|You need hair and eye protection when baking pizza in a cob oven. It makes me look 10x hipper than usual.|
For the first time in over a year (and the second time ever), I fired up our pizza oven on Saturday, inspired by a class I took from Kristin Ferguson Smith when we were in Los Angeles last week. I learned so much crust technique in that class I can’t even begin to cover it here. Plus, to paraphrase Aam Gopnik, there’s no bore like a bread bore. (Read his piece if you haven't already; it's wonderful.) Here’s what I will say: We drove home from L.A. and I went straight to the refrigerator to revive my languishing sourdough starter. I fed it twice a day for three days until it was active and bubbly and then made pizza dough. Kristin’s recipe is similar to the Mozza recipe, but she calls for sourdough starter and has you knead the dough for roughly 8 times as long. Like, up to 45 minutes in the mixer. Does that shock you? It shocked me. But it works. You knead the hell out of that dough and only when it passes the windowpane test can you quit. I have never made better pizza crust. It’s possible I’ve never eaten better pizza crust.
As for the oven, it performed beautifully. I plastered it a few months ago but ran out of plaster before it was completely covered, so there’s a little patch at the back to tackle soon. Maybe in 2015. The oven’s dimensions are wrong for optimal burning and there are some funky cosmetic details, but I am proud. I am also proud that I didn’t burn the house down while igniting the fire on Saturday without matches or lighter. How did I manage this? I’ll let you use your imagination. What I did was breathtakingly stupid, but I got away with it and will never, ever do it again.
It was Mark's birthday, so my sister and her family came over to celebrate. Justine and I stood out there in the dusk and talked and made pizzas while our husbands happily watched football upstairs and foolishly complained that they don’t like clams on their pizzas and our four kids decorated Mark’s birthday cake. It was a perfect evening and I don’t say that very often.