Friday, July 24, 2009

When the moon hits your eye.....

Like a big pizza pie..

I grew up eating pizza. As a boy, we would have special days at home where my parents joined forces to make home made pizza. Papa would mix and knead the dough…with the scent of Fleischman's activated yeast permeating the air. Mommy would then roll out the dough, slather it with tomato sauce, top it with Swift’s beef pepperoni and sprinkle it with grated Kraft cheddar cheese. This was a happy meal at home, washed down with Pepsi from the corner store, pizza days were good.

My own experiences making home made pizza have not always been as successful and satisfying.

First there was making the dough, which, before I studied breadmaking, typically had a 50% success rate. Before I truly understood how to make dough, I may as well have been shaping mud or sand. It just felt so elusive, the technique...the dough would come out too sticky or too dry....sometimes it would not rise unless I stuck a bicycle pump in was just not an encouraging endeavor with me.

Exit from the breadmaking class...great. Now I knew how to make the dough...I was still all thumbs at shaping it to become a passable pizza.

As late as a year ago, I couldn’t really figure out how to properly shape pizza dough so it came out even and round. I would recklessly flatten it with a rolling pin or manually shape it, coaxing it with my hands. I'd end up making a doughy, floury mess - all over the counter, the floor, my forehead, my clothes. My dough would tear or stick to the rolling pin, pan or counter. It rarely came out round and had, what I would call, at best, a 'rustic' shape (note: rustic...chefspeak for 'messy') other words, it had a distinct amoeba-like shape..sometimes an amoeba in the early stages of mitosis....Vs the circle I was trying so desperately to make. On more than one occassion, I would re-hash the randomly shaped dough and cheat the situation by folding the dough over, nonchalantly saying, "I felt like making a rustic calzone today," as if this was my original plan. I stared through the kitchen windows at yellow cab and jealously observed the cooks turn out pie after pie of perfect roundness.

I felt as if the flour in the canisters had a secret conspiracy to prevent me from true success in the pizza arena. The dough had a mind of its own, opting to go free form and resisting all attempts at disciplined circular shapes.

I’m glad I pressed on.....I kneaded to find a good dough recipe and shaping technique.

I did research on different flour combinations and techniques......reading cookbooks and surfing the net. After many, many attempts, I’ve finally settled on a recipe for the dough that uses 3 kinds of flour. I also found a simple and effective technique for shaping the crust. Peter Rheinhart (look him up) is my hero. These plus an oven that heats up like the devil, and the transformation to a bespoke pizza is almost magical. I finally had a pizza that, in my heart, mind and palate, was finally passable.

Topped with a combination of 2 or more cheeses - mozzarella of course, plus parmesan, edam, fontina, gouda or emmenthal, then a choice from a wide range of cold cuts; maybe a subtley-seasoned italian sausage or a more assertive paprika and garlic-laced chorizo pamplona, add olives, capers or tomatoes, fresh herbs...the palette is most accommodating.... ...generally celebrating with most ingredients and turning out a hot, cheezy, gooey, thin and just barely crisp, slightly chewy pizza.

Today, I scoff and spit at the thought of any flour or dough conspiracy. Ha!...and pweh! No more shapeless pies or accidental calzones! I have seen the light!

If I could, I would grow a graceful moustache like a regular Papa Picolino. I would happily sing 'Finiculi, finicula' as I deftly mix the dough, knead and shape it into uniform and deliberate circular pizzas and top these with any combination of ingredients that might be available. I would slip the pizzas into the oven and, at the right moment, take them out and triumphantly serve them up, as I sing the closing bars of 'Nessun Dorma.'....Vincero, vincero! (I win, I win!)

Really...there are few things that can compare with a good home made pizza....that's amore!


  1. Sir, do you deliver to the makati area? tee hee! Heat

  2. Orders are for pick-up bring a bottle of chianti, it's free...that's amore....Capiche?

  3. What the heck! Just buy tortilla wrapper (is that what you call that thin white round thing?), and voila, instant thin crust pizza dough! From: Lifestyles of the Middle Class and Lazy.

  4. Susan - Whatever yanks your chain, baby : ) ......whether middle class, high class or wa class.