Over the last few months hubby has made pizza dough several times. The pizza was so delicious that I decided we should make pizza every weekend... or more. It even had me planning double-double batches so that we could have pizza for lunch all week, too. Yes... it really was that good and I even ordered pizza "screens" to make baking the pizza easier.
But why make pizza instead of buying it? Three reasons: First, I don't like tomatoes. Not tomatoes, tomato sauce, or much of anything tasting of tomato. While I can eat pizza if it is light in sauce or the strange kind that tastes more like zucchini than tomato, it isn't very enjoyable to me. Second, most reasonably priced pizzas are mediocre at best when compared to home-made. Not only can you pick your sauce and topping and amounts of each, good home-made fresh-baked crust is at least ten times better. And the third reason is that specialty pizza costs a small fortune. While Pappa Murphys Bake-at-Home pizza made with garlic-butter sauce (instead of tomato) is really very delicious, one could risk needing a second mortgage just to afford it as often as I would like.
However, the third time hubby made pizza dough wasn't the same. It fell flat, baked hard, and resembled some kind of packing material... well, if you wanted to pack something with thin bricks. It put me off of pizza for almost a month. After that, and despite using the same recipe each time, our luck was never more than 50%. So we started trying different things and doing more and more research.
And I got involved. Which can sometimes fix things and sometimes make things worse, but almost always involves a good deal of screaming and grief. I announced one weekend morning that "I am in charge of this batch."
Now this doesn't mean that hubby isn't expected to help, but it relieves him of responsibility for how things turn out, and gives me full license to be mad at the person in charge when things go wrong. Er... because I am... that... crazy. And because I will follow and support, or I will be in charge and lead, but I have never figured out how to do both at once without having a nervous break-down.
So I make my announcement and see hubby's face war between cringing in fear and sighing in relieve... an interesting sight to be sure. And I start my first pizza dough adventure...
"The Five Stages of Grief... Over Pizza Dough"
1. Denial... This time it will turn out just fine.
I start by proofing my yeast. I had always heard that luke-warm or room temperature water is needed. Not too hot and not too cold. But my yeast barely bubbles despite the extra tablespoon of sugar I added to the water. I try again with slightly warmer water, and slightly better results. It can't be the yeast... it can't be the water. I start a fire to warm up the house more. It is all going to be the best pizza dough, ever. It won't go wrong this time, I even gave the yeast more time that usual to get going.
The other ingredients go into the bread machine and I watch as it starts mixing everything in. Then I stop the machine after the designated time our recipe called for. I pull it out and put it into the greased bowl to rise. It's fine. Looks good... is that how it is supposed to look?
I put the bowl in the sun in the loft to rise, but by the time it has risen the "double" that it should, I realize that the bowl is burning hot and might be baking the yeast instead of letting it rise. No... it will be fine.
2. Anger... "No!!!"
I shriek at the top of my lungs as I drop the ball out of the bowl and it falls flat as a brick. No! I proofed the yeast! I gave you extra sugar! I used good flour! Why do you hate me?!? I want to love you and you do this to me!
I never said I had an even temper, now did I? But as quickly as the anger comes, it is usually gone again and moving to the next stage of grief...
3. Bargaining... There has to be something I can do.
With my poor little lump of dough sitting on the counter, I rush to the computer and search "Why does my pizza dough fall?". Like a chipmunk on speed, I skim a dozen articles and come away more confused than ever. If the dough is too wet it will fall and be terrible, if the dough is too dry it will collapse and be awful, if the humidity is not enough it will shrink and be horrible, if the altitude is too great, if the room is too hot or cold, if the flour is too thirsty, if the moon is not aligned with the fourth star of aquarius...
I come back and briefly consider trying to give the dough CPR. It has to be the yeast... right? It didn't foam as much as it should? If I add more yeast it will fluff back up, right? And a little water to get the yeast mixed in. If I put it back into the machine to mix the yeast and water in, it will be fine. And a little flour... better add a little flour after the water gets mixed in.
4. Depression... Terrible, it will be just terrible.
I watch the machine attempt to beat the dough into submission... again. Put it back into the bowl and set it near (but not too close) to the fire to rise... again. It will never work. This will be the worst pizza dough yet. Too yeasty, too flat, too... just... terrible. We should just give up on ever getting a consistent recipe. Give up on pizza altogether.
The dough has risen again, and I pull out half to create the first pizza. It falls flat again, but that is just to be expected at this point. There is no way it will be any good. I put it in the oven and start rolling out the second pizza.
5. Acceptance... It is just pizza, it will be edible... or not.
I put the second pizza into the fridge while the first finishes baking. Take a deep breath and accept the fact that we may never have consistency in dough. This week will probably be pizza-less, but I have other snacks to eat. I guess the world won't end.
Surprisingly the edges of the dough are rising a little... or is that my imagination? Maybe hubby will be able to eat it. He ate most of the heavy brick-hard pizza that one time.
In the end, the dough was... well... okay. Not good. Not terrible. Maybe mediocre. Still disappointing, but edible.
Overly dramatic? Of course. But I think we all have a tendency to forget that these "Stages" are a part of even the simplest grief, not just the loss of a loved one, job, or home. Maybe by keeping this in mind we can handle the downs in life with a little more grace... or at least a little less screaming. The best I can say from the experience is that I learned. And really, that isn't too bad for a day of dough grief.
Since then and with a lot more leisurely researching I think I have found a recipe that might make a hopefully more consistently good dough as well as learned many of the things I did wrong and can improve. With a few more tries I will share the recipe with pictures and maybe even video so that hopefully someone else can make good dough without the grief.