Saturday, June 8, 2013

What did I learn In School Today? Pizza!

In my never-ending quest for baking knowledge, I attended the pizza baking class at AOA Bar and Grill. Michele "pinged" me on I.M. at the top of the week and sent me link to a Groupon for the class, knowing full-well that I'd never be able to pass it up. She's got my number, I guess. I'm just glad she's on my side!

I haven't learned how to use my iPad camera yet.

I was much less nervous, or shall I say "self-conscious", before this class than I was before the Le Pain Quotidien class. Maybe it's that I've gotten over my fear of making mistakes in front of other people. Or maybe it's just that I've gotten over myself. I was talking with my beloved little sister this morning (today's her birthday, so I had to call and sing to her in my most exaggerated/corny/horrific Elvis voice) and she commented that what she likes about my blogging is that I admit I don't know everything and that I'm always trying to learn more about what I do know. Maybe I'm taking that to heart and that's why I was kind of fearless today. Maybe.

Self portrait of the student as a younger (by a couple of hours) man.
The thing I noticed first off about this venue was that being a restaurant/bar, and having an open floor plan, was that it was probably going to take extra effort to hear the instructor, so, I scoped out a place up front. As soon as the class filled up, my observation, and my choice of placement proved correct. See? Being trained by parents who were career teachers paid off!

Front and center!
Another observation: apparently there was some secret instruction I failed to read about coming to class as a pair. I was one of the few non-coupled people there. Looking around the room, it was as though I was a voyeur on about two dozen dates. It was actually kind of sweet.

Despite having to shout over the noise that all cavernous restaurant/bars with high ceilings create, the instructor was good at conveying the information and getting the class into the groove. He went through the basics (prepping the yeast, measuring the flour, kneading, etc.), none of which I consider problems in my pizza making experience. What I was really taking the class for was shaping and tossing technique and I wasn't disappointed. So often I found that the center of my pizzas were too thin and the edges too thick and that I had the most difficult time tossing the dough. Watching the instructors hand for finger position in patting out the dough, and listening to him discuss the steps to the pat-down, was illuminating. Aha! So that's where I've been going wrong! Pinch the dough ball with thumb and forefinger to make the round. Work the edges of the round with your fingers together, not using your palms, and pat it out to about eight inches. Then pat down the center to even things out. Flip the dough over and repeat the pat down process.

At this point in the class we proceeded pick from some prepped ingredients – mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, baby spinach, mushrooms – because, even though this was billed as a pizza making class, we were really going to make calzones for our lunch. Mine was quite tasty!

Call it lunch.

I ended up sitting across from my station mate, Avi who was an NYC high school teacher and a husband and wife, David and Betty, who were at the table behind us. They're company was enjoyable and it was great hearing their stories about coming to the class and other baking experiences. Betty's passion was sourdough bread and I really loved listening to her talk about her process of perfecting it. I take my hat off to anyone who's got the patience and desire to make sourdough. David was an actor who had set fire to two kitchens on two continents but could eat with the best of them. Avi was really looking to take more baking classes and and explore the love of the craft that I sensed was just starting to bubble up in him. Cool!

Well, when I said that I took my hat off to anyone who made sourdough bread, I should have added that I also took my hat off for NYC high school teachers who fling their dough at me when they're trying to learn how to do the toss. I felt like I was in a western, and the quick draw artist shot my hat off to prove that he was the real deal. Honestly, it was too funny and we had a great laugh – even though Avi was mortified.

When it was all said and done, I'd gained some good foundation technique (which I'll have to use very soon or run the risk of forgetting) as well as a few new acquaintances. All-in-all a day well spent!

And back home, I rewarded myself with:

My reward!
The last of the lemon-ginger ice cream, the last of the v2.0 hand-held cherry pies (which I'll discuss in my next post) and a cuppa Joe!

Currently listening to:  Zedd - Clarity (Feat. Foxes)

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