My youngest daughter, Littlest, and I, love to make pizza together. When she was younger, her job was to decorate the pies after I made and rolled out the dough. Now that she is older, she makes the dough herself; even starting the yeast from scratch.
If you have baked using yeast, you are well aware of what it takes to get yeast to work properly. Sometimes it seems as if it requires a bit of magic. When I first started making my own pizza dough, I did not do such a good job. As Eldest would say, “Fail...EPIC fail.” She has such an encouraging spirit.
I went to one of the best chefs in the world for advice. Mom gave me some words of wisdom, make sure the water you put the yeast in is “just the right” temperature. I cannot tell you how many stores I went to, looking for a thermometer that listed “just the right temperature.” I still have not found one, and I have been looking since the invention of classical music.
She also told me to put a little sugar into the yeast to “prove it.”
“Prove what?” I asked her.
She explained that yeast is a fun guy, adding sugar not only makes it a sweet fun guy, it proves that it really is a fun guy. Now Littlest has a ritual when she starts the yeast to growing. She looks into the bowl of yeast and water and asks, “Are you a fun guy?” Then she dramatically throws sugar into the bowl, when it begins to foam and smell as yeast should smell, she declares boldly, “Behold the mold, it is a fun guy!”
When she does this, I am always a bit saddened. My Littlest is growing up and interested in other males, besides her father. It is no comfort that her newest fun guy is a slimy wet puddle of fermenting gunk in the bottom of a small bowl. I ask her, “What about your father? Aren’t I a fun guy?”
“Are you a fun guy?” she asks me.
Then she throws a handful of sugar at me and announces brightly, “Nope, you are not a fun guy.” As I growl and brush the sugar out of my thick mane of hair.
I make two contributions to cooking pizza. I help prepare some of the toppings; Littlest lets me fry sausage and cut up broccoli. I also am allowed to roll out the dough. Notice I roll the dough, I do not throw it in the air and twirl it around. I tried that once with disastrous consequences. I think I am still trying to get all of the sticky dough out of my hair!
In our house we have a variety of preferences when it comes to pizza toppings. One person only likes pepperoni, one prefers Italian sausage, another healthy individual wants broccoli on her pizza. In the effort to please everyone’s palates, by the time Littlest gets to the last pizza we have a little bit of all the toppings left. They go on the last pizza, along with some onion and jalapeno pepper. This pizza is christened the garbage pizza and the only two people who like eating it are Littlest and myself. This is a good thing; we do not have to worry about any leftover pieces disappearing in the middle of the night.
As we put the pizzas in the oven, Littlest remarks, “I love making pizza, it is so much fun.”
“You should,” I reply, “It is in your blood.”
“What do you mean?” she asks.
“My dad’s uncle, who would be my great uncle, and I suppose then your terrific uncle, owned a pizzeria.”
“Why did he do that?” she asks.
“Well, he had a family to support and needed the dough.”