In this edition of #MarraCooks, Todd Griffith, Vice President of Sales & Marketing with Marra Forni, a Commercial Brick Oven Manufacturing Company, had the pleasure of shifting roles to interview chef Amy who has hosted and interviewed the fantastic chefs in this series.

Few fun facts about Chef Amy:

  • She is one of the world’s foremost experts on culinary culture, having created Menus, culinary ceremonies, and educational seminars for diplomats, international chefs, and world leaders, earning her the title of “The Cook to the Kings” by a Cairo newspaper in 2008.
  • She speaks English, Italian, French, Spanish, conversational Arabic, and is studying Greek.
  • She is an award-winning and best-selling author and has written multiple cookbooks books and just released her 10th book titled Mediterranean Lifestyle for Dummies.
  • She is the brand ambassador for the Maryland University of Integrative Health, the Pizza University and Culinary Arts Center in Maryland, and the Ristorante d’ Amore in Capri, Italy.
  • She has her own private label collection of premium Italian imported culinary Ingredients called Amy Riolo Selections and leads “Eno Gastronomic” tours in Italy, Morocco, and Greece.

In this video chef, Amy discusses how she finds balance in life, where she draws inspiration from, her role as one of our ambassadors, and how she met the Marra family.

Chef Amy takes her work with Marra Forni (Commercial Brick Oven Solutions) and the Pizza University and Culinary Arts Center, along with baking, very seriously. Her passion for ovens began as a child, and coming from a long line of bakers, being around them was her happy place. Chef Amy’s extended family had bakeries in Italy, but her interest was sparked by her maternal grandmother in Upstate New York. She notes that Sufis believe that the alchemy which takes place in the traditional, artisan bakeries mirrors the alchemy which takes place in all creation. Ovens, she points out, were historically the foundations of communities. When she travels through the UNESCO-protected medina in Fes, Morocco, for example, with her tour groups, she explains to them that the communal ovens were used, not only to make bread but to heat the baths. The presence of a Commercial brick oven in a neighborhood made cooked food, daily bread, heating, and warm baths possible.

Many of the cakes, bread, and savory pies that we take for granted today may have originally been created to use as offerings to the gods, edible representations of religious sacraments, ways to commemorate holidays or demonstrations of affection. Modern-day baking, in her opinion, is a testament to maintaining the few cultural traditions which still have a place on modern tables. To Chef Amy, baking and pizza making are as much an exercise of the heart and spirit as they are of the mind and body.  

Chef Amy With Commercial Brick Oven

While Chef Amy has previously created Roasted Turkey and Chicken recipes, simmering seafood, and even her Nonna Angela’s Fig cookies in Marra Forni Commercial Brick Ovens, today she shared her family’s beloved bread recipe with us.

Pane Calabrese (Crusty Calabrian Bread) In Commercial Pizza Oven

Bread is taken very seriously in Italy. More than a mere culinary staple, bread is the cornerstone of the Italian culture, which takes deep pride in simply transforming the gifts of nature. Bread, in Italy, is even used to express the pleasant mannerisms of people. Someone with a good character, for example, would be “good… like bread”. A big-hearted person would be “warm… like bread”. If someone were flexible, they would be “soft.. like bread”. The list of Italian bread metaphors is endless.

  • Makes 2 (4×12-inch each) loaves
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 package active, dry yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt, or kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons Amy Riolo Selections extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons semolina

Preparation:

  • Dissolve yeast in 1/4 warm water in a small bowl.  Let stand for 5 minutes, until it bubbles.
  • Put flour, sugar, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center, add the dissolved yeast and another cup of warm water. Mix well to form a dough.

*If the dough seems sticky, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. If the dough seems to dry, and will not form a ball, add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Be aware that adding too much flour will make the bread tough.

  • Place the dough ball on a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough by punching it down and pushing it, with both hands away from you.
  • Then pull it back towards you. Continue kneading the dough, using the back and forth motion, for approximately 5 minutes, or until you have a smooth, soft, and elastic dough.
  • Line a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place the dough into the bowl, and turn to coat with the olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then kitchen towels.
  • Place it in a draft-free area and allow it to rise until double in size. This will take 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

When the dough has risen, preheat the electric Commercial brick oven to 425 F degrees. Punch down the dough. Dust a baking stone, or baking sheet with semolina. Divide the dough into two equal-sized pieces. Place the dough pieces on the baking stone or sheet and form them into 2 (4×12-inch) loaves. Make sure that there are at least 4 to 5 inches between each loaf, so that when they arise, they will not stick together, or else use separate baking sheets. Loosely cover with a kitchen towel, and allow to rise for another hour. Uncover the bread, make 4 (1/8 inch) slits on the diagonal across each loaf. Brush each loaf with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 400F and bake for 25 minutes, or until bread is golden brown. Allow cooling slightly. Serve warm.

Thank you all for watching our #MarraCooks series! Join us in our Marra Forni Nation group on LinkedIn to learn more and converse with our fantastic community of Chefs, Pizzaioli, Industry experts, and more.

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