Well, like alot of good ideas, we got this one from a friend. This friend only allows her kids to watch to TV one night a week (impressive or insane? You decide). Full disclosure: we are not often ACTUALLY SITTING ON THE SOFA AND WATCHING NOGGIN WITH THE KIDS. Usually, we are running around the house cleaning, cooking, etc, and occasionally singing out “what’s going to work? Teamwork!” or “Swiper, no swiping” just so the kids know we are not ignoring them (or maybe it’s so we feel that we are not ignoring them. Anyway). So Pizza Night grew out of the novel idea that we would STOP, SIT, and WATCH a WHOLE MOVIE with both kids at once.
First tried it: We instituted Pizza Night at our house this spring, on Saturday nights. We were pretty religious about doing it up until about June. The warm weather (okay, only warmish this summer in New York) makes it less enticing to turn on the oven to 500 degrees (the bonus of cooking pizza dough from scratch weekly is that it doubles as an oven cleaner! Woo-hoo).
Ease of recipe: Very easy, with lots of opportunities for even our 3 year old to press a button and dump flour into a bowl. As a bonus, you can give your kids a small ball of dough to flatten and play with to keep them busy.
Special equipment: food processor
Reaction: The kids love making pizza, partly because they just plain LOVE pizza (if there’s a kid who doesn’t, I have not heard), but also because it’s interactive, and it’s fun for them to see the dough rise and punch it down. Plus, they can personalize their own pizzas.
This dough recipe is from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, but there are pizza recipes in every general cookbook, so you can just use whatever one you want.
Basic Pizza Dough (make one very large or two pretty large thin crust pizzas. Great for leftovers)
Time: about 15 mins to make, plus at least an hour of rising time
1 tsp instant or rapid rise yeast
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (plus more if needed)
2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt (plus extra for sprinkling)
1 to 1 1/4 cup water
2 TBSP plus 1 tsp olive oil
1) Combine the yeast, flour & 2 tsp salt in food processor. Turn machine on and add 1 cup water and the 2 TBSP oil through the feed tube.
2) Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another TBSP or so of water and process for another 10 seconds. (Note: my dough is often very sticky. Still turns out fine)
3) Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead by hand a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball (Note: don’t over knead). Grease a bowl with the remaining olive oil and and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until the dough doubles in size, 1-2 hours. You can cut this rising time short if you are in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the fridge, for up to 6-8 hours.
4) When dough is ready,knead it lightly and divide it if you wish. Roll each piece into a round ball. Place on lightly floured surface, sprinkle a little more flour on top and cover with plastic wrap or towel for 20 minutes or until they puff slightly.
5) Turn over to 500 degrees (you could also do this on the grill for those of you who have no fear of the grill becoming a huge gooey mess- i.e. not this Virgo. Bittman says to preheat a gas grill to the maximum).
6) Roll or pat out dough into the shape you wish. If using the oven, oil one or more baking sheets, or use a baking stone (put it in when you start preheating the oven), or put parchment paper on the baking sheet (the last is my preferred choice. Parchment paper rocks!)
7) To bake pizza: I usually brush with olive oil, sprinkle sea salt and some pepper on it, and let it cook few minutes in the oven before adding the toppings, which the kids can do, except my kids are usually glued to whatever movie of the week we’ve chosen. Bittman says to grill the pizza, you can slide the dough directly on the grill (I can imagine that! Yikes) or flip it onto the grill with the oiled side down (so make sure you oil it). You apparently have to move it around the grill to keep it from burning and then turn it, adding toppings.
Serve it up
BONUS ADULT PIZZA:
We are really into a white pizza right now! Straight from the lady we call the Bare-ass Contessa. This is a variation from her White Pizzas with Arugula in the Back to Basics book. Make the dough as above, prepare it for the oven by brushing it with a mixture of olive oil & red pepper flakes, then sprinkle coarse salt and pepper to taste. Let the crust get a little baked so it will be crisp. Top with fontina, mozz, and goat cheese (again to taste). Bake. Serve over arugula or greens dressed with a lemony vinaigrette! Voila!