Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cooking with the Pizza Love Queen

      This past weekend, I was blessed by a visit from two very dear friends, Cheryl and Terry.  We only see each other once a year, and we had a lot of talking to catch up on.  So we talked while we hiked. We talked while we sat on the front porch listening for owls.  We talked while we soaked in the Jefferson Pools at Warm Springs (only we had to use our whisper voices there, because we were afraid of the big lady who handed out towels).  We talked while we painted rocks and we talked while we made pizza.  Oh and I forgot to mention, while we were talking, we were also laughing and giggling and guffawing and snorting.  Friendship warms the heart with laughter.
    We laughed while we made pizza with our beloved Pizza Love Queen, Cheryl, as she taught us how to make the perfect dough.

1)       Use cold water when making dough.  It takes longer to rise, but it also gives it a deeper flavor.  The longer rising time also gives the dough more time to develop gluten which means less work will be needed for kneading.  So, don’t be in a hurry. Make the sponge with cold water in the morning, then go out for a hike and a soak. 
2)      Don’t measure.  That’s too time consuming.  Eyeball estimates are close enough.  People who tell you to use specific amounts of ingredients have no imagination.  In dough, close is close enough.  So a bowl about half full of water, enough flour to make it like thick pancake batter, a package of yeast and some salt.
3)      You need salt in your dough.  Salt keeps the yeast in check.  Otherwise it would go into a feeding frenzy and die an early death.  Cheryl put about 3 TBS in the bowl which worked with one pack of yeast and almost five pounds of flour.
4)      Stir up the sponge.  Work at this because the more you work the flour the more you awaken the gluten.  Then when it is fully awake, go do something else.  For a long time.  Left undisturbed, the yeast will become happy and bubble away.  When you come back the dough will be waiting and ready, all without interference from you. Cheryl once showed up at my house with a pot full of pizza dough sponge in her trunk.  She made it in the morning and it travelled through DC traffic and over the mountains to my house where it rested until suppertime.  All that travel does wear one out.
5)      Add flour until the sponge is less gooey.  You’ll know when it’s done: it will just feel right.  A little tacky but firm and limber.
6)      Knead in the bowl.  No need to make any more mess than necessary. 
7)      Let the dough rise and then oil your surface and lay out some mounds of dough about the size you want for your pizzas (we did personal size pizzas on the grill).  Again, be patient.  Let the dough rest.  Drink a glass of wine and put your feet up.  When you come back the dough will be ready to yield to your hand. 
8)      Put your leftover dough in the fridge.  It will keep there for a couple of days.  Just pull out a mound the size you want and let it rest on your oiled surface until it is fully awake and pliable.  Form and bake.
    These are the Pizza Love Queen’s words of wisdom about dough.  I think there’s some advice that applies to life in there, too.  Relax.  Work when you need to, rest when you can.  Spend some time alone and undisturbed so your yeasty thoughts can develop.  Don’t use two bowls if one will do. Sometimes you just need to walk away and things will take care of themselves.