Pizza dough seems like it should be pretty easy. Flour, yeast, warm water, olive oil, salt, maybe a little bit of sugar.
How hard can it be?
Well… It’s not hard, but I’m out to prove it’s not a gimme, apparently, because I screwed it up pretty good last time out.
Here’s the thing about pizza dough: just because it’s easy doesn’t mean you can coast through it. The first time — and second and third — I made it, it was a breeze. I had a package of Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust yeast. It’s got the recipe on the packet!
Six steps, and those included preheating the oven, putting your sauce and cheese and toppings on, and baking the damned pie.
And it was as advertised the first three times. On the fourth, though, I didn’t have any Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust yeast — they come in packets of three, apparently. I had regular dry active yeast.
How different could it be?
Well, for one, it doesn’t come with a recipe for pizza crust on the packet. For two, it takes a hell of a lot longer to rise than pizza yeast.
It takes two hours, according to the recipe I had found, and I didn’t want to wait that long. I was hungry and it had never occurred to me that it could take two hours to make pizza dough. Should be like a fifteen minute process, tops.
Kelsey and I have seen the Great British Bakeoff, fortunately, and though our kitchen doesn’t have a proof box the way each contestant does on the show, what could that be other than like a small oven? So I popped the dough in a bowl, smothered it in olive oil, covered it with a towel, and turned on the oven as low as it would go, 170 degrees.
Half an hour later, we checked and it had just about doubled in size, which was awesome, because that’s what it was supposed to do unassisted in two hours. This was way better. Perfect.
Except, obviously, it wasn’t. The oven was an oven, not a proof box, and the dough had begun to cook. The pools of olive oil crisped a little and the rest of the dough puffed up and fell apart. It wouldn’t stretch, it wouldn’t take a shape, and it wouldn’t become a pizza.
So there was swearing. And this time was worse, because I was already hungry, so there was some stomping and clenched fists. It got ugly.
Did you know you can buy dough from pizza shops? Well, on Long Island, you could. Just walk in and ask them. It’s good dough (better than I can make, clearly!) and it’s cheap, too. In Pittsburgh, we had to do some convincing, but eventually we found a place that would sell us a dough for a couple bucks. Oddest request they’d gotten all day, they said.
Moral of the story: if you mess up the pizza dough, pop out and buy one.