Thursday, February 21, 2008


For approximately exactly the last 21 days, when I've watched hockey games on a certain regional sports channel, I've noticed a series of public service announcements for Black History Month. In these "ads," a black man named Kendall Lewis tells a short story about one of many historically significant black athletes, like Jesse Owens, Jim Brown, or Jackie Robinson. When he finishes telling the short story, a voiceover kindly informs me that "McDonald's is a proud sponsor of Black History Month, celebrating black history 365 days a year."

So I'm sure you'll be airing more of these ads 9 days from now, right, McDonald's? Or maybe you'll be funding a neverending series of books on black history? Yes, that must be it.

Aimless Video Evidence

Some random stuff

For those of you who thought I'd given up on the pizzeria opportunity a few weeks ago, I hadn't. I gave it another chance. (The only way you would have known is if you'd read the comments to a previous post.) But as I said last night, I'm pretty sure it's all over now.

I've recently taken a new direction in my quest to make the perfect pizza. About two weeks ago, I created a naturally leavened starter (usually termed "sourdough" starter). To begin the starter, I simply mixed 4 ounces of water with 4 ounces of flour, adding no yeast or sugar and keeping the mixture covered loosely overnight. The following day I removed all but 4 ounces of the mixture, added another 4 ounces each of water and flour, then stirred the new mixture. Each of the next few days, I removed half of the mixture and added another 4 and 4.

After the first couple days, the mixture became slightly bubbly and had a somewhat "sour" smell (clearly indicating that it had aquired some wild yeast), but it essentially did not rise in the bowl. It behaved that way for a few more days, but on about the fifth or sixth day, it took off (probably because I placed it atop the oven while the oven was hot).

Oh yeah! Now we have some serious fermentation. At this point, the mixture had doubled in volume, contained lots of pretty bubbles, and had a strong smell of alcohol. With this sudden burst of wild yeast activity, I began feeding the starter twice each day. Early in the day I would remove all but 4 ounces of the starter and add 8 ounces of water and 8 ounces of flour. Then, sometime after midnight, I'd do it again.

For about the first week, I'd just dump the part of the mixture I'd removed, but at this point I was ready to start using it. So for about a week, now, I've been using 8 or 12 ounces of starter every time I make pizza dough. Because the starter is always a 1:1 ratio of water and flour (by weight), I know exactly how much water and flour to add whenever I make a new batch of dough. For example: If I begin with 12 ounces of starter, I need to add another 10 ounces of flour and another 3 ounces of water for a moderately soft dough. But if I begin with only 8 ounces of starter, I need to add an additional 2 ounces of both flour and water (12 ounces of flour and 5 ounces of water). Regardless of how much starter I use, I'll almost always add 1-1/4 tsp of salt.

There are two reasons why this process is so easy: 1) Every batch of dough I make is based on 1 pound (or 16 oz.) of flour; and 2) I forgot the second reason... Measuring ingredients by weight (rather than volume) makes everything 100 times easier and more consistent. (The only reason I measure salt by volume is because I don't use enough salt to get an accurate measurement of weight. If I was making a pizzeria-size batch, I would measure everything by weight.)

Now that I'm using this starter to leaven my pizza dough, my dough consists of only three ingredients: flour, water, and salt. No yeast, no sugar, no oil.

Is that cool or what? (If you're not sure: Yes, it is cool.)

Now that my starter is thriving, I keep it in the fridge (rather than on the counter). By keeping my starter in the fridge, I don't have to feed it every day (because cool temperatures retard fermentation). Instead, I only need to feed the starter once a week. However, because I make a new batch of dough every two or three days, naturally I feed it about every three days.

You should try it.

Well, I was going to mention a couple other things here (like what you asked about, Jeff), but I think I'll just call it a day for now.

Aimless Video Evidence