(ABOVE: Gratuitous image of a dough ball kneaded by hand, then placed in a glass bowl on an imitation walnut tabletop for maximum photogenic contrast.)
Some people will tell you that kneading pizza dough by hand is a dumb idea. Look at all the dough-mixing technology around you! Food processors! Stand mixers! Planetary mixers!
Hell, why are you even making your own dough? Buy it premade! There's perfectly good dough to be had in the supermarket! (You can see the slippery slope here. Soon, you're just buying the pizza of shame from a national pizza delivery chain, eating it in the dark and crying into your Chianti.)
Why am I sitting in a fantastic New Orleans seafood restaurant, having a thrilling conversation with another guy about kneading pizza dough by hand and boring everyone else at the table all to hell?
Because that’s what making pizza does to you. It gets you engaged, excited and perhaps boring to those around you who don’t share the thrill (but are nonetheless happy to shove your slices into their food holes).
To be specific, we were sitting at the table, awaiting our glorious fish dinners. The subject arose of my forthcoming book, Free The Pizza: A Simple System For Making Great Pizza Whenever You Want With the Oven You Already Have. (Someone else mentioned it. I try to not talk about it.) Another guy at the table was intrigued.
It didn’t take much discussion of pizza for him to start waxing poetic about kneading dough by hand to attain “the zen” of pizza. His words, not mine, but only because I try to resist making this seem in any way religious. (Though, the small “z” zen here is more an adjective related intuition, meditation and perceiving the true nature of things, and less about subscribing to a Buddhist religion. But I digress.)
If you take joy in pizza, and you find a simple thrill in making a pizza that is perfect (knowing, of course, that perfection is unattainable), you begin to take joy in things like kneading by hand. And you talk about it. And you share it as a revelation.
I can’t tell you how often people throw their dough into a stand mixer and let it grind away for far too long. They end up with a hard, chewy pizza that is unsatisfying and might even put them off trying again.
Pursuing the simple things. Kneading by hand. Shredding your own cheese. Shaping your dough with care. Even watching a pizza bake. All of these things are simple good fun, and they all contribute the satisfaction that results from making a pizza that rivals anything you’ve ever had in a restaurant. Most pizzas in this country are made on an assembly line. Very few are made in your own kitchen with love. Free the pizza!
If you want to be notified when the Free The Pizza book becomes available, click here.
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the bestselling, 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, pro-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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