Pizza Saved My Life

Friday, September 11, 2015

This is not a pizza i made, but it's the C. Jane Rocket Pear pizza from SLAB and it is a glorious specimen. I have yet to attempt its flavors but it's up next. A bacon crusted crust is beyond measure, people.

You might be thinking that this post is entirely an ode to pizza and has nothing to do with my life, and I must say that you have some correct thinking, but I also must say that I am completely serious when I say pizza saved my life...well...I guess it saved my sanity which basically saved my life, because I honestly think without my sanity I'd probably be a nutcase vegetable and now I'm going to end this sentence, because yes, it's one sentence, one horribly long run-on sentence. And without further ado, here is how pizza saved my life.

Without getting too personal about my weaknesses and shortcomings, I am going to share a little story with you. It's not an entirely serious story, but it's a true one and it means a lot to me.

Back when I was first married, I was pretty much addicted to buying clothes. Like a straight up addiction. If I saw something on Pinterest that I liked, I would buy it. If I went to the mall to buy one lotion at BB&W I would have to justify buying $50 maybe even $100 worth of clothing at the Gap, H&M and Forever 21 combined. Let's not even get into online shopping. Seriously though, I've already shared too much.

Well as you can imagine, a shopping addiction doesn't live well with a newly-wed couple making just enough money to pay the rent, buy groceries and enjoy a meal out and a movie once in a while. I had horrible money management skills and let me tell you, it was very depressing.

I used clothes and the actual act of buying clothes as some sort of security blanket, or something I could control because I couldn't control my weight gain (yes, I could...but that's another story about sadness and struggle). I couldn't control my anxiety. I was basically letting the lives of others and the lives I saw on social media determine who I had to be.

This was very hard for Tyler. It was hard for him to tell me no, he is not an unkind person, in fact he is the kindest person I know. He hated saying no, but he knew he had to and I would be furious. I would be so angry, but something had to give. I had to find a way to kick this habit. And again without going into all those details, this is about pizza remember, I'm going to tell you how pizza changed it all.

You see, I didn't always like to cook, but when I eventually had to do it on my own, the god's that blessed my mother with her incredible cooking talent bestowed their bounteous blessing on me. I found that I loved to cook and I love to cook food that people can truly enjoy and love.

Pizza is my love language. It really is. The way to my heart is a deliciously salty and crispy/chewy crusted RPB or Thai Chicken pizza from SLAB. Those slices got me through boys, bad outfits and bad grades. Pizza however, costs money, and of course I was in no place to spend money. That was the whole healing process...I couldn't spend money and it was just something I had to learn. I had to learn how to budget, I had to learn to have self-control. How about that? Self-control, who knew? So Tyler told me to find something to take my mind off of the shopping, because truly it wasn't helping me feel better about myself. I only felt worse. I tried a capsule wardrobe (worked for a moment) but then miserably fizzled away into closet oblivion. I tried exercise (helped a little bit...but you know?). I tried a lot of stuff, but one thing that always kept my mind off of those things and helped me test myself was cooking.

And pizza was what I loved/LOVE to cook. Pizza is my love language, like I said. On days where I knew i'd be by myself for a while and i had to car to myself and I really wanted to go to the mall, I would force myself to make a pizza dough. Pizza dough is a true art, my friends. It's an art that demands perfecting. And when I would make that dough and see it knead and watch all of the ingredients come together I just felt whole. I felt like I had a worthwhile hobby. I felt fulfilled because I was working to give myself a treat, a piping hot cheesy, delicious bite of homemade pizza. From pepperoni it was three meat. From three meat it went to BBQ chicken. From BBQ chicken, THAI chicken, from Thai to the most perfect circle of bliss that is Rosemary Potato Bacon. Nothing made me happier than a perfectly thin crust with some puffies in there (cheese bubbles) and ingredients with the right bite and seasonings.

Pizza saved my life. And when I say it saved my life, it saved my wallet. I thank you Pizza for taking my mind off of mindless and superficial and absolutely material things.

The holiest of them all. The Rosemary Potato Bacon. It has my heart. It has my soul. It's the best one I make.

So how about a recipe? Yeah that's what I thought you'd want.

Now listen carefully, I have a testimony of this pizza so if you do anything to hurt the pizza or defile it I will be very upset and question our friendship.

Alright? Alright, here we go:

This recipe is adapted from TWO recipes, this one and this one. Big ups to my girls Mel and Sally! In heaven, when I finally meet them, I will bring them a masterpiece of pizza and thank them with tears streaming down my eyes. Ok ok, enough already here it is:

Now I use a KitchenAid to mix my dough, but you should know that I have also kneaded and mixed this dough with a wooden spoon and by hand sooooooo...there are no excuses. You can do it.

Another thing to be aware of, whole wheat flour works great for this recipe, you will just have a heavier dough and crust and you will be required to knead for like two minutes longer.

And one more thing: A PIZZA STONE IS ALMOST A MUST. I say almost, because I have used a cookie sheet and the pizza has been fine, but the stone just turns the pie into something special. 

For the delectable and perfect dough:

2 -1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast (I use Red Star) follow the instructions here if you are using instant yeast. I am truly a snob and firmly believe in Active Dry Yeast. Amen and Amen. 

1-1/3 cup hot water. When I say hot...I mean steam from the sink hot. 

1/4 tsp sugar 

Mix the yeast, hot water, and 1/4 tsp of sugar in a bowl until the yeast is almost all the way dissolved and the water is frothy. You only need like 5 stirs with a whisk or dough hook.

Wait five minutes. You are letting the yeast proof. Yeast is alive you know and it needs some sugar for food and some hot water for a steamy awakening. Come back five minutes later and you should have a foamy mixture. You can even see the yeast foaming up. It's sciency and cool. Really though it should look like a thick foam on top of the water. If this doesn't happen after 10 minutes, you've probably killed your yeast. Try again with less hot water. If you are using instant, you don't have to worry, but again...testimony in active dry yeast.

Now on to the other ingredients: 

1 TBSP Sugar 
3/4 tsp salt 
3-1/2 cups of flour (keep a cup of flour to the side, you'll need it)

Add the additional sugar, olive oil, salt and flour to the bowl and turn on that mixer slower or start stirring with you spoon. If you are doing this by hand, wait on using your hands...get the spoon dirty first until a dough starts to form.

Now you'll probably notice that the dough will keep sticking to the bowl...well you need to knead this baby for like 10 minutes, so get that extra flour ready and get ready to make the perfect dough.

You want a tough that is tacky to the touch with some bounceback...I know sounds weird, but I promise it's what you want. If you over flour the dough you'll get a tough lump of unstretchable dough. The perfect dough is warm to the touch and has some softness but doesn't stick to the touch. It has to be moldable. You'll know. Add extra flour until it doesn't stick to the side of the bowl or to your hands. I mean, some will stick but you don't want a goopy mess. Again, you'll know. Or just look at the online recipes for guidance. I'm not a food blogger, here.

Once you've got the dough of perfection, form it into a ball and place it back into the bowl, grab your olive oil bottle and slather the dough in at least 1/2 TBSP of olive oil. Olive oil adds flavor! Make sure the bottom of the bowl is coated and that the dough is coated. Then, put yo plastic wrap on it and turn on some netlflix, because that dough needs to rise for at least 1 hour. I go for about 1-2 hours. Again, testimony of rising dough.

After two hours or so or when the dough has DOUBLED in size, punch the dough down and form it into a beautiful found or rectangular or triangular or whatever shapular crust you want.

OH WAIT: you need guidance on how to form a pizza, here you go: 

You'll need: 

A scorching oven set to 475. 
A Pizza stone preheating in that scorching oven or if you're not afraid of your mother's can even preheat your cookie sheet or if you aren't mad at puffier crust, just keep the cookie sheet out of the oven. I highly recommend the preheated pizza stone way though because the dough will cook in minutes. 

Okay, now form you pizza on the parchment paper and add your favorite toppings I recommend: 

Thinly sliced potatoes fried up in olive oil with dustings of rosemary and hot pepper flakes and garlie
Olive oil drizzle with rosemary and hot pepper flakes
The perfect bbq sauce 2 parts Sweet Baby Ray's and 1 part hidden valley ranch 
Crushed pineapple 
leftover crockpot chicken smothered in bbq 
thinly sliced red onion
plenty of cilantro
crispy bacon 
feta cheese
ricotta cheese
spicy italian sausage
sweet pork...

THE OPTIONS ARE ENDLESS. Choose your toppings and just go with it.

Just remember the thinner your crust the more possibilities of sogginess, but I've never had that problem. Just roll it out and shape it until you get your crust preferences.

Once that stone is preheated CAREFULLY take it out of the oven and find someone who can help you transfer the pizza to the stone, parchment and all (it won't set fire in the oven). I've learned how to do this by myself, but it took a lot of practice and a 475 degree stone burn on my hand. You will already hear the pizza starting to sizzle. Pop that baby into the oven and let the 'za cook for 5-7 minutes or until the cheese (moz) is perfectly melted and that crust is the perfect golden brown. It's the only way. You need some good puffy cheese bubbles in there too.

If you are cooking this the cookie sheet way, you'll need 10-12 minutes or until the above criteria are met. Your crust will rise a bit more, but it will be just as tasty. We don't discriminate on crusts.

Now slice that pizza and blow on it a little bit so you don't burn your mouth, because that's the worst and ENJOY.

ENJOY IT and become a little better each day.

Thank you pizza for teaching me about self-control. Thank you pizza for filling my days with a challenge. I learned how to make a good ball of dough. I mastered my pizza flavors and I have been three months sober from shopping. I feel so good. I now have a testimony of budgets and pizza, people it feels great.

And thank you to you for liking my pizza photos on instagram and letting me share something so personal and not judging me for it.

I would love to see the pizza's you make, maybe we could start a hashtag, or you could just tag me. Also, feel free to ask me questions if this post didn't explain it enough (because I know I probably missed something).

Anyway, until then, happy trails and happy pizza creating!

My most recent and most favorite creation. A BBQ chicken pizza using crockpot bbq wings, crushed pineapple, thick sliced bacon cooked to a crisp, red onion and my best ball of dough yet.

P.S. I feel like I should say that I have made leaps and bounds with my money management decisions, because I have. And i'm not just saying it to make you believe in me or think anything different about me, I'm saying it because I am proof that a good hobby and worthwhile habit can truly help you change your life. Even if it's something as simple as can help you become a better person. Granted, pizza didn't do everything and i'm not perfect. I had family and a wonderful husband and good friends and lots of prayers and a lot of cold sweats to help me out so yeah take the time to learn something new. It's so worth it. I've saved money in the long run and it's so worth it. That's all.

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