One of my family’s favorite meals is homemade pizza–a black bean pizza. I make the dough in the bread machine and it takes an hour and fifty minutes. I used to put the ingredients in at any old time of the day. The dough can sit in the bread machine until it’s time to make the pizza. Now, I time it so I’m taking the dough right out of the machine after it beeps that it’s ready, when it’s still warm and pliable. This is because I have issues with pizza dough.
The ingredients in pizza dough are simple–water, olive oil, flour, salt, sugar and yeast. That’s it. Once you put the ingredients in the machine, you don’t have to be there at all, though I do like to check to make sure the dough looks okay as it’s kneading.
I got the idea for this pizza from working at a restaurant back home in Kentucky. It was one of the last jobs I had waiting tables before I started graduate school. I was probably 24 or 25 at the time, and not the oldest person waiting tables. But it felt like a kind of failure to still be waiting tables with a college education. I had to remind myself there was a spot waiting for me at IU in the PhD program–that waiting tables would not become my life.
When the machine beeps, I lift the dough out of the machine and set it down on a pizza pan covered with flour and corn meal. Then I begin to spread it out.
I don’t actually cook the pizza on the pizza pan, because the dough gets soggy that way. But I’ve found that if I want my pizza to be anything even vaguely resembling round, I have to use the pizza pan. If I try to do it on the counter or on the peel, roundness does not happen.
A therapist I went to once told me that I seem to like to do things the hard way. I took a year off from graduate school, and that’s why I was waiting tables and feeling vaguely like a failure. I couldn’t just go straight to graduate school out of college. I married a very recently divorced man with a child and as a consequence, tackled about six major life transitions all in one fell swoop. Knowing this about myself–that there’s a chance I like to do things the hard way–is helpful. It doesn’t stop me from continuing to make things hard, though.
The shape of your pizza, of course, in no way affects the taste. My husband and child could care less whether the pizza is round or not. But I care. As I have learned over the years, apparently I care very deeply about the shape of my pizza.
When I have the dough shaped on the pizza pan, I fold it over to move it onto the peel. While the dough was in the machine at some point, I opened a can of black beans and drained them over the sink. Then I mix some cumin and salt in with the beans, usually right there in the colander, because I don’t want to dirty another dish.
A couple years ago, I actually found myself crying over pizza dough. Screaming and cursing at it in our empty kitchen. I might have thrown the pizza pan onto the floor, I can’t remember. Something was thrown.
Thankfully, there was no one to see this display, but it’s why I take the bread out of the dough immediately now. It makes it easier to spread. The dough fights back less when it’s warm. If I knew more about the science of bread, I could explain why. All I know is that if I’m going to end up with a pizza that’s not even close to round, I’d rather not make pizza at all.
Once the dough is on the peel, I wait for the oven to warm up to 450. You don’t want to spread your ingredients onto the dough until right before you put it in the oven, because otherwise, the dough will become too sticky to slide off the peel. I learned that the hard way.
I spread the black beans on the dough and then some salsa. Any old jar of salsa will do. I like my pizza wet, so I use more salsa. Then I slide the pizza onto the stone in the oven and set the timer for about 10-11 minutes.
I wonder sometimes why I like to do things the hard way. I think it might be because of some perverse need to be different. To get married in my early thirties to someone the same age as me, someone also on their first marriage, and then have kids in a few years together–it sounds so ordinary. So boring.
Once when I was first learning to knit my husband walked by the chair where I was cursing at a tangled mess of yarn. I’d been sitting there trying to figure something out for half an hour at least. There might have been tears. “That doesn’t look fun,” he said. But it was. Because in the end, I figured it out.
When the timer beeps, take out the stone, if you have the kind of stone you can take out of the oven when it’s warm. If you don’t, leave it in the oven. Sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top. As much as you like. I like a lot. Then put the pizza back in for another 7-8 minutes, until the cheese is as melted as you like and the crust is as brown.