a ritual to feed each other

pizza dough I

I’ve been thinking a lot about ritual lately.

So much of life is repetition. Do the laundry. Pay the bills. Tackle the dishes. Set the alarm. Think about waking up earlier to exercise before the sun rises. Hit the snooze. Drive to work.

Repetition is necessary, of course. There’s no way to learn how to drive that car, and feel competent enough to drive down the highway without clutching the steering wheel in terror, without doing it over and over again. Muscle memory is where the imagination kicks in. I’m glad I don’t have to think anymore about how to put the car into park.

But so much of repetition can seem like tedium if I approach it the wrong way. When you have a baby, and you spend part of every day picking up board books and bright plastic toys, and putting them into the basket again, and then again, and then again, you sort of start longing sometimes for a fresh start. When you cook every day, you see the same dishes in the sink that need rinsing and a run through the dishwasher. Really? That orange bowl again? Anything new sounds alluring. A sandy beach or warm sun on the face. Or even a quick takeout meal.

I can fall into this rut. When I’m sleep deprived or stressed out or doing anything that keeps me from being here, I long for innovation. Let’s create something new, right now!

This often results in Danny and I taking on too much, juggling so fast that the tasks themselves are a blur, the motion the guiding principle instead of the fleeting feeling of each ball landing in our hands. And generally, the balls fall down around our ears pretty quickly.

Instead of resenting repetition, I’ve been thinking about ritual.

One of my favorite poems in the world is William Stafford’s “A Ritual to Read to Each Other.” I must have read it, to myself and out loud to someone I love, at least 300 times. Every time, I hear it more deeply, the life I have lived meeting the words he left on the page long ago. The ritual of reading that poem has informed my life.

Ritual feels like mindful repetition. Instead of thinking Oh man, I have to do the dishes again? I try to breathe and feel my way to the kitchen. That time before the sink can be meditative if I walk in there the same time every day, the light fading from the sky. Lucy has her 30 minutes of tv time after school. Desmond is playing with metal bowls on the kitchen floor. And I can put my hands in warm water and hum under my breath as I scrub at that pan again. Muscle memory kicks in. I’m doing something with my body not my brain. And a stubborn problem that had been scraping at my mind seems to gently lift away along with the crusted food scraps on that skillet.

There are blessings in the everyday.

For years, Danny and I made a new dish for dinner every night. After years of working in restaurants, prepping the same dishes every day, Danny loved the freedom to cook whatever he wanted. I was liberated from gluten and found a new world of food. There were always new recipes to test. Why make lasagna again when I could play with kohlrabi and lamb sausage? Heck with repetition! Let’s never eat the same thing twice!

And then Lucy grew old enough to tell us she wanted pizza more than once.

When Lu was just before 5, she started complaining about our constant innovation. She wanted the comfort of knowing she would eat a food she loved more often than never again. Danny and I started talking about our food memories from when we were kids and realized our fondest memories circled around the dishes we ate dozens and dozens of times. His mom’s corned beef. My mom’s green chile chicken enchiladas. Chocolate chip cookies. And we started to wonder what Lu’s food memories would be. Would she remember the roasted kohlrabi and lamb sausage dish we made that one time when she was 3? Or would she think about pizza nights fondly, the anchor of her week?

We made Fridays pizza night. And she began helping us turn the gluten-free pizza dough we made on Wednesday into pizza every Friday evening. Then we all took our plates to the living room and watched a movie together, eating pizza.

It was lovely. It still is.

And then a funny thing happened. That ritual of pizza together every Friday night started, slowly, changing everything. We had a taco bar one Thursday and Lucy asked if we could have tacos the next Thursday. So we did. And Thursdays became taco Thursdays. After a few visits to a conveyor belt sushi place in Seattle, Lucy desperately wanted sushi every week, so we started making our own sushi (minus the raw fish for her) on Sundays. After Desmond arrived, and our lives were happily disrupted, we needed ritual and routine more than ever. So we chose a meal for every day of the week. And we’ve been doing that ever since.

Mondays are meat and potato night. Tuesdays are kid choice night (right now, Lu’s favorite choice is gluten-free corn dogs. so she is a kid after all). Wednesdays are soup and salad nights. Thursdays are tacos. Fridays are pizza night. Saturdays are pasta night. Sundays are sushi night.

To our surprise, we love this. We don’t have to think about what to make for dinner, in a panic at 5 pm every night, because we spent the entire day cooking and baking and testing recipes at the studio, and we come home without a clue about what to make for Lu (and now, Desmond). Our shopping has changed. There are certain staples we need every week: nori, sushi rice, gluten-free pasta, good cheeses for the cheese plate we make to go with the soup and salad, corn tortillas, etc. We started cooking food in batches on the weekend so we’re always prepared for the week. A big pot of tomato sauce. A new vinaigrette. Another batch of mayonnaise. (Lucy loves mayonnaise more than any person I’ve ever met.) A dip for fresh vegetables we keep in the fridge. A big pot of soup. Something pickled. A roasted meat for tacos.

And strangely — or maybe not — I think there is more constant, quiet innovation happening in our food for these rituals. Making a pizza dough every week helped me to understand the dynamics of pizza dough under my hands in a way that reading never can. Because my hands are doing something familiar, my mind understands the process in a new way.

These rituals are templates for us. Monday is meat and potato night. That could be meatballs and mashed potatoes. It could be potato gnocchi with meat sauce. It could be roast beef and roasted potatoes. They all turn into breakfast and packed lunches for Lucy. Nothing goes to waste anymore.

The one ritual of pizza night turned into a series of rituals that changed our lives. The kitchen is clean these days. The refrigerator is better organized. And mealtimes are a series of songs and happy chattering and sharing of gratitude instead of us cajoling Lucy to please eat more of her meal. Desmond claps his hands in his high chair when we all sit down because he knows something fun is about to begin.

Thank you, Lucy. Pizza on a Friday night with you is my favorite ritual.

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Our Favorite Gluten-Free Pizza Dough 

We’ve been playing with pizza dough for years. Sometimes, it seems, I like nothing more in the world than researching ratios on baking recipes. However, since we instituted the Friday night pizza ritual in our home, we’ve settled on our recipe. I’m done playing with this one. We haven’t changed our recipe in over a year. We have our dough.

This is based on the pizza dough from Roberta’s, an incredible wood-fired oven pizza place in Brooklyn. (We highly recommend Roberta’s Cookbook for its great recipes and unexpected photography.) After studying the way they ferment dough and shape it, I started playing with this one. It’s quite different from theirs, of course, since there is no gluten in ours. But the backbone is the same. 

In this recipe, we suggest you let your dough ferment for at least 24 hours before baking it. Honestly, the flavors deepen the longer you let it rest, so we generally make our dough on a Wednesday for Friday pizza night. When we make our pizza dough, we usually use 150 grams of our AP blend and 150 grams of our grain-free blend. Since we haven’t told you the formula for that one yet, we made this pizza with 300 grams of our AP blend. It’s still great. (But if you have any raw buckwheat flour on hand, try at least 100 grams of that in place of the AP.) Play with the flours you have on hand to make this yours. 

3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar (or honey)
225 grams (about one cup) warm water (about 110°)
300 grams (about 2 1/4 cups) gluten-free girl all-purpose flour blend
6 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) psyllium husk
8 grams (1 teaspoon) sea salt
1 teaspoon olive oil

Proof the yeast. Whisk together the yeast, sugar, and warm water, gently, in a small bowl. Let the yeasty water sit for at least 15 minutes. If the water is blooming with small bubbles and starting to smell yeasty, you have active yeast.

Make the dough. Combine the two flours, the psyllium, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Whirl them up.

With the mixer running on low, pour in the oil, then the yeasty water, very slowly. The dough will feel soft and pliable but softer and wetter than a typical gluten dough. (Try to mimic the texture of a creamy porridge.) Turn the mixer onto medium and let it run for a few more moments. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Let the dough rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for 1 hour. Then, put the dough in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight.

Prepare to bake. The next day, pull the dough out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you intend to roll it. Divide the dough into 2 balls. Put one dough ball between 2 lightly greased pieces of parchment paper. Roll out the dough until it is about 12 inches across. Take the top piece of parchment paper off the dough. Curl up the edges of the dough, about 1/2 inch to 1 inch, all the way around the circle. Take a fork and gently crimp those edges onto the dough to seal them. Put the parchment paper back onto the dough. Put one hand under the bottom parchment paper, the other on top, and flip the dough. With slightly wet fingertips, make little indentations around the edges of the dough. Dock the pizza by making fork marks over the dough evenly. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet. Gently lift the edges of the dough to make sure no part of it is sticking to the parchment paper.

Repeat with the remaining dough ball.

Pre-bake the pizza dough. Heat the oven to 450°. Put the baking sheets in the oven—one on the lower rack and one in the middle. Bake until the tops of the doughs and the edges feel set, about 20 minutes. This will steam the water out of the doughs and give you a great dough for baking. Take the pizza doughs out of the oven.

Heat the oven higher. Bump up the temperature of the oven to as high as your oven will go. (Ours stops at 550°.) If you have a baking stone in the oven, that will generate even more heat in the oven.

Top the pizza. Top the pizza crusts with a drizzle of oil and any toppings you wish. This pizza was simply olive oil, tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, sliced red peppers, and pepperoni.

Finish baking the pizza. Put the pizza in the oven when it’s truly hot, then watch it. Wait until the cheese bubbles, then turn on the broiler at the end. Watch it closely. Don’t let it burn. But get it to just before that point.

Voila! Pizza

Makes 2 (12-inch) pizza crusts

Feel like playing? Of course, you could use any flours you wish here, based on what works in your kitchen. Think of the psyllium husk here as just a touch more flour in the mix. It binds everything together beautifully without the gumminess (and for some, intestinal upset) of the gums. However, if you can’t use psyllium, you could try finely ground flaxseed meal instead. But stick with this ratio. This ratio of flours to yeast to salt to psyllium to oil to water has worked for us every time. It’s pizza dough.


48 comments on “a ritual to feed each other

  1. Jeanie

    Yum. the photos are terrific and your writing is so luscious. I love your stories. Your children are so lucky to not only have these food rituals and memories, but wonderfully written recorded memories , too!

    1. shauna

      What a kind comment. Thank you. We’re not perfect, but we like to let them know we don’t expect that of them either. I do love the thought of both my kids reading these pieces someday.

  2. Alice

    Hi Shauna, I have been reading your blog for years ever since my celiac diagnosis. It’s an understatement to say I appreciate your recipes. Today I simply want to thank you for sharing that poem. Feel free to pass on other recommendations in your writing!

  3. Lea

    This is brilliant and inspiring. My husband says in our nearly 20 years together I’ve never made the same meal twice. Now this is a bit of an exaggeration, but for the most part I am a one-and-done kind of a girl. I look forward to trying your long-fermented pizza dough. Maybe it will help me set in motion my own weekly food ritual. Thanks:)

    1. Tom ~ Raise Your Garden

      Holy cow, we eat like the same thing every mondays, tuesdays, fridays, you get the drift. Our life we are always saying IS Groundhog Day! I am Bill Murrey. Whadddya going to do? This pizza looks fab and friday night pizza night sounds good to me.

    2. shauna

      Lea, I understand. There’s so much joy in the creation and the new. But lately, I really am enjoying the much smaller discoveries I am making by cooking the same kind of dish over and over. It’s how we create the recipes for our cookbooks, after all. Why not make tiny refinements?

  4. Daphne

    I was just eyeing buckwheat groats at Kalustyans’s today! This recipe has moved to the top of my “try now” recipe list. Seana, thank you so very much for all of the ratio experimenting that you do…I was glad to hear that you are retooling the grain-free blend to reduce the almond flour which I love but also find really heavy when it is the main flour. It’s a pleasure following your discoveries!

  5. Angela

    I just love this! I have probably written this before, but I hang onto every word you write, Shauna, and revisit them many times over again, here on the blog and in my mind where they linger. My daughter (same age as Lu) loves to cook and I enjoy so much making her a part of our cooking rituals. Thank you for every recipe and every story you share!

    1. shauna

      Thank you so much, Angela. I hope you and your daughter have a wonderful time cooking together tonight.

  6. Andrea

    OK…this is probably a stupid question…but is this baked on the parchment paper the entire time? Parchment usually burns for me at 400+.

    1. shauna

      We pre bake it on the parchment, which doesn’t burn for us but can get quite brown. Once the crust is more set, you can bake it on the rack or a pizza stone or on a baking sheet.

        1. shauna

          We love that one too. But that one has an egg in it, which produces a softer and doughier dough. I like a much more crackling crusty pizza dough myself, so this recipe works best for that.

  7. molly

    How, HOW is it that I have never, ever read this poem? My heart is breaking, and thrilling, on repeat, for having never known it, and having found it. Thank you. It will go up on my laundry room wall (talk about RITUAL), where two of my other most favorite poem’s are taped, Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day, and Jane Kenyon’s Otherwise.

    Also? Everything here about food, and family, and settling into these sorts of rhythms, and the deep and true knowledge that this sort of repetition is neither boredom nor laziness, but that other, essential, excellent thing called ritual? Spot. On. (And thank you.)


  8. Cristina

    I too am a reformed “never the same meal twice” kind of person! Simplifying meals has been essential to a happy family life for us. I like this approach you’ve laid out, thank you for sharing it.

  9. Amy

    Beautiful post as always. Our family has pancakes Sunday morning. Always – without fail. Although we exchange crepes for pancakes whenever we feel like it. It is something all of us look forward too. It’s comforting, this ritual. The few times we haven’t been able to have pancakes for breakfast or brunch, the kids were so disappointed we usually have them for supper that day so we still keep our little family ritual intact. Your rituals sound wonderful for your family!

    1. shauna

      We need some sort of still point in the week, a ritual we can count on, right? Pancakes on Saturday has become one of ours too. It’s a lovely slow place in the day.

  10. Heather

    Shauna, I have a question. What exactly does “put in a warm place” mean? I know it’s probably a dumb question, but how warm is warm? On the back of the stove while I have something else cooking in the oven below? In a 200 degree oven? This is one of life’s greatest mysteries to me 🙂

    1. shauna

      Oh, it’s not one bit dumb. It’s the kind of instruction that people who do this regularly forget is not clear! So. Here you go. Our oven has a bread proofing oven and it holds at a steady 110°. Most of us don’t have that but it gives you that idea. On the back of the stove while something is cooking is probably great! 200° is too hot. I know some people put dough in the oven with the pilot light on. Others put it on a heating pad and cover it. It’s easier in the summer than the winter. And this is one of the best parts about baking doughs and breads —— eventually you find the way that works for you.

  11. Jan

    Thank you, Shauna. I was putting off doing my dishes (by hand) today, because our dishwasher is broken, and I was beginning to feel resentment about standing at the sink washing each plate and pan. You have changed my perspective, and reminded me that I, too , have had some interesting insights while my hands are in the suds. I’m planning to link to the writing on ritual.

    1. shauna

      I like the idea that you might do the dishes with this piece in mind. Isn’t this way we connect incredible?

    1. shauna

      Gluten-free pizza dough and bread dough are often wetter than traditional dough. If you top the dough immediately, the inside is often wet, even if the top is set. And if you make the dough not as wet to counteract that, you end up with a dough that is dry and not pliable. Sometimes with gluten-free baking, you have to take a couple of extra steps to get where you want to go.

  12. Dana

    I love this–I am a full time graduate student, engaged, and looking for a job and house hunting. While we frequently eat the same meals…we don’t have a set schedule. I love your idea though–and although it is set–it leaves room for variety. I think I may copy this and it definitely will simply meal planning and grocery shopping. Thank you for sharing and for all that you do for your gluten free community! Happy Taco night 🙂

  13. Terry Covington

    I have to respond to the poetry: I was fortunate enough to take two workshops from William Stafford; you would have loved his gentle spirit. Also, my poetry professor at the University of Washington, Nelson Bentley, used to say that “children understand the value of repetition.” Nelson was an advocate of the traditional poetic forms, such as the villanelle. As I have gotten older, I have come to understand, as you write, what repetition/ritual adds to our lives.

  14. Karen

    I see some work as mediation in there, a little Brother Lawrence. With two boys, and busy schedules we’ve developed our own rhythm to our weekly dinners. It too started with pizza but on a Saturday night, our little one couldn’t eat the cheese so we started making our own, then we gave up gluten. Every Saturday night, pizza, a salad, brownies and a movie. It might now include a friend for a sleep over. Breakfast on Sunday because frittatas can be served at room temperature so one more game of ball can be played on a warm spring day when the sun is staying out longer. Monday is a long simmered something, because it is our busiest night. Taco Tuesdays can be loosely interpreted to include Tex-Mex but surprising to find Korean Pork Tacos. Wednesday are soup/salad/sandwich kinds of nights. Thursday tends to be leftovers and Fun Food Fridays are for trying new things. The boys love the framework and it bring a ritual to sitting down for a family meal amongst a family growing up and getting busier.

  15. Danae

    Have you ever tried anything in place of yeast? I’m very sensitive to yeast and can no longer use it in my baking. 🙁 I’m wondering if maybe a home brew kombucha in place of the yeast and water would work instead?

  16. Lauren

    Thank you as always for your amazing recipes and wonderful blogs. Lucy and Desmond are so lucky to have the parents they do. What a wonderful blessing to them that they have this all written for them when they are older.

    I have two questions: can kosher salt be used here in place of sea salt? The other is would this work on the grill just as easily, like your other pizza recipe? The piastra I have only works for the grill and it just adds so much flavor. The old recipe, like I have told you before, I have to make in bulk and freeze half at a time so I always have some on hand. I can’t wait to try this new recipe. Thanks again!!

  17. Emily

    What a fabulous idea! I know my kiddos do complain if I try too many new things. Of course I want them to stretch their gastronomical wings, to be fed comfortable and yet thrillingly, but sometimes the small comfort of routine is quietly settling.
    Is there a link to the AP flour blend? Too many sleepless nights with my sick one have left me bleary-eyed, I’m sure I’m just completely missing it.
    From one loving mama to another, thanks for all you do! And a poem for you, from one of my favorites.
    A Pot of Red Lentils
    simmers on the kitchen stove.
    All afternoon dense kernels
    surrender to the fertile
    juices, their tender bellies
    swelling with delight.

    In the yard we plant
    rhubarb, cauliflower, and artichokes,
    cupping wet earth over tubers,
    our labor the germ
    of later sustenance and renewal.

    Across the field the sound of a baby crying
    as we carry in the last carrots,
    whorls of butter lettuce,
    a basket of red potatoes.

    I want to remember us this way—
    late September sun streaming through
    the window, bread loaves and golden
    bunches of grapes on the table,
    spoonfuls of hot soup rising
    to our lips, filling us
    with what endures.

  18. Hungry Girl

    This is a beautiful and wise post. Especially timely for me, as I am about to welcome a 16 year old foster child into my home. I’ve been talking to her about how we will eat meals together regularly, and even though she’s a huge foodie, she’s wary. But…pizza night? Tacos bar night?…Kids choice night? That’s genius. I hope our eating together will become body memory for her to heal from violence and trauma. Thank you for helping me see a way forward.

  19. Emma

    Such a lovely post. I felt myself getting calmer as I read it. A good reminder on the importance of rituals.

  20. Danielle

    Over the years I’ve learned to find the ‘zen’ in the ritual of washing dishes, chopping vegetables, etc. But as much as I love cooking, I can get stressed at the thought of planning yet another weekly menu. Somehow I’ve convinced myself that every meal, every week has to be full of excitement, variety, new recipes – and that submitting to the sameness of ‘taco tuesday’ and the like would be letting myself down. Crazy, I know.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughtful words. I think they were just what I needed to read this morning. Thank you, too, to the NY Times cooking email that sent me here! 🙂

  21. Jane

    This should read “Danny’s and my,” because “taking” is a gerund, which uses the possessive.

    (Sorry, I can’t help it–I’m an English prof ;))

  22. Snoskred

    Hi there Shauna, found your blog via a link on another blog I read.
    I just wanted to say I loved this post, I also love meal planning myself, and I would like to throw one of my favourites out there as a suggestion for meat and potatoes night.
    I have always loved a baked potato with toppings like bacon and spring onions and sour cream but one time someone put Bolognese sauce on top of one for me, and I have been addicted ever since. When I make Bolognese, I always put a few little pots aside for lunches during the week for me, where I can just boil a couple of potates and put them under the sauce.
    Then I tried this with Chicken Cacciatore as well, and that has also become a favourite.
    Anyway, I’ll add your blog to my reader. 🙂

  23. Sara

    I have been thinking a lot about ritual lately too, I think January and February always do that to me, and I just loved this post so much. We also have two little kids who love to eat the same meals and we’ve taken to having the same meals every week too. Growing up tacos were one of my favorite family meals, and today it has become a favorite for my husband, two kids and I. We laugh, we talk, we enjoy the food and the ritual of it. Lovely post, lovely writing, thank you for sharing.

  24. EOC

    Hi Shauna. I’ve been thinking a lot about ritual lately. And family rituals in particular. This was timely:-) But on a technical note: Do you have any tips for stopping the pizza from sticking to the baking parchment? My last couple of attempts have all stuck. And the most recent one was glued on so tightly I gave up and just scraped off the toppings! Or do any of you lovely commenters have any advice on this? I use a slightly older pizza recipe of yours but can’t imagine that that makes a huge difference… HELP! Thanks so much. e

    1. shauna

      Yes, I always liberally oil the parchment paper with some olive oil before laying down the dough. If you let the dough proof and hydrate enough, it shouldn’t be too sticky. Try this new recipe. It’s absolutely my favorite and we never have a problem with it sticking.

      1. EOC

        I will – thank you! And I’ll try oiling the paper too. Here’s hoping. I’m 26 weeks pregnant and have been craving bready things in general and pizza in particular. Thanks so much for the speedy reply:-)

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