Friday, November 8, 2013

Pizza for dinner -- just not mine

                                              All of the toppings, ready for the pizza.

May 25, 2013: Not a thing wrong with Bear Tooth pizza -- it's our favorite. But that wasn't the plan for the evening. We were going to have sourdough pizza crust, topped with homemade marinara sauce, fresh shaved Parmesan cheese,  and other delicious things. This time, I was going to pay attention, watch over the rising dough hour by hour, making it my top priority all day long. This time, it would work just right.

                                         Pizza dough, rising.

Except that it didn't. I followed Tartine instructions for basic bread to get three small balls of dough, about 8 ounces each. Then I used instructions for Italian pan pizza for making two of the balls into pizza crusts, and made the third into a small foccacia. So far, so good.

The pizza crusts, like everything else I've tried recently, didn't rise after shaping. I'm perplexed. Up until I shape the dough for its final rise, it's been airy, bubbly, sweet-smelling, with a smooth skin and great form. Until I shape it into crust, or foccacia, or a ciabbata loaf. Then it just sits. After an hour or two, I put it in the oven because it's gotten to be midnight, or company is arriving soon. It didn't rise outside the oven, and didn't have any oven spring either. The bread  that comes out is nicely browned and tastes fine (when I remember the salt), but you would have to say that it's "chewy," as in sea cucumber chewy, or badly-cooked squid. This was the third or fourth try at foccacias, flatbreads, and ciabbatas, and the results have been pretty consistent.

[The foccacia part of this batch of dough had some rise, but I forgot the salt. Bread needs very little salt, but its absence is as noticeable as a wrong note in a violin solo. It lasts longer though -- every bite reminds you that yes, you forgot the salt. Again.]

                                          Foccacia, not for dinner.

Foccacia wasn't for dinner in any case. The guests were invited for pizza, and the pizza dough didn't work at all. Luckily, we had guacamole as an appetizer and that, with a bottle of wine, kept the party going while Jim and one of the guys ran to Bear Tooth for take-out pizza.

Here's my guacamole recipe. No sourdough recipes for a while to come.

Teri's guacamole

The amount of lime juice, salt and salsa that you use will depend on personal taste, and the size of the avocados, which can vary a lot from season to season.

Five ripe avocadoes in large pieces (halves or quarters), skin and pits discarded
Two to four tablespoons Nellie Joe's key lime juice
One tablespoon salt
One eighth to one quarter cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Eight ounces medium spicy salsa from a jar (Fresh salsa tends to be too watery, and the flavors aren't blended as well as salsa from a jar)

Combine in a large bowl, and chop.  The real secret -- the final guacamole should  be a bit chunky. I use a Foley nut chopper (you can find them on eBay and the like), you could also mash with a large fork, or  anything that will leave you with some pureed avocado and lots of pieces of different sizes. Think coarsely chopped nuts, or Grape Nuts. Because the textures are varied, the individual tastes comes through, with an underlying smooth base of flavor. Serve with your favorite chips.

Followup note, November 7, 2013: An experienced baker told me recently that the key to a light sourdough crust or bread is to provide a really moist environment -- not just in the oven, but during the final rise. I haven't tried that yet, but will rejoice and post the results if it works.

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