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The Pizza Chronicles

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

I wrote a series about making pizza and thought it would be a good idea to consolidate it all in one long post after breaking it up through a series of 7 blog entries. So…

Here ya go….

Quote of the Day: “Everything is funny as long as it is happening to Somebody Else.”

- Will Rogers

You may have noticed, I kind of fell out of the blogosphere last week. Hell, I didn’t even CrossFit if that tells you how much last week sucked like a Hoover so rather than putting you all through that, I decided to break up a marathon pizza post and dole it out a slice at a time.

So follow me back in time and enjoy….

Tonight I made some pizzas which is about 60-70 percent of what I actually know how to make and it hit me that I have never actually bloggingly outlined this process which I’ve been doing since my age was single digit.

I have to give props to my dad who introduced this to my brother and me when we were young and would visit him in his trailer (yes, in a trailer) during summer visits to him in Auburn, Washington. Yes, Auburn.

Little has changed over the years except a few updated products. Although my brother and I think these pizzas are the shiznit, as does my kids who dubbed them “Daddy’s Kind of Pizzas,” I have had varying success at exposing them to friends.

For example Sir Quist thinks they are rather disgusting but hey, to eat his own. Eat it, Quist.

Sunday

Quote of the Day: “In journalism, there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right.”

- Ellen Goodman

If you have not read Day 1, now would probably be a good time to do so. You really need to get with the program here, folks.

On a side note, this is what I saw looking up at me when I was eating waffles this morning. No kidding. I did not plan this, it just happened.

Not exactly what I would dub a “good omen.”

OK, on to the demo:

The mix is from Chef Boyardee who is prominently displayed on the box …

… and is as familiar a face as my own. Except his is a lot fatter. For now.

Years ago, the entire kit was singular and we would make a pizza per person. Everyone made their own, to their liking, and you hoped you didn’t hose yours up. Because getting a slice from another family member? Puh-Lease!

Then they started doing two-packs which was just two singles packaged in one box.

Now they go with the two packs but it’s all together (one big flour pouch, one big can of sauce, etc.) It’s their little way of saying “Divi it up yourselves, you jackasses.”

The Chef can be contentious.

After ripping open the flour pouch, which I’m not all that sure what’s in there other than flour. It might be ground up puppy bones and children’s tears as far as I know. You pour it into a bowl in preparation for the most important step in the entire process: introduction of the liquids.

This will make or break your dough and it takes years of experience to really dork it up which is most of the time for me.

You add two liquids at this time:

Oil.

Don’t bother with a measuring device. I think you’d be hard-pressed to add too much or too little oil by just going by my patented “about a ‘glunk’ or two” method. I think when it comes to oil, the dough is pretty forgiving, as opposed to the second liquid.

Water.

In days of old, it was easy to add 2/3 of a cup of warm water. Or as I have done since the dawn of time: water hot enough to peel skin off your hands like hydrochloric acid.

But then they went to the two-pizza system where math was involved…. 2/3 of a cup for each…times 2… is that 4/3 or 4/6… damn!!!!!

Even after 30 years of doing this, I always have to go through the damn calculation and you would think that by now, I would remember that it’s 1 1/3 cups of scalding hydrochloric acid but nooooooooo, I have to look at the back of the box EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I think they caught on to my retardation because now they cut out the math middle-man and tell you to add 1 1/3 cups of warm water. Smartasses.

Oh, I forgot, make sure you warm up the oven to ….to…. (grabs box)….425 degrees before you start.

Yep, have to check EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

OK, back to the water…

You want this:

(note: pay attention to the meniscus. If you don’t know what that is, look it up.)

OK, you big chemistry non-remembering babies, it’s the tendency for the water line to creep up on the sides of a glass measuring cup. Just make sure that the bottom of the “U” shaped line the water makes with the side is where you measure.

If you add this much,

… you will have a floury, dry lump and not all the mix will…. well, mix. You will have to add just a few more molecules of water which will not do anything. Then a few more…nothing. Then ONE molecule more and you are instantly faced with the same situation as the next scenario…

If you add this much,

… you will have a sticky dough mess that sticks to the side of the bowl, the fork you use to mix with, and eventually, everything in your house without reasonable explanation.

So what do you do?

In a futile attempt to reach mix-to-water equilibrium, you add flour. Little bit, nothing … little bit … getting better … one more minute amount … floury, dry lump.

SHIT!

You will sometimes go through this process a dozen times but know these to irrefutable facts:

- I have NEVER attained the balance in 30 years if I don’t nail it at the initial introduction of water.

EVER.

- You will have approximately double the amount of the sub-optimal dough trying the flour-water enhancement futility which also dilutes the puppy bones and children’s tears special ingredients.

Monday

Quote of the Day: “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”

- Soren Kierkegaard

It’s Day 3 of my Pizza Saga so for you slow learners, please go back to Day 1 and then Day 2 in order for this to make any sense.

And now, on with the show…

Once you have ruined the dough,

… it’s time to let it rise.

Think this is unnecessary?

Try not doing it and come back and let me know how the Chinese order-out tasted.

For some odd reason, I am really proud of the method I use that, to tell the truth, I don’t know if it’s mine, my brother’s, my father’s, or my wife’s.

I think we used to set the bowl right on the top burner but now, I turn off the oven which has been heating up, set the bowl inside, and leave the oven door propped open.

For about five minutes, you have time to oil up the pans, open the sauce can, and rip open the cheese packet in preparation for the actual preparation phase to come.

Or, you can go up to play on your computer and 20 minutes later yell “Oh shit!” and run down to see a hardened outer crust of dough inside your oven.

OR….you can have a wife who knows this is going to happen and takes it out at the 5-minute mark and put cellophane over the top to finish the rising process.

However it comes out, it’s now time to spread the dough. If you have done everything right, you have a beautiful mound of puffy dough that brings a tear to a grown man’s eye.

Tuesday

Quote of the Day: “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”

- Edgar Allan Poe

Day 4 is upon us, folks, and as always, I highly encourage you to go back and read, in order, Day 1, Day 2, and … wait for it…yes, Day 3.

AAAAAAAnd ROLL IT!

Diving a fork into the heart of this beautiful beast, you halve it the best you can which is guesswork at best. If you have not nailed the earlier processes, it will fight you and you will have to make several cycles of lifting sticky forkfuls to each pizza pan until you think you got half on each sheet.

You won’t.

One will always, ALWAYS…and I mean AL-friggin-WAYS be the weak sister while the other is a beautiful example of pizzahood. Once you accept this, your life will start to make sense.

Don’t forget to take care of a little housekeeping. That empty bowl isn’t going to clean itself.

You will need a fork AND a spoon.

Why both?

Why isn’t it obvious? To dirty as many cooking utensils and tools that you can possibly soil. It’s the “Man” way to cook, as you all know, and ignoring this little necessity will put your Man Card in serious jeopardy.

You will need the smooth portion of the spoon to scrape all the hanger-oners in the bowl. Some of the dough just won’t want to disengage from the bowl. I think they create an ungodly relationship and then want to live out their days together, just stainless steel and dough, together forever.

So put a stop to that shit most riki-tik.

And if you are wondering, you will need the fork to scrape off what you scooped with the spoon. Then back and forth because other than super glue, no substance is more bonding than this dough. Believe me, 30 years of this has taught me this and how to over come it, people. Fork AND Spoon. Thank me later.

I hear you asking about the bowl. If you leave it overnight, you will have a new interior surface to the bowl. Grab a chisel and hammer or better yet, just huck the bowl because hulls of ships full of barnacles would be easier to clean off completely.

How do you combat this eventuality? Believe it or not:

I know it’s crazy, people, but water and a little dish soap overnight and voila, clean as a whistle.

Chemistry’s freaky.

The next step involves this invaluable, irreplaceable, and supremely necessary tool…

I cannot overemphasize the importance of this little wonder because other than the sides which I will soon explain, you are expressly forbidden to directly touch the dough with your paws for any reason, lest you want a Pandora’s Box of sticky fingers, thin spots, holes, and unsmoothable scars on your dough. It’s just bad ju-ju, people. Trust me on this one.

Next in a long series of “You MUST do this if you want any semblance of success and retain any shred of sanity” steps to take.

With oil:

Spray the rollers.

Spray the dough.

Let me repeat this a couple of times:

Spray the rollers.
Spray the dough.
Spray the rollers.
Spray the dough.
Spray the rollers.
Spray the dough.
Spray the rollers.
Spray the dough.
Spray the rollers.
Spray the dough.
Spray the rollers.
Spray the dough.
Spray the rollers.
Spray the dough.
Spray the rollers.
Spray the dough.
Spray the rollers.
Spray the dough.
Spray the rollers.
Spray the dough.

Did I mention you should spray the rollers and spray the dough?

Well, you should.

YOU MUST!

Starting in the middle, roll out the dough like a bicycle wheel, trying to be uniform all the way to the edge, which is about as easy as washing 16 full grown cats at once. In a bucket.

You will not succeed.

But do the best you can and after 30 years of practice, the frog might have jumped halfway to the pond enough and you can rearrange your metrics of success in this department.

You will have thin spots and maybe holes but do not be tempted to use your fingers to push the dough around. Try the roller but treat the dough like nuclear waste because you will only make things worse with direct tactile interaction. Much worse. Believe me, it will be bad. Like Michael Jackson on a Boy Scout retreat bad.

Wednesday

Quote of the Day: “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Still doing the pizza theme thing so I encourage…no, I beseech you, to go read the lead-up to this post. I know it’s complicated but here goes:

Day 1: The Pizza-ening

Day 2: All Play and No Work Makes Viper a Dough Boy

Day 3: More Dough, Not a Deer, Not a Female Deer…

Day 4: Rolling, Rolling, Rolling, Keep That Dough A-Rollin’…

Once you have FUBAR’ed this step and you are one step away from punching a hole in the nearest wall, you are ready to push up the sides. This is the ONLY time you are allowed to actually touch the dough.

You spin the tray as you push up the dough to create the sides.

This takes practice and skill, especially when you come across a thin spot where you have to be careful not to rip a hole.

If you succeed, you will be done with the dough. Don’t touch it.

Now it’s time for the sauce.

It’s pretty much common knowledge that sauce you pour out of a can is not what you would call “chef-quality” but little has changed since my white-trash days in Auburn so God forgive me but I love the taste of this stuff.

Indulge me in a few random observations about this stuff:

- It must be packed with salt because I wake up EVERY night after I eat it at about 0200 and drink the equivalent of Lake Erie.

- I have always used the triangular end of a manual bottle opener to create two triangular holes in the top: one for pouring, one for air intake.

- I always lick the can opener.

Now you approximate half the sauce on each dough-field, …and don’t fool yourself, you will never get it even. It’s a law of nature; one will always have too much of the sauce, one not enough. I’ve come to accept this just as I accept gravity.

And don’t be too worried about dough creep. No, that’s not a feminine hygiene term (which, I guess, you SHOULD be worried about if it’s a problem), but in this context, I’m referring to the tendency of the dough to contract a bit. Don’t sweat this too much, it happens.

Now it’s time to spread the sauce.

If you thought my mandate not to touch the dough was overstated, triple it for touching the sauce. No success will ever come to it and you must adhere to the only tried and true method for even sauce distribution: vibration and gravity.

You tip the pan, shake it side to side, and perform a little dance involving combinations of the two methods stated. It takes years of practice but once you have it, you will be able to “walk” the sauce all over the dough evenly.

Don’t ask how exactly I do this because it’s like asking the specifics on how I breath.

Sometimes things get out of hand and mistakes are made but you do the best you can.

Perfection is overrated anyway.

Once the sauce “perfection” is complete, it’s time to cut the cheese.

I am sooooo 10-years-old….

There is no cheese to cut because it comes in a packet and before you start, I know, I know…it’s cheese in a packet.

And just like the dough, I am quite unsure as to the exact ingredients. Could be kitten brains and horse bile but it makes little difference; it’s part of the quilt that makes up the perfect pizza-in-a-kit that has had a place in my life since I stopped shitting my pants…and even farther back than a few years ago too.

Count with me: one.

Let’s do it again… ONE.

That’s the sum total of the chances you will get to get the cheese right. Not two, not three, but count with me again…ONE.

You sprinkle it by waving the packet around and hope to all that is right and holy in this world that it doesn’t come spilling out in an avalanche of unexpected cheese explosion or that there is a monstrous cheese boulder that rolls out like it owns the place.

If you do get one of these unexpected concentration of cheesiness, then consider yourself a poor bastard and accept your fate. If you even think for a second that you can just push the cheese or squash the boulder for further cheese distribution, you are in for a rather large dose of reality.

Once the cheese makes contact with the pizza, there it will stay no matter what you want, desire, or expect. Accept it.

Thursday

Quote of the Day: “If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out of it but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and no-one dares criticize it.”

- Pierre Gallois

Normally, when you read anything like “Day 6…“, don’t you suppose there might be a prelude to the story you are about to read?

I’m just sayin’.

Hey, you’re right! You might want to do a little pre-reading to get the full effect and what do you know,I’ve provided a handy dandy lin-fest for you right here:

Day 1: The Pizza-ening

Day 2: All Play and No Work Makes Viper a Dough Boy

Day 3: More Dough, Not a Deer, Not a Female Deer…

Day 4: Rolling, Rolling, Rolling, Keep That Dough A-Rollin’…

Day 5: Sauce and Cheese – Not A Dirty Metaphor

Now that you’ve done the best you could and tried to distribute the cheesiness evenly to both pizzas, you will discover a very obvious fact: there is not enough cheese.

The old chef has never, in the 30 years I’ve known him, provided enough mystery cheese to create anything similar to a cheese pizza. You’d have to buy a couple of more boxes, cannibalize the cheese, and leave orphan mix and sauce to rot in order to get the cheese you would need.

Instead, I supplement with grated cheese.

I put enough on to cover the sparse distribution of the mystery cheese until I have a uniform cheesiness across the entire pie.

It’s a beautiful thing to behold.

Now the easy part comes in: shove it in the oven for 11 minutes and try not to get distracted so you overcook it.

Only 11 minutes for a pizza?

No, silly goose, that’s the halfway mark because while you were performing the above pizza magic, you should have also been browning some hamburger.

Because a Chef Boyardee CHEESE pizza is something akin to a disgusting mutation of a bad skin condition.

But a Chef Boyardee cheese pizza WITH HAMBURGER is like a party in your mouth, if you take out all of the sexual innuendo and think of it as the ultimate taste experience the likes of which God himself often indulges in.

A pound for two pizzas does the trick.

At the 11 minute mark, you open the oven and STAND BACK. There will be a wall of heat rolling out and much like brushing my teeth, I don’t think about it very much, I just do it without thinking. I open, stand back, then reach in and pull out the half-cooked pie that looks a lot like those things that attacked Spock on Star Trek.

Don’t forget the oven mitt because blisters suck.

Friday

Quote of the Day: “If absolute power corrupts absolutely, does absolute powerlessness make you pure?”

- Harry Shearer

Here it is, folks. The final installment of my week-o-hell filler. We will return to our regularly scheduled program tomorrow but for now, the finale to a great series, if I do say so myself.

And I just did.

Oh, and as always, here are the links leading up to the final post:

Day 1: The Pizza-ening

Day 2: All Play and No Work Makes Viper a Dough Boy

Day 3: More Dough, Not a Deer, Not a Female Deer…

Day 4: Rolling, Rolling, Rolling, Keep That Dough A-Rollin’…

Day 5: Sauce and Cheese – Not A Dirty Metaphor

Day 6: Cooking the Pizza: As a Rule, A Good Idea

It is a good idea to have drained out the grease from the hamburger and by now, it should be cooled down enough to spread it with your bare hands. But understand that you will either have to live with having greasy fingers or dried skin from washing. Wiping on pants, while useful and quite successful in my youth, is now frowned upon by the missus.

Once you have distributed the hamburger (and understand that all the same sauce/cheese rules apply in the arena of attempting to redistribute once the meat has actually touched the pizza), you then smother the entire pie once again with the grated cheese.

Now it’s ready to reenter the oven for the final 11 minutes when your creation will be ready for consumption.

OK, that’s a lie.

It will NOT be ready in 11 minutes. If you attempt to bite into a piece after slicing it up with the pizza cutter (another VERY necessary expense), you will sear your mouth and prevent any ability you might have had to actually taste the creation you’ve just slaved over.

And the pain will be directly proportional to the comedy you will create for other people when you roll the molten-lava around your mouth with your tongue to guarantee maximum burning to all areas of your mouth while sucking in and blowing out air in a feeble attempt to cool it, in conjunction with the deep lines of stress on your forehead and watering eyes.

I’m just guessing on all of this because, you know, it’s never happened to me.

And I will take a stab at maybe you will eventually not be able to stand it and spit it out on the plate and cuss really loud.

Can we move on?

Just a few more notes and we will be done here.

- Repeat the procedure for the second pizza and yes, you will be waiting for it to cool after the first pizza is gone and you are jonesin’ for another piece.

- Unlike any other pizza on God’s green Earth, for some reason probably having to do with the structure at the sub-atomic level, THIS pizza is absolutely nasty the next day.

I mean, come on, cold pizza the next day is normally a given. But for this pizza, it tastes like the ass end of an ass the next day.

And there you have it, folks. The complete novel in seven even slices. I take my bow and hope you enjoyed the show. I’m gonna go eat a pizza now.

Free Advice for Today: “Worry makes for a hard pillow. When something’s troubling you, before you go to sleep, jot down three things you can do the next day to help solve the problem.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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