My grandmother is a baker by profession. She’s tried to teach me to bake cakes since I was in grade school. But I cursed baking ever since my first (flop) pineapple upside down cake, and the rest of the flop cakes and flop cookies that followed.
For reasons I could not explain, Turo and I find ourselves with much more free time now than when we’d lived in the city. We’ve started to enjoy lazy weekends even when we have more housework now than when we lived in my parent’s house. Before we had a laundrywoman and an ironing lady, now I am both. It used to be my parents who took over house repairs and garden work, but in our tiny apartment, this was Turo’s domain. In addition to the usual cooking and cleaning and looking after the kids, now we also take turns fetching Ari to and from school.
Running a household on our own certainly means a lot of work. But it’s the kind of work we lovingly attend to however physically exhausting it gets. Still, at the end of the day we get to sit down with a cup of coffee or a couple bottles of beer before getting some real rest. And in the morning we are woken by our hungry little monsters clamoring for breakfast that we all enjoy without the rush.
I also found myself accessing the internet less, reading more, bonding with my kids more, even cooking more. Proof of this is my recent reunion with la germania. After years of enjoying my lola’s perfect pastries without ever having to learn to make them myself, I realized I still wanted to learn how to bake—bread in particular. I love bread, I love herbs in my bread, but gourmet bread is not as easy to find here. No Rustan’s, no delicatessen anywhere close. If you can’t buy them, why not bake them yourself.
After some serious consideration and more second thoughts, I signed up for Italian Bread, Pizza and Pasta lessons in Sylvia Reynoso-Gala’s Culinary Studio. Up until the first day of my cooking classes I felt reluctant to go. What if I start baking perfect flops again?
But my hands found themselves kneading dough for the first time that day. I felt liberated and satisfied.
My cooking classes went by with strombolli and calzone, foccacia and ciabatta. And I took them home with instant yeast, a rolling pin and several kilos of wholewheat flour. I would be baking again.
So far I’ve made sourdough, herb foccacia, olive fougasse, pizza crust and more pizza crust. I have mastered making pizza from scratch and even tried making fresh pasta by hand. I still wonder where I get all the energy I use up with all this baking, and how I could afford to squeeze in the time I spend waiting for every mound of dough to rise.
With much pride, I am happy to share my perfect pizza dough recipe, for anyone who’s willing to spare some time, work out some muscles and kick ass with la germania.
My Perfect Pizza Dough2 ¼ tsp instant yeast ½ tsp brown sugar 1 ½ cups water 1 tsp salt 2 tbsp olive oil 3 cups all purpose flour 1/3 cup wholewheat flour
1. Dissolve yeast and brown sugar in water. Wait 5-10 minutes until foamy.
2. Stir in salt and olive oil into yeast solution. Using a wooden spoon, mix in half the flour.
3. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead in more flour until dough is no longer sticky.
4. Lightly flour the surface of the dough, this will keep the dough smooth. Tap any excess flour and turn dough into well-oiled bowl. Let rise for 1 hour.
5. Punch down dough and form into a tight ball. Rest dough for 1 minute before rolling out. Dough will be enough for 2 or 3 14” pizza crusts depending on your desired thickness.
6. Let rise for 15-20 minutes in pizza pan.
7. Add toppings of your choice and bake in preheated oven at 220 degrees C for 20 minutes.