"Good pizza dough should be sticky," she told me. Julie and Paolo just moved back to Bologna with their three kids after living in The States for a few years. Paolo is a baker. Julie is a nurse. She gave us a pizza dough demo a few weeks back.
I should have come home that day and tried it out. At the very least I should have written something down because after two weeks elapsed, the details of her demonstration had already begun to blur.
I remembered that the flour, poured directly onto the counter, made a nest to hold the yeast, oil and water. I remember how sticky her hands were, but how they didn't slow her down or make her seem less practiced. It was just part of the process. She made the dough with all the finesse of a true Italian; quickly and gracefully.
I was far less graceful. The walls of my flour nest broke, sending the yeasty water and oil mixture all over the counter and down between the fridge and the drawers. My sticky hands, I'm sure, looked far less masterly and purposeful than Julie's. They were constantly trying to free themselves, like they couldn't work right from under all the dough. Not just the dough on my my fingers, but on my palms would stretch and stick to everything they touched. To make matters worse, I didn't use enough flour and the bitter active yeast powder flavor came through. Only then did I read the package and realize I had used twice as much.
So with my sticky hands I grabbed the bag of flour, the container of salt, the bottle of olive oil and tried to make up for it.
In the process I got yeast in my mouth.
Have you ever had active yeast powder activate in your throat? No? Well wake up and feel the burn, my friend! The experience is one you'll have a hard time forgetting (because it burns and fizzes for what feels like hours. And tangentially: remember baking soda and vinegar volcanoes? Why in the world haven't we been using active yeast powder? That stuff puts the old baking soda and vinegar standard to shame.) I could go into all the details of how I activated yeast in my throat, but imagination is much more fun.
After I had finished kneading my dough it seemed so harmless as it sat there rising in an oiled bowl. Then I looked at the counters, the fronts of my drawers, the floor by the fridge-- evidence of a very unpracticed dough maker--and though, Maybe not quite so harmless.