Crust makes the pie. Master the dough, master the Universe.
I have been making my own pizza dough from scratch, every weekend for the past 3 years. I think it’s safe to say that I might be getting the hang of it. I have finally gotten to the point where the dough is lovely and fragrant, the homemade sauce is piquant and aromatic, and my cheese of choice (cut from a block rather than getting a bag of shredded mozzarella), are producing edible joy on a weekly basis.
But it’s not enough. It’s never enough.
Everyone has their own idea of what the perfect dough should be; New York thin, Chicago thick, West Coast crunchy….Papa John’s (not saying anything bad about Papa’s. If eating dog turd on a cracker is your idea of a perfect…by all means…mangiare). My vision of perfection is thin. Not paper thin, but thin, with just a slight chew. Something that holds up to the scrutiny of the heartiest of toppings, yet not so obnoxious as to insist on usage of fork and knife. I’ve tasted this in a couple of places, and they’ve immediately became my favorite. Which is why it maddens me that I can’t replicate it, or rather up until now, haven’t replicated it.Peter Reinhart’s American Pie is quickly becoming an important read in my library, right up there with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s equal parts questing travelogue and cook book. Within its pages, I recognized my own hunger for wanting something new; something I haven’t tasted before. Maybe it buys into my obsessive nature, but I think I might have found my latest life’s calling. I have never made it, but I’m sure I’ve had it, I believe a sourdough crust will be the next logical step in approaching bliss. Master the dough, master the Universe. For as long as it takes, I will chronicle my quest for my white whale. For the one or two of you who caught my previous blogs, I don’t think I need to explain my need to indulge in labor intensive activities. Sourdough takes patience, nurturing, a keen eye, and lots and lots of time. Sounds like something that’s right up my alley.
Presently, I’m used to making my dough the American way, as opposed to the traditional, Italian, DOC approved, kinda tasteless dough. I’ve made it the traditional way, I found it in direct violation to my delicate American taste buds. I stick with what works and stopped giving a damn on what the DOC thinks.
Still, the dough that I make, while sufficient, isn’t quite doing it for me. Which is why I’m switching to sourdough. Now, this is something new to me. Sourdough is made from a wild yeast. Wild Yeast is not found in stores. Wild yeast has to be farmed fresh. Wild yeast originates from a mother starter. A mother starter comes from what they call a seed culture. A seed culture is produced by making bacteria, and they way to get this certain type of bacteria is by introducing pineapple juice to whole wheat flour. I’m process oriented, but there’s a simplicity to this that intrigues me. Bread has been made like this for centuries. It’s important to remember one’s roots.
Today, I make the seed culture. Initially, it takes less time than my usual dough prep. But my usual prep time is for one night, and one night only. Sourdough prep time takes days. It’s like a plant: Tend to it, walk away, let it do its thing.
Incorporate ingredients, knead into a tennis ball sized ball, cover in an air tight container, leave on a counter top for twenty-four hours, and bam! Instant seed culture. Time to go on to step two.