A Legendary Sourdough

IMG_0731Legend has it that it all began with some wild Yukon yeast blowing in the wind and landing in a bowl of flour and water belonging to none other than a prospector by the name of Jack London.  From this sourdough sponge, he baked bread that inspired a literary marvel, originally titled, “The Fermentation of the Wild.”

Failing in his fortune seeking and suffering the effects of scurvy, London left the Yukon only after gifting his sourdough to his favourite dance hall girl, Scarlett D’Angelo (likely not her real name).  She maintained the sourdough with tender care, employing it most effectively in a flapjack she appropriately named, “The Hangover Basher.”  Her cure for the common hang-over was legendary, earning her a place of high regard among many a tippled prospector.

With the gold rush winding down, she left Dawson City with a fortune thanks to this sourdough magic.  Taking up residence in her abandoned place of residence was a young bank clerk by the name of Robert Service.  His meagre salary from the bank barely afforded him enough to eat, so he supplemented his diet with bread baked from this inherited sourdough.  There is no need to tell the reader of what became of Robert Service, who left the bank and was then hounded by literary fame and fortune. 

From this point, the sourdough was passed on through a number of keepers, including Bonny Thompson, a hairdresser who lived briefly in Dawson City before moving, along with the sourdough, to Estevan, Saskatchewan where it resided for the next five decades.

Upon Bonny’s death, her will was read, and such was the first instance in recorded history in which a sourdough was mentioned in a will.  It remained in the family, moving about the country until ending up in Red Deer, Alberta where the dough was granted an honorary degree by Red Deer  College.

Sourdough Pizza Crust

1.5 cups of sourdough starter

1.5 cups of flour (I used whole wheat, but you choose.)

5 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt

These quantities are estimates.  Variations will occur depending upon the personality of your sourdough starter.  Is it a stick-in-the-mud gooey, or a sloppy sloshy slurry or somewhere in between?

Just a warning on this crust.  It’s not your average doughy, squishy, melt-in-your-mouth type of crust.  It’s got character, which means you have to really sink your teach into it and chew for all you’re worth.  The reward is a tasty chewing experience like no other offered by the pizza chains.

  1.  Mix all of the ingredients adding extra flour or oil or whatever it takes to give you a pizza dough consistency.
  2. Let is rest for 30 min. or more.  It won’t really rise during this time.  You’re just giving it a bit of time to recover after the trauma of being transformed.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 500 F.
  4. Roll out the dough into a pizza shape of your choosing onto a sheet covered in parchment paper or a generous application of spray oil.
  5. Bake the crust only for 7 minutes.
  6. Take it out, brush it with oil, then add whatever toppings you wish.  The toppings I really like include tomatoes, mushrooms (all rolled in oil), goat cheese and dried herbs like basil or oregano.  There are, as you know, an infinite number of possibilities for toppings.
  7. Return the pizza to the oven.  The baking time will vary (as everything seems to involving sourdough), but I baked mine only for an additional 8 minutes and it was done.  The crust starts to really brown or maybe even tend to black, then you know it’s ready to go.
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The Discobolus Dispatch

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Write the novel, paint the picture, compose the song . . . So, then what are you going to call it?  How about a novel titled,  “39,000 Words Divided into Twelve Chapters.”  Or maybe, “A Main Character Named Edward Who Falls Madly in Love with Another Character Named Doris.” 

Sorry.  It just doesn’t work.

So, why, when a recipe is created, is it called something like, “Avocado With Greek Yogurt and Horseradish Pizza,” or “Broiled Double-Thick Lamb Rib Chops With Store-Bought Mint Jelly Sauce?” Such names are completely lacking in flair.  No imagination.  The ultimate sin of being dull!  dull!  dull!

What an original recipe needs is a name that holistically captures the qualities of the creation without being too explicit about the ingredients.  For example, there’s “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall,” and “Bubble and Squeak.”  You have to know the recipe intimately to get the significance of the name.  But when you do, it makes so much sense and gives the recipe a splash of panache. 

With this in mind, I’d like to present a semi-original recipe I call, “The Discobolus Dispatch.”

This recipe is essentially made up of rounds of focaccia bread covered in a variety of cheeses, pesto, and roasted vegetables warmed up in the oven.  Call it a take on the pizza  Here’s how it goes:

Part 1:  Focaccia Bread

First you make the Focaccia Olive Oil Bread with Sage recipe from The Tassajara Break Book by Edward Espe Brown. The only change I made to this was, instead of dividing the dough into 8 pieces, I divided them into 4 simply because I wanted larger platforms.

Part 2:  Pesto

2 cups fresh basil

Pinch of salt

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

Mix in food processor.

Add another 1/4 cup olive oil

Add 1/4 cup walnuts

1/2 Parmesan cheese

1 Tablespoon lemon juice (or to taste)

This pesto is so good, you’ll want to eat it on its own.  But don’t. 

Part 3:  Roasted Stuff

It’s pretty wide open what you can use, but here are some specific ideas:

red peppers

zucchini slices

mushrooms

onions

Roast in a 400 F oven until done.

Part 4:  The Assembly

I sliced the focaccia bread horizontally to create a flat surface.

Spread the pesto, then pile on the roasted veggies. 

Also, add black olives to give this a bit of a kick.  Also, grate cheese over the top if you like.  I’m thinking some goat cheese could be spectacular.

Heat up in a 350 F oven until the bread’s nicely warm and the cheese melts.

Devour.

Master Supply List

If you’re like me, you need a master list of ingredients for this pretty involved recipe for planning purposes, so here it goes:

Whole wheat flour

White flour

Yeast

Olive oil

salt

dried sage

basil (or supplement with spinach)

garlic

Parmesan cheese

lemon juice

walnuts

zucchini

red peppers

cheese of some sort

mushrooms

black olives