiber to guarantee taste and health. Barely touching the dough to shape it into its proper form, Chef Prete then dressed it with tomato passata and golden cherry tomatoes. Once out of the oven, he grated on flecks of Parmigiano Reggiano DOP and finally topped with fresh Ligurian basil. Simplicity at its finest...

Next was the Fa Croc variety, which is Prete’s reinterpretation of a stuffed Roman focaccia, made with a high percentage of stone-ground flour and wheat germ, which gives an aroma of toasted wheat and extra crunch. We actually were able to sample La Mortadella, which is on the menu at Sestogusto in Torino. This pizza/schiacciata hybrid was stuffed with melted Raschera DOP, Palmieri mortadella and a sprinkle of acidic capers from Pantelleria. I loved the super crunchy texture of this dough and the fillings inside just made the toasty flavours stand out all the more!

Last but definitely not least, was the La Croccante pizza which is a dough with a high moisture content, mixed leavening and a long fermentation process that creates a crunchy and almost crumbly structure. I knew that when there were all kinds of ingredients on the table that this pizza was gonna be right up my alley! With a wonderful artichoke cream as a base, this pizza was placed back into the oven once more. Hot and ready, Chef Prete then added slices of bresaola, perfectly piped dollops of whipped chèvre, marinated artichokes and some fresh parsley to cleanse the palate. Absolutely heavenly...

Though I tend to like a pizza that is fully-loaded, topped with all kinds of flavours and textures, Massimiliano actually helped me to remember that sometimes less is more. When done correctly, the simplest things can have the most intense and complex flavours. That said, I still had major heart eyes for the La Croccante artichoke and bresaola pizza!

At the end of the day, making a good dough is all about patience, precision and poetry. I have yet to master breadmaking, but I’m always interested to learn how I can improve by understanding the science behind my favourite foods. Though I don’t think I’ll ever fully grasp how fickle fermentation can be, I find it immensely beautifully and can’t wait to make more thoughtful doughs in the future!

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