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This past July, the Daring Bakers lost one of our dearest members with the sudden passing of Sherry Cermak, known to many of us as Sher of the blog What Did You Eat?

To say that I was shocked when I found out would be an understatement. Only weeks before, I had been chatting with Sher via e-mail about the October 2008 Daring Bakers’ challenge as she was to be one of the hosts.

After I started blogging, way back in December 2005, Sher was one of the first food bloggers that I “met”. I read her blog regularly and quickly grew fond of her. Her attitude in both her blog posts, her e-mails and her comments was always a positive and open one. She was funny and sweet and always brought a smile to my face.

Over the last year or so, unfortunately, I haven’t made much time to do a lot of blog reading. Often, finding time for my own blog has been a chore. As I began to read other blog posts less frequently, I also began to visit Sher’s blog less frequently. While she was always on my radar, I didn’t spend as much time visiting her blog and so, when she agreed to be the host of the October 2008 Daring Bakers’ challenge, I was thrilled. Mainly because it meant I’d be in contact with Sher again. I was so very shocked and saddened to find out that she had passed on.

In the weeks after her passing, Lis and I wondered how to proceed with handling the hosting of the October challenge. Out of respect to Sher’s cohosts Glenna (one of Sher’s closest friends) and Rosa, we decided to leave it up to them and let them decide how best to see through the DB challenge.

In the end, Glenna decided to take time to dedicate to her friend. I just want to say how supportive we are of Glenna and that we stand by her. And if you didn’t know Sher and want to know what an incredible person she was, then read Glenna’s tribute to her. You’ll understand why we miss her so much.

So it came to be that our dearest Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums took the reins of the October 2008 DB challenge and we are forever thankful to her. It’s not easy hosting a challenge by yourself when that challenge involves over 1,000 bakers. Yes. You read that right. Over 1,000 bakers!

But Rosa has been unfailingly patient, polite, sweet and generous and has done an amazing job. Her choice for the October challenge is one that I’m sure Sher would have approved of: pizza.

And as part of the challenge (I know Sher would have loved this!), we actually had to toss our pizzas like an honest-to-goodness pizzaiolo standing in front of a wood oven in some Naples alleyway would toss a pizza.

Here’s what I can tell you about pizza tossing: I will never be a champion pizza tosser and Mama Cream Puff, who helped take the photos whilst I was tossing the pizza, is unlikely to become a photographer any time soon.

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Still, though, it was tremendous fun.

The recipe we followed comes from the always reliable The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (you can find the recipe on Rosa’s blog). I made six 8-inch pizzas, in the following five variations:

Tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil (I made two pizzas with these toppings):

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Herb-infused olive oil, caramelized onions, shiitake mushrooms, blue cheese:

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Herb-infused olive oil, Yukon Gold potatoes, mozzarella, sage:

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Tomato sauce, black forest ham, preserved tomatoes, Cambozola:

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Butter, brown sugar, bittersweet chocolate, sea salt (sometimes you need something sweet):

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I had so much fun making this pizza. I got to use that pizza stone that’s been sitting in the basement for years. My mother and I had quite a few laughs as we “tossed” our pizza.

But I also had fun because I thought a lot about Sher.

You know, sometimes I find myself scanning the DB blogroll or going through comments left on DB challenge posts and I think to myself, “How did all these people get together?”

Do you ever wonder that?

How did so many of us find each other? And I don’t just mean in terms of the Daring Bakers but in terms of food blogging and blogging and just life itself, how do we make these incredible connections?

And they really are connections. I get angry sometimes with people who suggest that you don’t really know anyone through blogging. That somehow sitting behind a computer screen insinuates a barrier that no human can get across, no matter how long you’ve been reading someone’s blog posts.

But I don’t believe that.

If that were true, then people all over the world, calling themselves daring, wouldn’t get together once a month to bake something.

If that were true, then a woman named Sher from California would never have impacted us the way that she did.

What we do is real and special and worthwhile. And I just know that when my mother tried to toss a pizza and it landed against the window and then dropped to the window sill, Sher was looking down and smiling.

Because that’s what it’s all about.

Ciao!