We were addicted to home baked pizza for a while. I would make a triple batch of doughs about once a week and we would inevitably burn through them in quick succession, three nights of pizza in a row and then four days of recovery before we dared that endeavor again. This went like clockwork for months until, eventually, I made a set of doughs and only used two. Then one. Then I just didn't make a batch for a few weeks. The next time I did, we were unhappy with the result. The dough was somehow both rubbery and shatteringly sharp, dry and bland, thin and dense. Suddenly we were looking at this ubiquitous dish we'd tasted a hundred times as if for the first time and finding it wanting. We thought for a while that we'd erred somewhere along the line. In our quest to make the pizza "healthy" we'd subbed in too much wheat flour, reduced the oil to amounts only measurable in parts per millileter, done something that had suddenly turned this dish we loved into something unpalatable. I think now that this assumption of a new issue with the recipe was wrong. Nothing had changed in the dish irrevocably, we were turning out basically the same pies as we had before. I suspect instead we'd simply matured as cooks past our appreciation for the recipe but couldn't yet grasp the (admittedly kind of disturbing) idea that as our cooking improved the things that were once on the bleeding edge of our skills had now been left behind, that something once difficult was now too simple. Yes, it is an integral part of the human experience, that as we grow we leave things behind, but it's a particularly difficult one to come to terms with. As our skills developed, Dana and I were ready to leave years of these pizzas behind us with no indication that there was homemade pizza in our future at all.
A couple weeks ago, though, the fabulous local food blog (and Eat This House's official hero) Eggs on Sunday ran a pizza post in which Amy narrated her development of a new pizza dough recipe based on Michael Ruhlman's 5:3 (flour to water) ratio. I found myself intrigued by the idea of a fresh start on pizza and, in retrospect, I find that my poety-sense (think spidey-sense but instead of warning me about danger it warns me that I'm not thinking deeply enough about the issue at hand, also it's going off all the time) indicates that perhaps this experience is mappable to a sort of emotional baggage. I carried around the old pizza dough recipe for a long time, continually turning and turning it, tweaking tiny pieces--more oil one week, less honey the next--but never changing the essential components, never thinking my way past the things that made it what it was: a subtle failure. In short, I was in a terrible crippling rut, baking and eating pizzas I was only just this side of satisfied with, and because the flavors were familiar and on mildly satisfying, I just never realized it. After reading Amy's post, and then Ruhlman's, and then following a few other related pizza links, though, I really came to the epiphany I've been laying out this whole post. For the first time in a long time, I was hungry for pizza.I followed Amy's recipe pretty faithfully--only adding in a tiny bit of honey because I find the tinge of sweetness a welcome counterpoint to the tang of tomato sauces--and the dough it turned out was beautiful: spongy and light with a delicate flavor similar to a fresh baguette.
I topped it with a fresh sauce--made from tomato, garlic, a little oil, and some dried basil and oregano(I wish I'd had fresh but you work with what you have)--cheese, some sauteed vidalia onions and sausage. and fresh cilantro. I think it turned out quite well.I've made the recipe a couple more times since then, each time mixing something closer to the 5:3 ratio Ruhlman recommends, and even though this dough is extremely different from the new york style pies I was making before, even if I go somewhere else with pizza from here on out, I know for certain I won't be going back. This is progress. And really, can you ever ask for more than that?