Tag Archives: Pizza

Sourdough wheat pizza blends delicate, rustic flavor

I am reasonably sure I’ll never find “the dough” for me.  Of course, I used to say that about soul mates until The Bride came along, so I’ve learned never to say never, at least with much conviction. Hence, “reasonably sure” sounds more accurate.

More than once we’ve eaten our Friday night “make in” Pizza and The Bride’s spoken with a bite still in her mouth, her hand at her chin to catch stray cheese and her mouth in a bit of an Ah shape to guard against the heat all while saying, “This is Effin good.”

“Really?” I ask.

She’d swallow and say, “Yeah, this is the best you’ve made. Don’t change a thing.”

Then I go and change it. So instead of asking her now if she likes it, I say, “But is it as good as Tony’s?”

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It never is. It’s almost an unfair question because I’m not sure anyone will ever be as good as Tony’s.  Case in point:

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This thing is SOO MUCH better than it looks. And when you write a beautiful, definitive, perhaps THE ONLY pizza cookbook a person needs like this:

 

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…you got it going on. So it’s no shame not to be better than @tonyspizza415, and it gives me license to keep experimenting with doughs in search of ms. right.

All of which leads me to … my sourdough wheat pizza crust. In it, I used many of the tricks I have tried other times, including:

  • working some seminola into the dough for that complex texture and durability it provides,
  • using an egg (which I normally only use in pasta dough) because I’m told it adds a bit of bite to the crust along with some lightness to counteract the heaviness of the wheat,
  • a sourdough starter I made from 50 percent whole white wheat and 50 percent bread flour,
  • and my usual dashes of salt garlic and olive oil.
  • After about five minutes of kneading the grittier dough started to mesh with the lighter ingredients to become a sturdy, yet silky ball in my hands. I felt a great deal of promise lay in the bowl as I oiled it and set it for a good few hours of rise.

Note: I normally don’t do a lot of kneading or excessive rising for my pizza doughs. The simplicity of it is part of the beauty. Pizza doughs are easy to make decent, yet crucially delicate and complex to get that perfect snap and al dente mix that makes a crust like Tony’s so… Tonyish. This one, because of the wheat and because of the egg I decided to both knead more and let more time to rise, yet another experiment.

Finally, I did add a teaspoon of yeast, which I really don’t think is necessary. The sourdough starter has plenty enough activity after nine days of feeding, stirring and living, but with the density of the wheat and the texture of seminola, I wanted some backup.

And the results?

The crust was a nice blend of rustic texture from the seminola and wheat but delicacy that made it better than a slice of cardboard. The sourdough gave it a complex flavor I really love. The lift was good too. One complaint was it was a tad crumbly. In short…

I love it, but …

it’s still not Tony’s.

Sourdough Wheat Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup white wheat sourdough starter (here’s a good recipe, by Nourished Kitchen… mostly I stress a high quality starter and a good doughs to feed it. I got mine from Italy).
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup white wheat, 1/2 cup seminola from Butte Creek Mill.
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 1 tbl honey
  • 1 egg
  • splashes of salt, crushed garlic or dry
  • 1/4 cup luke warm water with 1 tsp of yeast

Directions:

  1. Mix yeast and water and let stand.
  2. Sift doughs together and make a well. In the well crack the egg and pour in olive oil, garlic and salt. Stir with a fork outward until mostly blended.
  3. Add in sourdough starter and water and begin mixing with your hands. Add white wheat flour as needed until it’s not sticky.
  4. Knead for five minutes.
  5. Place in oiled bowl and cover for three hours. Punch down once or twice as needed.
  6. Roll out the crust into your best pizza shape and let stand for a few minutes (or more) covered with a towel (this really helps the slide-ability of the dough. If you want a crisp, extra thin crust skip this step because it does rise a bit).
  7. Sauce, cheese, toppings and slide into a 500-degree oven for 9-11 minutes.
  8. Top with dried red peppers, parmesan cheese. Let stand for five minutes, slice and serve.
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Day 14: Clean Eating Challenge fulfilled

We did it. We did the Buzz Feed Clean Eating challenge and didn’t cheat. We stared down the bear and it walked away … for now. We lost a few pounds, feel a ton better, re-established needed discipline, revved up our metabolism with small meals and most importantly broke that compulsive hold over me for dessert.

I’d say it’s a success.

But now the real fun begins. We have to sustain it. So really it’s not over at all. In fact, it’s just beginning. We will not have a celebratory In-N-Out Burger or a massive piece of chocolate cake. It won’t work that way. We’ll stay the course as boring as that sounds.

We will make adjustments:

  • like no more salads for dinner. I hate salad for dinner. I want DINNER for dinner, not more lunch.
  • I will also add in some bread, because I love to make it. But not too much, and not too often. I’m resolved to only eat breads when I make them to make sure we don’t eat too much.
  • We will have dessert now again. But again we’ll try to limit it to those we make and limit the sugar we eat to those we intentionally choose, not pick up through processed foods or late-night snacks.

All of that was needed. In short, this challenge helped us feel back on track again. These things above, along with an intentional plan to eat smaller meals, eat clean, focus on vegetables and stay consistent will help us transition and make this sustainable. Besides, we were eating mostly well. It was the outer edges that were problems. The binges, the second-helpings, the weekends, the late-night snacks that were destroying all the point of the mostly well we did do.

No food challenge is perfect. This had its flaws. But would I recommend it? Heartily. It’s the best thing we’ve done in a year.

But like I said, now the hard part comes. We have to sustain it, which leads me to the single most important lesson I learned these past two weeks: I have to treat my eating like I do my alcoholism. 

I really do.

And it depresses the shit out of me.

I simply don’t ever want to be fat again. After five years of fighting back from the gradual creep into dangerous obesity, after three years of having lost 100 pounds and keeping at least 80 off, after five years of regular exercise that has me in good enough condition to run a mountainous half-marathon in two weeks, after five years of intentional, focused, healthy living, after five years of sobriety, it stuns me to know my body is still fighting me. The battle to stay fit and trim continues. In fact, in may be harder today than when I started 100 pounds ago.

My body just wants its fat back. It’s the only way I can explain it. Plus, my mind wants its addictions and compulsions back. It wants what it wants and since it can no longer have wine or scotch or vodka, it really, really wants chocolate and pizzas and burgers and fries.

Before we stared this challenge, I noticed some weight gain. But more than anything I noticed how badly I wanted dessert at night. How obsessed I had become about certain foods. How much I craved. That’s addictive thinking. In some ways, my addictions to eat the stuff that makes me gain weight is more insidious than my desire for alcohol.

So I have to pursue it the same way in order to be successful. The bear will return. I have to face that. But how I deal with it, how I approach it will make all the difference.

What did I learn these two weeks? That I am in recovery of food and booze, so the work continues…. one day at a time.

 

Springs bursts from the ground and branch

We didn’t get a winter on the West Coast. My snowboard gear remains packed and ignored. But even so, the first blooms of spring this year lost little of their luster. I noticed the explosions taking place on branch, vine from soil on recent runs through the wilderness I live near. I’m excited about planting the garden. I’ve already had to weed twice.

It’s exhilarating. No season bursts with the grandeur of spring. But this year I got a special spring surprise that made me feel like a kid again.

The story goes back a few months, longer than that really, back to when my daughter adopted for me an olive tree in Italy. A new webromance broke out. I love Nudo. I love their emails, I love their idea to adopt trees. And mostly I love their oil.

Next came the contest. The creative folks at Nudo experiment infusing oils with different flavors. To promote two new ideas — rosemary and coffee flavored olive oils — they held a contest for recipes using the oil. With my daughter’s help we submitted a recipe using both, Coffee Chicken Pizza with Rosemary Olive Oil Fried Apple Rings.

Well… yippee skippy, we were one of five winners chosen by the good folks at Nudo. They sent us samples of both oils and a letter that felt like a little gold medal…

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(I’m easily pleased as you can see).

Amanda became the Test Kitchen’s first visitor so we could put our recipes into action.

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We took our recipes and their oil and soon the kitchen was filled with goodness.

Like apples:

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And pizzas:

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And these ideas cooked up in our minds so cooked up deliciously in our kitchen.

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We ate like Romans!

OK, it’s easy to get distracted by great food, but I was writing about spring. Well, part of this tree adoption thing included an actual tree of my own… like a foreign exchange student. In the deep chill of our snowless winter I opened the can, followed the instructions and watered very, very little the little gravel base.

And I waited.

And waited.

And waited… and nothing happened.

And I felt sad. Like I had been a poor host home for a wayward Italian olive tree… until…

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Spring!

All is right in my world as my little tree awakens and stretches and makes her way upward, just like me this year, small and tentative and yet so filled with potential harvest.

What’s not to love about spring?

Dough thoughts: a time to pause

I must have needed the time to think.

It was Christmas Eve, the final few moments before the family’s arrival and the previous few frenetic days of to-do lists, Christmas carols and relative quiet would explode in the bustle, noise and complicated wonderfulness of family. I looked around my kitchen and bowls of dough were everywhere. Literally, everywhere.

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I hadn’t thought about all this when I planned my Christmas menu. Now, as I looked around, I realized I’d spent hours working with dough. There were pizza doughs, and pasta doughs and doughnut doughs and bread doughs.

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Dough was rising and baking and evolving around me as I slipped away into kneading thoughts of my own. Dough is my Zen Garden. I went there without ever really knowing why, like a well-trained horse wandering back to the ranch house without the need of a pull on the reins.

I think somewhere in the back of my mind I realized that this would be my family’s first completely non-alcoholic holiday. I think it worried me, though I never connected with that until a couple of days of later. I’m sure this is why I gravitated to the dough.

Later the family arrived and we ate pizza and doughnuts and bread and all the treats I’d been busily making. We crammed into our little house and played games and likely annoyed each other but I felt … congruent. I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. I felt OK, and I think those moments lost inside my head, my forearms flexing and straining, my grip twisting and smooshing the flexible life in my hands had a lot to do with it. Nobody seemed to care they were drinking sparkling water instead of Pinot Noir. What a gift.

My yoga teacher likes to say, “the body knows what it needs.” My doughworks were my body’s way of asking the overbearing mind to step aside and let it have it what it needed.

Visions of sugar plums, no… but visions of food delights to be sure

What’s a sugar plum?

I grew up in the urban areas of California. I didn’t really connect that the berries my grandmother used to make incredible freezer jam had to actually be picked by a person until I went to college and friends took me out strawberry picking. They grew up in a place where every kid made extra money picking berries. I was stunned by the whole experience, and still broke because I was the worst strawberry picker ever.

I think about this as the morning of Christmas Eve dawns, and I finalize my Christmas Menu 2013. Visions of this bounty of food — no sugar plums, sadly — dance in my mind. Life is full, expansive and curious. It only took me nearly half a century to wonder about a sugar plum.

I think I love the act of planning big family meals almost more than eating them. I love the details, the coordination, the scheduling and the shopping. I love the cooking, because all my kids will pop in to help. Even my wife joins in — she cooks like my father attended Mass: twice a year on Easter and Christmas and no questions asked about the rest of the year. It’s an arrangement that works well for us, because she cleans, something of which I’m less fond.

My to-do list is nearly finished, Elvis Christmas carols play in the background and the place looks great:

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Food and family. That blessing tops all others at the holidays.

As day breaks on these holidays I have so much, so very much for which to be grateful. Every bite of these meals will be one where I say grace over and over in my mind.

A blessed holiday to you and yours.

Christmas Menu 2013

Christmas Eve: Pizza night (per tradition):

Homemade Pepperoni, Margherita, and Combo, with a big green salad topped with cranberries and apples.

Christmas Day:

Breakfast: Homemade Blueberry Jelly Doughnuts, Pesto Scramble.

Lunch: Fried Eggplant with marinara sauce, antipasto platter and Italian deviled eggs.

Dinner:

Grilled Prime Rib… yes its Dinner. Thank you Dinner my steer. This night you fulfill your great destiny to be a holiday dinner no less.

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Fresh-made fettucine with either the family meat sauce or alfredo, baked Italian bread

Bacon- braised brussel sprouts (say that five times fast!)

Asparagus spears with lemon

Dessert:

Double-fudge with caramel cookie topped with homemade peanut butter ice-cream

Christmas cookies.

I’d love to hear what you’re planning for Christmas meals. Reply below.

A final note about the holidays. Readers of this column may note it is really a celebration of recovery. I’ve been sober now for 54 months. My wife has been sober for six. This is our first non-alcoholic family Christmas in…. well, ever. This is a true gift from God.

When I drank I couldn’t imagine life without it. I figured the fun would cease and desist leaving me a sad, empty diminished soul. The exact opposite occurred. Like Baby soaring high in Patrick Swayze’s arms, “I’m having the time of my life.”

Celebrate sober. You’ll love it. And as always, I’m here if you need an ear. Drop me a line if you are struggling with drugs and/or alcohol, especially this holiday season. I can’t do much, but I’ll listen.