One of my favorite birthdays was the year I asked for a pizza, five movie rentals, and to be left alone. And, I got what I asked.
Pizza is one of those treat foods for me.
The first few years that the husband and I were married, we ate a lot of extra-large pizza from this one particular pizzeria. We loved that they delivered. We gained a lot of weight. What kept us from gaining more than a lot was that we moved to a nearby city outside of the pizzeria's delivery radius.
Since living with the Mama, pizza has been a now and then food to enjoy. The pizzas sold around here tend to be heavy. I didn't think I'd ever say it, but yeah, too much salt, too much sauce, too much cheese, and too much grease. And, then there's the cost. Oh, sure, it's cheap if we just wanted pepperoni and cheese. But, that's not the pizza experience for us. We like a pizza loaded with veggies, with the meat as an extra.
Then, in late spring, our favorite cafe built an outdoor oven and started selling pizza. Their crust is light and buttery, chewy yet crisp. And the toppings are things we like such as grilled chicken, artichoke, and cheeses others than mozzarella. Fortunately, there were obstacles to keep us from getting addicted to their pizza: The cafe was in the next town and we're on a tight budget again.
Not having their pizza motivated me to make pizza from scratch. So, this past summer I was on a quest to find that right combination of yeast, sugar, liquids, and flour to form the almost perfect crust. I got close enough.
It's fun making pizza. I enjoy pounding and kneading the dough. It's also fun experimenting with toppings. They're never the same because I use whatever veggies and meats happen to be in the fridge and pantry. It can get rather creative. The Husband and the Mama don't seem to mind. The last pizza turned out to be a very delicious experiment: First, a layer of roasted tomatoes in olive oil; next, a mixture of sauteed onions, garlic, sweet pepper, and portabello mushrooms; then a handful or two of thin slices of farmer's cheese and garlic cheddar cheese; and then a layer of minced salami, slices of elephant garlic, and chopped parda (a Filipino vegetable) Finally, it was all topped with several slices of provolone cheese.
There's really nothing difficult about making pizza. You can be as precise as you want or be all intuitive about it. The latter is me. Here's what I do to give you an idea of the process of making pizza. (You can easily find a basic pizza recipe with measurements online.)
- Warm 1 to 1.5 cup of water in the microwave. Add a teaspoon of yeast and a pinch of sugar. Stir and set the solution aside.
- Dump about 2 to 3 cups of flour in a large bowl. Make a crater in the flour with your fist. Add the yeast solution and a small amount of olive oil (maybe 1/8 cup).
- Combine and knead the mixture, adding a bit of flour at a time as needed. Knead until the dough bounces back a bit when you press on it.
- Shape the dough into a ball. Lightly coat it with olive oil and put it back into the bowl. Cover with something (I use a cloth napkin), set it in a warm spot, and walk away.
- An hour or so later, punch the dough down and knead, knead, knead until you think it doesn't need it anymore. Put it back in the bowl, cover it, and walk away again.
- Assemble the pizza. Come back about an hour before you're ready to eat to do this last step. Less, if you've already prepared your ingredients. More, if you haven't and you tend to be slow about preparing things. Baking the pizza takes between 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven's idiosyncrasies, how thick your dough is, and what ingredients you're using.