I don’t have my 10-6 job anymore, so it’s difficult for me to come home and quickly fabricate a dinner that two people can enjoy while sharing a glass or two of a delicious wine. However, I’ve found a quick and easy way to remedy that situation. Please disregard any account of frustration you may read from this point on. End results are good. Just stick with it, and I’ll try to take my own advice.

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Of the things that I can make and make well, pizza is right up there. I usually give it a halfhearted college try on the crust, making a fistful of dough out of a pile of flour and a bloomed cup of yeastwater. I’m not a stickler for consistency, but it’s nice if I can make something turn out relatively similar two times in a row.

With that, I have been on the lookout for a simple, relatively standard pizza crust recipe for months. I don’t have the time or patience to sit and make an artisanal rustic crust, nor do I have the inclination to either seek out the “00” flour that is essential or buy a pizza stone and wait for it to heat up for an hour to make the perfect crust. I’ve experimented a bit with a couple of different preparations, but I think I’ve found a good one this time.

It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe, and it yields a good, thin crust that doesn’t need much to turn out crackery and good.

I’ve long been a supporter of a lot of things Jamie Oliver. I think that his no-nonsense Naked Chef bit is a great way to get home cooks interested in making healthy, interesting dinners for themselves. His unflinching support for changing the American eating habits is inspiring, and it plays a large part in translating everyday recipes into successful dinners.

My old standby has been ketchup. I had never made ketchup before, but really wanted to give it a try. I’ve done it on a few occasions, mixing it up for some fries with curry ketchup, making a cocktail sauce for New Year’s Eve, and just making a batch of it to have around. He acknowledges the monopoly of Heinz, and how they’ve cornered the market on ketchup the world over, but is also keen to point out that they didn’t do it through marketing- they did it by having a very good, standard product that didn’t change. When everyone thinks ketchup, they usually think Heinz, and that’s not a marketing strategy.

With that said, I made my own, using his recipe. Despite the fact that everyone considers ketchup to be tomatoes and vinegar, not many people know what really goes into it. His recipe has fennel, red onion, coriander, basil, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and celery. Most importantly, it can be made by just giving a rough chop to all the vegetables, pureeing it in a blender, and straining it. After that, time is the only thing standing in the way between you and your ketchup. Check out the recipe at the bottom, courtesy of the Food Network.

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Now, he’s got some great marketing on his own, because whenever I enter a search on Google for a recipe, up pops a Food Network recipe from his kitchen. Having a fair amount of earned respect for him, I decided to give his dough recipe a try.

Full disclosure, in case you haven’t read into it yet: Baking is not for me. I love the curiousity of cooking, but I have not the patience for the precision of measuring cups and spoons. The dough probably turned out less than perfect, but it doesn’t really matter to me, because anything above failure in the bread domain, I consider success. For someone in my family who DOES enjoy the baking and using it to address situations that arise in his life, check out my cousin’s blog, Handmade. There’s a link down at the bottom of the page. Lots of baking goes on over there. Life lessons, tips for parenting, and learning things as he goes. Well written and thought provoking. Much better, more patient baker than I.

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Back to the dough. I’ve got my flour, my yeast, and a quick tomato sauce of plum tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spices simmering on the stove (Note to self: Do not hit the sauce with a hand blender until you’re absolutely finished. It makes a huge mess). The recipe calls for 7 cups of flour, which I cut in half, along with the other ingredients, but it calls for mixing in the style of an italian pasta- Mario Batali’s famous well method. I’ve done it before (see: Pasta Post), and with marked success, so I start off pretty solid. Sift the flour, make the hole, bloom the yeast, pour it in, start whisking, aaaaaaand COLLAPSE!

The wall of flour has been breached! There is yeast and water and oil and salt spilling all over the counter, and I have no towels, no barriers, or anything to stop it. I try to reinforce it by making a small flour wall, but the force of rushing water is too strong, and it just pushes the flour right onto the floor. The rest snakes around the side of the levee, streaming in rivulets over the lip of my counter like so many tears I’ve shed in previous baking experiments.

#%^*#!!!

I didn’t see how much water went over. I don’t want to start over, because that’s another 3.5 cups of flour, another packet of yeast, and about 40 minutes of brooding and grumbling over a recipe that was up until this point to me promising yet unproven. I’m not starting over.

I get another cup of lukewarm water and after piling scraps of dough and flour back on the counter, sprinkle it bit by bit over the mixture until it starts coming together. Then a bit of kneading, and a toss into my floured rising bowl.

This dough feels like a rock. It’s never going to rise. There’s not enough yeast. I’ve once again failed.

I’ve got Tom Petty running through my head as this dough rises. The waiting is indeed the hardest part, and if it doesn’t work out somewhat similar to how it looks in the picture, it’s going to be a Heartbreaker.

To minimize the release and escapement plan of all those gasses in the rising process, I took a plastic bag and covered the top of the bowl. Why? I guess I thought it would do something amazing like saving the day.

I guess it kind of saved the day. I came back after an hour and change to check on it, and it had, in fact, doubled in size.

Phew.

It Looked Kinda Like This

One of the things that I never cared about was letting the dough proof again after the initial rising. I punched the dough down, divided the doughball into two, and wrapped it, like I do with the pasta dough, in saran wrap, and put it in the fridge for a half an hour.

It made a huge difference. Why has nobody told me about this before?

So, now, I had the sauce, some delicious goat brie that the lady’s mother had sent her back to the midwest with, some sliced red potatoes, and some tomato slices that I had slow roasted with garlic chips and a rosemary oil that I’d made that afternoon.

All of it went on the pizza. The pizza went in the oven.

This is the result:

We had a second doughball proofing for a couple of days in the fridge. I pulled it out last night, spread some more sauce, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, an egg, some crushed red chile flakes, fresh basil…

The crust is great. A little cornmeal on the bottom, a couple bubbles here and there, and wafer thin. I probably could yield a better result with a pizza stone, but I don’t feel that it’s necessary. I’m pretty happy with how this turned out.

Next time, I just have to figure out exactly how much spilled over the side of the counter, and then repeat it forever. When I open my Italian pizza joint, I will make it so.

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Pizza Dough Recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jamie-oliver/pizza-dough-recipe/index.html

Ketchup Recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jamie-oliver/homemade-tomato-ketchup-recipe/index.html

Handmade – Learn From His Mistakes!: http://psoutowood.wordpress.com/

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