I don’t know when the affliction began. I think it was the nettle-preserved lemon pizza at Regazza in San Francisco over the winter. The papery crust really hooked me and a seed was planted. My early experiments, while satisfying, were nowhere near my idea of a good pizza. In my mind, the crust would make the pizza – everything else was just a formality. My doughs were overworked and lacked good crumb structure. More research ensued. I started a yeast culture – figuring if I was gonna dive into this world of yeasted breads, I better have a culture on hand. Little did I know, the sourdough culture I was about to develop would add an added layer of complexity to the whole process. I dove into books, internet forums and the occasional pizza slice out was analyzed and critiqued. I soon realized that if I wanted a real crust to develop in my humble home gas oven, I would need a better stone. I landed on a cordierite slab after getting scared off by the sheer weight of a soapstone slab – plus, the soapstone would probably take too long to heat through for my low volume of baking. Next in line was a digital scale. Most recipes and discussions stressed the need for exact weights of ingredients for dough making. Dough was talked about in terms of percent hydration, multi-day fermentations and crumb structure. If I was going to go for it, I had better roll up my sleeves and get kneading. And knead I did until my arms were tired, the floor a mess and dirty bowls piled everywhere. What I really needed was a solid stand mixer. Again, if I was gonna go for it, I needed the right tools, and the best tools. I found a used Hobart N50 on ebay. These things are widely regarded as one of the best stand mixers on the planet – with the design essentially unchanged since they were first introduced way back in the 40s or thereabouts. They can mix concrete, winch a truck out of the mud, and knead a dough to a gluten-y goodness.