I am a big believer in ‘tradition’. The traditional way that we do things, particularly in cooking, is usually for a very good reason — bread rises better under certain circumstances, meats become less tough when cooked with the proper method, etc.
That being said, as we learn more about our art, we need to open ourselves up to the idea of challenging traditional values. At a recent job, I had the opportunity to learn a traditional recipe and method for making Italian pizza crusts. I made many many of them. And then I got to try one, and compare it to the tradition-inspired-but-now-MY crusts that I make for my wife and I, and there was no difference. The actual handling of the dough traditionally is where I learned the most useful info to integrate into my own skillset, but the actual dough itself was, well, it was what a traditional pizza crust is supposed to be: nothing more than a delivery vector for the toppings on it.
My crusts, by contrast, tend to be packed with flavour – whatever flavour I think is going to compliment the toppings planned for the pizza, I will work into the crust. I want my guests to enjoy their last bite of the crust at the end of the pizza pie as they do their first bite of the all-topped tip of the slice.
Tradition says “keep your crust light, but bland, while I look at my pizza and say “crust, time for tradition to go OUT the window – do you want to be curry infused, or Italian herb infused, or even filled with diced-up oven-roasted bell peppers and a bit of balsamic before I roll you out and top you up?”
Tradition is good. Without it, I wouldn’t have that solid base on which to develop my own take on pizza crusts, but at the same time you need to know when you’re ready, and willing, to step away from tradition and start making your own way, your own art.
And now if you wonderfully fine readers will excuse me, I need to go figure out how I’m going to infuse this morning’s crust for a fine fine breakfast pizza, the recipe to which will follow this afternoon! ‘Cause after all: nothing says ‘tradition’ like pizza topped with hollandaise, scrambled eggs, bacon, and other breakfast-y goodness. 😉