Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Baker Boy

one of the pizzas from Friday night

My Facebook friends know that I do our family's baking--and I've done so since the earliest days of our marriage (late in 1969--for financial reasons then, for gustatory reasons now!). They know this because I am shameless about posting pictures of my latest bread--or pizza--or holiday treat. Although I've written about this before, it was several years ago, and I have no reason to suppose that any readers of this post will remember that earlier post--hell, I didn't even remember when it was. So ... what I'm saying is: I'm going to write again about my sourdough baking. Here's how it started ...

Back in the summer of 1986, our son Steve (13) and I went to Alaska and the Yukon. There was more than one reason. At the time, I was teaching 8th grade English at Harmon (Middle) School in Aurora, Ohio, and residing in our literature anthology was the text of The Call of the Wild, a text that was already beginning to bring out the obsessive stalker in me. I had not ever been to Alaska and the Yukon, and I wanted to see some of the locations that Jack London mentions in his celebrated novella (first published in 1903--London himself, young and unknown, had gone there in 1897 during the dawning days of the Yukon Gold Rush).

Another reason--even more compelling: My own great-grandfather Addison Clark Dyer had also gone on that Rush in 1898 (a year after London)--and had kept a diary, which my father had recently given to me. I wanted to see the places he mentioned, too, and I wanted to see them with my son--who, by the way, had just finished a year in my 8th grade English class.

And so we flew to Seattle, where we stayed with my old Hiram College friends, Claude and Dorothy Steele, who were teaching there (Claude at the University of Washington). Then we flew Alaska Airlines to Juneau, hopped a little plane to Skagway, on the southeastern coast, where we rented a car, drove over the White Pass, and on to Whitehorse and Dawson City, Yukon Territory (the latter, at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers, is where the gold strike occurred). Along the way we photographed many sites--and actually found my great-grandfather's old claim on Bonanza Creek (it was still being mined--but not by anyone in our family).

On the way home, buying souvenirs in Skagway (for family, for my classes), I found a package of sourdough starter (dry). I thought, This will be nice to try at home.

Little did I know.

I didn't use it right away when we got home, but it wasn't too long--maybe a few weeks? (Wasn't keeping a journal then, and I flat don't remember.) But once I did start using it, I was hooked--and I've been baking with it ever since, every week. This past summer, my starter turned 28, and throughout the years I've mixed it with flour that "means something" to me--e.g., flour from Lanterman Mill in Youngstown (another great-grandfather--Warren A. Lanterman--lived in the area and was related to the Lantermans who ran the mill), flour from the mill in Garrettsville, Ohio (my mom taught in Garrettsville for 10 years; my younger brother graduated from high school there), and flour from various other sources.

Over the years, I also experimented with recipes--and found variations of ones that Joyce and I (and son Steve and his family) like/love. I have two basic sourdough bread recipes that I follow, baking every Sunday morning/afternoon: one is a whole-wheat bread; the other, a multi-grain. The latter (see below) uses something like fifteen different flours I've been playing with for years.

I also have a pizza-dough recipe I've messed around with for years and really like. It's simple really: sourdough starter, whole wheat flour, olive oil, sea salt, local honey, about a half-cup of warm soy milk (yes, I'm one of those). The sauce is just canned tomato sauce + paste (whisked together). Once the dough is ready, I cut into three pieces, roll each piece into a nice circle, place each circle on a pizza peel (I like the metal ones--put a good coating of semolina grain on it first--it allows the pizza to slip easily off later), then pinch the dough edges, spread on some sauce, sprinkle some mozzarella shavings, some Parmesan, some sea salt, some ground pepper, some oregano; then come the toppings (whatever you like: Joyce likes veggies; I like chicken--or turkey sausage & turkey pepperoni (yes, I'm one of those)), followed by more mozzarella, more Parmesan. Then use the slip to slide the pizza onto a pizza stone at the bottom of the very hot oven (we used 490 last night--which seems to work well). Use peel to remove the baked pizza after it looks nice and brown and the cheese is melted, etc. (Use your judgment.)

pizza peel
Slide it onto a cooling rack for a few minutes--then cut and serve.

You can use any recipe book to find out the amounts of things to put in the dough.

But here's the kicker: It's that 28-year-old sourdough starter that makes all the difference. I'm not bragging--just saying. So, it all comes down to this: I have just simultaneously sent and not sent the recipe. I guess my best advice for those who want to start this kind of baking: Get some starter (realizing that you have just now invited another living thing into the family, a living thing that needs attention and feeding about once/week); treat it well; don't be afraid of it (it's pretty hardy stuff); experiment until you find mixtures and recipes you like.

Pix are from two other pizzas we baked yesterday.

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