I like pizza. Making homemade pizza looks like a lot of fun. And making pizza is something you can do with your kids. If kids help make food they are more likely to eat it, but seriously, my kids would eat pizza three times a day if I made it. However, some problems arise with pizza making: (1) I know nothing about making dough, and (2) I know nothing about making sauce. These are kind of important parts of the pizza, aren’t they? So where do I look when I am totally and utterly lost? That’s right, the internet. So I look online and find a relatively simple pizza sauce recipe, and it turns out to be so ridiculously easy that I’m ashamed that I waited this long to try making it. Fine. Then I start looking for a dough recipe.If I’m looking for recipes online I primarily look at two places: Cooking Light and the Food Network (Alton Brown is King). I’ve seen Alton Brown talk about yeast and gluten and I’ve watched those awesome belching yeast puppets from “Dr. Strageloaf” and “House of the Rising Bun.” (You know it’s a good cooking show if six- and three-year-old boys will watch it saying “Play that again!”) So I suppose I understand the basic physics behind it. But often baking is subjective, and that’s where I tend to have problems. Here, I’ll give you a good example:
THANK YOU Alton Brown for showing me the difference between SOFT PEAKS and STIFF PEAKS. For all you foodies out there, you can stop laughing at me now, there are certain subjects in cooking and baking where it is assumed you know what you’re doing, and nobody actually shows you what they mean. Now let’s talk about the dough.
I found a good (I suppose, but what do I know?) recipe for a basic pizza dough from (who else?) Mario Batali. Mario and I understand each other, and I feel like we have a good working relationship. After watching “Molto Mario” I always leave thinking “Wow, I can do that, but LARD? REALLY, Mario!” (I never knew just how important pork fat was to italian cooking.) Wow, that’s great. I made the pizza and it turned out great. The dough was very yeasty and the sauce was too acidy for me, but it was still very good. I filed it away and planned on doing it again.
The NEXT time I made the recipe I looked for a different brand of canned tomatoes, and the sauce came out PERFECT. I would choose this sauce over takeout any day. I was completely stoked. “Great! Let’s make the dough!”
I make the dough. I knead the dough. HOW LONG SHOULD YOU KNEAD DOUGH? Apparently the amount of time listed in the recipe is, well, kind of a rough estimate. Well, I really don’t know what I’m doing and after the dough rises I decide to have some fun with it. Karen was working late so there I am in the kitchen spinning the dough up in the air like an idiot, all the while humming the theme music to “Molto Mario.” But immediately I know something is wrong. It’s not stretching out like it should, and I know what the problem is. I didn’t knead it long enough. The recipe makes three pizzas, 12 inches or so each. Let’s take a look at them one by one:
Pizza #1. Very nice, the boys helped put on the cheese and pineapple, very nice, we assemble it on the pizza peel and I slide it into the oven and it bakes until (at least some of) the cheese is golden brown and delicious. There is a problem. After three bites the boys stop eating. I taste some, and I really can’t blame them. They get spaghetti-o’s instead.
Pizza #2. At this point I was getting very cocky, even though I knew something was wrong. After pizza #1 was in the oven I decided to assemble the pizza on the counter and then slide the pizza peel under it like “real italians” do. You can see the results. A round pizza ends up looking like New Hampshire (or is it Vermont?).
While I was cursing and trying to make pizza #2 edible, the remaining ball of dough siezed up into a rock and I couldn’t save it for the life of me. I ate pizza #2 to destroy the evidence before Karen came home from work.