I have a running theory on friendship, which maybe you’d like to hear? Essentially, it is this: If you find someone who won’t run away when you confess your love of cheesy country music or endlessly ridicule you when they see your high school yearbook, that’s someone worth hanging on to. Because, as we all know, it’s one thing to be liked when you’re on your game, and it’s quite another to be liked when you’re at your worst, wearing your glasses and that junior-high retainer at night or, geeking out to the complete lyrics of “The Broken Road” while the two of you ride in the car.
When you have been loved that way, without condition, like I have, it’s amazing how still unnatural it can feel to extend that love to others, how revelatory of your truest self. My friend Jackie’s better at it—you’d like her. When she comes over on a Saturday afternoon to expectations of going out for lunch and, instead, finds me, anxious, telling her I have two rising pizza doughs I don’t know what to do with and, Can we just stay here, only first we’ll have to go to the store and buy mozzarella? she doesn’t flinch. Then, when after coming home with groceries, we both recognize a near-deathly smell coming from the slimy asparagus that’s brown on the bottoms, which I’d had my heart set on making a salad with, she’s only happy to head right back to the same store, just before stopping by the train for a quick pick-up and returning to the kitchen to resume activities. Jackie’s the kind of friend that likes you even with your quirks; she’s flexible and forgiving.
And, if you’ll permit the analogy, this kind of friend is a lot like the right kind of recipe.
It’s one thing to have a recipe that’s fussy, giving good results when you do everything just perfectly, measuring exactly, following the proper order, keeping the room the right temperature—it’s like the friends who like hanging out with you on a Friday night when your hair’s curled and your lips glossed and your house immaculate—not bad to have, maybe necessary. But it’s another to find a recipe that’s flexible, that lets you change things around a little, that forgives mistakes and yields something good anyway. When you find that kind of recipe, like a companion, you hang on to it, no question.
Like this pizza crust.
Let me be frank: I did everything you’re not supposed to do with this recipe: I mixed it together Friday night before realizing I was out of olive oil (are you noticing a trend), which meant, you guessed it, I ran over to the store not once but three times this weekend. I let the soft, elastic ball of dough rise overnight instead of for an hour. I let the flattened discs of pizza-shaped dough rise all afternoon instead of for 30 minutes.
Nonetheless, in spite of me, these pizza crusts turned out beautifully—golden, flavorful, slightly chewy but with a good crunch, thick and sturdy. The first I topped with meat sauce (homemade, ala my mother, of course) and cheese; the second, with sauce, cheese and spinach Jackie chopped while we preheated the oven.
So take my advice and make this recipe around your schedule, whether that means putting together the dough and leaving for work all day or watching a movie and returning to shape it within an hour or two—it won’t matter. In fact, in a lot of ways, that’s when this dough will really shine, when it will show you its best self. And, trust me, you’ll see it’s worth hanging on to.
Adapted from the lovely Hannah of Honey & Jam
On the subject of things I love in recipes, this one demonstrates another: it features a bunch of ingredients that all get combined at once, to be mixed once. So simple! Feel free to top the pizzas with whatever you’d like; depending on how long you let the dough rise, you’ll be able to tell how substantial the crust looks, and mine held up to meaty sauce, cheese and spinach nicely.
3 3/4 cups bread flour (or other high-gluten flour)
1 Tablespoon Italian seasonings
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
Combine and knead together all the ingredients (I used the dough hook on my stand mixer, turning the machine to a medium speed) until you’ve got a smooth, soft dough.
Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 hour (or, you know, all night long).
Divide the dough into two equal portions. Shape each piece into a 10” to 14” circle or rectangle, and place each on a piece of parchment paper or on a greased pan. Allow to rise for 30 minutes or so, covered (or, like I said, all morning while you do other things). Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
When you’re ready, and the crusts look nice and puffy, bake just the plain crusts (no toppings) for 8 minutes, until set; then add toppings and brush olive oil on the edges. Bake for an additional 4 minutes (I actually left them in there for around 15 minutes until they were nice and golden—just keep an eye on them).