I kneaded that
This has been a year of culinary firsts for me. This summer I made my very first quiche and pesto sauce, this fall brought my first batch of creamy potato soup and first ever pasta salad, and last night officially marked my first foray into the world of making my own bread and dough.
I’ve always loved to cook. I come from a family that enjoys cooking their food almost as much as they enjoy eating it. My full-blooded Italian grandmother made the world’s most amazing spaghetti sauce, and my mother-in-law has an insane aptitude for making delicious baked goods. I consider my own mother to be the best cook I know, and both of my sisters seem to have inherited her impeccable sense of mixing and mingling spices.
Admittedly, I never ventured too far away from the standard dinner classics when I moved away from home and got married (meatloaf, baked chicken dishes, casseroles, and pizzas were staples in our newlywed home). However, it didn’t take me long to recognize that Clay and I were in a food rut, and that felt detrimental to my status as wife and homemaker. Since the acquisition of Mixie last year for my birthday, I’ve made it my personal mission to expand my horizons and put more time and creative energy into one of my favorite activities. I want my children grandchildren to rave about my spaghetti sauce and cookies one day.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times in this blog, Clay and I are a family that loves their pizza. Pizza is just the world’s more perfect food and we make sure to consume it in some capacity each week. Mini English muffin pizzas have been second only to homemade calzones because let’s face it—a pocket of pizza is the most scrumptiously convenient invention ever!
In the past, I’ve used a box of Jiffy or simply bought tubes of pre-made pizza crust from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Not this week! This week I finally decided to tighten my apron strings and make my own dough!
I don’t know why making dough or bread of any kind intimidates me. I think yeast freaks me out because 1.) I have absolutely no experience using it 2.) I wield a rolling pin like a blind gorilla and 3.) Yeast just sounds disgusting. YEAST. YEASTY YEAST.
Anyway, watching chefs punch and knead balls of dough on TV always looked like a lot of work and bread making just seems like such a delicate process, there’s no feasible way I wouldn’t screw it up with these clumsy hands. To me, when someone says, “Let’s make bread”, I think “bread maker or bakery?”
Regardless, I took to the internets and found what the author considered to be “fool proof” pizza dough. After reading through the recipe, “fool proof” seemed to be synonymous with “Courtney proof”, so I decided to give it a shot.
Clayton was let out of his anatomy class early, so he came home to find me punching furiously on a ball of floury dough and wearing mixed-matched pajamas (there’s no place for fashion in the kitchen). When he came through the door, my eyes lit up. “I’M DOING IT, CLAYTON! I’M DOING IT!” I exclaimed.
“You are so cute,” he said in a way that made me think he was really trying to say I was “special”. He kissed me on the head and left me to continue physically assaulting my dough.
I had zero patience during the “rising” phase of my dough, so I kept peeking under my puppy dish towel to see how much bigger the ball of dough was getting. (And yes, I have doggie dish towels. If you must know, they’re dogs making sausages and wearing chef hats.)
Once the dough finished rising and I had sufficiently punched it back down again, I cut the ball into pieces and rolled out small circles to construct my calzones. I stuffed each calzone with sauce, cheese and olives (our vegetarian meal for the week) before twisting them shut and coating with a beaten egg. I popped the baking sheet into the oven and finished steaming the broccoli while our pizzas became ooey gooey pouches of deliciousness.
(And my mom and I totally used Face Time while I finished dinner. She took me to her closet and showed me the new winter shoes she bought. A-mah-zing!)
The calzones turned out far better than any I had made previously! Clayton even commented, “Did you put honey in the pizza crust? I can taste it.” (P.S. I TOTALLY DID!)
It normally takes a few tries with a new dish before I fully lock the process down and perfect the recipe. I can proudly say that I nailed this baby on the first shot! (I know, I know. You seasoned professionals out there are probably rolling your eyes over such an elementary recipe, but this was a big deal for me. Let me have my moment in the sun.) Now that dough and I are no longer strangers (and after I made the dough, I realized that Mixie had a bread hook I didn’t know about. How I missed that, I have no idea. That’s like not realizing one of your children has blue eyes), I feel like I opened the door to a whole new sector of the cooking world. It’s like I stumbled into the cooking closet and ended up in Narnia (Gosh, I love C.S. Lewis!).
And you know what else I discovered last night? I totally love bread puns.
Sorry, this post is starting to go a rye.
Geeze. Tough room.
Geeze. Tough room.