Friday, January 20, 2012

How to Make Pizza Without the Crust Sticking to the Parchment Paper

I'm writing this post for two reasons. 1. So I don't forget that this method worked incredibly, amazingly well, and 2. Because I couldn't find adequate information online and had to do some experimentation based on what little information I did find, and I'm trying to save others a little guesswork.

Okay. So you're having issues making homemade pizza because the crust sticks to the parchment paper, regardless of how much flour you use. When you try to take it off after baking, bits and pieces stick to the bottom of the pizza. But you don't want to bake directly on the stone because often there is topping leakage. (I know, I know; that "seasons" the stone. But let's say your husband really doesn't want to clean the stone afterward when it's got baked-on toppings.) Well, thanks to some suggestions by Gnancy on The Baking Circle, tonight I came up with a method to try. And, lo and behold, it worked perfectly.

Here's what I did:
  1.  Preheated the oven to 500 F, with the stone inside and in position. Then after about 30 minutes, I reduced the heat to 450.
  2.  Once the pizza dough was ready (depending on your dough recipe) and stretched into shape, I set it on a floured cutting board and brushed it with oil. 
  3.  Then I put the crust on a nonstick cookie sheet that I had sprayed with plenty of cooking spray.
  4.  I pre-cooked the pizza crust for about 4 minutes--putting the cookie sheet directly onto the baking stone. While it cooked, I prepared the pizza peel with a sheet of parchment paper liberally sprinkled with flour.
  5.  I took out the cookie sheet, dislodged the pizza crust using a plastic spatula, and set the crust onto the floured parchment paper.
  6.  I put the toppings on the pizza, slid the parchment paper sheet onto the baking stone, and then baked it for another 10-12 minutes or so.
After I removed the pizza (on the parchment) using the pizza peel and let it cool for a minute or two, I used the spatula to dislodge it from the parchment and slide it onto a cutting board. It just slid right off. I have never had such an easy time getting the pizza off the parchment paper. And the texture was just fine.

I think the issue stems from the fact that the parchment paper sort of "bakes into" the bottom of the crust and doesn't hold up well at high heat.

In case you're curious, I made an experimental pizza from James McNair's New Pizza cookbook--Tandoori chicken pizza. I was afraid it might be weird, but it was REALLY good. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nerd Nightmares


Last night I dreamed I was back in Berkeley and getting ready to graduate. It was graduation day that night, but earlier in the day I needed to turn in one last paper for a psychology class by 2pm or it would be considered late. The professor would not accept any late papers and would fail anyone who didn't turn their paper in by the deadline. Back in my room, I got distracted by packing my clothes and things and when I looked at the clock next, it was after 3pm. I panicked, and called the office number I had written down for the professor. He was still there, but was adamant about not accepting late papers no matter what. 

I cried and wailed that I had been an A student all that semester, hoping that would sway him to make an exception. He said that it would have been fine if I'd arranged an extension in advance, but I hadn't, so too bad. He said I could still drop the class if I didn't want a failing grade on my record. I was terrified that this would mean I wouldn't graduate, and all because I'd just lost track of time. Also, I wasn't sure what it meant for the graduation ceremony itself, because I was supposed to speak during the ceremony and had my speech all prepared and ready in a folder.

I went to campus to pick up an add/drop card from the building where they kept the forms and such. There were people everywhere, on and off campus, milling around—students and their families parking and heading over to the stadium for the graduation ceremony. For some reason I was with a couple of people I'd gone to high school with. We walked down to the building where I picked up the add/drop card and then over to the building where the professor's office was, so I could try to give him my paper one last time and, if that didn't work, get him to sign the drop card. 

I can't remember what happened at that point, but later, I was walking toward the graduation ceremony because I knew my family expected me to be there to speak. I was desperate to keep my dad from finding out what had happened. He kept talking proudly about how I was a salutatorian, and I had to explain to him, no, I'm just a speaker, but maybe if I'm lucky they'll announce the salutatorian list and I'll be on it. I was starting to wonder if the people running the ceremony would even let me speak, given the circumstances. I put my things down in a seat and went to use the bathroom before it got too crowded, but the wall/door between my stall and the audience seating area kept popping open or getting opened, much to my chagrin. Plus, I hadn't had time to change my clothes to wear something nice under my graduation robes, so I was wearing some kind of polka-dot pants and a ruffly sleeveless blouse. I decided I didn't care about that part; I'd just have to forge ahead even if I was wearing weird clothing.

Later, my dad was holding a graduation party for me at his house. We were in some kind of huge upstairs room. I was still freaked out about whether I'd actually graduate or not. At first, there weren't very many people there, and then suddenly, when the musical entertainment went on—a young woman singer—the room grew crowded. I went to get something to eat and drink and sat down in the back next to the wall. Suddenly I noticed what I was eating and drinking: wine, although it tasted like juice; and various slices of pizza with pork products on them—pepperoni, Canadian bacon, etc. I was shocked my dad would decide to provide pizza with popular pork products on it for his non-Muslim guests, and then I got terrified that he'd see what I was eating, or some other guest would notice and be appalled.

That's all I remember.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Just One Resolution.

"Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual." - Mark Twain (source: this WebMD article)

I don't know if I'm going to make any resolutions this year. I'm not sure resolutions are a great idea for me. Not just right now or this year, but in general. You see, I have this problem, which is that I tend to set unrealistic goals for myself ALL OF THE TIME. Then, inevitably, I can't accomplish them, and the less progress I make towards the goals, the worse I feel. And I don't seem to have a good sense of what's realistic in the first place. I'm forever making to-do lists I can't complete—I'll start with a short, achievable list, and then I'll tell myself that this or that MUST get done, or that the short list of tasks is lazy and unambitious, and the list will grow until it's not something I can actually do in a day, or even a few days. And I tend to blame my inability to do all the things on myself rather than a faulty list, and so I feel bad about it.

So perhaps I ought to have one resolution this year and one only:

TRY TO SET MORE REASONABLE GOALS. 

Corollary #1: Do not disparage small, achievable goals, or belittle their accomplishment by piling on additional work into my justly-earned free time.

Corollary #2: If I fail to achieve a goal, consider whether the fault lies with me or with the goal as stated (e.g. an unrealistically long to-do list).

Corollary #3: Don't underestimate the time it takes to do things—but don't beat myself up over how long it takes, either. It takes as long as it takes. That doesn't mean I'm slow or lazy.

So. That's where I am when it comes to this year's resolution. We'll see how it goes.