Monday, August 27, 2012

My Attempt at Making A Homemade Pizza: A Life-Affirming Odyssey

In which I give you a PIZZA my mind…


I’ve never really given that much thought as to how important pizza is in my day-to-day life. To really illustrate the food’s significance, I went a full week without ingesting a single slice, and I seriously wondered how in the hell I was going to survive. As a peoples, we’re so dependent on pizza that it’s no longer a staple of our diets - rather, it’s more like the very binding that keeps our asses from starving.

Pizza, in a nutshell, is nature’s most perfect food. It’s the easiest, most cost-efficient means of getting all five food groups in a single meal, and it’s the kind of dish that can be endlessly altered and remixed to fit one’s desires. It’s readily available, it’s easy to store, it’s something EVERYBODY can eat (even those lowly vegans, pending you use some sort of whole-wheat bean-paste cheese alternative) and ultimately, it’s a food that’s almost impossible to mess up (as the worst pizza I’ve ever had, mind you, was still better than 75 percent of the things I’ve ever ingested.) Long story short; next to water, pizza is our species’ most vital substance, and an absolute prerequisite for any sort of social system that dare call itself a “democracy.”

You know, I’ve wanted to make my own pizza for quite awhile now. The thing is, it’s a lot harder finding decent, whole-wheat dough then you’d think, and it wasn’t until I stumbled across a certain hippie-vegetarian-indie-douche bag grocery store founded by Nazis that I found a tub of do-it-yourself pizza dough that I felt comfortable using as my base. And then, the accumulation of toppings DIDITH BEGIN.


Making a pizza is sort of like packing for vacation. You have an idea of everything you think you’re going to need, but at the end of the day, you just feel a need to cram as much stuff into your briefcase as possible. Granted, you may not KNOW why you might need a parka on that trip to Hawaii, but in case you do, it’s there. The same holds true for pizza, in a way; I’m not exactly sure why there’s a bucket of hummus and Whoppers on the ingredient list, but when the time arises…well, they’re there, I guess.

As you can see, there are quite a few ingredients at our disposal here. For all of you kids that like to recreate experiments at home, here’s an abridged list of all of the foodstuffs you will need to make your own Jimbo-style pizza:

THE ESSENTIALS

Pizza dough - as stated above, it’s a lot harder to find the good stuff than you’d think. At a certain juncture, you’re going to have to make the judgment call to choose standard flour dough or whole-wheat dough. The primary difference there? The whole-wheat stuff has a palpably sweeter taste, and it’s a LOT harder to roll than the regular material. More on that little issue, later.

Flour - because the dough just don’t magically turn itself into a flattened tortilla, you know

Olive oil - to glaze the dough at some point. You can elect to use virgin olive oil, or even extra-virgin olive oil - which I think is the kind of oil that’s never even kissed a boy yet - if you so choose. Personally, I prefer the standard (read: kinda’ slutty) oil myself.


So much cheese that you don’t know what to do with all of it - if you think you have enough cheese, trust me…you don’t. If it doesn’t hurt your arms to pick up your lode of dairy goods, then you need to haul your ass back to the local grocery store and pick up some more mozzarella.

Pizza sauce - really, anything unguent and red will work here. You can vouch for the spice-loaded, higher-priced sauce if you want, but honestly, you could pour a can of SpaghettiOs on your crust and nobody would really be able to tell the difference.

ELECTIVE MATERIALS

Banana peppers - adds a very rich, savory, and oddly, sweet texture to your cheese. An absolute must for all Greek-style, thin-crust pies.


Mushrooms - sliced portabellas will suffice, but I hear shitakes aren’t bad either.

Red onions - because white onions are just bullshit, that’s why.

Pineapples - the absolute greatest pizza topping of all-time, a statement I AM willing to go to war over if need be.

A whole tomato - so you can slice it up and put it on your pizza (and also because you can never have too much tomato in your life, ever.)


Tofurky branded Italian Sausage - for all of your vegetarian friends/liabilities. Chop it up in thin slivers, and you would never know it isn’t pepperoni. Well, until you taste it, anyway.

THE PROCESS


Step One - All right, you see that dough over there? Well, you’re going to have to break it open, roll it in flour, and shape it into something that looks like a circle. As a guy that took a Maymester astrophysics class while he had chickenpox, I can safely say this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. No joke, it took me almost twenty minutes to get this stuff even remotely resembling something with a circumference, and even then, my crust ended up looking more like a Ninja Turtle than something you’d order at Papa John’s. Needless to say, after making my own pizza, I have a newfound respect and appreciation for the talents of Pizza Hut employees the world over.


Step Two - Crack open the olive oil, grab yourself a brushing utensil, and glaze the hell out of your crust. Now’s also a good time to do some last minute quality assurance, so if there are any porous spots on your dough, now’s the time to smooth them over. After that, it’s time to douse the dough in pizza sauce. You’ll probably need a brush of some kind to make things all even, so if you still have the brush laying around from the olive oil glistening, you might as well dab it in the can and save yourself the extra dish washing time.


Step Three - Make it RAIN CHEESE. If you bought the shredded stuff, just open the bag and go to town, but remember: pizza elites ALWAYS shred their own. From there, it’s up to you as to how you build your pizza pyramid. As a general rule, I advise placing your heaviest ingredients on the pie first and working your way up with the lighter materials from there. As you can see, in my test run, I did the exact opposite, making my pie top heavy with synthetic sausage and pineapple chunks while the lighter weight ingredients resided next to the crust. It didn’t destroy the pizza by any means, but it did make the pie a little (OK, a LOT) less manageable had I done it the other way around.


Step Four - Whatever extra cheese you have laying around needs to get sprinkled atop whatever toppings are gleaming and jutting from the apex of your pie. At this point, you are just about ready to jam your pizza into the oven, but because we here at THE INTERNET IS IN AMERICA pride ourselves on maximizing consumer experiences, how about taking whatever leftover toppings you have and dumping them into a salad while you’re at it? Like the noble Hopi, we firmly believe in using EVERY part of the buffalo, even if that buffalo is sometimes actually a jar of peppers.


Step Five - Bake! While the dough’s wrapper said that our pizza only needed to go for about eleven minutes, I’m pretty sure we had to wait a good half hour until our pie was completely cooked and more solid than mushy. Perhaps you’ve noticed that pizza stone there - it’s not required for the course, but it makes things a lot more manageable than they would be if we were using a metal baking sheet. Also, if you want your pizza to have a “traditional” crust, you’re going to have to shape it into the pie yourself. Apparently, that shit doesn’t arise out of sheer metaphysics, much to my chagrin.


And now, the big reveal: whether or not my Jimbo-style pizza was actually worth a hoot. While it wasn’t necessarily the best pizza I’ve ever had, for a first run through, I didn’t think it was all that bad. I made a couple of rookie mistakes here in there, but overall, it was a pretty tasty pizza that had a very distinct, almost Greek-style taste (that is, a mixture of sweet and salty, with just a hint of spiciness to it.)


Yeah, it may not be Wolfgang Puck-quality or anything, but for a home-project, it wasn’t too shabby. That, and indirectly, it taught me five incredibly important life lessons in the process:

FIVE ASTOUNDING PARALLELS BETWEEN MAKING A PIZZA AND FINDING HAPPINESS IN LIFE

1.) The world is loaded with ingredients, and it’s up to you to pick and choose what spices your life. And sometimes, the unlikeliest combinations leads to the most astonishing outcomes.

2.) It pays to follow directions, but at the end of the day, all that really matter is what you were able to dream up.

3.) All cheese may look alike, but every individual block has a distinct flavor all its own.

4.) It’s way more fun to roll dough into flour and throw banana peppers at stuff with a friend than shredding mozzarella solo.

5.) Holy hell, are your results going to vary.

1 comment:

  1. Love the five parallels -- it’s frank, but quite insightful. No.1 is something I follow religiously when I’m trying out new things. :)

    I quite agree with the dough problem. One of the biggest reasons I don’t make pizza whenever I want to is that I run out of decent dough to make some with. Other times, I’m just plain lazy. Heh.

    Carlene

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