Friday, October 01, 2021

Successful failure

Tonight I tried doing something I’ve been wanting to try for ages: I made my own pizza bases for homemade pizza. My verdict? A resounding, “It was okay, I guess.” At least now I’ve done it.

Pizza is probably my favourite “junk” food, so much so, that I often joke that if I was gong to be executed, I’d want pizza for my last meal. That’s probably not actually true, but it’s something I do like and have often.

Back in April of last year, I talked about making pizzas at home, noting, “For some time—years, probably—I wanted to try making pizza completely from scratch, especially the base and sauce.” I found or was given many good recipes, but they all seemed so fiddly that I just couldn’t get enthused about actually doing it.

Then this past March, a fire destroyed the factory that made the store-bought fresh pizzas Nigel and bought for several years. In the months since, I made more pseudo pizzas, like I did last year, and tried a few fresh pizza bases sold in supermarkets, but never found any I liked (for my taste, the Pam’s brand from New World was the most okay of any of them).

So, I again decided I should try making my own base—using my automatic bread maker.

The machine takes care of much of the hard work—the mixing, the kneading, the first rising, etc. That took 45 minutes (plus the time before putting the ingredients in the machine’s bread pan.

When it was done, I had to knead it, then cut it in two and let the two dough spheres rest in a warm spot for 10 minutes. Then I was supposed to press it into a greased pizza pan and let that sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, and then assemble it and bake it for around 20 minutes.

All up, the whole process took more than an hour and a half, roughly two hours if you count the assembly of ingredients. In that amount of time, I could’ve ordered in a pizza, then immediately ordered in another one. I was glad I used pizza sauce from the supermarket, because everything took so long that making the sauce, too, would’ve driven me round the bend.

I thought the base was was “okay, I guess,” though I know some people would’ve liked it—just not me. I like thin and crispy pizza bases (and so did Nigel), but this was thicker—not pan pizza, but more like what’s usually the “standard” bases from chain pizzerias in NZ. I also thought it was surprisingly bland, though I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing. I have a lot left over because it was so filling that what I did eat sat like a rock in my stomach.

Still, I’ve done it now and my curiosity is assuaged. I could experiment, or I could try an even more time consuming and more fiddly recipe not involving the bread maker, but, no, I won’t be doing that. I’d honestly rather stick with my pseudo pizzas or the okay pizza bases if I’m going to make any at home. Mostly, I’d rather order it in and get something much nicer, where my only effort is placing the order on my iPad.

On the bright side, though, tonight was my first time using my new bread machine, which was the delayed package delivery I wrote about on Wednesday. I ordered it online last week to replace my old bread maker, which we bought in 2000 or 2001 in Taupo (though I can’t remember why were were there). We didn’t use it for most of the years after that, but I’ve used it a lot over the past couple years or so, and once every week or two for the past year. It reached a point where the motor spinning the mixing paddle would push the bread pan up and disengage during the kneading mode. The last loaf I made, the pan pooped up about a dozen times in the final kneading (I had to push it back down each time). I knew the metal that holds the pan in place was wearing out, and this last incident made me give up on it and order a new one. Still, some 20 years is a pretty good run for a small kitchen appliance.

I bought my machine based on the evaluations conducted by the non-profit consumer organisation, Consumer NZ. I subscribed to their magazine many years ago and found it useful, but membership is so much more useful now, with access to product reviews and evaluations that the general public can’t see. I had to pay up for that privilege, but I figure it’ll help me avoid some costly mistakes.

The particular machine I bought was rated second, but had features the number one machine lacked—and cost some $200 less. Today I unpacked it and read the instructions and the recipes, which were far more detailed than the recipes in the old machine’s book. For example, the new one measures flour by weight, not by cups, and that makes so much sense to me: The amount of flour actually in a cup can vary based on how much air is mixed in. As I often say, “cooking is art, but baking is chemistry”, which overstates things a bit, but it’s still true that more precise measurements of ingredients are important in baking.

As I read the recipes, I saw many that made my mouth water, something I don’t think has ever happened to me before—not with bread recipes. The machine can make pretty much anything with flour, though some—like doughnuts and bagels and croissants—require a LOT more work after the machine does the first part, which is a bit like the pizza bases I made. The machine can also make jam, of all things, which is just weird enough that I want to try making some when the summer fruits are ready.

So, despite the successful failure of my pizza bases, I nevertheless learned how to use my new machine, and so far I really like it. I’ll make my first loaf of bread sometime next week, after I finish the last one I made in the old machine, with its popping-up bread pan.

I’ll also get to have cold pizza for breakfast! And lunch…


Roger Owen Green said...

I've made pizza but it was years ago. There's decent pizza literally a block away. I can call, walk there, walk backend eat two slices (usually white broccoli) in less than 70 minutes.

Arthur Schenck said...

That's it exactly: There's an okay place not far from me (waaaaaay too far to walk to), and there are chains that deliver, as well as a NZ chanin of NY style pizza, too. So: Why on earth would I ever do this again when the professionals are so accessible and affordable?!