An Attempt at New York Style Thin Crust Pizza

This Recipe Feeds

This recipe makes enough dough for three New York-style thin crust pizza on a 10.5″ Lodge cast iron griddle.

Equipment

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Dry measuring cup
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Large spoon for stirring
  • Tablespoon
  • Teaspoon

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of plain white flour
  • 1 table spoon of yeast
  • 1 cup of hot (ish) water – not boiling
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

Prep Time

This recipe takes about 15-20 minutes to make. That time does not include the time it takes for the dough to rise.

Preparation

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
  2. Into the same bowl, pour the cup of hot water.
  3. Sprinkle the yeast across the top of the water in the large bowl.
  4. Wait 10-12 minutes for the yeast to do whatever the yeast does. It will be ready when it looks kinda doughy. (See yeast photos above.)
  5. Add a single cup of flour to the water, stirring the mix. (I do so by hand, using a big spoon.)
  6. Add the two teaspoons of salt to the mix.
  7. Add another cup of flour, continuing to stir the mix.
  8. Add the third cup of flour. If you’re stirring by hand, at this point you may need to set down the big spoon and mix the dough by hand.
  9. Add the olive oil, mixing the dough until all the ingredients are held together. It will look wet and oily by will feel like a solid bit of dough.
  10. Cover the dough in the bowl and allow it to rest and rise for about 60 minutes.

Preparing Dough for the Pan

As I wanted to make thin crust, I definitely used a rolling pin to get the crust thin. I spread a little flour on the counter mat before placing the fresh dough on top. I like to roll from the inside out, rotating the pin around the dough to keep a rough shape of a circle. (On my deep dish crust, I tend to preparing the dough by hand, foregoing the rolling pin.)

Notes

  1. This style of crust won’t rise a lot. I think the amount the olive oil keeps it from doing so. (Not entirely sure about that.)
  2. I preheat my oven to 500° F as soon as I get done preparing the dough. I find that by the time the oven is hot enough, the dough will have risen enough.
  3. I always preheat my pans. I pop them into the oven as I start the oven.
  4. With the griddle pan, I sprinkle a tiny amount of regular corn meal onto the surface of the pan just prior to laying the dough upon it.
  5. Working with cast iron pans preheated to 500° F takes a bit of practice. Be prepared for a few “learning burns” until you get the hang of it.

My Pizza Crust

A simple pizza crust recipe including flour, corn meal and olive oil.

Having grown up in suburban Chicago, I love Chicago-style pizza. While I’ll eat practically any style or flavor of pizza, when I have my druthers, its deep dish pizza all the way.

Within the many great pizza houses in Chicago, my favorite is Lou Malnati’s. Hence, my own personal crust recipe is based on that style. It’s my own creation.

This Recipe Feeds

This recipe makes enough dough for one deep dish pizza in a 10.25″ Lodge cast iron pan and one thinner crust in a 10.5″ Lodge cast iron griddle. (I make the thin crust to appease the palettes of family members not raised in Chicagoland.)

Depending on how you eat pizza, this might be enough for 4 adults. Or it may be dinner for one.

Equipment

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Dry measuring cup
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Large spoon for stirring
  • Tablespoon
  • Teaspoon

Ingredients

Prep Time

This recipe takes about 20-25 minutes to make. That time does not include the time it takes for the dough to rise.

Preparation

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
  2. Into the same bowl, pour the cup of hot water.
  3. Sprinkle the yeast across the top of the water in the large bowl.
  4. Wait 10-12 minutes for the yeast to do whatever the yeast does. It will be ready when it looks kinda doughy. (See yeast photos above.)
  5. Add a single cup of flour to the water, stirring the mix. (I do so by hand, using a big spoon.)
  6. Add the two teaspoons of salt to the mix.
  7. Add another cup of flour, continuing to stir the mix.
  8. Add the third cup of flour. If you’re stirring by hand, at this point you may need to set down the big spoon and mix the dough by hand.
  9. Once the dough mix is mostly all mixed (but it will look really dry), pour in about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Continue to mix the dough by hand.
  10. Add a 1/4 cup of cornmeal. Again, continue to mix and fold by the dough by hand.
  11. Add some more olive oil (I tend to eyeball it, so maybe about 1/8 cup). Mix and fold in the oil.
  12. Add the rest of the cornmeal. Mix that in.
  13. Add the last of the olive oil, mixing the dough until all the ingredients are held together. It will look wet and oily by will feel like a solid bit of dough.
  14. Cover the dough in the bowl and allow it to rest and rise for about 60 minutes.

Notes

  1. This style of crust won’t rise a lot. I think the amount the olive oil keeps it from doing so. (Not entirely sure about that.)
  2. I preheat my oven to 500° F as soon as I get done preparing the dough. I find that by the time the oven is hot enough, the dough will have risen enough.
  3. I always preheat my pans. I pop them into the oven as I start the oven.
  4. For the deep dish pan, I grease it with a bit of extra olive oil. With the griddle pan, I sprinkle a tiny amount of regular corn meal onto the surface of the pan just prior to laying the dough upon it.
  5. Working with cast iron pans preheated to 500° F takes a bit of practice. Be prepared for a few “learning burns” until you get the hang of it.

Hallway Chats: Sharing Stories and Building Belonging

Hallway Chats is a new podcast that I launched with my friend and WordPress colleague, Tara Claeys.

As 2017 was getting underway, a colleague from the WordPress community reached out to me to ask about starting a podcast together. Independently, we had both been considering creating an online audio show, but independently we had yet to land upon an idea. My colleague, who I now consider a close friend, Tara Claeys, was eager to focus on the human side of the WordPress community. From that initial idea, we worked up the concept and name for Hallway Chats.

All the Legwork

As Tara and I held a series of conversations about the logistics of getting started, we were both confident that it was an entirely manageable project. We both have our own separate consultancies, but with organizational structure and proper planning, we were sure getting started would be pretty easy.

Wow! Were we wrong!

Let me clarify: Tara and I were not surprised by the length of our to do list. We had done enough research and spoken with enough successful podcasters that we knew our checklist was solid.

What caught me offguard was how long each item might take. I had ignored that creating a logo takes a fair amount of time – perhaps even more when making a logo for yourself. 

Going Live

All of initial conversations, research, follow-up chores, and of course, recorded shows, would all be put to the test when we went live. Tara and I originally aimed for a launch in late May or early June. We hit that right on the head: we published our first episode on 01-Jun-2017.

We lead with what we felt was a really powerful conversation with a very strong woman, Jessica Reilley.

As the number of downloads began to climb, and as words of praise came across on Twitter, I felt a real sense of reassurement: Our idea of building belonging within the WordPress (and wider) community by chatting with real people, with real lives and real stories to share was making a connection with our intended audience.

Onwards and Upwards

It's safe to say that Tara and I are very much learning as we go. We're often updating and tweaking our systems, approach and workflows as we learn more about how to deliver an engaging, professional and valuable podcast. Thus, even though our show is now "live and on air", we still very much have a list of items that we'd like to improve, refine or add to our efforts at Hallway Chats.

I'll end by thanking the many, many people who've listened to our new show, have shared kinds words of praise about it on social media and who have subscribed to our podcast. I'm so grateful for your generous embrace of this new effort that Tara and I have worked so hard to get started.

Baltimore Heritage Walk

A surprising installation of sidewalk placards in a tourist-friendly corner of Baltimore, Maryland.

While in town for WordCamp Baltimore, I quite literally stumbled upon the Baltimore Heritage Walk. Yes, I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk as I strolled from the hotel towards the WordPress conference. As I recovered my balance, I caught site of the Heritage Walk placard embedded in the sidewalk. I’m a history buff (I studied Modern European History in college) and I was immediately intrigued.

Glancing down the sidewalk, I noticed that there were Heritage Walk placards every few yards. I went to look at the next in the row. It was in a different language. And so was the next, and the next, and the next. In fact, there were Heritage Walk signs in 10 different languages.

With all the turmoil of the presidential elections, I found it comforting to see that the good people of Baltimore embraced diversity.

Can you please help me figure our the different languages used on the placards? I’d love for people to share their answers with me on Twitter – without using Google Translate.

Baltimore Heritage Walk: The Placards

(1) Korean
(2) German
(3) Chinese
(4) Portugese
(5) Hindi
(6) ?
(7) Arabic
(8) Spanish
(9) English
(10) ?

Thanks to Jayvie Canono for supplying a number of the languages above. And a thanks you Reed Gustow and Susan Walker for chipping in too.

WordCamp Philly 2015: Thoughts from a Co-Organizer

A few thoughts and comments following the wonder that was WordCamp Philly 2015.

As it’s been a full month since the work, excitement and rush of organizing WordCamp Philly 2015, I wanted to share a few thoughts about my experiences in 2015.

A Good Planning Team Works Magic

WordCamp 2015 was the second year that I was privileged to be a part of the organizing team for Philadelphia’s biggest WordPress conference. This year we had a bigger team than ever before and – wow! – did it make the job that much easier and more enjoyable. The team (Brad Williams, Doug Stewart, Tracy Levesque, Jodie Riccelli, Alx Block and me, led by Reed Gustow) really blew me away by its “can do” attitude that was very much centered around “how can I help”. I’ve certainly heard nightmare tales of planning teams not working well together – and WordCamp Philly was exactly the opposite. Someone would flag up a concern, a need or a task and two others would volunteer to look into or address it. So much fun! And of course, a lot of work too.

Great Speakers Engage The Audience

Aaron Jorbin delivering a keynote talk at WordCamp Philly, by Seth Goldstein

Aaron Jorbin delivering a keynote talk at WordCamp Philly, by Seth Goldstein. Used with permission.

In the run up to WordCamp Philly, we had to review speaker applications. I was astounded by the width and depth of the proposed talks. There were so, so many high quality speaker applications. Certainly more than last year. Whether that was a reflection of the growth of – and within – the WordPress community, it certainly made for a very difficult challenge. Saying ‘no’ to people who have put so much thought and energy into their work is really hard.

On the day of the WordCamp, I was approached by more attendees than I can remember who shared their thanks about how great the talks and speakers were. It was so wonderful to hear. The strength of a WordCamp significantly relies on the quality of the presentations. The women and men who shared their skill and knowledge at WordCamp Philly 2015 did not disappoint.

Volunteers Make for Light Work

Part of my role for 2015 was to recruit and coordinate the efforts of our volunteers. I was delighted that we were able to recruit 30 people to help out on the day. Thirty people! That was our biggest group of volunteers ever. On the day, the wonderful volunteers made the registration process so fluid and easy, answered plenty of questions at the Happiness Bar, recorded presentations, ran the WordCamp Philly Twitter account, took photos and more. Thanks again to all the volunteers!

Attendees Set the Tone

WordCamp Philly, by Susan McCreadie

Photo of WordCamp Philly 2015 by Susan McCreadie. Used with permission.

The efforts of organizers, speakers, sponsors and volunteers will all be for nothing if no one shows up on the day. WordCamps are no different. In many ways, it’s the attendees at a WordCamp who set the tone. Yes, organizers can try to offer structure and the like, but ultimately, yet it’s attendees who set the tone with their level of engagement, their response and their enthusiasm about the event. As long as I’ve been attending WordCamps in Philly (2010), the attendees have always been great. I think 2015 was the best crowd ever – so friendly, so engaged, so happy to be there and with each other. The vibe was really thrilling to feel.

Location, Location, Location

University of the Sciences, by John Lauber

University of the Sciences, by John Lauber. Used with permission.

Our entire planning team was really excited when we reviewed the facilities at University of the Sciences. The space was amazing: new, open, beautiful and just about a perfect fit for the size of crowd we were expecting. Yet what made the USciences experience so great was the team of people that delivered services both in the planning stages and on the day. Of particular value was Scott Sisson, the Meetings + Events Coordinator at USciences. He responded to our every need or concern with amazing speed, patience and performance.

New Amazing People

A successful WordCamp is about people first and WordPress second. One of my measures of a successful WordCamp is now many people I met or got to know better. Here are just a few from WordCamp 2015.

Susan McCreadie: Susan and I have known of each other for a few years through a mutual client. I was excited when she volunteered to help at WordCamp Philly. She ran the Twitter account on the day, helping answer questions, share updates and feed the online buzz around the event. Susan also took some wonderful photos that day.

Joe Casabona: Joe and I have danced around a few WordCamps together for a few years now. Not literally, mind you. Just figuratively. I got to know him a bit more at WordCamp Lancaster as we hung out in the speakers lounge together. Yet it was only during this past WordCamp Philly where I felt like I could call Joe a friend.

Briana Morgan: Briana was kind enough not to walk out of the room when she learned that I would be giving the talk for that time slot. (I was asked to deliver a talk about WordPress when one of the scheduled speakers unexpectedly fell ill.) With a winning smile and a warm personality, Briana is very active in the Philly tech community. I certainly hope to get to know her better over time.

Jodie Riccelli: Although I’ve known Jodie for a couple of years now through her work with YIKES, it wasn’t until working more closely with her this year that I realized just how amazing she is. If everyone with internet access in Philly knows Reed Gustow, then everyone in the events industry must surely know Jodie. She is so resourceful, so connected, so professional, so hard working and so, so nice! The success of WordCamp Philly 2015 owes a lot to Jodie.

Can’t Wait for 2016!

I know, I know. WordCamp Philly 2015 has only just passed. Still, I am very much looking forward to getting started on planning for 2016. What wonders await us there?

The photo of me delivering a talk at WordCamp Philly 2015 was taken by John Lauber. Used with permission.

5 Wonderful People from 2014

A short list of amazing people who made a impact on my personal and professional life in 2014.

With the first two weeks of 2015 now gone, I am a bit late in sharing a list of just a few people whom I either met or got to know better in 2014. The following is certainly not a comprehensive list of people who made a positive, lasting impression on me, but those in this admittedly very short list continue to impress, inspire and motivate me.

Joe Mastrangelo

Joe Mastrangelo and I met through a number of professional contacts maybe two or three years ago. In the spring of 2014, Joe approached me with a creative project. From that point, he and I have worked together a number of times: sometimes on projects for his clients, sometimes for mine. In working with Joe, I was immediately impressed by his professionalism, thoroughness and attention to detail. A genuinely nice guy, Joe is laid-back and quick to laugh. On the business side, Joe heads up a small firm called Masthead Marketing.

Tim Whiting

Tim Whiting is the founder of his own personal injury and truck accident law firm. More than that, Tim is one of the most generous and thoughtful guys I know. I’m always learning something from Tim. Incredibly hard working, Tim always remembers the personal details that make a professional relationship so enjoyable — and he makes times to check in about those small, important personal details. I’m known Tim for more than 15 years, but over the past year we’ve have grown increasingly close. I consider him one of my dearest friends.

Zoe Rooney

Zoe Rooney is a Philly-based front-end developer who’s established a stellar reputation for herself over the past few years. I first heard about Zoe at WordCamp Philly where she delivered a presentation about automating development-related tasks. She was kind enough to deliver a version of that same talk a few months later to the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup. Zoe is hugely generous with her time and talent, often sharing “how to” posts on her blog and offering guidance to others in the WordPress and tech community. You can check out her services and portfolio over at zoerooney.com.

Ngaire Ackerley

Ngaire Ackerley spent more than three years working with me at LBDesign. For that reason alone she deserves a mention in this list. On a serious note, she is a very hard-working, focused and dedicated designer and front-end developer who contributed so much value to my business during her tenure in our UK office. Ngaire’s off traveling the world now, so be sure to check out her amazing photos and insightful travel advice.

Lauren Pittenger

Lauren Pittenger is a friendly and energetic designer and front-end developer from greater Philadelphia. I was lucky that Lauren applied to join LBDesign in the autumn of last year. Since joining our little team, she has proven so valuable and such a joy to be around. She brings a fresh, intelligent perspective to the daily virtual office. I’m thrilled to get to work with her every day – and because she’s in the same city, I get to hangout with her in real life.

With almost a full 12 months of 2015 still to go, I look forward to working, collaborating and spending time with these amazing people. I’m also very much looking forward to meeting new people!

Top Lessons from Running a WordPress Meetup for Two Years

A list of 5 top lessons learned from running a WordPress meetup for two years.

Philly 'burbs WordPress Meetup

With the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup celebrating its two-year anniversary earlier this month, I’ve been thinking about the lessons that I’ve learned about organizing this happy little group of WordPress designers, developers, administrators and more. I’ve put together a few ideas about top lessons that I’ve learned over the past 24 months.

1. Group Members Do Put Skin in the Game

People come to a WordPress meetup to learn, to share, to grow and to have fun. By and large, our members attend to engage and to add value to the group. They put their own time and energy to get to our meetup on a Monday night. They even put cash into it now (we charge $5 to attend, the money from which goes back into the meetup to cover the meetup.com fees and appetizers during the meetup). That’s the best kind of group, where members are committed, giving of themselves and trying to grow together.

2. Work Hard or Don’t Bother

To properly run a monthly meetup takes a good amount of time and energy. Organizing the meetup location, finding speakers, promoting the meetup online and running the gathering on the night requires more than just a few hours per month. Having done this for two years now, I really appreciate that if I don’t put in enough effort in advance of the meetup, then, the members don’t get as much value than if I do it properly. Cutting corners reduces the value for everyone.

3. Keep Pushing Others to Push Themselves

One of the things that brings me great satisfaction as an organizer of the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup is seeing our members blossom from quiet attendees at their first meeting to professional, engaging speakers not only at our meetup, but also at WordCamps. I’ve seen first hand that asking people to step out of their comfort zone and supporting them when they do so leads to great things, both for that individual and for the community.

4. When You Think You’ve Seen It All, You Haven’t …

In the two years since starting this meetup with Coreen Tossona, I’ve been repeatedly astounded by the way that surprises pop up at almost every turn. A marketing professional learning to tweak a child theme. A web developer growing in appreciation for the perspective that no plugins isn’t always a bad idea. A designer learning to embrace version control. Just when I begin to feel like I’ve been there, done that, something about the people in this group deeply impresses me with some new facet to their game. It’s nothing short of inspiring.

5. Give of Self and Karma Will Pay You Forward

As I wrote on the first anniversary of our meetup, giving to the community is hugely rewarding in and of itself. I learned that lesson last year and I am repeatedly reminded of that truism. Through my work in organizing our meetup, doors for exciting opportunities have been opened to me and I’ve had the chance to meet and interact with some amazingly talented and successful people. And it’s not just been me. I regularly hear from our members about how they are working with someone else in the group on a new project, or how they were able to get a new job after demonstrating new skills nurtured and enhanced by our monthly conversations. Active participation in our group, and gifts of self to that community, are repaid by the community. It’s a beautiful thing.

As we roll into the next year, I look forward to further surprises, more inspiration and even greater levels of sharing and giving.

The Power and Importance of Perseverance

Thoughts on the value of persevering towards one’s goals in light of Diana Nyad’s amazing swimming feat.

A map of Diana Nyad's swim

On Labor Day 2013, long distance swimmer Diana Nyad achieved one of her life’s goals. In case you missed all the press coverage, the 64-year old long distance swimmer swam from the shores of Havana, Cuba to Key West, in Florida. That’s a 103-mile swim through the shark and jellyfish infested waters of the open sea. It took Nyad just under 53 hours to complete the swim.

While I followed the story on Twitter and on the news outlets, I was very, very excited for Diana. I was so impressed by her willingness to work so hard — she trained for years to make the swim — to achieve one of her life’s goals.

What really got me was when I learned that Nyad’s successful swim this month was her fifth attempt. She had first tried to complete the swim in 1978. She was unsuccessful and was forced to give up.

She did not try again until 2009.

Then it took her four more attempts before she completed that journey. An astounding 35 years passed between Nyad’s first attempt and her successful completion on September 2, 2013.

When Nyad dragged herself out of the water, after 53 hours of swimming in the sea, she mumbled the following:

“I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team.”

Whoah! Those three messages are intense.

Let’s look at each one separately.

(1) We should never, ever give up: Nyad worked towards a major life goal for 35 years. 35 years! That sort of determination, if we could work it into our life, would undoubtedly push us farther than most, if not all, of our competition.

(2) You’re never too old to chase your dream: Chasing our dreams as we get older can be increasingly difficult, but it’s still possible. The focus and drive that Nyad showed in completing her swim is the same that can bring us success regardless of our age. Chase down those dreams with vigor, energy and focus and they will happen.

(3) It looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team: If that is not also true of life, I don’t know what is. In life and in business, we are never completely on our own. We’re constantly relying on our family, friends, colleagues and others for help and support. When chasing our dreams, we need to be mindful and grateful for the support we get from the team around us.

I am so pleased for Diana Nyad. More so, I am so grateful to her for sharing those three simple, powerful thoughts as she exited the water in Key West. I am inspired.

Diana Nyad is online at diananyad.com.