lucky thirteen

It’s official. I’m in love. Madly in love. I married a man who makes a homemade pizza almost every Sunday night. He’s missed a few here and there, but by and large, come late Sunday afternoon, he’ll stop what he is doing, don an apron, open a bottle of wine, and take over the kitchen. We celebrated out thirteenth wedding anniversary yesterday. I figure this man has made me well over 600 pizzas. How could I not be in love?
I credit myself with having the brilliance to teach him how to make a simple whole wheat crust years before we got married. We were living in a small cabin in northern Maine with no water and no electricity. Our kitchen was small and sparse, but there was just enough room to roll out a pizza crust. But truthfully, my involvement in the matter pretty much stops there. Since then Mark has taken it upon himself to perfect his craft. Years ago he acquired a small jar of sourdough starter from a coworker. I’ve made it clear that I love my husband, right? Good, because that said, I didn’t have high hopes for the starter. Mark is an idea guy. Follow through has never been his strength. But let me tell you, he tends to his starter like nothing I’ve ever seen. If he happens to be away or miss a Sunday, he’ll make a mid-week pizza instead. And if that fails to happen, he’ll be sure to take a little starter out and freshen it up so it’s alive and ready for the next week. Excuse me while I eat my words. And along with them, hundreds of fabulous sourdough crusted pizzas.
At some point in this pizza love affair, Mark dubbed Sundays as Bistro Night. He generally spiffs up, puts on a classy shirt, and proceeds to dote on me like I’m a tourist at some crazy Italian café. With lively accordion music playing from the Bose, he’ll offer me a small bowl of black olives to snack on or a slice of fresh mozzarella to tease my palate. Occasionally he puts me to work grating cheese or chopping garlic, but generally he shoos me out of the kitchen. He prides himself on making the thinnest crust possible – because he knows that’s how I like it. And if I really sweet talk him, I can sometimes convince him to make my very favorite crust – a creation where he stuffs the edges with a mixture of cream cheese, chev, and chopped jalepeños. It’s a bit more fussy, so I have to get my request for this in early. In the summer months he takes his café outdoors and throws the pizza on the grill instead. And the toppings! Lets just say that Mark is not shy to experiment. If it’s in the refrigerator, it’s fair game. Chopped broccoli has become a favorite. Other winners include pesto, grilled chicken, artichoke hearts, jalepenño stuffed olives, chorizo, spicy greens, and even fresh strawberries.
But the real reason I’m so in love is not about the pizzas. Here’s why I am truly smitten. Still desperately trying to catch up at work, I spent the better part of this past Sunday at my desk. Around 5:00, I went down to the kitchen for a glass of wine and retreated back to my computer. About a half hour later, with familiar smells wafting up through the grate in my office floor, Mark came upstairs with a treat for me. Nothing fancy – just the scraps of left over crust, baked and sprinkled coarse salt. But his presentation was everything. Shaped into a smiley face, served on my favorite little pink plate with a jar of hot mustard to dip into. “Happy Anniversary,” he said, and went back down to the kitchen. Be still my beating heart. It’s been thirteen years and I feel as lucky as ever.
I can’t even remember the last time we had a pizza made with a plain-jane crust. In addition to the sourdough factor, Mark usually kneads a combination of fresh garlic and herbs into his crust. But if he ever left the pizza making in my hands (not likely since he hasn’t yet in 13 years), I would probably turn to the standard whole wheat crust that I grew up with. Thin and chewy, it’s one of the very first things I ever learned to make. But in the meantime, I’ll keeping making reservations at the best little bistro I know. Lucky me.
Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

few drops of honey
3/4 - 1 tablespoon dry yeast
3/4 cups warm water (95 - 105 degrees)
1 1/2 - 3 cups whole wheat flour (or a mix of flours – substitute some semolina for an especially thin crust)
pinch of sea salt
oil
cornmeal

Pour warm water into a medium sized mixing bowl and add a few drops of honey. Dissolve the yeast and let it sit for a minute or two. Add salt and gradually stir in flour – enough to make a nice, not too sticky, elastic dough. Knead it 3 - 5 minutes, either right in the bowl or on a floured surface. Let the dough raise, covered, 15 - 20 minutes before rolling out the crust. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a circle or rectangle – don’t be affraid to pull and tug the dough a bit to help it conform to your desired shape. Lightly oil a baking sheet, dust it with cornmeal and transfer the crust to the pan. If you like a crispy crust, it helps to pre-bake it about 10 minutes. You can also pre-bake the crust for 10 minutes and freeze it for a quick meal later on.
Prepare your pizza a desired and finish baking at 375 degrees until top is bubbly and melted.

3 Responses to “lucky thirteen”


  1. 1 Wendy K May 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    What a beautiful post! My husband and I will celebrate five years this Friday, and we do our pizzas on Friday nights; maybe we have something here about keys to a great relationship?? I love the idea of pre-baking – I’ve never thought of that (doh!), but I’ll bet it would solve the (sometimes) soggy crust issue that we have with our own otherwise delightful dough. Congratulations to you both!

  2. 3 Carol Sowl May 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    You got yourself a keeper!
    Happy Anniversary!


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