I did it, you guys. I tried to make something with yeast.
Yeast is one of the most intimidating ingredients in cooking. If you're like me and generally sucked at chemistry, it's frightening beyond belief. I don't possess any real understanding of how any of this stuff works, but I knew the yeast part had to be perfect.
Where was this yeast going? Into my very first attempt (one of many future attempts, I'm sure) at making my own pizza dough! I decided to use a recipe from Deb of Smitten Kitchen.
First I combined flour, yeast and salt. Easy enough. Although, I have to admit, I had no idea yeast would look like little seeds when I opened the packet.
Then I was supposed to add lukewarm water. People, that seems easy enough, but in hindsight, I believe my water was still too cold. I understand that can affect the yeast...or something.
I then added olive oil and attempted to stir the big mess into a ball and what you see above is what I got. Hmm. Not quite what I pictured.
On a floured surface, I rolled the dough into a ball, but it still wasn't as smooth as Deb's. Any clues, you guys?
I put the ball of dough into an oiled bowl and covered it with saran wrap and left it alone for two hours. See how my ball of dough is all wrinkly, like play-doh, rather than smooth? Seriously, what is that?
Needless to say, it grew an eensy bit in two hours but didn't rise as much as it should have. I figured I'd plow ahead anyway.
I dumped the ball of dough back onto the counter, covered it with saran wrap and let it sit 20 more minutes. After all that, I went ahead and pushed the bubbles out with the palms of my hands and rolled the dough.
I have to say, the consistency is awesome to feel. It gives, which is so strange and new after baking so many cookies and cakes. I like how pliant it felt, and how easily it stretched.
I rolled it into this sort of oblong shape and then placed it on a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal. Now, I don't have a pizza stone (but I'd gladly accept one as a gift!), so I had to make do with the pizza pan we already have.
Deb has several recommendations in the entry I linked about making pizza without a stone, if you are like me and don't possess one.
I decided to keep my first pizza simple and just made a basic pepperoni. I will definitely admit I might have overspiced it; I shook a LOT of Italian seasoning onto that bad boy.
Here's where things get really dicey. Deb suggested broiling pizza to get that lovely blistered cheese effect. One of my guests (we were hosting a movie night) showed up right around then and I immediately got kind of flustered and rushed around a little too much.
I popped the pizza under the broiler (way too close, I realized soon after) and came back to find the top was perfectly cooked but the crust hadn't cooked at all. It was a pretty devastating moment.
I then set my oven to 550 (the highest temp I'm comfortable with) and popped the pizza back in. The crust cooked this time, but not before the top TOTALLY burnt.
But you know what's so great about pizza? It's still good burnt. The crust was really flavorful and almost had a focaccia quality; it wasn't perfect but it still had a homemade taste you just can't get from frozen or delivery pizza.
I'm definitely trying this again and soon. Deb has a variation on the recipe that subs white wine for water and adds honey; I think that sounds like the makings of an amazing white pizza.