Maria's Reviews > The Cheese Board: Collective Works: Bread, Pastry, Cheese, Pizza

The Cheese Board by Cheese Board Collective
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's review
Apr 06, 2011

bookshelves: how-to, abandoned

I am on the hunt for the perfect pizza crust. Something chewy with a tang to it. I had been trying different flours with dry yeast and couldn't get what I wanted. Then I visited the Cheese Board and tried their pizza and their crust seemed much more like what I was imagining.

Almost immediately my mom gave me her copy of the Cheese Board book and pointed out that all I needed to do was make their sourdough pizza crust. But it turns out that to make sourdough you also have to make sourdough starter which is an 11-day process of precise measurements and daily feedings. I hate to wait for anything but I have been doing my best. Every day for the past two weeks I have awoken in fear that I killed the precious sludge that is my starter. Which brings me to the first thing you should know about this book:

1. You will be throwing a lot of flour away.

Basically you have to keep a bit of the starter each day and toss the majority of it. And there isn't a recipe for doing something with this extra flour. I find it hard to believe that people who used to make bread daily would have tossed that much product away, so I'm saving it with the plan of making pancakes or something of the kind. Any suggestions for what one does with unfinished, excess starter would be much appreciated though.

While I was waiting for my starter to be ready, I realized that there were tons of other recipes in the book. Many of them for bread use the same sourdough starter I had been babying along. So today I made bread, actually two kinds of bread which brings me to the second thing you should know about this book:

2. The recipes are BIG.

The bread recipes make two loaves, the pizza recipe makes three crusts. I mean, who is this written for? Big families, parties? So I ended up making the Suburban Bread and a modified form of it that had nuts and fruits and is made into little rolls called Wolverines.

Making these breads meant starting at 5:30 AM and finishing just around 2 PM which (when taken in combination with the starter process) brings me to the third point:

3. You need a ton of time on your hands.

I worked the process around a dance class, lunch, and made it out the door in time for tutoring but it was crazy. This really should only be attempted on a weekend.

And, in addition to the waiting game, the reason these recipes take so much time is:

4. Each recipe has a million steps.

The ones I was working on each required two kneadings, multiple rests and risings, the creation of a proofing chamber, multiple mistings and ice baths in the oven, as well as razor slashing. It was like an action movie. And all of the information is on different pages so from start to finish required flipping through the book like a crazy gymnast. Kudos to the Cheese Board for being detailed about it but ugh on the complexity front.

In the end I managed to produce some burnt rolls (in all fairness - that was my fault for not lowering the oven temperature to account for the fact that I was using nonstick pans) and a flat, sticky saucer that I suspect would not be identified as bread if handed out as a sample on the street. Not a tremendous success, but I could see how it could be improved upon in the next round.

So we moved on to the pizza crust. Hunter measured everything out and was running out the door when I said that there didn't look like there was enough starter. Which, it turned out, there wasn't because Hunter miscalculated when cutting the huge recipe in 2/3. So now, I'm headed to the store to buy pizza dough (I'm told Trader Joe's makes this). And I think we're going to toss our starter which is looking weak despite having eaten almost an entire bag of flour over the past couple of weeks.

I think it is miraculous that there is yeast in the air at any moment available for the taking, but I also think I am going to see if there's a bakery that sells their sourdough starter before I attempt crust again. And I think I'm done with the Cheese Board and their torturous recipes. I am going to look for the most basic instructions for sourdough crust ever and see where that gets me. Which bring me to the final thing I learned from this book:

5. $4 or $5 is a steal for a loaf of bread.

And the next time I am in a bakery looking at bread, I will no longer say to myself "These people must be crazy". I will think of piles of dishes covered in caked-on starter, of shouting, stacks of paper filled with urgent scribbles (MUST PROOF at 11:26 AM), obsessing over the degree range that constitutes "lukewarm", and whether the "windowpane" in my bread is really there or not..... And I will go to the counter and say, "Thank you, this is such a deal."


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