As I mentioned before, the holidays of my childhood were rather different from today. We celebrated International Workers’ Day (compulsory) and International Women’s Day (ditto) but I hardly knew anything about, say, Halloween. I was however aware that in other countries they had a holiday called Mother’s Day, thanks to reading Stephen Leacock’s “How we kept Mother’s Day” in high school. I thought it was hilarious. Now I am a mother, too, and that has changed my perspective. I laugh a little less when I read that story now. Like other women I strive for the elusive balance between family and work, trying to put a meal on the table every night and not lose patience over the kids’ homework just because I know I should be dealing with my own.
My Mother’s Day was just what my life is like. I got a breakfast in bed and presents and then we went to the allotment where my weeding and planting was regularly interrupted by my daughter, who had to find some very specific plants for a school project.
In the afternoon, we helped my son finish his paper on dinosaurs and then my husband took the kids to visit his mother and to a football match, while I stayed at home to edit pictures for a newspaper (due Sunday afternoon!). I also did the dishes and cooked dinner.
And yes, this is the life I want and I wouldn’t change with anyone.
Nevertheless, to accomplish that “warm-meal-every-day” thing while keeping your sanity, it is handy to have a couple of tricks up your sleeve. My recent favorite is the no-knead pizza dough. You make it just before you go to bed (it takes less than 5 minutes) and the next day when you want to make dinner, it is all beautifully, blistery risen. In the time it takes to preheat the oven, you can shape the dough and put on the toppings. The texture of this pizza is better than anything I could buy (crispy on the outside, little chewy inside, with large air-pockets) and it is incredible that you can achieve this at home, in a regular oven. Without kneading! Jim Lahey is a genius.
No-knead pizza dough
From Jim Lahey: My Pizza: The Easy No-Knead Way to Make Spectacular Pizza at Home
For a whole wheat version, use up to one third whole wheat and adjust the quantity of yeast. I used 1/3 whole spelt flour.
Makes 4 pizzas
500 g (about 3 ¾ cups) all-purpose flour
¼ tsp active dry yeast (use ½ tsp if using whole wheat flour too)
2 tsp fine sea salt
350 g (1 ½ cup) water
In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and, with a wooden spoon or your hands, mix thoroughly.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 18 hours or until it has it has more than doubled. It will take longer in a chilly room and less time in a very warm one.
Flour a work surface and scrape out the dough. Divide it into 4 equal parts and shape them: For each portion, start with the right side of the dough and pull it toward the center, then do the same with the left, then the top, then the bottom. Shape each portion into a round and turn seam side down. Mold the dough into a neat circular mound. The mounds should not be sticky, if they are, dust with more flour.
If you don’t intend to use the dough right away, wrap the balls individually in plastic and refrigerate for up to a 3 days. Return to room temperature by leaving them on the counter, covered in a damp cloth, for 2 to 3 hours before needed.
Shaping the disk
Take one ball of the dough and generously flour it, your hands, and the work surface. Then press down and gently stretch it out to 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm). Very carefully continue the process, massaging it into a roundish disk of 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm), stroking and shaping with the palms of your hands and with your fingers.
Take one ball of the dough and generously flour it, your hands, and the work surface. Then press it down and gently stretch it out to 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm). Supporting the disk with your knuckles toward the outer edge and lifting it above the work surface, keep stretching the dough by rotating it with your knuckles, gently pulling it wider and wider until the disk reaches 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm). Set on a well-floured peel (I don’t have a peel, so just put it on a baking parchment). It is now ready to be topped.