Happy summer time! This is my favorite season of the year. Summer means time outside and my favorite foods are now in season– watermelon, blueberries, tomatoes, and peaches– to name a few. With the longer days of summer, my husband and I love to have friends over to share pizza with us. Nothing says summertime more to me than an assortment of pizzas with fresh toppings.
Part of the reason I associate summer time with pizza is that while I was growing up, my mom seemingly-effortlessly made the most amazing pizza I have ever had. She made it look easy to make the dough, and the kids would each personalize our pizzas with favorite toppings. When I began cooking on my own, I somehow believed that I too would be able to create delicious food with such little effort. Over the last year, I have been working on my pizza dough techniques. Let’s just say, it has not been without many failures along the way.
I believe that many people have the misconception that dietitians have everything figured out when it comes to the kitchen and food. The truth is, becoming an excellent chef or baker takes practice, mess ups, and redos. Also, as a detail-oriented person who wants to always succeed, I find that failing in the kitchen can be very frustrating. I refer to myself as a “recovering perfectionist” because I am working on being OK with life’s failures and unplanned take out orders when the food does not turn out.
To help others feel more at ease in the kitchen, I wanted to share some of my mistakes made so far while working on my pizza dough. Some flops include (but are not limited to) accidentally using tablespoons instead of teaspoons for measuring yeast, over-kneading the dough using an electric mixer, and not giving the dough enough time to rise. These are some funny and humbling ways that I have experienced growth in my kitchen skills. Taking away the stigmatization that a meal has to be “perfect” and without flops can help you feel confident to start cooking. If you are wanting to get started cooking at home here are a few of my tips.
Tips for getting started in the kitchen:
- It is so important to give yourself grace and room for failure when it comes to food. Expect the unexpected and have fun along the way!
- Start simple. Work to develop one skill (chopping, kneading, etc) at a time. Watching videos of a technique can help if you are a visual learner.
- Research for a recipe that fits your skill level. If a recipe is overwhelming just to look at– find another one!
- Read through a recipe (maybe several times) before starting. This helps you know what to expect and be ready for what is next.
- While you are making the recipe, you may find a better way to do a task. Write it in the margin on the cookbook to remember for next time.
- If you are a caregiver, invite your child into the kitchen and meal preparation so they can begin to learn some of the skills needed for independent cooking.
- Consider joining us for Simple Tasty Cooking classes online, where we have fun, explore flavor, and discuss nutrition facts related to cooking. Here is a link to our upcoming classes this year: Simple Tasty Cooking Class.
See the pizza dough recipe below with instructions that include the lessons I have learned over the last year. Happy cooking!
Homemade Pizza Dough
- Serves: 2- large pizzas
- 2.5 tsp dry-active yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 pinch sugar
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour (plus more for kneading)
- 1.5 tsp salt
- ¾ cups of milk
- 2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for rising)
- Add yeast, water and sugar together in a small bowl and mix well. There should be no lumps of yeast and the mixture should foam. If it does not foam, your yeast may need to be replaced.
- Starting with a large bowl, add flour and salt and mix together.
- Create a hole in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the yeast mixture, milk, and olive oil.
- Start to stir the dough until it begins to form a dough. If it looks dry, add milk. If it looks too wet or sticky (this is what happens to me everytime), add more flour.
- Once a ball is formed or the dough is less sticky, roll it out on a floured (and clean) surface. Begin to push the dough away from yourself (this is where watching a video of kneading can help) and knead until the dough is tacky to the touch (aka- not sticky and not dry) and naturally forms a ball without many cracks or bumps.
- Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with olive oil, rolling around to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let rise for 2 hours in a warm place. If you want to make the dough ahead of time, you can let it rise in the refrigerator, but make sure it has time to get to room temperature once you take it out. In my experience, this takes around 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 420 degrees (or higher for crunchy-crust lovers) and let warm while assembling all the toppings. The hotter the oven = more crispy the crust!
- Cut the dough into two pieces (two pizzas) and begin to form your pizza shape. Remember, pizza does not have to be a circle– you can make it whatever you want. I like to use a rolling pin but you can also throw it in the air, shape it using your hands, etc. Kids love this part! I roll out my dough onto parchment paper for easy transfer to a baking sheet or pizza stone.
- Top with your favorite toppings (mine are cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, feta, mushrooms, hot italian sausage, and crushed red pepper flakes) and transfer to the oven. It may take 15-20 minutes to cook so keep a watch on the timer.
- Slice and enjoy with a fresh side salad or favorite summer fruit.
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