Category: Food

How Not to Make Pizza Bread: Part 2

After my fiasco the last time I tried to bake bread in my kitchen, the only sensible thing left to do was to try to learn cooking properly before dipping my toes into the deep waters. But due to unforeseen circumstances, I was not able to cook as often as I wished. My companion in these trying times was, ironically, bread. I would come home from work late in the night, exhausted, and my trusty bread would always be present for a light toast. The toast was the only thing I could prepare at that time of the night which was fast and easy. I had a newfound respect for the versatility of this simple yet amazing piece of culinary invention that was sitting on my kitchen counter nearly everyday. This, is apparently the third or fourth time I’m rediscovering bread’s potential, even though I’ve been eating it for more than two decades. The problem was, that bread sitting on top the kitchen counter was a sign of my poor bread-making skills (read: non-existent). I could imagine it sneering at me whenever I pulled out some slices for a much needed dinner (“Look at you, what a fucking peasant. Can’t even bake some bread. I can’t believe I’m helping you in your hunger. What happened to being like Gordon? Where is your lamb sauce, loser?”). After being humiliated by this for a fortnight (two weeks for the uninitiated), I finally gave in.

Just because I messed up last time, doesn’t mean I should always mess up. I decided to research it properly and do it correctly this time. As I analyzed my previous attempt at creating bread, I found some glaring mistakes in it. First, I had not dissolved the yeast in the water properly before making the dough. This was because I had a different than the ones shown in the recipes and videos. Mine was more of a bead-like shaped than the usual powdery ones. So not dissolving them meant they weren’t activated as much as I hoped. Second, I used atta for the dough since I wanted a more healthy bread than the usual maida ones. So I decided to use the maida this time, health be damned. Third, the dough itself was too dry. I think that if the dough is too dry, it might not rise too much since it isn’t so loose or flexible (just my reasoning, which kind of made sense). Fourth, I had not let it rise properly before making the bread. This was because I did not have time to wait for it. I had left it for around an hour and half. Fifth and the last, I had used a tawa instead of an oven. This, I believe to be the most important one, since I could make those other mistakes and still end up with a bread albeit, a bad one but if I had no oven, then I wouldn’t even be able to make a bread. Now that the analysis is out of the way, I finally got ready to earn me some bread.

I came home early that fateful day to start the process early. Grabbing a spoonful of yeast in a small cup, I added warm water and stirred it until all the yeast dissolved and went from small beads to a colloidal solution. I let it rest for five minutes before taking two cups of maida in a large bowl and adding the yeast mixture to it. I could have taken a mix of atta and maida but I didn’t want to risk some shitty product again. I added couple of spoons of oil (I don’t know if its teaspoon or tablespoon, it’s just a spoon okay? I just eyeball it anyway) and started kneading the dough. I made sure to keep it a bit sticky and hydrated compared to last time. After kneading for 10-15 minutes I smeared the insides of the bowl with oil, kept the dough inside and covered it. Since I had not given time for the dough to rise the last time, I decided to let this one rise for 24 hours (that’s right, it’s either 0 or 100 with me, no in-between). Next morning, I checked the dough once before leaving for work. Well what do you know, the dough had risen beautifully. I . . . had not expected that. It was double the size of original. Not having anymore time to work on it, I left for the office. I had now taken care of mistakes #1 to #4 in one fell swoop. I was ecstatic. Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can show that piece of bread on the kitchen counter who’s the boss.

Side-note: 12 hours seems to be good enough time for letting the dough rise. Although you can let it for upto a week, you must keep it refrigerated during the whole duration. As I still hadn’t procured a fridge, 12-24 hours is ideal.

Now there was only one thing left to do: bake it. But, I still didn’t have an oven. So I thought of using the tawa again. My brain, at the last moment, stopped me from committing the same mistake again (Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I listen to my brain more often). I decided to not use the tawa. But what else to use for baking apart from buying an actual oven? Time for some jugaad. You can use the pressure cooker itself as an oven using some salt. You spread half to one inch thick layer of salt inside the cooker and place a ring-type utensil on the bottom inside the cooker. You can now place whatever you need baked on a plate and place it on the ring. The theory is that the salt is an insulator of heat so it will create this uniform layer of heat at the bottom. The ring is there so that the plate will not get hot quickly and burn the underside of the dough. Pretty neat if you ask me. I set this up, placed it on the stove and let it heat to remove any moisture inside. I still hadn’t placed the plate with the dough yet. Also the cooker must be covered when heating with the gasket and the weight on top removed. The gasket will be ruined if it’s there when heating. The weight is removed so that you are not arrested for starting fireworks in the house. I now concentrated on the dough while I let it heat. I removed the dough from the bowl and kneaded it for a few minutes. It was soft, airy and felt so good in my hands (oh yeah, I am sooo gonna get this bread). I halved it and put one of the halves on a plate and started flattening it. I wanted to make it a bit thin so that it can bake faster. I was pressing it down with my hand an . . .


Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . .

I looked over to the only other piece of electronics present in the kitchen (apart from my mobile): the stove. I use an induction stove. The led display was showing “ES” and beeping every five seconds. It stopped heating the cooker and none of the buttons worked, except the power button. I did the next sane thing: I kept the plate with the dough inside the cooker to bake with whatever heat there was left. Efficient use of heat? Nonetheless, while I waited for the bread, I started contemplating my future course of action. My most immediate concern was that I hadn’t prepared dinner yet and I was feeling hungry and it was already late. So I resigned myself to eating Hide and Seek for dinner and moved to the core issue. Well, from whatever I understood, the stove was pretty much done for. I needed a new stove. Although it was a shitty stove, I had grown to like it. Sad. By now I could see the heat from the cooker was not as intense as before so I opened it to check up on my pièce de résistance.

This time there were two thuds in my dustbin.

One was the half baked bread.

The other was the second half of the dough which couldn’t be used even if I wanted to.

The most disappointing part was that the bread, although half baked, seemed like it would actually turn out fine if the jugaad oven worked as it was supposed to. Woe is me.

I turned off the stove and left to check my mobile for any late-night delivery. After half an hour of fruitless searching for food and wasting time on Insta because I couldn’t find any food, I came to the kitchen to get the pack of biscuits. I looked at the stove and just felt like trying to turn it on one last time. I switched it on and pressed the power button and . . . it worked! It was up and running. I could not believe my eyes. What is happening? How did it work? Why is it even working? And then I realized, the display was not showing “ES” when it snapped, it was showing “E5”, Error 5. It had probably tripped some internal circuit when I was heating the cooker and displayed that message. Maybe it could not handle the high heat from the cooker because of the salt inside. Maybe I should start reading manuals when I buy something.

Anyway I then chanced upon the half finished packet of bread lying at the side on the counter and hungrily grabbed it for my late-night toast, even as the bread just flat out gave up on my journey to become a good cook.

How Not to Make Pizza Bread

You realize (damn you American auto-correct) how much shit your mom put up with you when you start cooking food for yourself. All those amazing dishes prepared lovingly by her and you act like a moron and say “No, I want something else”. It takes way too long to prepare even something simple from getting the ingredients, chopping the veggies to cooking it and finally eating your creation. Funnily though, I like it. That was so un-lazy of me that I kept pinching myself the first few times thinking it was a dream. I like every part of the process except washing the dishes.

Anyway, when I started to learn to cook, I got this irresistible urge to scour the net for some recipes. As usual, Google told YouTube about my newfound hobby and YouTube got into action. Before long, I was watching Gordon Ramsay bash on chefs and restaurant owners like it was nothing. Once you start watching Gordon, there is no going back. YouTube starts recommending food channels as if it hasn’t eaten for days. In these outstanding list of food related videos, I was particularly amazed at how easy it was to prepare pizza. I always thought the base, the sauce, the toppings and the cheese were all too complex. Turns out, the pizza base is pretty easy to prepare. In this video, the guy showed how ridiculously easy it is to make pizza. And I decided I wanted to at-least try out making the bread. I mean, what could go wrong?

I got the yeast from the supermarket, I already had flour (atta), oil and salt. Getting ingredients, done. Took a spoonful of yeast in a medium sized bowl, added warm water and left it for 5 minutes. Then I added 1.5 cups of flour to the bowl (small sized cup, fortunately I had enough sense to limit the damage as much as possible), two spoons of vegetable oil and some more water and kneaded the dough for around 10 minutes. I covered the bowl and then left it for the dough to rise. According to the video, I was supposed to keep it in the refrigerator overnight, but then I don’t have one yet. Well, I figured, for the second time in the evening, what could possibly go wrong?

I kept checking every half an hour whether the dough had risen to double its height. Unfortunately, the dough rose to around 20-25% of its height and refused to rise any more. After 1.5 hours and praying for a good dough, I finally succumbed to my hunger and took it out. I kneaded it a bit more and flattened it out like a pizza base. In case the bread turned out better than I expected, I wanted it to be tasty, and so I added few cloves of chopped garlic and some salt on top.

Here I encountered my first major obstacle: I did not have an oven (I know, I know, I am an idiot. That is not gonna change in the foreseeable future). But, this was one of those rare moments in my life where I was prepared for a change. You see, in my extensive research on creating pizza (which amounts to 5 videos), I also searched for making the pizza without an oven. I thought, I could mix them up a little, i.e., I’ll use the recipe for the pizza base from one video and the way to bake it without oven from another. That is what cooking is, right? What the hell could go wrong?

I heated a pan at max heat for a few minutes, applied some oil and dropped the flattened dough on top. Closed the lid and let it cook in low heat. After a few minutes, came back and saw it had risen a little like a typical pizza base. I waited a few more minutes so that the top-side of the dough would be heated. My reasoning was, since I closed the lid, the heat inside would be sufficient to bake the top side properly too. When I saw that it didn’t, I did what any sane person would do and flipped the base. The underside was slightly overcooked and since I left it in low heat and cooked it for too long, it had become hard. But now the topside was uneven and did not cook properly. After a few minutes of looking at it hopelessly, I took the bread out. I call it bread because I knew what I was trying to cook. But to any of the uninitiated, it looked like a flying disc having a bad day. Nevertheless, I cut a small piece and plopped it in my mouth.

I then promptly threw that sorry excuse of a bread into the trash and went on to prepare some Maggi.

It seems asking “What could go wrong?” too many times can actually make something go horribly wrong. Probably Murphy has go to do something with it, as usual. Or I don’t know a damn thing about cooking. You may not agree but I am certain it is the former.

Considering everything, it’s okay I guess. There were moments where it looked like it would work out fine. Even if all hope is lost, there is always the saying: “Once you’ve hit rock bottom, the only place to go is up”.

But then I remembered, I belong to this category: