Friday, February 21, 2014

bears in aprons should not throw dough

I have one general complaint about nearly every pizza I’ve ordered from a restaurant or chain: not enough toppings! Since I now live in Port Huron, and Deluca’s Pizza in Lansing refused to deliver here, I make my own. To be fair, there are family owned pizzerias here in town, and they do make a nice pie. However; a good pizza isn’t an inexpensive meal anymore. You can, without being extravagant, drop as much as $40 - $60 on a quality pizza these days, and that’s without breadsticks and all the other trappings. There is also the matter of knowing exactly what’s in your food, which can best be answered by making it with your own hands.

Today I learned a few new things about pizza. It turns out that the pizza dough recipe I’ve been using to make pan pizza, does not, at all, work for hand tossed pizza. Who knew? For a while now I had been making pizza in one of my 13 x 8 half sheet pans and the results were tasty, however, I was always disappointed by the somewhat limp center of the pizza. I had come to accept this as an unfortunately short coming of home made pizzas. I had been curious about the perforated pizza pans that I’d seen in stores, but had never been inspired to buy one, until I found them at a greatly reduced price $4 each at a Homegoods clearance store, and decided to take the plunge.

The first dough was looking plush, smooth and supple, but after transferring it to an oiled bowl to ferment, I noticed it really could use just a drizzle more oil to avoid sticking to the bowl. Cut to me standing over the bowl patting a very oily ball of dough from hand to hand trying to remove as much excess oil while simultaneously shouting for my husband to bring me another bowl. Apparently, I’m not very good at drizzling canola oil right out of the bottle. After slipping the ball into the new bowl I realized there was no way it was going to be salvageable. Into the trash it went.

Batch two went smoother during the mixing and fermentation stage, but I discovered I was in deep trouble when I attempted to divide, and shape the dough to place it onto my brand new perforated pizza pans. After tearing several wholes in the first ball of dough, I decided that I just needed to go for it. I reshaped it into small flat disc, mounted the dough on my knuckles and tossed it gently. It worked, but when it came down it stuck to my knuckles. I laid the dough on more flour, brushed off the excess and threw it again. The dough expanded dramatically, landed over my knuckles, folded down my right arm, and stuck there!

If you currently imagining an angry bear in a white apron, clawing pizza dough off his right arm, you’ve probably got the scene about right. At the end of the comedy of errors I decided to knead the balls of dough back together on a heavily floured work surface, and managed to shape the two balls into one large pizza. I covered that in plastic wrap and let it proof while I finished preparing the toppings. Whether it was the tension in the air, or my growling and grunting that did the trick, my in-laws received a last minute invitation to dinner out with friends and then took it. Being as I now had one pizza instead of two, I was grateful for two less mouths to feed.

In the end, my new pans with the wholes on the bottom worked beautifully. I had a crisp almost crunchy crust that held up to the sauce, cheese and toppings: caramelized onions, cremini mushrooms, roasted red pepper, jarred “cocktail” artichokes, and black olives, and fresh tomatoes.

Sure, I will have to find a new pizza dough recipe, but no one was actually injured, I didn’t have to scrape anything off the ceiling, and no equipment was permanently damaged, so I’m calling it a win. 

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