Happy mistakes in the kitchen — making pizza
I really enjoy cooking. To be more accurate, I enjoy baking. Not enough to attempt to make a career out of it, but I have dated women because of the size of their kitchen. Personally, I have a tiny kitchen and an old oven. That makes accurately baking things difficult; a new oven can be a game changer for me.
On my 30th birthday, one of the gifts I received was a cooking magazine. I kept that magazine for over 5 years. That’s the sort of devotion I have to cooking.
What makes cooking so amazing to me, is that despite it essentially being a practice of basic chemistry, there are so many solutions to the proposed question of how to make something delicious. Other than certain recipes like souffles, you can make mistakes. Often those mistakes can improve what you’re cooking. Or, they lead you down a path to creating something you never imagined making.
One of my favorite series of experiments led me to creating my own pizza dough recipe. Essentially, I was trying to teach myself how to make a flat bread without using a recipe book. Flat breads fascinate me. Roti, Tortilla, Pita, etc., almost every region of the world has a flat bread. East African flat breads can be sponge like, others have coarser textures. At some point I rationalized that pizzas’ roots likely come from flatbread. I’m probably wrong, but that’s what everything I was learning in my kitchen was telling me. That curiosity pushed me to find my own pizza dough recipe.
I ended up with a recipe that started similar to a dumpling dough — including baking powder. I then added yeast. However, I didn’t activate the yeast. I know. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? But I discovered that I could use baking powder to rise my dough and use the yeast to control the elasticity of it.
In my tiny kitchen, at the time I was figuring this out, I lacked a large enough sheet to put my dough on. I would put my attempts at pizza directly on the oven rack. Often, the dough would sag and fall through. After watching a show on PBS, I figured a work around. Activating the yeast would make the dough making process longer. More importantly, I like adding additional ingredients to my dough that may ruin an activated yeast. Also, since I’m not activating my yeast, I use a lot less than in a standard pizza dough.
To me, this is the perfect pizza dough. I would tell you the exact recipe, but that would ruin the fun of you experimenting. Those experiments are half the fun of cooking. Just remember that you have to eat your mistakes, so make sure they’re tasty!