Have you ever gotten a wild hair that inspires you to do something you’ve never tried before? I get them. If not exactly frequently, then at least not infrequently. It’s as if I’ve got some mole someplace I can’t see (you know, maybe on a shoulder blade or on my lower back, just west of Love Handle Acres), and every two or three months it sprouts an ugly, wiry, little black fiber* from the Moley Follicle of Wishes and Aspirations. In the sprouting, some strange subconscious dream is set free, which immediately takes up primary residence in my thoughts. Well, what thoughts I have.
In other words, I suddenly wake up with the urge to make homemade ricotta, regardless of that fact that I have no experience, no one to show me how, all the wrong tools, and none of the necessary ingredients.
While thus far it hasn’t actually been ricotta, the "wild hair" syndrome has been responsible for my bread-making adventures among many other things.
For some strange reason, Friday night I got to thinking that I should devote the past weekend to trying my hand at making ravioli. Then again, that might have been the IPA talking. Ravioli requires a press unless you’re a deft hand with a rolling pin. I have no pasta press and my rolling pin skills barely qualify me to berate intoxicated, tom-catting husbands.
As I don’t have an intoxicated, perfidious husband, my pin gets little use. Honestly, I don’t think it’s even up to rolling out something capable of giving Chef Boyardee a run for the money. And Chef Boyardeee…is, well, you know.
Thankfully, I woke up Saturday morning with a much clearer goal: homemade pizza. I’ve considered it in the past, but without a stand mixer and a dough hook, I assumed I’d be kneading it by hand. And that takes time, energy, and experience. I have none of those things.
What I *do* have, I recalled mid-morning Saturday while praying that The Attitude would finally succumb to using his "big-boy potty" (as part of a Potty Party weekend, which is so another post) is bread machine. Admittedly, I’m a not a huge fan of the bread it makes. I am, however, a very big fan of using it to make dough.
And hey! Its book even has a pizza dough recipe.
So I prayed to the Gods of Fungi that the yeasties in that old envelope packet found in the dark musty recesses of the pantry were still clinging to life and chucked everything into the machine.
After it did it’s mixing/kneading magic, I had dough. Which I then allowed to rise until Son of Blob was sitting in a bowl on my stove.
Woot! I had made the pizza dough. "Made" of course, is a loosely-defined term here, since the machine and the yeast did all the work while I sat around with a white coat and clipboard, supervisor-style, nodding my head sagely as the bulbous tan/white lump grew and grew.
Well, actually, I spent that time asking my three year-old if he needed to pee every 5 minutes, to which inevitable answered, "No", but I digress.
At any rate, not wanting pizza until Sunday evening, I put Harvey in the fridge until tomorrow. What? Like you don’t name your shapeless, growing, blobs of dough.
Anyway, All was well.
Now, I was planning to do all the Right Things for pizza night. I was expecting 4 pizzas outta Harvey, and I was going to have pepperoni and sausage and grilled chicken and mushrooms and caramelized onions and ALL THE TOPPINGS available for the kids to pick from when the time came. Heck, I was even planning two sauces, a red and a white.
I was gonna get all crazy up in la Casa de Puddin. I mean, that’s what they do in the commercials for family pizza night, right?
Except, you know, as stated above, we had none of the right ingredients. Not to worry, though, because Sunday was a new day! I just had to find time for a quick trip to the store.
But then Sunday got away from me, which Sundays are wont to do. And I found myself watching a quarter of Harvey rise a second time, not sure what exactly, if anything, I was going to lovingly sprinkle over my dough once I’d deftly and with great love stretched it into a perfect circle.
That’s when I made the best decision of the entire process: keep it simple, use what’s on hand, don’t go crazy.
A drizzle of olive oil with garlic for sauce, a few chunks of leftover ham, some herbs, and a (reasonable) sprinkle of mozzarella. Nothing fancy, nothing overboard.
And it was fantastic. Obviously, the pizza didn’t end up either a perfect circle or a nice, regular rectangle. I guess making reasonably regular geometric shapes requires starting with a ball of dough that pretty much a perfect sphere. I mean, every round pizza I’ve ever seen turned out, whether from your local pizza-mega-chain-aria or by some UberChef on a cooking show, started out as a simple ball. My pieces of Harvey weren’t really little balls. They had creases and odd parts just off the main lump. They looked more like heirloom tomatoes, which themselves have always reminded me of a wrinkly newborn, screwing his/her little face up for a good, wailing, FEED-ME-KNOW-YOU-TERRIBLE-PEOPLE fit
So after some, um, not-quite-quality time with a rolling pin and then what can only be described as a ridiculous parody of dough spinning, the crust I ended up baking resembled a map of the United States. And yes, that includes having a little leg sticking off for Florida.
But apparently looks aren’t everything; the kids couldn’t tell me enough times how much they loved it, and even the Puddinette – who typically weathers my occasional wild hairs with an eye-roll and a sigh of "don’t set anything on fire" – gave it two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
Would it rival Uncle J’s crack-pizza? Not amongst Uncle J’s
addicts rabid followers, certainly. But my white pizza was a full 16 metric craptons better than I’d expected.
And I’ve still got plenty of Harvey waiting in the freezer for next time.
"At Home Pizziola": Achievement Unlocked!
If only The Attitude’s Potty Party been as successful.