Every Friday night is pizza night at the Frost house. I think this began in Kentucky, around the time I started experimenting with new dough recipes. First it was the usual bready, pale dough, baked at 350 forever and piled high with toppings to distract from the lackluster crust. The New York Times convinced me to move on to a long- and slow-rise dough with only flour, water, yeast, and a bit of salt. We stuck with that recipe for a year, at which point we were also on a caramelized onion and prosciutto kick. While the dough was good, it was finicky and proved insubstantial for such rich toppings.
These early pizzas were rectangular, baked on an old half cookie sheet from college (I think it was a gift from my Aunt Amy? Or maybe I nicked it from my parents’ house?). This particular cookie sheet is still part of our cooking tools and distributed the heat nicely along the bottom of the crust. There’s nothing worse than a white, floury, limp pizza crust. A year or two ago we graduated to the Williams-Sonoma circular, vented pizza pan. A major pizza-making game changer, the new pan reminds me of the pizza screens we used at Fat Jack’s when I worked there twelve years ago.
I finally discovered The Dough, the recipe I’ve made more than 150 times. It came to us from Smitten Kitchen, my favorite food blog. To yield two crusts, mix 3 cups of flour + 2 teaspoons kosher salt + 1.5 teaspoons yeast. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and enough warm water that the dough becomes a cohesive, soft mass (not too sticky!). Let sit under the overturned mixing bowl for five minutes, then refrigerate in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, until you get home from work the next day.
This recipe works for me every time. I bake the constructed pizza on our highest oven setting, which in the new apartment is 525 degrees, for twelve minutes. The dough is strong enough for legitimate toppings, but flavorful enough that we usually just go with a homemade tomato sauce, herbs and mozzarella and parmesan cheese. When the pizza is ready, the cheese golden and bubbly, I slide it from the pan onto a cutting board and slice it into eight even triangles. Then I slide the pieces onto a cooling rack–maintaining their circular formation for aesthetic purposes, of course–and we dig in.
Though I’ve clearly spent an inordinate amount of time perfecting my pizza-making skills (so much so that I just broke one of our two pizza cutters from overuse), the important part of pizza night is that it signals the end of the workweek. In Twyla Tharp’s excellent book on creativity (The Creative Habit! Look it up.) she talks about how her ritual of going to the gym doesn’t start at the gym door; she has a series of actions (putting out clothes, drinking a cup of coffee, getting in a cab) that put her in the gym mindset, which for a dancer is also a creative mindset. I consider pizza night a Frost ritual. Friday night is the beginning of our weekend and pizza is the almost Pavlovian signal that our two usually relaxing days together have begun.
I love this tradition. In fact, I love it so much that 94 (11%) of the 827 posts on this blog mention pizza. I love the familiarity of mixing up the dough on Thursday night and I love the way our apartment smells faintly of charred tomatoes on Saturday morning. I love that I get to spend most Friday nights with Jason. I love our life, and yes, I love pizza.