Nearly two weeks ago, Laura, a young woman who lives near our rancho asked if I would be willing to teach her and three of her cousins how to make pizza. I was doubtful at first that I would have the energy to conduct even an informal class in Spanish. But the more we talked about it, it seemed not only feasible, but great opportunity to do something interesting and, above all, fun.
We knew Laura from when she was in school. She'd bring her English homework to us to be checked and corrected. Making pizza would be a lot more fun. We were only acquainted with her three cousins, daughters of Norma and Lalo. Lalo cooks and sells carnitas each Sunday morning with the help of his daughters Norma, Anaïs and Lilian.
On Monday, Laura came by and we confirmed that we would meet here on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. Meanwhile, I prepared a basic list of pizza dough and sauce ingredients, with brief notes on technique, all in Spanish. But the bulk of the technique would be taught and learned by hands on practice. Pizza a Mano.
The students arrived, and first assembled for a group photo.
|From left: Lilian, Laura. Norma and Anaïs|
It was not likely that any of my students would have dough mixers at home, so the mixing and kneading would be strictly a mano.
The girls took turns at various tasks, with my guidance. I chose the toppings, based on availability and my creative whims. I'd cleared off most of our ample, tiled counter top, and with the wooden baker's table, we had plenty of room for the practical side of the class.
Hand kneading dough was not wholly unfamiliar to some, as some had made tortillas de harina at home.
When the first batch of dough was fully kneaded, we took
a break and looked at pictures of another cousin, Licha's quinceañera last December. (Everybody is kinfolk around here.)
Break time over, we turned to preparing the sauce. I explained that the Italian or Spanish canned tomato products that I use are not available in Pátzcuaro, but are in Morelia. I had a box of Del Fuerte Puré de Tomate condimentado, one of the better brands, and best suited to Mexican recipes, but less so for pizza sauce. It's too thin, lacking in pieces of tomato, the flavor is not right, and to make it work, you'd need to add quite a lot of tomato paste. (It's thickened with food starch!)
It could serve in a pinch, but we proceeded with Cirio pomodori pelati and Passata Rustica, available at Wal-Mart and Superama, and thickened with a small can of S&W Tomato Paste, purchased by the carton at Costco. I used a very reliable sauce recipe from the Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two, but cut back or eliminated some of the more extreme seasonings, such as sugar and cinnamon.
The dough had risen very well over an hour, and we divided it in two and lightly rounded them. While they rested, covered, we made another quantity of dough.
The first dough balls now rested enough to allow us to apply our hands to extending to dough, either by hand or a rolling pin. It's possible but slower by hand, but arguably makes a better base. Rolling out with the rolling pin ("rollido") took some practice to make an even circle, but the results were stellar.
Our first pizza was a basic but very nice cheese pizza.
The second dough ball was transformed into a Pizza Las Cuevas, con nopal, chile Poblano asado, tocino, y cebolla and the usual sauce and cheese.
Everyone was having a good time, especially eating the pizzas.
The second batch of dough was getting a little ahead of us, so we got up to deal with it.
The last two dough balls became a Pizza Verde, con acelgas, longaniza verde.
La Última Pizza del Día had Obertal chorizo Español y piña fresca, con chile Poblano crudo. Simpler, once again, but surprisingly good.
We divided the extras for take home. The approximately 4 hour class was successful in that the students learned new skills, saw the possibilities of creating pizzas with what was at hand. The food was good, but even better, the group was attentive and pleasant to work with. I hope that we can do another class, in the not too distant future.
|Pleased as Punch|