Oh, not to TFL.
It was only a week ago that I bid farewell to Okinawa and "my" Marines. Yes, I was working with the Marines - other details must remain fuzzy, but this one is pretty much out in the open now. It still cuts a little too close to the bone to think about those fine young men and women each one ready and willing to fight "in every clime and place where (they) can take a gun." War is a terrible thing - but the dedication of these Marines is something for which all US citizens should be grateful.
And I will always "heart" Okinawa. My last big shopping trip into Naha was to the Ryubo to buy items that I can incorporate into my kitchen. They are all teeny tiny (as is my kitchen - by US standards.)
So I was fortunate to have a week rusticating at my crumbled abode before returning to the demands of my so-called "normal" life.
Seemed liked to perfect time to buy a new range. I've come to terms that in my current residence, the deck oven is just not realistic and so I settled on a simple KitchenAid convection gas range. No, no steam assist.
So I am saying farewell to my favorite frenemy - my old range. I'm getting a bit sentimental about that, too. I stirred up one last batch of jam and thought of the countless batches of jams, jellies, pickles, caramels, and marshmallows (as well as meals) that were cooked on those burners. The ones that I had to blow on just right to get to light. Maybe. Whose electronic ignition would mysteriously start clicking for no particular reason and stop clicking days or hours later for similarly mysterious reasons. (The repairman finally told me "Lady, I'm not taking your money. Get a new range." It came with the house and was old when I moved in - over 20 years ago.)
Then there was the oven whose every hot spot I knew by heart, until recently when it decided to not bake anything towards the front. True, it had also started to perform better as a space heater than an oven and the broiler had long since ceased to function. However, it had been a good old pal and it seemed like I should give it a final bake. (Yes, I have seen the Ikea ad that tells me that I am crazy because things don't have feelings and the new one is better - but I'm in a delicate state of mind.) So I decided to do a little test on this new "Pizza Crust" yeast.
Fleischmann's Yeast has been promoting this product as allowing one to bake a pizza in 30 minutes because of the conditioners in the packet. Well, heating the old oven takes more time that that, but except for that, I could test the claim.
I also decided to do the test using the formula on the package because presumably Fleischmann's had spent some money developing the right formula for the application. I won't reproduce it here as - well, you'll see.
I did note that the formula contained a lot of sugar (1.5 tsp for less than 2 cups of flour ) (and yes, we'll need to deal with volumes here) and a lot of fat (3 tbl of oil) The ingredients were mixed and kneaded for four minutes and then shaped immediately.
I will have to say that the dough handled quite nicely. The dough stretched out easily even though it had not rested at all and maintained itself well through a few tosses. I'm thinking that these dough conditioners now sorely tempt me - especially if the dough was headed for decorative work where taste doesn't matter.
The pizza was shaped, topped and with the aid, of a piece of parchment paper (which I consider serious cheating) because the dough seemed a bit too flabby to be loaded straight from the peel, loaded onto my baking stone, and baked.
About like you'd expect. The crust had an odd matte appearance and tasted mostly slightly sweet. It had a fine crumb with none of those big bubbles I usually find in my pizza crust (both levain and commercial yeast varieties). Really, though, how could it be otherwise? We all know that it is the fermentation process that gives us the big holey crumb and this dough didn't ferment except for the time it took me to put the toppings on it. It wasn't awful - it just wasn't good. The texture was also somewhat lacking. The crust was - solid, but not crisp.
The speed with which the whole thing came together also was incompatible with my mise en place. I'm used to having that rest time between pre-shaping and shaping to get toppings together or make sure my work area has been cleaned.
I also find that I enjoy the whole rhythm of the "fold in the bowl" method of developing the dough to traditional kneading. I've kneaded a lot of dough in my time and I'm still pretty good at it, but the fold in the bowl method is just so much less effort - less cleanup, too.
So, my opinion? There's a place in this world for fast, from scratch pizza. You've got hungry kids yelling for pizza? This is a great product. You have a pizza that is easily shaped and you have it in 30 minutes start to finish. Most kids will love the sweetness in the crust and eat it down. You want something that reminds you of that trip to Italy? This is not it.
I am sure that the yeast could be used in different formulas to obtain better results (and there was a review on these pages that liked the yeast and the method very much), but the bottom line for me is that I missed the subtle qualities that good fermentation brings to the party. I'd rather plan ahead and enjoy my usual crust - or go without.
As I write, my old range is headed out the door and a new one is headed in. I'm looking at a picture of "my" Marines and frankly getting a bit misty. But life goes on. We grow or die. How fortunate I am to have the memories that I do and a future full of memories to be made.