The bread I make most often is pizza crust. Every Sunday evening, the four of us pile onto our couch to commune with homemade pizza and a family movie projected on our pink living-room wall. It’s a sacred ritual, and if we bump that, there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. From the kids, too. If people, then they can join us for pizza and family movie. We spread a picnic blanket on the floor, and drag chairs.
When it’s time to make crust, I turn on the music, brew tea or uncork the grape juice, and commune with whoever is in the kitchen. It’s often just Jesus.
I was out of semolina the last time I made crusts, so I did the whole batch with bread flour. It produced particularly elastic dough, and I rolled and rolled and rolled convinced that they would never reach fifteen inches. And then they were, and for all the lovin’, they were beautiful and delicious.
Like me. Like you. We get up and do the thing, again and again and again. I wonder if the battles I fight will ever be won. I dare hope there’s enough lovin’ to transform me and this world.
Shauna Niequist writes eloquently in Bread and Wine that you learn to cook by doing. The first time you make something, you do it by the book. The second, you play a little, and the third you do by memory. Then it’s yours. It took me more than three times to make pizza crust from memory, but it’s mine now. My mentor was Jamie Oliver.
Rustic Pizza Crusts
Makes 4 thin 15-inch crusts. Serves 8-12.
32 ounces (2 lbs) flour plus some for dusting. I use half semolina and half bread flour, but when I lived overseas, it was usually a mix of refined white flour and whatever version of whole wheat I could find.
2 tablespoons salt
2 cups hand-hot water. I mean warm to the touch. If you have to pull your finger out quick, it’s too hot for the yeast.
2 tablespoons honey. As often as you can, always buy local.
0.75 ounces active dry yeast
In a medium to large bowl, combine flour and salt.
In a glass measuring cup, stir honey into water. When dissolved, stir yeast into honey water.
Create a well in the center of the dry mixture. Pour the liquid mixture into the well and begin to incorporate the dry and the wet. This can be done in a standing mixer with a dough hook or by hand. If there is still dry flour in the bottom of the bowl, dribble a bit of warm water down the side of the bowl and continue to incorporate. If the dough gets sticky wet, add a touch more flour.
When all is incorporated, knead the dough for 5 minutes. Form into a round mound, replace into the bowl, and score the top with a knife. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for an hour in a warm place.
Go read or play a board game with your people.
After an hour, set your oven to 245 degrees C/475 degrees F. Put a pizza stone or whatever pan you’re using in the oven to preheat.
Punch down the dough and knead again, knocking all the air out of it for about a minute.
Divide into four semi-equal portions. I shape mine into domes, flat on the bottom, round on the top. Flour the work surface, and begin to roll them out, turning and dusting as you go. They DO NOT need to be perfectly round. That’s the rustic part. Or if you’re using a rectangular pan, aim at that.
When it looks like the crust will fit on your stone or pan, flop it on there and either roll a pizza docker across the surface, or prick all over with a fork. If any dough hangs over the edge, roll it in on itself up to the edge.
Bake for five minutes. Check on it every minute or so, and pop any bubbles.
From here, you can sauce and garnish your pizzas, or let them cool and wrap them up to freeze.
You may be especially discouraged right now, wondering what good it does to pray and be in Scripture. Can we encourage you to just show up? To be faithful in the rolling? You may think your struggle will never end, that change and progress will never be yours. You may be surprised… Women are describing this retreat as life-changing. We invite you to join us for the Velvet Ashes Retreat. Just show up to the table. Communion is waiting. Maybe there will be pizza, too.
The retreat is open early to give everyone time to download the videos (if you live in an area with slow internet) and to print the guide and coloring pages. Come take a peek at all the retreat is offering you. Spread it out over the week if you need to. Register and login here.