So, the following journey was born out of necessity. We live “in the sticks” and we can’t just drive into town for every little thing. It’s that fact that made me lay down the gauntlet and start trying to learn by doing more DIY projects, grow food, utilize what I already have – be resourceful (like MacGyver), etc. Hence, I needed to perfect making pizza from scratch at home.
I didn’t want to catch myself driving 18 miles round trip (I know, that’s SOO far) just for green onions or to pick up an over-priced pizza – that’s just a waste of gas, time, money, and way too reliant on the supply chain. Don’t get me wrong, once in a while we love to go pick up a pizza at the mom-and-pop-owned local pizzeria and hit the drive-in movie to eat and watch the movie from the comfort of the inside of our car, feet on the dash and seats reclined. (Can’t do that in the theater!) However, for the most part, we don’t eat out much. I cook every evening and we miss pizza.
I make an amazing marinara sauce from scratch and it needs a great crust to go with it. I have to keep basil growing in several pots and places around the house to keep up with the demand for the marinara sauce (it’s also great over pasta).I tried several crust recipes like Goldilocks – this one was too thin and wouldn’t hold up the sauce and boatloads of toppings, that one too chewy, the other one not tasty enough, etc. Finally, I settled on a quasi-good pizza crust recipe after many months of experimentation.
Soon, I was getting really good pizzas coming out of the oven when all of a sudden my dough stopped rising! Three or four miserable crusts we endured (we baked them anyways); thick, chewy, doughy, and nasty. I could NOT figure out what was happening. It’s not like I just started cooking, folks. I’ve been cooking and baking for a couple of decades now, and I would say my skills are advanced, if not close to expert, in most areas (there are still a few final frontiers and I’m always learning). I was mortified.
First, I thought it was the change in flour. I had picked up a soft winter wheat with less protein in it. Upon a change of flour, still no rise. Then I thought it was too cold where I was letting the dough rise. Upon warmer rising conditions, still no rise. Next, I thought it was the yeast, so I bought different yeast. Still no rise.
That’s it, I thought, time for a new thermometer. Santa had put a new thermometer in my stocking a couple of Christmases back, and it was in my back stock. I pulled that sucker out and ran it against the other one in a cup of hot tap water. By golly, it was the old thermometer all along. I had been killing my little yeasties for the last few crusts!Interesting how the thermometer just randomly stopped working – mystery to me. We shall look back on this and rememeber it as the Great Thermometer Caper.
So, now the pizza is amazing again, but it made me think more deeply about yeast. Those little yeasties are so pesky. I have been thinking about making a sourdough starter for some time, and it was time to make it. I was dreaming of sourdough pizza crust…MmmMmmmmm
It’s Day 3, and I can’t wait to make pizza! The starter smells amazing already and is happily growing and bubbling. I will have to post again after the first sourdough pizza and let you know how it turned out.