And How I Fianlly Got Over It: One Girl’s Journey
Bear with me a second as I set the scene for you. Picture if you will, a suburban Chicago street lined with middle aged trees and raised ranch houses, rising purposefully from their sloped yards and black-topped driveways filled with minivans, bicycles and basketballs. The year? Approximately 1991. Inside one such house, a birthday party is getting underway. 8 or 10 little girls are gathering for a birthday sleepover. Movies, scary stories and midnight snacks are certainly on the agenda for the evening.
Enter our protagonist: A young, towheaded Erin…all skinny legs, stringy hair and coke bottle glasses. All NKOTB t-shirt, neon socks and Keds. She hangs back in her friend’s dining room, waiting for the others to sit down first. The room sports gold carpet and dark, old-fashioned looking furniture. Streamers and ballons turn sickening shades of green, yellow and red under the glow of the tinted, early 80s chandelier. The paper Happy Birthday tablecloth rustles softly as each girl takes her place at the table.
Birthday Girl’s mom appears from the kitchen holding a jelly roll pan in each hand. She places the pans on the table, unveiling the evening’s entree choices: Homemade pizza, pepperoni or cheese. Little Erin’s eyes widen with horror as Birthday Girl’s mom begins to dish out this pizza monstrosity. The crust is two inches thick if it were a foot. The cheese oozes from all sides as the pizza is pulled from the pan with a worn out spatula, pepperoni bleeds orange and grease soaks the matching Happy Birthday paper plates.
It’s going to be soggy, she thought, her heart nearly pounding out of her chest. Oh my God, it’s going to be soggy, what am I going to do? Her eyes darted around to her friends. She watched as they happily gumed down on their mushy pieces, helping the oozing cheese to their mouths with their fingers, lips lined and shiny with toxic pizza runoff.
A piece is placed in front of her. She fumbles with it as she attempts to get it to her mouth, it’s practically melted in her hand…like trying to hold on to the flakes at a bottom of a bowl of cereal. She goes in for a bite and….AHHHHHHHHHH!!! It’s awful! It’s inedible! It’s all she can do to not toss her cookies all over the table.
Fastforward some 15 odd years. Our young protagonist is all grown up and in charge of her own kitchen now. She is making it a point to try to cook andbake things she never dreamed possible. Even things that she has not liked in the past. Determined not to let the Infamous Birthday Pizza Disaster of 1991 stand in the way her dreams, Erin decides to tackle pizza on her own terms. With a fabulous fresh, fun and grown up twist, of course. “Be gone, you soggy crust, you oozy cheese, you greasy pepperoni!” She demands.
With unfaltering will and determination, Erin sets out in search of the perfect pizza crust. She tries one, and much her delight, enjoys it very much. But she simply cannot shake the feeling that there is better out there. One so perfectly crispy and delicious, it will make her never want to pick up the phone and call Papa John’s ever again. On August 3rd, 2008, our heroine found that crust. With her eyes nearly filling with tears of joy, she turns to her husband and says, “Holy crap, this pizza rocks!”
So, as you can see, I’d been deathly afraid of homemade pizza since I was about 9 years old up until very recently. I can now safely say that I am officially over it. My trip to the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning yielded some gorgeous tomatoes, my basil plant out back was just begging to have some of it’s bright green leaves plucked and put into something yummy….Pizza Margarita it is! I found this dough recipe I got so excited about over at Brown Eyed Baker. I remembered a while back that Chelle had blogged about a really great looking dough that I knew I wanted to try so I headed over to her blog for the recipe. Unfortunately, I saw that that particular recipe called for bread flour which I didn’t have and didn’t really feel like going out to get. Bummer. However, much to my delight, Chelle had a second dough recipe in her blog from a few months back that sounded easy. Her drool-worthy photos made it a must try. I LOVED this dough! So big thanks to Chelle! YAY!
PIZZA MARGARITA (Dough recipe: Brown Eyed Baker, adapted from Cooking Light, Dec. 2007. Topping recipe: Me)
- 1 package active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons yellow cornmeal
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- Chopped tomatoes to taste
- Chopped fresh basil to taste
- 1.5 to 2 cups shredded fresh mozz cheese
- Freshly grated parm cheese, for sprinkling
Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Stir 1-1/4 cups flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt into yeast mixture to form a soft dough.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.
Place dough in a large bowl coated with coil, turning dough to coat. Cover; let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)
Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Roll dough into a 14-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on a pizza pan or baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Crimp edges of dough with fingers to form a rim.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Drizzle dough with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place pan on lowest oven rack; bake at 450 for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven; top with desired toppings (I used tomatoes, basil and cheese) and bake an additional 10 minutes or until crust and cheese is lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Note: I like to put the basil on BEFORE it goes into the oven because I like how it gets wilty and seeps it’s basil-y goodness all over the entire pizza, but you are welcome to add the basil after baking, if you prefer.