Friday, March 13, 2009

Craft: along March - Reinventing Pizza Night

I've never really talked, in depth, about Pizza Night in our house, but let me assure you that it is the most important of all the bullshit themed dinner nights because it's the one we've been observing the longest and also, it's pizza, so it's the best.

See, for all of time (since Bubba and I have been together, so about 9 years), Friday night has been Pizza Night in our house and we love it for many reasons.

1. It's pizza, so obviously delicious.
2. I don't have to cook anything, so YAY for me.
3. Bubba doesn't have to do any dishes, so YAY for him.
4. There's leftovers for lunch.
6. It's good fuel for my Saturday AM run.
5. We used to have a rad pizza guy who we called Dark Halo because that's what his car's windshield said on it and he would always be bumpin' some serious gangsta rap when he showed up so we'd know to come out from the backyard to get our pizza. Plus his face was all pierced in a million places and he was nice so we loved him. The new guys aren't nearly as awesome.

I'm sure there are other reasons, but for me, #2 is enough. The fact that I don't have to think about what to make, what I need to get to make it, when I need to get home and cooking to make it happen, etc makes me extra happy on Friday afternoon after a long week of work. It's relaxing. It's easy.

Call pizza place. Tell them to bring dinner. Drink cocktails until they arrive. Eat dinner. Done.

That's the best!

Until we got bored of our pizza place. And then all the surrounding pizza places. And then Bubba started waxing nostalgic about his favorite mystical pizza experience of all times at this phantom pizza joint called Happy Joe's.

"Oh Happy Joe's," he's been saying, "you had the best sauce. Why doesn't anyone make sauce like that anymore except my wife who totally makes the sauce like you guys do but refuses to make pizza for me. *Sigh*"

And then he'd look at me with those sad Bubba eyes and begin the pining away for the reincarnated Happy Joe's pizza which he thought would make it appear before him as though by magic.

It gets a skosh dramatic around our house, you know.

While I'd normally do whatever I could do with my culinary skills to make Bubba happy, pizza was one of those no-no things. Because it meant giving up a night when I don't have to do any work for my dinner and because I've had a lot of fights with inert yeast that fails to become a fluffy pizza dough.

Replacing a night of complacent dining ease with frustration and crushing of spirits is hardly my idea of a good time. And so, we kept ordering pizza from the Not Fun pizza guys and the disappointment over said pizza became increasingly evident.

"This pizza sucks more than last week." was uttered last Friday by someone who will remain unnamed.

It was at that point that I revealed my big plan to make pizza for Sunday's dinner and, SCARY, go back into the water with the pizza dough.

Enter this month's Craft:along challenge: 5 minute pizza dough

My first note for this recipe is that you should, in no way, only allot yourself 5 minutes to make this dough. It takes a full 2 hours to rise, which makes sense to me since it contains yeast, but for some people who want pizza NOW and don't understand the unique properties of yeast, this might come as a mean surprise.

Just saying, don't get all ginned up to have a pizza in 5 minutes because it's not happening.

Second note: Unlike my beloved No-Knead Bread, this dough requires kneading, which is fine because I don't mind. It's kind of fun. If you're into that kind of thing.

Aside from that though, this is a fine pizza dough recipe that I managed to make the first time through without any catastrophic failure.

I know, I was shocked, too.

So, I made up this dough, put it in the bathroom for a couple hours because that the only room in our house where it gets over 40 degrees, and then proceeded to cross my fingers that it'd actually rise like yeasty items are said to do.

I was so sure that this was going to be a disaster that I almost didn't take a before shot.

And what do you know, it actually rose like a good kid.

I guess I should have zoomed out a little, but this dough totally doubled in size. Nice.

While it was doing the magical rising, I compiled the toppings (why do I hate this word?) for our individual pizzas since I'm more of a white pizza gal and Bubba's more of a Make it Just Like Happy Joe's Pizza guy.

That's gorgonzola, olive oil, basil and mozzarella sitting with my G&T.

To detract a little more from the ease of Pizza Night, I went on to make The Sauce from a jar of homecanned tomatoes because I am, let it be known, The Best Wife Ever. Yep.

Also, my The Best Pizza Sauce Ever. Yep. is just The Best Tomato Sauce Ever. Yep. with some added oregano and a bit more wine. Still though - The Best. Just ask Bubba.

That's The Best Pizza Sauce Ever. Yep. with some pepperoni and black olives. Just like Happy Joe's. Oh swoon.

Thankfully, he was excited enough about the coming to fruition of this Dream Pizza to put on a little show for me while I lazed in the breakfast nook, admiring my swollen feet.

This never touched the floor. True story.

After all the dramatics, our pizzas came out beautifully and we enjoyed them properly with a nice happy hour and some catching up of Family Guy on the new DVR.

Why yes, it does look good enough to be on TV! That's what I said!

This was apparently a perfect reincarnation of the Happy Joe-ness. FINALLY.

And now I will go home and get some dough rising because, LO, Pizza Night has been reinvented and we're making pizza for ourselves tonight so we can properly mourn the departure of Dark Halo, as overdue as that particular gesture might be, and also so we can feel superior to the local pizza joints because of our sauce and homemade-ness.


  1. I have never wanted to be your neighbor more. Making this possibly tonight. YUM>

  2. It looks great, Finny! I'm so glad this worked out for you. After my disaster with attempting the recipe, I finally learned my yeast was at fault (thank goodness it wasn't me or I'd be tempted never to cook anything again). I'm going to give it another go next week when my husband is feeling better. That's the fun thing about these challenges we try each month, we learn from the mistakes and can eventually conquer the task ... and therefore the world.

  3. The pizzas look so good. I have no fear of the yeast, but every time I try to make pizza the crust never turns out. Maybe I'll give it a try.

    Oh, and the idea of putting the dough in the bathroom to rise! I cringe and giggle every time you mention that. My kitchen also doesn't get warm, so I turn my oven on low while I'm mixing and kneading, turn it off and put the dough in there to rise.

  4. I've been using 5-Minutes-a-Day bread for pizza crust, and it comes out very yummy. I love this stuff. I mix up a batch of it, then pull some out when I want to make bread. Or rolls for hamburgers. Or crust for pizza. Or even cinnamon rolls. Easy easy easy and I loooove bread.

  5. When I read that it took 2 hours to rise, I was going to comment that oh good, your night of no cooking would still be safe because after you work a full day, waiting on dough to rise 2 hours + all the cooking time would make for a very late dinner. But then I got to the end.

    And then I realized that we are always stuck eating late and maybe you do too, so what was I thinking. It all looks very yummy. And YAY for wives that do the cooking and hubbies that do the cleaning up -- that's our rule too.

    That was a great fun read Finny -- RIP Dark Halo!

  6. Um, Bubba can throw a pizza? Why did I not know this. The guy worked for me for how long and he never mentioned this skill? Such talent! I can throw a fit. That's about all. Looks SO good. Once again, you make me really hungry.

  7. This is just strange--my little nod to the Scary Economic Times has been to forgo OUR pizza night (friday) and to make our own! My kids LOVE it and I have to say it's almost as good as the one we used to buy from an excellent pizza place.

    I make a whole wheat crust (it's about 2/3 whole wheat, 1/3 white) and it has that bonus goodness but doesn't taste like it's TRYING to be good for us. LOVE IT. It's the crust from The New Basics, BTW and it's FAB.

  8. oh! Just got back from Utah ski trip. Three things:
    1. My Andy is extreme with his pizza tastes. And is an exceptional dough tosser. Hmmm. The similarities continue.
    2. My word verification is "sking" !!!!!
    3. When you said you were looking at your swollen feet, I was all, holy shit, she's pregnant but then I remembered the above photo I love of the g&t with za ingredients. funny little thoughts.

  9. I totally remember Happy Joe's! It was the awesomest pizza EVER.
    I'm not as 'kneading as therapy' as you are. I make my pizza dough in a bread machine, roll it out, slap it onto a searing hot pizza stone until half way done and freeze that puppy. Then when we want homemade pizza, I can have it done in in less time than it takes for delivery. I'm lazy.

  10. this just looks so yummy! i love pizza night here too. one night we make it, the other we order out. two pizza nights each week. we are crazy.

  11. Ha - funny! I actually have pizza dough rising, cheese freshly shredded, and the oven heating right now as I come up for a quick kitchen break! There's also cinnamon rolls rising on top of the oven - from two blobs of PW's cinnamon roll dough that I pulled from the freezer mid-day. I'm a little worried - the dough FEELS soft, but they're not rising into nice puffy, raw cinnamon rolls yet. I'm hoping sitting on top of the oven while it heats will inspire them.

    Is that your own homegrown basil already!?

    I have a 1-hr pizza dough recipe from Cook's Illustrated I love. You use the heat generated by making it in the food processor to add the warmth it needs to rise. I've never had it fail!

    We're maybe doing two pizzas. One's to use up the buttermilk marinated/fried chicken breasts from the other night (gonna cube, toss in hot wing sauce, and put on the dough with colby jack, mozz and blue cheese dressing - fingers crossed!), and the other just plain pepperoni I think.

    Your pizza's look great, and please tell Bubba he's a kitchen star for being able to toss dough like that. That's something I don't think I'd ever risk...too many pets in the house! ;-)

  12. 'Kay I'm way too lazy for this. My need for instant gratification means I'll continue to be a patron of Beau Jo's when I want something good (seriously, if you're ever in town) and Black Jack when I don't care... however, I greatly admire what you did, and that spinach one looks delicious.

    Lastly, you said... I compiled the toppings (why do I hate this word?), and all I can say is that you probably hate it for the same reason I hate the word "eatery". It's inexplicable, but there it is.

  13. Friday nights are pizza nights for us, too. I once tried to make calzones, telling my kids they were "inside-out" pizzas. They didn't like the crust. I gave up. They will not be happy unless I buy the pizzas. From the pizza shop "up the street," or the fresh ones you can buy and bake ourselves.

    I'm very envious of your pizza and your toppings. We have to be very boring in our house.

  14. You know what's the worst?

    When you use moist toppings, because they can weigh down the dough, and the water can cook out of them and make your pizza soggy.

    You definitely do not want to use moist toppings.


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