Adventures with Pizza

My last post on Portofino made me crave pizza, so on Friday I decided I wanted to make homemade pizza for Superbowl Sunday. There's a great market nearby that caters to the Italian population in the area so I knew they would have the best ingredients. We also have a pizza stone I have yet to use. Perfect! It will be easy and fun, I thought to myself.

Famous last words.

Everything started out great. I was going to make two pizzas: one with sausage, mushroom, and sun-dried tomatoes and the other with pancetta and pineapple. I pulled the sausages out of their casing, broke them up, and then pre-cooked them a bit. I did the same with the pancetta and set them both aside in the fridge.

After that, I pre-heated the oven to 450°F and, when it was up to temperature, threw the stone in for about an hour to heat up. While the stone got nice and hot, I got down to business with the dough.

The market has local, pre-made dough so it seemed like a good time to test it out. I have successfully made homemade dough before but I don't have a tried and true recipe, yet.

Both of the doughs were easy to roll out onto some cornmeal-covered parchment paper. I even did the whole hand stretching thing and felt like such a pizza-making champ. I had to eyeball the size because the stone was still heating up at this point, but I was feeling confident and figured I got it right.

Meanwhile, I started making my kale chips. I originally found the recipe at Kath Eats when I first tried them a few months ago. I definitely encourage you to check out her post for the original, simple, and delicious recipe.

Just wash and dry some kale in a salad spinner. Tear them into smaller, chip-like sizes. Toss in 2 tsp. of olive oil per salad spinner worth of kale (they really don't need much oil so if you think that's not enough, it really is, I promise). Toss with salt or other seasonings (I've only ever used salt). Put them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Finally, pop them into a 350° F oven for about 15 minutes.

It starts out looking like this:

And you end up with delicately crispy, salty, flavorful kale chips--a great, healthier alternative to potato chips:

I highly recommend them, even for those that don't really like kale. I made three batches last night and there were no leftovers.

Back to the pizza. So now I was bolstered not only by my taming of the dough, but also by the reception of my kale chips. I started dressing both pies up and they looked great.

Then, I realized that I had no good way of getting the pizzas onto the piping hot stone. The moisture from the dough weakened the parchment so it wasn't going to hold the weight. I ended up having to get my parents over to help me pick the sausage and mushroom one up while I put a fish-frying basket underneath it for support.

We got it on the stone. Hurray! But the pizza was too big and started drooping over the sides of the stone while simultaneously being cooked by it on the bottom. Eventually, we just shoved it into the oven and hoped for the best. I glared at it through the glass. It reminded me of the blob as it dripped mockingly between the oven grates.

Ultimately, it cooked into a flavorful, but completely deformed pizza. I lost my title of dough master. That's what you get for being cocky.

But you know what C.S. Lewis once said? He said, "Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement." And I don't give up so easily.

I was determined to save the next pizza and folded the ends over to make a semi-stuffed super-crust. I don't like thick crusts but thankfully this one was tasty and the result turned out to be a lot better looking.

So the moral of the story is: If you want an amazing, perfect-looking pizza and you're not a pizza master, go to your favorite pizza joint. If you want to have fun and have pizza, make it at home. Make mistakes; laugh and learn. I still have a long way to go before I can make that elusive, perfect thin-crust pizza, but at least I know a little more about what not to do.