Filling a 'knead'
By JUDY SHERARD
Flour smudges and sticky hands are part of the process in Cathy Drabkin's pizza pizzazz class at Hays Recreation Center.
The amateur pizza chefs taking a recent Saturday afternoon class measured ingredients, and stirred and kneaded their pizza dough following Drabkin's instructions.
Drabkin has been baking for her family and friends for a long time but just started teaching HRC classes last spring.
"I'm usually the person who is asked to bring the bread to a potluck dinner," she said.
People kept asking her to show them how to make bread, so about two years ago she offered to give a demonstration for friends.
"Eighteen people signed up and wanted to come to my house and make bread," Drabkin said with a laugh.
With so much interest, it was only natural to offer classes.
She started with four basic artisan bread classes last spring.
This fall, Drabkin added a class for guys only, artisan bread variations and a Thanksgiving breads class.
"You all have taken my basic class or some other bread class," Drabkin told the students. You know "it's not an exact science."
With breadmaking skills in hand, pizza seemed a natural next step for some of the students.
"I've been to a couple of her bread classes," Traci Henning said. "She has it lined out really well, so there's never a time you're just sitting waiting for something to happen."
"I like to make bread," Agnes Meier said. "I don't do it regularly. This is a fun thing. You have to plan, but it's worth it," Meier said of making pizza dough.
Sherry Leiker has made pizza but wanted to pick up some tips from Drabkin.
"I bought a book, but I wanted to see how it was made. She's a real good instructor," Leiker said.
Drabkin's instructions were interspersed with laughter as she first demonstrated the mixing.
Then it was the students' turn, mixing and stirring their batch of soft sticky dough.
"It's really hard to over mix by hand ... maybe with a dough hook for 20 minutes," Drabkin said.
While the students mixed their dough, Drabkin's was resting for the allotted time before more mixing -- this time shaping and kneading by hand.
The students watched Drabkin manipulate the dough that had risen overnight. She first shaped it into a disk then three individual sized pizzas.
The three 10-to-12-inch pizzas were topped with a variety of foods Drabkin had prepared to encourage students to go beyond the usual pepperoni and cheese.
Possibilities include spinach, garlic and chopped artichoke hearts; pesto and veggies or the Reuben.
For her class, Drabkin prepared spinach, garlic, chopped artichoke hearts, eggplant, mushrooms, pepperoni and sausage.
"We do want these crusts to rise a little bit, so don't weight them down too much," Drabkin said as the students piled on the toppings.
"If it's too heavy, it'll be a learning experience," Meier said.
Personal choice is the advantage of individual pizzas, Drabkin said.
"I want to learn how to make pizza because I like pizza," Pat Murphy said. "I live by myself, and it's hard to get individual pizzas, the kind you like."
When the three pizzas were topped to perfection, Drabkin carefully set them in the preheated oven. When they were cooked to perfection, the class tasted their choices.
The three keys to a perfect pizza are a hot oven, a baking stone and an overnight rise, she said.
After class, each student had a ready-to-cook pizza and six individual pizza dough rounds ready for overnight rising to take home.
With the bread classes going well, Drabkin is teaching a chocolate class in February and might branch out into other cooking classes.
"I know what I like, but is that something other people are going to like?"