Seafood Pizza with basil sauce

Seafood pizza with basil sauce

Disaster struck on Saturday morning this weekend. I got up as usual at 8 am and went down to the kitchen. I knew what I had to do. We were planning to eat pizza that evening, and I wanted to mix the dough as early as possible. Pizza dough always becomes better with long fermentation time in the refrigerator. So the first thing I did was to check my sourdough starter. I had fed it before I went to bed, so I expected a lively, bubbling starter.

To my dismay, I saw that unlike me, it hadn’t woken up yet. And that’s bad. Very bad. Because as most of you know, it can take some time to wake up a sleepy starter. I didn’t have time for that.
I swore about lazy, ungrateful, useless and grumpy sourdough starters while I furiously glared down into the glass jar. A puny little bubble rose up to the surface and burst in front of my eyes.
I got the message.
“That’s all you will get, asshole, so why don’t you let me go back to sleep?”

I have been baking with a sourdough starter for many years now, and I know how to get my starter in a perfect, good, mature mood. Most of the time I should add. These things happen, I know. It happens even to professional bakers. Still, there are few things that make me more frustrated. You have planned everything in detail, but when it’s time for action, everything is ruined by a starter that makes a mummy appear like a playful foal.

I realized that there was only one thing left to do. I had to use commercial yeast. Now, before anyone starts to feel offended, I would like to point out that there is absolutely nothing wrong with using commercial yeast. I do it sometimes, depending on what kind of bread I want to bake. It’s just that we sourdough nerds are a bit special (or weird). If we have decided to bake something with a sourdough starter, it feels like a failure if we have to use commercial yeast.

And it was thoughts like that that ran through my head that morning. But then I remembered something. A few weeks ago I watched a cooking show about how they bake real Neapolitan pizza. A Swedish chef went down to Napoli to try to learn how to bake the famous dish. I remembered that he failed most of the time. But I also remembered that they used fresh, regular yeast.
“If the Italiens can use it, so can I,” I said to myself.
“You hear that you son of a mold-infested, hooch overfilled jar of shit” I shouted in triumph to my starter. “I don’t need you.”

My starter responded with silence.

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Sourdough dinner rolls with orange and rosemary

Sourdough dinner rolls with orange and rosemary

Rosemary and orange. Is that a good combo? It sounds like it should work, but I can’t remember that I had tasted it before. That was my reaction when I read a recipe for dinner rolls from a Swedish baker named Jan Hedh. I love rosemary in bread, but orange? I was not that sure. Bread that contains whole pieces of fruit is something I try to avoid. I don’t even like raisins in my bread. That is, by the way, a big problem during Christmas if you live in Sweden. EVERY traditional Swedish Christmas bread seems to be loaded with raisins.

But this recipe was different. It contained something called orange paste. That sounded much better, so I decided to give it a try.
The author had used commercial yeast in the original recipe. But I’m a sourdough-guy, so I decided to replace it with a wheat starter.
The hydration of the dough was also very low, only 45%. I can understand why, because it contains a lot of olive oil. 100 gram to 500-gram flour. A little bit too much for my taste, so I replaced the half of it with water.

It turned out to be a good decision. I decided to use a stretch and fold technique for this dough, instead of running it in a dough mixer. It was not that easy to mix all that oil into the dough, even if I had reduced it by half.

I also decided to reduce the amount of rosemary and orange paste by half. You normally serve dinner rolls with food, and I don’t want the bread standing out too much. It should be a complement to the main dish, but it should not take over the whole show. But if you want to try the original recipe, you only have to double the amount indicated in the ingredient list.

The Orange paste was, by the way, a quite ingenious idea. You only have to zest an orange and mix it with sugar by kneading it with the backside of a spoon or a palette knife. I can think of a lot of ways to use this nice ingredient. Drizzle it over a cup of vanilla ice cream together with some rum? No?
Yeah, I know. This is a recipe for bread. Not some dessert for people with a fondness for alcohol (but admit that it sounds good).

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