My intentions had been really, really good. They’d bordered on festive, even. And now – I shake my head that it’s come to this – but I don’t want to even so much as glance in the direction of my kitchen. I don’t want to look at the lying-through-their-pages cookbooks, at the KitchenAid that’s not living up to its promise, at the flour-doused countertops (it’s such a practical joke, isn’t it? Trying to clean up flour).
It’s supposed to be pizza night. Pizza and the college championship basketball game, because the two are old buddies, regular BFFs. We hold pizza night regularly around here, and always it’s a gleeful hit. We make our own dough, roll it into several individual circles (who can resist the precious factor of a mini, personalized pizza?), prep an astounding array of toppings that make for countless combinations (ham and olive! Olive and roasted pepper! Roasted pepper and carmelized onion and chèvre!). The kids go to town. They’re happy, we’re happy. Happy, happy, joy, joy.
Only on this day I had to get ambitious, had to decide today of all days to try a brand new pizza dough recipe. Or maybe it’s that I got reverse-ambitious, because my old standby recipe, while it is tasty, requires somewhat more attention and handling than this new one. It’s Mark Bittman that got me, I say through gritted teeth. It’s the way he’s all, “You won’t believe how simple it is…” blah, blah, about his pizza dough recipe. So of course I let him, with his hand-waving-away-doubt rhetoric, convince me to give it a go. Admittedly, on paper, his recipe sounds a whole lot easier than my usual: Three cups of flour, a couple teaspoons each of yeast and kosher salt, a cup or so of water, all mixed together in a food processor.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Mark Bittman and his recipes and his methods and, usually, his emboldening way. Really I do. I’m sure this is all my fault, sure that this sticky, spready dough is the result of some error on my part, but I can’t figure out where I went wrong. The whole thing seemed like the easy road to triumph.
But the flour and water, etc., are not coalescing into that tidy little ball promised by the cookbook, so I add tablespoon upon tablespoon of flour (just as the recipe recommends). Many plural tablespoons later, I’m about ready to start dumping flour by the cupful into the KitchenAid bowl. Without even using a spoon to lift the flour in order to prevent packing. Go ahead, call me rash, call me irresponsible, I don’t give a fig right now.
Then my KitchenAid becomes really hot, and consequently the dough – if you can indeed call it that – gets hot. And this worries me. Could the heat kill the yeast? Because I know they say that yeast doesn’t give up so easily, but this yeast has been through a fairly fatal-seeming spin. I think it might just be good and dead by now, which does not bode well for my dough. Or for my pizza. Or for my mood, for that matter.
In fact, as I scoop hot dough out onto the flour-flecked counter, half with a spatula, half with my hands, (I’m thinking I’ll just try and see if I can coerce it into a ball-like form), my mood is anything but optimistic. There’s more dough on my hands than there is on the counter. I’m a foul-mouthed, as-yet-undiscovered sea creature, what with my webbed, sticky hands. I’m hollering for Emmy to please come and get me a bowl from the bottom-most drawer for the dough, because I don’t want to inflict this dough on the drawer handles, on other bowls that might happen to be in the way.
I make my way over to where Emmy is, on the couch, in the family room, with my wad of dough stuck between my hands (will it have to be surgically removed?). She’s home with the flu today, and has just fallen asleep on the couch. I doubt she’s even going to want any pizza.