There’s nothing quite so rewarding as cooking a recipe that you haven’t cooked in a year, and realizing that your entire thought process in cooking has changed and evolved since then.
Last year, Charlie gave me a pizza stone for Christmas, and from there I made several pizzas. Then as the weather warmed up, we put the pizza stone away for one reason or another. And if I’m being honest, I think part of it is because I had two pizza dough balls in the freezer, ready to thaw and come back to life, and they got wrapped around one of the shelves in the freezer, and they’re literally still there. It seemed wasteful to make more when they were just… there. Isn’t it weird the things we humans let hold us back? From making more homemade pizza, to boot!
I digress, I do. I was also gifted a kitchen scale around that time, which opened up new horizons in cooking and baking recipes. I remember diligently weighing the size of each dough ball to match what was indicated in the recipe. Last year, I always had one that was way bigger, because I matched up the weights until the last dough ball was leftover, and I somehow always had more dough than the recipe seemed to indicate that I should have. I didn’t yet know some things.
Now, I weigh the entire weight of the dough and divide by how many pieces I want (duh, right?) — this idea hadn’t made its way into my cooking experience arsenal or else I hadn’t yet experienced enough recipes to know to do this. I also added more salt than the recipe called for, because I know I like salt, and that mine is very coarse, so the measurements aren’t always exactly equal in recipes. Something else I’ve learned through my time cooking. I waited until the dry yeast was activated too, to make sure the packet wasn’t inactive. Another trick I’ve learned!
And it wasn’t only these things, it was the overall vibe that it’s so much more fun to cook and bake than it used to be when I was worried about making a mistake or not doing something exactly right. There’s no right way to cook, and mistakes often create unexpected results — hello, chocolate chips cookies!
I was listening to David Chang’s podcast this morning, The Dave Chang Show, and he and Angela Duckworth were discussing grit and what makes a cook great, and what holds a cook back. And one of the ideas is that people are so afraid to make a mistake or of failing that it holds them back from ever attempting something. It’s a sad idea that we aren’t cooking due to the fear of failure or because we are too concerned about perfectionism, especially when every great cook has failed. Many times. The failure is what drives change and it’s vital to how we learn.
This is all to say, no one is great without practice. I’m not great! And I don’t claim to be. But I do know that I like to feed my body with fresh, whole, local, & seasonal ingredients as much as possible, and this is made easiest by cooking for myself instead of looking to restaurants to take on this responsibility (which is another interesting conversation). Home cooking is also a way to share these ideals with my friends and family.
So go forth, make a homemade pizza dough and then the pizza, and reflect on everything that went into this process, mental and physical! If your dough is not perfect to you, then hopefully you’ve learned something new! And I’ll bet you that it’s still going to be pretty damn good regardless.