There are just some words you can’t help but love. “Discombobulate” is one of them. I think this is probably the first time I’ve ever typed it, but I remember my Mother using it often when I was growing up. Dis – com – BOB – u – late seemed to spring from her mouth, giving me a serious case of the giggles.
Right now, it seems a fitting way to describe my life. Confusing to the hysterical, ya-just-gotta-laugh, extreme.
As fall eases in and the temperatures drop, my appetite jumps into “freshman 15” gear, due, in no small part, from growing up in a college town where “new year” is synonymous with “new school year”. Yes, you can’t grow up in State College-Happy Valley without the fall blitz of football, tailgating, and pizza. My husband Paul refined the college town pizza fetish to regular Friday night homemade pizza family feasts in Coplay and then in Kutztown. The kids and I were spoiled.
In my first fall as an empty nester of one, a maddening craving for pizza came over me. I could taste the tomato sauce, the oven-sweetened onions, the greasy pepperoni, the stringy mozzarella cheese. I had all of the toppings so I dashed to Weis and bought a plastic envelope containing two “gourmet” mama-something pizza crusts. No sweat. Brush olive oil on the crust, top, and pop in the oven. When I pulled the pizza out of the oven, I knew I was in for disappointment. My nose is my guide to all things edible … and the fresh-baked fragrance just wasn’t there. I took out the pizza shears, one of my all-time favorite kitchen gadgets, and cut a wedge. With the first bite I knew I would have been better off using the cardboard box from a local pizza joint to arrange my beloved toppings on. I ate some, and gave the crust (we call them pizza bones) to Magoo.
It was so bad that I knew enough not to waste toppings on the second crust. But I also didn’t want the unbaked pizza crust cluttering up the frig. So, I figured I had two choices: bake the plain shell for the chickens or for Magoo, the Frisbee dog.
I chose the former. The girls love bread of any kind. It was a good choice.
Magoo, the Frisbee dog, turned 2 this month, about the time Bouviers “grow up”. He’s been housebroken for some time but has a little too much enthusiasm for greeting people. “No Jump!” is his middle name. But, he is a smart dog and does sit nicely when commanded in French: “Assieds“, a lesson he learned last Christmas break when Marina was home. In time for his second birthday he learned to return the Frisbee to me after fetching it, and, just this week, he caught a toss in mid-air. The only problem is Frisbees don’t last long with his sharp teeth – a week at the most. Aunt France, the ultimate pet spoiler, brought him a bright blue Frisbee earlier this month when she came to plant garlic, and within hours it looked like a sieve – I bet you could grate mozzarella on one side!
The second pizza shell was a candidate for a Frisbee … but the morning after my first solo pizza-making experience I was glad it wasn’t my choice. Magoo barfed up the pizza bones.
By then I was quite desperate for a good pizza dough recipe. I emailed my nephew Wille, a Culinary Nutrition student at Johnson & Wales. He sent back his recipe within two hours. I scanned it quickly. 12 quarts of bread flour? 1½ cups of salt? I skimmed further. “This recipe probably makes about 48 pizzas … sorry I can’t break it down for ya, midterms this week!”
Well, I wasn’t about to break it down either. Life was too discombobulated. I went out of town for a two-day conference, then spent the weekend with my Mom and Richard. This week, I’ve been playing catch-up: digging sweet potatoes, planting garlic, tinkering with the pellet stove, toting bags to Goodwill, sleeping in four-hour blocks (divorce insomnia), writing cover letters, scouting references, filling out FAFSA forms, getting vehicles inspected, and other errands. As I sat in a waiting room, flipping through a magazine that was probably circa 2004 or so, I found Bianco’s Pizza Dough. And guess what, Wille, it makes four12-inch pizzas.
Bianco’s Pizza Dough
2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (one ¼-ounce envelope)
2 cups warm water (105° to 115°)
5 to 5½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (I substituted about 2 cups duram semolina flour for 2 cups of the all-purpose flour.)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil for bowl
Assorted pizza toppings
1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 3 cups flour and salt, stirring until smooth. Stir in additional 2 cups flour; continue adding flour (up to ½ cup), 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until dough comes away from bowl but is still sticky.
2. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface, and knead with lightly floured hands. Start by slapping dough onto counter, pulling it toward you with one hand and pushing it away with the other. Fold dough back over itself. Repeat until it is easier to handle, about 10 times. Finish kneading until dough is smooth, elastic, and soft, about 10 minutes.
3. Shape dough into ball and transfer to lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat. Cover with plastic, and let rise in warm place until it doubles in volume, 3 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 500°. Make sure bottom oven rack is as low as it can go.
5.Remove dough from bowl and place on floured surface, cutting into 4 pieces. Shape into balls, dust with flour and cover with plastic. Let rest 20-30 minutes, allowing dough to almost double.
6. Holding the top edge of 1 dough ball in both hands, let bottom edge stretch down, carefully moving hands around edges to form a circle, as if turning a wheel. Place on lightly oiled pan. (Refrigerate other dough balls wrapped in plastic.)
7. Arrange toppings.
8. Heat oven to broil and place pizza on bottom rack. Broil about 3 minutes until bubbles begin to form on crust. Reduce temperature to 500° and bake until crust is crisp and golden brown, about 6-8 minutes more.
I simplified the directions (the original called for a pizza stone) and pulled my first made-from-scratch pizza out of the oven and slid it onto a cooling rack. It wasn’t the most beautiful pie that’s ever graced our kitchen, but it smelled perfect. I let it cool for a few minutes and reached for the pizza shears. They were nowhere to be found. Discombobulated once again. Laurie Lynch
This week at Fleur-de-Lys: eggs, garlic, shallots, red, white, and blue potatoes, chard, kale, sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and honey. A fresh crop of luffas is sunning in the hoop house.
Thank You: To Pat for helping me figure out the technological intricacies of blogdom. As the days progress, I hope to import past issues into the blog archive, and, if possible, create some sort of recipe key.
Written on Slate: “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore …”