Woodfired Warmth from France to Goshen

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By: Rachel A. Shenk

Rachel A. Shenk

Just two weeks ago, I was saying goodbye to a little town that has left its mark on my heart. My husband and I discovered it ten years ago when we were looking for a place to stay along the French Mediterranean coast. We needed a location close to the sea, easily accessible to public transportation, affordable, with cooking facilities and more rustic than luxurious. We found all of that and so much more “Au Jardin de la ferme”, a rural vacation rental, in Le Brusc, a small port already in existence in 5 B.C.

When we arrived that first time, late at night, in the middle of a dust storm, we were immediately surrounded by the smell in the air: a mixture of fresh rosemary, saltwater, earth and cypress. Then we discovered our warm and personable host, Sophie, and our just right for us accommodation. That night, we went to sleep after a light supper of pizza and wine from our hosts’ own vineyard. When we awoke, it was to bright sunshine, deep blue skies and the soft cooing of doves. We finally saw our chosen destination. Our dark green shuttered cottage sits back from the road, surrounded by flowering wisteria, orange trees and many kinds of flowers. Around the back, the olive trees rustle in the breeze. Down the lane and down the palm tree-lined street, the turquoise blue waters of the Mediterranean beckon! In this very small town, we walk along the charming fishing port. We will have everything we need here: there is a pharmacy, two bakeries, a few sidewalk cafés, a bookstore, a doctor, a couple of grocery stores, a flower shop and a hardware store. Over the years, we’ve made use of most of these, even the doctor, who one year came to our cottage on a home visit when Jim was sick with bronchitis.

We know that every Wednesday, you can go to the big market in the next town for good fresh fish. Or you can buy tasty olives on Thursdays, at the market right down the street. Or buy your artisan bread at the market on Saturdays in town. Bright red peppers, artichokes, zucchinis, spring onions and tomatoes are part of the daily diet here. Since our cottage has cooking facilities, we often go to these markets and come home to cook meals using recipes from the local cookbooks. And then, bring them back to Goshen to share.

For those of you who know us, these are some of the reasons we go back every year. This year, we went out for supper to Pinochio, an Italian restaurant that sits right on the port. We walked down as the sun was setting. As we opened the door, the owners greeted us and showed us to a table with a good view of the woodfired oven. I watched as pizzas, steaks, lamb skewers and lasagnas went in and out of the oven. The pizzaiolo ran that oven on a tight schedule so that everyone was served in good time. We enjoyed being on the other side of the counter, eating fresh and delicious food.

Now that we are back on this side of the pond, we will make woodfired pizzas and bread in our oven, with the same love and passion we saw in a small restaurant in Southern France.

Here is a recipe I use for my pizza dough. If you don’t have a woodfired oven, grilling will also work for this pizza.

Woodfired Pizza Dough

Ingredients 

  • 2½ cups water
  • 2 tbsp. yeast 
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 6 cups flour

Directions

  1. Stir the yeast into the warm water. Let it sit until it bubbles.
  2. Add 4 cups flour and beat well, until stringy.
  3. Dissolve the salt in 1 tbsp. water and add to dough.
  4. Add remaining 2 cups of flour as needed, until dough is no longer sticky and can be kneaded until smooth.
  5. Put in a greased bowl. Let sit, covered with a damp cloth, until it almost doubles.
  6. Punch down and cut into 6 pieces.
  7. Flatten by hand by pulling and twirling the dough. It is now ready for your toppings.
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