Obsession confession

Confession: I am 21 weeks pregnant with my third child.  Each pregnancy has felt pretty much the same to me, with slight differences in my cravings.  The current pregnancy has me fettered to cravings for pizza (any kind – even Little Caesar’s Hot ‘n Ready sounds good to me at any time of the day) and fruit smoothies.  I can’t get enough of either.


My mouth is watering again just looking at this photo.

Pizza fit the bill for dinner one evening last week.  I combined two of my favorite current domestic kitchen loves/experiments – cheese making and sourdough bread making – for a scrumptiously irresistible homemade marguerita pizza that I could have easily eaten all by myself.  For the recipe, I combined Ricki’s 30 Minute Mozzarella recipe and Chad Robertson’s Tartine Country Bread recipe (whole wheat version) with my own preserved/homegrown crushed heirloom garden tomatoes, fresh basil, a drizzle of good-tasting olive oil, and a sprinkling of kosher salt to produce a lovely pizza product.  Homemade mozzarella cheese, homemade chewy sourdough crust – you get the idea.  Although this dinner was a labor of love (i.e., time-consuming), the end result was heaven in pizza form.

*For more information on both Ricki Carroll and Chad Robertson and their talents, see below the photographs.


Stirring the curds while making mozzarella cheese.


My ball of mozzarella curds, pre-microwave.


The end result of my mozzarella making. Doesn’t it look lovely?


Sliced fresh mozzarella, awaiting placement on the pizza dough.


The whole wheat sourdough crust, pre-toppings.


Crust + toppings, pre-oven.


The finished product. I want to eat this right now.

Ricki’s 30 Minute Mozzarella Recipe (from the awesome book pictured below – I highly recommend it if you’re interested in cheese making)



  1. 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid, dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
  2. 1 gallon pasteurized whole milk
  3. 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet, unchlorinated water or 1/4 rennet tablet, diluted in 1/4 cup cool unchlorinated water
  4. 1 teaspoon cheese salt ( coarse, noniodized flake salt similar to pickling salt, do not use iodized salt)
  5. 1/4 cup cheese salt, added to whey if using the non-Microwave method


  1. Remember if you are using fresh, raw milk, you have to pasteurize it first (found above in the ‘Description’).
  2. Slowly heat the milk in a stainless steel pot to 55 degrees. While stirring, add the citric acid solution to the milk and mix thoroughly.
  3. Heat the milk to 88 degrees over medium-low heat. The milk will begin to curdle.
  4. Gently stir in the diluted rennet with an up-and-down motion for 30 seconds. Then let the milk sit still while heating it to between 100 and 105 degrees. In about 5 to 8 minutes, the curds should be pulling away from the sides of the pot. Turn off the heat.
  5. The curds will look like thick yogurt and have a bit of shine to them, and the whey will be clear. If the whey is still milky white, wait a few more minutes before turning off the heat. Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon and put into a 2-quart microwavable bowl. Press the curds gently with your hands, pouring off as much whey as possible.
  6. Microwave the curds on high for 1 minute. (Without a microwave follows below.).
  7. Drain off all excess whey. Gently fold the cheese over and over (as in kneading bread) with your hand or a spoon. This distributes the heat evenly throughout the cheese, which will not stretch until it is too hot to touch (145 degrees inside the curd). You may want to don rubber gloves at this point, as the cheese will be extremely hot to the touch.
  8. Microwave two more times for 35 seconds each; add salt to taste after the second time. After each heating, knead again to distribute the heat.
  9. Knead quickly until it is smooth and elastic. When the cheese stretches like taffy, it’s done. If the curds break instead of stretch, they are too cool and need to be reheated.
  10. When the cheese is smooth and shiny, roll it into small balls and eat while warm. Or place them in a bowl of ice water for half an hour to bring the inside temperature down rapidly; this will produce a consistent smooth texture throughout the cheese. Although best eaten fresh, it can be stored in the refrigerator at this point.
  11. Note: If you are using store-bought milk, and your curds turn into the consistency of ricotta cheese and will not come together, switch brands of milk. It may have been heated at the factory at too high a temperature.

*How to Make Quick Mozzarella Cheese Without a Microwave*.

  1. Follow the recipe for 30-minute Mozzarella until Step 5.
  2. When you get to Step 5, reserve the whey. Then put on heavy rubber gloves.
  3. Heat the reserved whey to at least 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Add 1/4 cup of cheese salt to the whey.
  5. Shape the curd into one or more balls, put them in a ladle or strainer, and dip them into the hot whey for several seconds.
  6. Knead the curd with spoons between each dip and repeat this process several times until the curd is smooth and pliable. When it stretches like taffy, it’s done.
  7. Roll the cheese into small balls, and serve warm. Or place them in a bowl of ice water for half an hour to bring the inside temperature down rapidly. This will produce a consistent, smooth texture throughout.
  8. If you have any cheese leftover (highly unlikely!), cover and store in the refrigerator.


Chad Robertson’s Tartine Country Bread Recipe (borrowed from MarthaStewart.com but found in the book below)


Chad Robertson of San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery & Cafe describes a starter — a mixture of flour, water, wild yeasts, and bacteria — as a baker’s fingerprint. Making one is simple, but it does require a commitment: Count on feeding and caring for the mixture for three weeks before you start baking.

For something closer to immediate gratification, begin using the starter after five to seven days, or order a fresh starter at kingarthurflour.com. (Keep in mind, the flavor won’t be as complex.) Another secret to baking like a pro: Weigh all the ingredients — even the water — using a kitchen scale that includes metric measurements.

Recipe reprinted with permission from “Tartine Bread,” by Chad Robertson, with photographs by Eric Wolfinger.

Tools and Materials

  • For the Starter:
  • White bread flour, 1,135 grams
  • Whole-wheat flour, 1,135 grams
  • Water (lukewarm), 455 grams
  • Water (78 degrees), 150 grams per feeding
  • For the Leaven:
  • Water (78 degrees), 200 grams
  • For the Dough:
  • Water (80 degrees), 750 grams
  • Leaven, 200 grams
  • White bread flour, 900 grams
  • Whole-wheat flour, 100 grams
  • Salt, 20 grams

Chad Robertson’s Tartine Country Bread How-To

1. Make the Starter: Mix white bread flour with whole-wheat flour. Place lukewarm water in a medium bowl. Add 315 grams flour blend (reserve remaining flour blend), and mix with your hands until mixture is the consistency of a thick, lump-free batter. Cover with a kitchen towel. Let rest in a cool, dark place until bubbles form around the sides and on the surface, about 2 days. A dark crust may form over the top. Once bubbles form, it is time for the first feeding.

2. With each feeding, remove 75 grams; discard remainder of starter. Feed with 150 grams reserved flour blend and 150 grams warm water. Mix, using your hands, until mixture is the consistency of a thick, lump-free batter. Repeat every 24 hours at the same time of day for 15 to 20 days. Once it ferments predictably (rises and falls throughout the day after feedings), it’s time to make the leaven.

3. Make the Leaven: The night before you plan to make the dough, discard all but 1 tablespoon of the matured starter. Feed with 200 grams reserved flour blend and the warm water. Cover with a kitchen towel. Let rest in a cool, dark place for 10 to 16 hours. To test leaven’s readiness, drop a spoonful into a bowl of room-temperature water. If it sinks, it is not ready and needs more time to ferment and ripen. As it develops, the smell will change from ripe and sour to sweet and pleasantly fermented; when it reaches this stage, it’s ready to use.

4. Make the Dough: Pour 700 grams warm water into a large mixing bowl. Add 200 grams leaven. Stir to disperse. (Save your leftover leaven; it is now the beginning of a new starter. To keep it alive to make future loaves, continue to feed it as described in step 2.) Add flours (see ingredient list), and mix dough with your hands until no bits of dry flour remain. Let rest in a cool, dark place for 35 minutes. Add salt and remaining 50 grams warm water.

5. Fold dough on top of itself to incorporate. Transfer to a medium plastic container or a glass bowl. Cover with kitchen towel. Let rest for 30 minutes. The dough will now begin its first rise (bulk fermentation), to develop flavor and strength. (The rise is temperature sensitive; as a rule, warmer dough ferments faster. Robertson tries to maintain the dough at 78 degrees to 82 degrees to accomplish the bulk fermentation in 3 to 4 hours.)

6. Instead of kneading, Robertson develops the dough through a series of “folds” in the container during bulk fermentation. Fold dough, repeating every 30 minutes for 2 1/2 hours. To do a fold, dip 1 hand in water to prevent sticking. Grab the underside of the dough, stretch it out, and fold it back over itself. Rotate container one-quarter turn, and repeat. Do this 2 or 3 times for each fold. After the 3 hours, the dough should feel aerated and softer, and you will see a 20 to 30 percent increase in volume. If not, continue bulk fermentation for 30 minutes to 1 hour more.

7. Pull dough out of container using a dough spatula. Transfer to a floured surface. Lightly dust dough with flour, and cut into 2 pieces using dough scraper. Work each piece into a round using scraper and 1 hand. Tension will build as the dough slightly anchors to the surface as you rotate it. By the end, the dough should have a taut, smooth surface.

8. Dust tops of rounds with flour, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest on the work surface for 20 to 30 minutes. Slip the dough scraper under each to lift it, being careful to maintain the round shape. Flip rounds floured side down.

9. Line 2 medium baskets or bowls with clean kitchen towels; generously dust with flour. Using the dough scraper, transfer each round to a basket, smooth side down, with seam centered and facing up. Let rest at room temperature (75 degrees to 80 degrees), covered with towels for 3 to 4 hours before baking.

10. Bake the Bread: Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake the bread, preheat oven to 500 degrees, with rack in lowest position, and warm a 9 1/2-inch round or an 11-inch oval Dutch oven (or a heavy ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid).

11. Turn out 1 round into heated Dutch oven (it may stick to towel slightly). Score top twice using a razor blade or a sharp knife. Cover with lid. Return to oven, and reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes.

12. Carefully remove lid (a cloud of steam will be released). Bake until crust is deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes more.

13. Transfer loaf to a wire rack. It will feel light and sound hollow when tapped. Let cool.

14. To bake the second loaf, raise oven temperature to 500 degrees, wipe out Dutch oven with a dry kitchen towel, and reheat with lid for 10 minutes. Repeat steps 11 through 13.