What's the secret sauce, sausage and/or cheesy goodness that lights a fire in The Pizza-Freak Fellowship?
It's 5:47 AM. I know this because I checked the clock. I've been lying here for only the briefest of moments, but the feeling is one I recognize.
It’s the feeling of being a kid on Christmas morning. But instead of stockings hung by the chimney with care and speculations about what glossy, blister-packed plastic stash I'm about to haul in, I'm thinking about that doughball I put in the fridge last night, and what it's about to become.
What the heck is it about pizza?
Earlier this week, I was on Peter Reinhart's podcast. (Really. Me. This guy. Figure that one out.)
If you don’t know Peter, he’s a multi-James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, a bread educator, and a total pizza geek.
Peter has joked about being part of what he calls “the pizza-freak fellowship.”
I'm starting to wonder if there isn’t some truth behind the comedy of it.
Here’s how this whole Christmas morning thing happened.
Yesterday, Friday, the Fabulous Honey Parker and I discussed having another couple over for Sunday night pizza.
We also questioned the wisdom of it. She said, “Are you sure?”
I said, “Well, I've got a lot of pizza coming up. Maybe not. See if they’ve got any other ideas.”
Next thing I know, she's telling me that, “They’re confirmed for pizza on Sunday night.”
“Were you and I even having the same conversation?”
“I don’t know. Was I in the room? You have a habit of continuing the conversation after I’ve left the room.”
So, last night at roughly 8:30 PM, I start making dough.
I want the dough to have as close to 48 hours of fermentation time as possible.
Plus, I'm using a different flour. I know that this flour yields something resembling a Neapolitan pizza but crackly and crispy when baked on ripping-hot steel in a 550° home oven. I've been wanted to try this flour again.
So I make the dough.
And as always, there's something about the hour-long transformation of that shaggy mass of flour and water into a smooth and supple orb that remains fascinating. (Infer what you wish. Freud was wrong. And sometimes a dough ball is just a dough ball, no matter how fascinating.)
After a series of stretches and folds (a Neapolitan dough development tactic I encourage in my book, and which I haven't used lately at all as I've been making all New York pizza all the time), the dough goes into the fridge. I go into bed.
Then, this morning in the gray of pre-dawn, I'm lying in bed thinking about the pizza to come.
And I’m half asleep and realizing that I'm looking forward to this pizza with the same kind of anticipation is if I were 6 years old and it was Christmas morning.
Maybe not as much energy is behind that anticipation. After all, I’ve celebrated many, many more Christmas orbits around the great, gas-fired pizza oven at the center of the solar system by now.
But I'm barely awake, thinking about that dough and what I suspect it’s going to yield.
Lying there, speculating I might have a pizza problem, I roll over and look at the clock. It’s 5:47.
Adults talk about what it is that gets them out of bed in the morning.
As in, “What gets you out of bed in the morning?”
Nobody ever asks that question to a kid.
One day out of the year, what gets that kid out of bed is Christmas morning. (If they're celebrants, of course.)
But what about the other 364 days?
One of those days is probably a birthday.
But in most cases, I'm guessing for kids, what gets them out of bed is: Morning. It’s that simple. it's a new day with new possibilities and new magic.
And maybe that's what gets a pizzamaker out of bed: new possibilities for new magic.
Another day of simple, mundane ingredients balled together into beguiling and transformative discs of delight.
I’ve said it before: Pizza is an exercise in transformation, and it is fascinating.
I’ve heard more than one professional pizzaiolo talk about this: Pizza never gets old.
Also, pizza transforms the people eating at, at least for a moment.
Seems like everybody’s angry these days. But have you ever seen angry pizza eaters?
There's something about transformation that seems like magic. Sure, science explains it.
But it's hard to hold science in your hand and take a bite of it.
There's also the implied intimacy of cooking for people.
I'm convinced that this aspect of cooking is part of what keeps so many talented pros working so hard for so long in hellish conditions for little money: it's an undeniable tug of sharing the love.
But what do I know? I’m just a romantic cynic from Connecticut. I’ve done things for money that are dangerous and I've lived to tell the tale.
Yet somehow pizza is always an adventure.
So, what is it about pizza for you? Let us know.
Have you embarked on your pizza adventure yet? If you’re thinking about spinning flour, water, salt and yeast into cheesy discs of delight, check out my simple and silly how-to manual for making pizza happen: Free The Pizza—A Simple System For Making Great Pizza Whenever You Want With The Oven You Already Have.
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?
When you click those links to Amazon (and a few other sites we work with), and you buy something, you are helping this website stay afloat, and you're helping us have many more glorious photographs of impressive pizza.