Conquering Fears, Eating Pizza

I’ve mentioned before my phobia of yeast. Usually when I cook, I like the fact that I have control over how the food turns out–the flavors, the doneness, the ingredients–but with yeast, you have to mix it in and just…wait. In my first yeast experiment, I spent the requisite “several hours” between the mixing and the rising fretting over whether the water into which I’d dissolved the active dry yeast was the right kind of “warm but not hot” (like I have a kitchen thermometer), whether my attempt to quarter the recipe had affected the chemistry of it all (um…yes, it did), and whether I’d left the covered dough in a warm enough spot to properly catalyze the reaction that would result in a beautiful, pillowy ball of risen dough (apparently not). Thanks to my experimental tweaking, I was left with nothing but a dense, gluey lump that had to be sacrificed to the trash can.

But I’ve really been wanting to try to make pizza dough from scratch. And that takes [gulp] yeast. I had been eyeing a recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and, empowered by author Ree Drummond’s clear step-by-step instructions and bolstered by the nice, round measurements of the ingredients, I went for it.

4 c all-purpose flour
1 t kosher salt
1/3 c olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 t dry, active yeast
1 1/2 c “warm (not lukewarm) but not hot” water

First, you sprinkle the yeast over the water and just leave it alone for a sec. Meanwhile, mix the flour and salt together in a medium bowl, then add the 1/3 c oil and mix that in, too. Now, stir the yeast into the water to dissolve it, then add the water to the flour mixture and mix until it’s all combined. It should be sticky and wet. Mmm. (I did all this by hand–like, literally with my bare hands–because I don’t have a fancy shmancy KitchenAid mixer. Not that I’m bitter. Sniff.) Okay, now grab another bowl, drizzle some olive oil in the bottom. Pick up the dough ball and work it a little to stick it all together and smooth it out. Coat the ball in the drizzled oil and leave it in the bottom of the bowl. At this point, you can cover it with a towel and leave it “in a warm, dry place” for a few hours, but we all know how this worked out for me before. Instead, I covered it with plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge for a good long while. Like 27 hours. By the time I checked it again, it had doubled in size and was the gorgeous puffball I was hoping for.

VICTORY!

This recipe makes two pizza crusts, which is fine, because you can either refrigerate the unused half (wrapped in plastic) for a couple more days or freeze it for, like, a long time. So for now, take half the dough ball and work it out slowly until it’s nice and thin. I was doing this on a rimmed cookie sheet drizzled with a little olive oil. Once it’s all spread out, just add sauce and all the toppings your little heart desires (I used pepperoni, black olives, mushrooms, onions, and mozzarella) and bake it at 500° for 10-12 minutes.

I was nervous about cooking something that hot, so as I was washing my dishes, I kept whipping my head around to check on the pizza through the oven window. Keep in mind I was still heavily congested from my cold at this point, so rapidly turning my head made for a dizzy–and frankly kind of trippy–dishwashing experience. The pizza did fine.

The pizza dough was a raging success, and I’m really excited to make the second one. I’m thinking barbecue sauce, white cheddar, chicken, red onion, and maaaybe a little pineapple.

In summary,
Yeast: 1
MB: 1

Stay tuned.

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About mbdevilbiss

Until 2009, I never really thought much about Wisconsin. When I did, it was usually in the context of silent pep talks I'd give myself as I walked from the Metro station to my downtown D.C. office on blustery January mornings. "This isn't so bad," I'd tell myself. "Just imagine if you were in...Wisconsin!" *shiver* It wouldn't make me any warmer, but I could finish the 12-minute walk secure in the knowledge that I lived so, so far away from Canada. And then, one Saturday in early June, I went to a cookout and met a boy. He was wonderful and he was also moving to Madison, WI, to begin a PhD program in August. After a year of emails, phone calls, and biweekly visits, we shoved the last of my belongings into a jam-packed moving truck and headed west. As of October 9, 2010, I was an Accidental Wisconsonite. I'm no Sconnie, and I'll never be able to claim that prestigious status, but I'm loving life here so far. My blog is a place for writing about this life, and I hope you enjoy my Midwestern adventure as much as I have been.
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