I am lucky enough to have older friends with apartments nearby who allow me to raid their kitchens on occassion. I recently enjoyed one such occassion and found myself oddly at home--a feeling much missed by this homebody. My girlfriends and I planned way in advance (a miracle in itself) to treat "our boys" to a home cooked meal. We were so excited for a real meal, and what did we make? Pizza! It felt kind of silly, considering we all have access to pizza every day, but we wanted to throw some dough in the air and make a mess... But really, it was a perfect choice because this time dinner was less about filling our stomachs and all about filling our hearts.
Before the guys arrived we had time to chatter in a warm kitchen over rising dough while we prepared toppings. Really, not much is better than best friends in a warm kitchen in the anticipation of something special; we had nothing but love and warmth in our hearts, and I think these feelings were kneaded into the dough. The boys arrived just as we finished rolling out individual pizzas. We then all got around the table and assembled our own perfect pizzas. Heart-warming perfection. Our friends were all so happy to have a hand in creating the meal rather than being served (especially my girl friends, who admittedly have limited cooking talents); and although we hadn't seen each other much during the busy quarter, we were at home with each other in an instant. The atmoshpere was perfect for food magic. We all were cooks, and we all cooked with the feelings of joy and comfort and love. From that point on I was a mushy mess. While the first pizzas were in the oven we had time to catch up and mess around. It didn't matter that we could only bake 2 pizzas at a time, making the dinner abnormally long; in fact, we didn't even notice that the dinner was long. Like music, in which the notes are made special by the silence between them, it wasn't about the food, it was the time in between the bites that made the meal great. We ate and revelled being so at home again until the last pizza came out of the oven some hours later. Even though we were just eating pizza, the love and intentions with which it was made filled more than our stomachs.
Simple Thin-crust Pizza Dough
bread flour (approx. 3 cups) (bread flour makes the dough more sturdy for spinning, if you use bread flour you don't need to knead or punch down the dough as much after rising.)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 packet fast-rising yeast
1 C. hot water (as hot as tap will give you)
2 tsp. olive oil
Blend the yeast with two cups of flour and the salt. Add the water and the oil and mix to form a dough. Add more flour as necessary until you can knead the dough. Knead for about 6 minutes. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl covered with saran wrap, and allow to rise for about 45 minutes. In the mean time, preheat the oven to 400F and prepare your toppings. Split the dough into two pieces and roll into two medium size pizzas on parchment paper. If you can't find parchment paper (some regular grocery stores don't have it), roll out the dough and the place on a cutting board liberally dusted with cornmeal. Grab some guests and have them top their own pizzas!
The pizzas can go directly in the oven on parchment paper (just be careful not to burn the paper onto the crust!). The trick to crust is that it needs to bake directly on a hot surface. I don't have a pizza stone or tiles in my oven, but cooking directly on the floor of the oven works (expecially if you like thin crust crispiness) and even on the rack (more as a last resort to get more in one batch). Bake 12-18 minutes until crust is hard.