Can I guarantee she'll make an authentic pizza? Two things, I reply. One, thank you for saying “authentic” and not “perfect.” We seek perfection knowing it I unattainable. Authenticity is far easier. Two, I can’t guarantee anything. This is on you. And the first thing you can do to make it work is to not try too hard.
Is this all of a sudden sounding like Zen BS? But wait, there’s more. By far, the best pizzas I make are when I’m not making them. They’re just happening. And yes, this might sound like a pizza peel covered in cheesy Zen koan. But it’s true.
The first time I made an “authentic pizza,” it was a little bit nerve wracking. I’d tried pizza before and failed. But this time, I’d been reading what I needed to read, I’d done the prep, I had the tools, so the only thing left was for the pizza to happen.
It might not have been as good as what I’m making 20 years later. But it was convincing and round-ish. It looked good and it tasted great. It gave me a reason to continue.
These days I know I can make a pizza. Where I get on edge is when I’m throwing a pizza party. Making half a dozen pies for eight people is always a a little daunting. You’re on a stage. People are watching. They have expectations.
But the first thing I do is give up. I don’t try so hard. I just think about how I’m going to be making a unch of great pizzas. I’ve been at this long enough that there’s no point in sweating it.
In the parlance of some other subculture that puts voice to such beliefs, I give it up to God. My hands do the work. I don’t worry about it because worry doesn’t help.
Follow the steps. Use the tools. Visualize the result.
That third part might be the most useful. Instead of trying so hard to make the pizza, visualize the pizza you’ve made before you make it. What it looks like, smells like, feels like. The color. The caramelization. The texture of the crust. The crunch.
But don’t think too hard on that, either. You already know what all that should be. Just let it happen. There’s a critical voice in your head that will try to second guess everything you’re doing. You’ll be doing it right. Don’t listen to the critical voice that tries telling you you’re doing it wrong. Second guessing is pizza death.
There is one place where I still get hung up: Dough. It’s interesting that my dough has gotten better since removing machinery from the making. People act like their stand mixers are the second coming of Christ on a Cuisinart. They can’t possibly knead their dough by hand.
Get over yourself. Knead your dough by hand. The man who runs one of the nation’s most famous pizza restaurants makes enough dough by hand every day to serve as many as 250 pizzas a night. By that measure, you and I are mere gnats. Our couple of pizzas don’t even appear as blips on the pizza radar. We can muster the temerity to make dough by hand. And we’ll make better dough because of it. There’s no mixer standing between us and the most important part of the pizza process.
To be more blunt: use a mixer, and you’re going to overknead the dough. Your pizza is going to be tough. Don’t do it.
The dough problem I continue to face is measurement. It never works out. Measuring by volume is fraught with inaccuracy. But so is measuring by weight. No matter how I do it, I’m always called upon to make adjustments. My pizza dough ingredient measurement is never twice the same.
This matters because the devil is in the dough. And if you face the same challenge, don’t stress it. Just be patient and make adjustments. Make sure you get to a supple, slightly tacky dough ball, and all will be good.
To recap: I can guarantee nothing because your mindset is in play here. Don’t work too hard at it. Just follow the steps. Visualize the end result. Pizza is as much about your mind as anything. And when making pizza, developing pizza mind is invaluable.
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Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the new, unusual and amusing how-to pizza book, Free The Pizza. Also known as The Pizza Geek and "Hey, Pizza Man!", Blaine is fanatical about the idea that true, professional-quality pizza can be made at home. His home. Your home. Anyone's home. After 20 years of honing his craft and making pizza in standard consumer ovens across the nation, he's sharing what he's learned with home cooks like you. Are you ready to pizza?
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