(Virtual) Dough! X: Pizza!

Because I had a seizure and can’t drive my dad has been kind enough to pick me up from work every day. I do my best to entertain him with recaps of TV shows he has not watched and podcasts he has never heard of. I recently broke down the entirety of the documentary Framing Britney Spears during rush hour and my dad went from politely half-listening to genuinely incensed in about thirty seconds.

“I don’t like this conservatorship,” he said. “Not one bit.”

“Her dad’s lawyers actually say it’s a business model, is that even ethical?”

“Not at all,” said my dad, who is a lawyer. “I want to talk to this judge. And she’s doing how many shows a week in Vegas? That’s very hard work. You can’t be incapacitated enough to justify a conservatorship and perform like that.”

“I yelled the same thing at the TV!”

“If you were a child star, I would never take charge of your fortune,” said my dad, with genuine sincerity. “Even if I’d do a good job! It’s not worth damaging our relationship!”

“Thank you!” I said. I was a pretty cute kid. I mean, I would hide underneath a table all day at school because I couldn’t stand anyone looking at me, but still, I could’ve been a big star!

I’ll just have to settle for local baking stardom instead—and by local, I mean people I actually know, who can digest bread (sorry Stella).

Pizza, as my dad’s relatives in New Jersey constantly shout, is just flour and water. Add a few tomatoes, you’re done! Watch the money roll in! GET IN HERE AND GIVE YOUR UNCLE A HUG!

It’s really simple. But what is the most important ingredient? Time!

It’s true—fermentation is what adds flavor and makes the dough capable of stretching far enough to get that thin crust and strong enough to withstand being tossed by hand. NOW GO WATCH YOUR COUSIN DO A CANNONBALL OFF THE ROOF!

So to make a New York style thin crust pizza, we made a dough that had to rest overnight. But it was worth the wait!

Chicago style deep dish doesn’t have to rest as long since it gets baked in a pan, no stretching required. The doughs are basically the same except the Chicago dough contains cornmeal, to give it a bit more heft so it doesn’t fall apart underneath all those layers.

The instructor shared a cute story: when they first started pandemic-friendly virtual classes a YEAR AGO, some ingredients were tough to find and students often had to improvise. One lady taking this very pizza class could only find blue cornmeal. “Her Chicago pizza was basically grey, but it tasted the same!”

The word pizza was first documented in Southern Italy in the year 997, but flatbreads adorned with toppings have been eaten pretty much everywhere for thousands of years (flour and water!).

The modern pizza really got on track once tomatoes arrived in Europe in the 16th century and people in Naples saw an opportunity to blow the game wide open.

New York style pizza is a direct descendant of the Neapolitan tradition, brought over by Italian immigrants seeking their fortune in the Big Apple—you’ve seen movies. The first American pizzeria opened in Manhattan in 1905. But by the 1940s, children of Italian immigrants in Chicago wanted to do things a little differently. Instead of hand-tossed and paper-thin, their pizzas were solid bricks of cheese and sauce baked in a pan like a cake.

One of the trademarks of a Chicago deep dish pizza is scattering some Parmesan on top once it’s out of the oven. How much? According to the instructor, “Measure the parmesan with your heart.”

We also made Pizza Bianca, which is as close as you can get to the the original Roman pizza sold on the mean streets of the Roman Empire without a time machine and learning Latin. No tomatoes, just a scattering of rosemary and olive oil. Flour and water, the possibilities are endless! Hawaiian pizza was actually invented in Canada and inspired by Chinese dishes, but is most popular in Australia. The best pizza I ever had was in Norway and it was a Mexican pizza topped with garlic sauce and sour cream. The heart wants what it wants.

Pizza! Everyone wants a piece of it and we shouldn’t take it for granted, just like Britney Spears.

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