Sunday, August 17, 2014

Par-Baked Pear Fair

    The once again, amazing Pear Fair has come and gone. Who would've thought that we could break previous years records with a little small town home grown pear festival along a road most people wouldn't drive during the day let alone at night. In a town called Courtland along Hwy 160 is a lone courthouse that I suspect fathered the name for this sleepy little village along the river. The people there are enthusiastic, supportive, full of energy and excitement when it comes to this event. Its like Mayberry on steroids. Whatever their formula is, it works. News crews come out, people line the road for miles trying to get in, and vendors are in place. The Pear Queen has been crowned, the car show is shining and the weather always seems to cooperate.
    Just days before in order to streamline and make things more efficient I had spent 2 days bar-baking 450 doughs to bag and have ready to dress and bake. Par-baking will take away the unpredictability of the weather proofing fresh doughs too quickly and sticking to the sheeting between layers. They are easier to handle, won't cool the deck of the oven as much and make a great crunch when you cut them. This is huge when it comes to helping eliminate frustration on the job and speed things up!
A couple hundred par-bakes cooling before bagging
   To be honest, I wasn't excited about the Pear Fair the final few days before the event. The weather had been in the triple digits all week and we were going to cook just like our pizzas. 102º was the prediction and it can zap your energy and enthusiasm, especially when you're standing in front of a 900º pizza oven all day.
   Sunday morning rolled around and when  I peaked outside at 6:00 A.M. it was overcast! Clouds were hovering all over the sky. Hmmm, this isn't what my i-phone was telling me. I like this better. Generally if I don't like the weather one app on the phone is predicting, I will open up another app to get a confirmation. If the second prediction is a little cooler with a slight breeze and a cloud cover, I'll go with that one! That's more to my liking! Off on the horizon as we were driving over there from Elk Grove I could see rain falling in the west, probably near Vacaville or Suisun. No rain in Courtland, just a beautiful 72º. As it happened the clouds didn't burn off until about 12:30 which was awesome. I was even burning pear firewood that day so I think the message in smoke went directly upwards.  We were being blessed by the pear gods!
   The crowds came and we hunkered down for the pizza storm that we were ready for. I added a 6th person to the crew, my niece from Boise State had been visiting her boyfriend that she met up in Idaho who happened  to live in Elk Grove, of all places. She was excited and ready to work. I didn't know what kind of worker she would prove to be but found out quickly she was as versatile as a Swiss Army knife. (That generation probably doesn't even know what a Swiss Army knife is so maybe she was as versatile as a smart phone). We had her as a back up on every station and she performed well on each. After I heard she had worked 4 of the 5 stations I asked her if she wanted to bake a few pizzas. She jumped in willingly and completed the task standing on her toes to see in the oven! What a kid! Her brothers were equally impressive the night before when we pulled the trailer into Courtland and set up. There's nothing like a couple of strong athletes to show their uncle how tough they are and how quickly they are to learn. Later in the day they hauled in more ice for us as the day grew warmer and the first 100 lbs. of ice was nearly gone. It's a shame they live up in Oregon where I can't tap into that energy more frequently. They'll even work to be paid in pizza!
   I set a personal best of baking 9 pizzas in the oven at one time and a company best of baking 438 pizzas in a day. Pear and proscuitto was the pizza of choice once again. Who would've guessed?
   There wasn't much time to gloat about our new records and how everything worked like a well oiled machine as the next event would be the return to Bogle Vineyards just 2 weeks and 2 miles away. Bogle is where we get tested for speed, quality and accuracy in a 2 and a half hour window of putting out the best quality we can in a very limited amount of time. More on that next blog but I have to say how proud I was for all the Tuscan Sun staff that didn't make a single mistake or get flustered the entire day. It's hard to imagine that we could do any better next year but the organizing, the passion and the stamina show when it's crunch time. Speaking of crunch time. That's the sound a well baked pizza makes when you cut it for those four hundred plus pizza lovers at the Pear Fair. Mmmm, wood-fire pizza at it's best!

1 comment:

  1. I've been following the Pear Festival Pizza from the very first one!
    Love the stories and you pizza adventures!
    Thanks so much for sharing,

    pizza on earth,
    Albert Grande
    Pizza Therapy