Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Making pizza

So as I've said before, I love cooking. I'm not that great at it, but I really enjoy learning new techniques. One of the things that I've been practicing is pizzas. And I'm actually getting pretty good! This book inspired me to try making my own pizzas. It's really a fun book to read. It talks about one man's quest for the perfect pizza. It also has some recipies in it, different doughs, sauces, and ideas for toppings. However, the author is a baker, which is a good thing, because the main emphasis is on the crust.

My first several attempts at pizza were...problematic. I had some success, but also some pretty messy failures. A lot of my doughs were too sticky to handle. I couldn't toss them properly because they'd stick together. And some of my pizzas would end up with holes. This was a very bad thing. There would be a big soupy mess of cheese and sauce on the pizza stone. Not Good Eats...

The sticking problem also caused problems when trying to actually place the pizza in the oven. I remember one time, the pizza would just not come off of the peel. I ended up having to flip the pizza upsidown into a cookie sheet and then flip it back again onto another cookie sheet lined with parchment. Kind of a clever solution, but not really ideal.

Well, I've come a long way since then. I figured out that the mixing times in the book really don't work for me. They say to mix the dough for 4 minutes, rest 5, then mix again for another 2. I've found that I need the last mixing step to go for at least 15 minutes in order for it to pass the windowpane test. I also need it to go at a higher speed than the author suggests. This has really helped my pizzas out. Before, the pizzas were not sufficiently kneaded; therefore, not enough gluten was made. Without a good stretchy structure, the dough ripped which led to my goopy pizza soup. Now, I don't have to worry about that and the crust itself has a much nicer texture.

Solving the sticking problem was easy. I just used a little extra flour when rolling out the crust. I just need to make sure that the whole dough was covered up and that no sticky parts were showing. I also started using 2 peels instead of one (a wood one to insert and a metal one to extract). One of the problems before was that the cooked pizzas would sometimes make the wood peel a little wet, which would cause sticking problems when putting in the next pizza.

Anyhow, I've gotten to the point where I can make a whole bunch of pizzas and they all turn out great and it's not that big of a deal. The other weekend for PrincessKat's baptism celebration, I was able to make 6 of them for us and our guests. Today, I made 4 (2 for us, 2 for our neighbors). One of the cool things is that our boys love my pizzas. LilKat1 said that my pizza was the BEST pizza. Well, actually he said that my pizza and Costco pizzas are the best. But I'll take it.

But, really, my pizzas are much better than Costco's. Just ask Mrs BigKat! I think we'd rather eat one of my pizzas than any pizza that we could buy around here. That's kind of a nice feeling. And all it takes is a little advance preparation. For me, it's actually quite an easy meal.

Now that I have the foundation down, I think the next step would be to do some experimenting with the sauce and toppings and see what I can create. Not that I have a lot of time for that, but maybe someday...

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