Sunday, March 21, 2010

This is why I don't cook

One of the things I miss most about Chicago is the pizza.  You can't get Chicago style pizza anywhere else, especially in Boulder.  For a while there was an Eduardo's in Westminster, about 20 minutes away.  It wasn't exactly quite right but it was as close as it  was going to get but unfortunately it shut down.  There was also a take-out place in Boulder that did something close but that was short lived.  We have a chain called 'Old Chicago' but don't even get me going.  I found a place in the suburbs of Salt Lake City of all places when I was in Utah for a trial and it was authentic and fabulous but that's about a 7 1/2 hour drive so not terribly practical.

Anyway, I picked up a cookbook of Chicago style pizzas in a used bookstore in Chicago for $5 and because it was a really good cookbook with photos and descriptions of every little step I learned to make them myself.  The trouble with this is that I got to see how much cheese goes into those things and this dampened my enthusiasm a bit both for making them and bringing them back from Chicago, frozen in an extra suitcase.  But I had the misfortune of coming across a t.v. show that was comparing New York style pizza to Chicago style pizza and trying to determine which was better and we probably shouldn't talk about this t.v. show because first of all the very notion is hilarious and second of all of course the firefighter taster panel in Chicago picked Chicago style pizza and the NY firefighters were certainly going to pick NY no matter what they were judging so where did they go for the tiebreaker?  Now I love California, it's one of my favorite places to visit but I've had the second worst pizza experience of my life in CA (worst was in England where they actually deep fry them or something).  I forget (mercifully) exactly what happened but I'm pretty sure there was pineapple involved.  Californians know nothing of pizza, I'm sorry all my wonderful CA readers and friends, but it's true so of course the people in L.A. picked the NY pizza and this whole thing was so preposterous that it didn't even warrant yelling and swearing and getting aggravated because c'mon, you've got to be kidding me.  ANYway, once the hilariousness of this show wore off I realized I had a terrible craving for some real pizza and since the trails are a slushy, snowy, mudfest I decided I'd give one a shot today.

I walked to the grocery store, got my ingredients and ran into my friend Amelia who I haven't talked to in ages and ended up yakking away and my quick trip turned into over an hour and the stuff I bought was way heavier than I thought it would be even with the small bag of flour instead of the big one so that was not a fun walk home.

The only hard part about the pizza is the crust and you have to make it from scratch.  This involves yeast and hot water  but not too hot or you'll kill the yeast but not too cold or the yeast won't do its thing and that would be bad.  Like ruin the whole thing kinda bad.  And I don't have a cooking thermometer.  I do have a regular check-to-see-if-you're-sick thermometer though.  I'm not sure if it's working properly though and in the end I finally take the risk and pour the water over the yeast with much worry and angst.  I hate the thought of killing the poor yeast, it sounds so cruel.  It's supposed to sit for 5 minutes so it can 'froth'.  They even have a picture in the book of frothing yeast.  My yeast doesn't look like the stuff in the book.


Once it's sufficiently frothy you're supposed to make a well in your flour mixture and pour it in.  When I do this it finally gets a bit upset and starts frothing.  Yay!  Looks like I didn't kill the yeastie beasties after all.  Cooking is fun, it's like science class.

Then you have to knead the dough until it's soft & smooth.  That part's a pain, especially since I sliced a middle finger open yesterday and can't bend it, but I manage in the end and now we have this:

Looks pretty good, yes?  It's a huge accomplishment for me anyway, so many places where this could have headed south.  Now I have to leave it for 1 1/2 hours while the science part takes over and it doubles in size.  I carefully cover it in plastic and then with a dish towel per the instructions.  With 42 minutes to go I peek at it and it looks great, getting bigger for sure.  Hurray, the hard part is done and on my first try!  I can practically taste the pizza now.

And here's where we get to the tragedy part of the story.  I go out for a quick 4 mile run and leave Jonny and all the dogs alone with the dough.  Jonny leaves the dough on the kitchen counter and takes Cody for a walk.  I come home to this:

I don't need to enlist the Scooby Doo crew to solve this mystery, I'm pretty sure I know who the culprit is.

I bust out the hydrogen peroxide and perform my own forensics investigation.  Sure enough in a few minutes the yeast is once again frothing away in a pile in the backyard looking not too unlike the way it looks in the photo above.  I don't have to test Strummer, I know there's no way Miss Lola would share with him.  Thankfully there's no blood anywhere so no one was hurt by the broken glass.  There were no glass pieces in the pile of puke so hopefully she didn't swallow any.  It was a risk making her puke because glass coming back up could have done some damage but I figured it was unlikely she'd swallowed any and if she had the pieces would probably be quite small and buried in the dough.  Sadly we've been through this sort of drama before with broken glass and thankfully she was o.k.

By now it's 4:15 and I would have to go back to the store for more flour and maybe run into someone else I know and another 1 1/2 hours just for the dough to rise and this project seemed a whole lot more fun when I started it at 10:30 a.m. and was not tired from running and making dogs puke.  So Jonny offered to cook dinner and no pizza tonight.  Maybe I'll try again next weekend.  Or maybe I'll see if that place in Utah delivers.


  1. Oh, no, that is a tragedy! Odds are I'd have been bawling my eyes out. Don't know whether I'd have tried to make the pizza dough come back up; you think it would've been harmful staying where it was? I've just heard about the peroxide trick very recently for the first time. I hope I never have to use it, because I've already forgotten what I'm supposed to do with it.

  2. Raw dough can be dangerous. First of all there was so much, there's the risk of bloat. Then there's the risk of alcohol poisoning from the fermenting yeast. Unfortunately it looks like Strummer did get into the dough as well. He's burping and smells like he's been hanging with the drunk homeless guys down by the creek. I should have made him puke too just to be safe but last time I tried it didn't work and I figured Lola would never have let him have any. I think it's gonna be a long night.

    I've induced vomiting in Lola so many times I don't even have to look up the hydrogen peroxide dosage any more. She's a piece of work when it comes to eating things she shouldn't.

  3. Oh, Lola, you make your mom's life extraneously interesting! Good luck tonight.

  4. Doh! (Dough!)

    Looks like Lola did "rise" to the occasion. At "yeast" she is going to be OK. Sorry, couldnt help it!

    I had to use the peroxide trick on our Papillon when he quickly ate a stuffed toy I was trying to take away from him.

    We didnt bother when the GSD ate one of the other dog's collars, as we found the bare buckle too late. Everything "came out" fine there.

    Counter surfing is an art form here - anything not placed at the back could fall victim from at least 4 different surfers.

  5. Cody would never dream of such an indiscretion but the Trouble Twins are shameless about stealing food.

  6. As a longish-time follower of your blog, I was reading along with amazement and admiring that beautiful dough, wondering if finally your kitchen would cook something, especially as tricky as something involving yeast, that tasted and maybe even looked delicious? And then -- OH NO!! Well, I'm glad Lola is okay. I just can't get over the luck you keep having in the kitchen!

  7. I don't even write about 1/2 the kitchen disasters. I screwed up brownies from a box a few months ago. 3 ingredients to add and I screwed it up.