Pizza From the Grain Up


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At All Souls Pizza in Asheville, N.C., the star of the pies is the crust — chewy, tangy, with an intoxicating almost-floral aroma.

Credit
Mike Belleme for The New York Times

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — This mountain city is rightly known for many things: the Biltmore Estate, spectacular leaf peeping and craft beer. Pizza, though, is not one of them.

That may be about to change thanks to All Souls Pizza. Housed inside a long, low-slung building that used to be a Greek diner, it turns out astonishingly good pies with ingredients like smoked North Carolina shrimp and fermented chile sauce. But the star of the show is the crust: chewy, tangy, with an intoxicating almost-floral aroma.

The man responsible for that crust is David Bauer, a self-effacing 36-year-old and a pioneer in the movement to use local freshly milled grains. Mr. Bauer commissions small regional farms to grow heirloom varieties of wheat and corn: Turkey Red, Red Fife and Appalachian White wheats, along with Cateto and Caribbean landrace corn for All Souls’ polenta-crust pizzas.

All Souls’ custom stone mill, designed by the baker Fulton Forde, shears the bran off into large pieces that can be sifted easily and rubs the germ oil into the starch; in most flours, oils are removed to increase shelf life. The resulting flour has a texture that’s almost creamy. Mr. Bauer calls it the flour equivalent of a well-marbled steak.

“All Souls really exemplifies Asheville’s commitment to ingredient-driven cooking,” said John Fleer, the chef of Rhubarb and a veteran of Blackberry Farm. “What could be more on point than growing and milling your own flour? It makes for the best pizza crust anywhere.”

Fresh milling is all the rage these days. Bruno in New York, Etto in Washington and Nellcôte in Chicago all have their own mills. Mr. Bauer lets the flour dictate how his pizzas are cooked.

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All Souls’ baker, David Bauer, is a pioneer in the movement to use local, freshly milled grains.

Credit
Mike Belleme for The New York Times

Unlike with a classic Neapolitan pie, which has a pale crust puffed and blistered black in an ultrahot oven, All Souls fires its pies cooler to put bring out three colors: black bubbles of char, a deep gold that signals the sugars in the dough have caramelized, and a soft white underbelly.

Mr. Bauer also fine-tunes the blend of wheat to showcase the chef Brendan Reusing’s seasonal toppings. In summer, Mr. Bauer adds more white wheat to complement greens and fresh cheeses. In winter, he mills the flour darker, adding more red wheat and increasing the amount of bran for pies with richer red sauces and cured meats.

So what do you call this kind of pizza? “I am dead set against making any style,” Mr. Bauer said. “We’re starting with the grains and letting them lead us.”

All Souls Pizza, 175 Clingman Avenue, Asheville, N.C., 828-254-0169, allsoulspizza.com.

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