Friday night pizza

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If I reflect on pizza, it doesn’t take me long to realize that it is pretty important to me. But it’s not an answer that I would give if asked about my ideal “last meal,” nor do I ever put it on a list of my favorite foods. Maybe that’s because it’s too everyday, or as my friend Annie put it the other day, too “played out.” Yet we continue to eat it, and at my house, weekly.

I probably shouldn’t admit this on my new food blog, but there was a time when I used to buy pre-made pizza dough at the grocery store. There was a nervousness about working with flour. I didn’t grow up in a family of bakers, so for a long time I thought baking (i.e., anything involving flour or a dough) was too difficult and mysterious. As someone who rarely purchases anything processed or pre-made, I chided myself for being afraid of making a simple dough. Recently, I found a photo of my father in the kitchen of my childhood home, making pizza. He often made it for us on the weekends or during summer vacation. I vaguely remembered helping him with it sometimes. I stared at the photo for a long time, wondering who took it, what he put in his dough, and how he never seemed to lack the time to make us something from scratch. And like so many other things, a mixture of guilt and ambition led to my obsession with pizza dough.

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If making pizza is, for me, about conquering a (relatively small) fear and proof of the magic of home cooking, it is also about ritual. Before my boyfriend Matt became my boyfriend, we spent a lot of platonic Friday afternoons seeing matinees at various cinemas in Minneapolis. We justified it as “fun work,” since we were both working on our doctoral degrees in film and cultural studies. We created a new version after we became a couple: each week, one person picks the movie and the matching cocktail, which we make once we get home, while waiting for the pizza dough to rise. This ritual makes me feel grown-up, like there is some reliable regularity to my life, and it feels like Matt and I are building something of our own. Something that I learned long ago but somehow forgot along the way.

IMG_8712 I began making pizza dough regularly in earnest about two years ago. For a long time, I worked with an adapted version of Mario Batali’s pizza dough, which is supple and slightly sweet from the addition of honey. And I liked that it only took an hour to rise. Later, I decided to try Jim Lahey‘s pizza dough. It is simpler because I don’t have to worry about having white wine on hand and I like that I don’t need to add olive oil to the dough mixture. This recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas. I always freeze the extra dough in plastic wrap and remove it first thing in the morning the following Friday. I haven’t yet invested in a pizza stone, so I make it the old fashioned way, stretched out in a rectangular baking sheet and cut into squares, just like my father used to do.

IMG_2202 photo(6) PIZZA DOUGH

(slightly adapted from Jim Lahey’s My Bread)
Makes 2 pizzas, each serving 2-3 people
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/3 – 1 1/2 cups room temperature water
extra-virgin olive oil for the pan
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add half of the water and using your hands (or a wooden spoon), mix together until blended. Add the rest of the water and mix until the dough has contained all the flour. If the dough seems dry, you can add a tablespoon of water until it is all combined.
Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let it sit in a dark place at room temperature for about 2 hours. (I usually put it in a cupboard.)
Preheat the oven to 500° F.
Cut the dough in half. Oil your baking sheet. Gently pull and stretch the dough, then place it on the baking sheet and use your figure to push and press it out to the edges of the pan. If there are holes in the dough, pinch them together before you continue to stretch the dough.
Top with your chosen ingredients. Bake for 10 minutes. It can stay in 1 or 2 minutes longer if necessary but make sure you check at the ten minute mark. It never takes longer in my oven.
Toppings: For the basic cheese pizza you see here (cut up), I use 4 oz of pureed tomatoes (not heated up or cooked), 5 oz of shredded mozzarella, salt, and 1 tbsp of fresh thyme.

Friday night pizza

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If I reflect on pizza, it doesn’t take me long to realize that it is pretty important to me. But it’s not an answer that I would give if asked about my ideal “last meal,” nor do I ever put it on a list of my favorite foods. Maybe that’s because it’s too everyday, or… 

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That Pépin pep

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A beginning.

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