Pizza Parties!

11:48 pm

One of my favorite baking together discoveries of this past year is the joy of making pizzas with friends.  It all started with my last birthday…

Caryl, one of my co-workers, had told me of the fun she has with make-your-own-pizza parties and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it.  I wanted to have a real “birthday party” (my first since high school).  It would also be the largest gathering of folk at our house to-date…in other words, no pressure, Sarah.

I asked folks to bring their own toppings and I planned to make a variety of doughs and sauces.  I went with Caryl’s grill-friendly whole wheat recipe, a white dough and cornmeal option from our friend Julia Child as well as a honey whole wheat from allrecipes.com.

A note about pizza dough: it needs to rise before you can use it.  Which I knew, yet somehow hadn’t reconciled this with my prep timing.  Thus the dough wasn’t ready until 1 ½ hours after even the fashionably late people arrived (Chex mix anybody?  Pita chips?  What else can I scrounge from my cupboard for you to snack on?  I’m a prepared hostess…I swear.).

Thankfully, my pal Moran came to the rescue with his insider info.

pizza and photo courtesy of Allison Fitch

 

Dough rises faster if in a warm and humid place, so we filled one of our bathroom sinks with hot water to make a floating spa for the dough and covered it with a towel.  It worked like a charm!

Despite the delay, it was a big hit.  It was great to see how people’s different personalities and creativity shined through their pizza toppings and shapes.  Look at how Allison, a converted Wisconsinite, used her pizza to show some love for the mitten-state.


As it’s so easy and can be cheap, we have since repeated this fun activity with many of our pals.  Rick’s brother, Jim, reminded us about the nostalgic pleasure traditional pizza toppings can bring.  Bonniejean showed us a helpful way to stretch out the dough instead of rolling it (stretch out the edges as you rotate the pizza) while EZ showed us how well mohitos go with pizza.

 

 

I thought it was a good luck that a pizza-making edition of Bon Appétit arrived the day Stephan and Julie came over for pizza making…but then Stephan showed us the risks of a too-thin crust (though he still enjoyed his pizza doughnut).

A few tidbits:

  • You can take any 10” pizza dough recipe and turn it into 4 pizzas.
  • Make the dough early in the day so you don’t have to worry about timing the rising properly.  You can always punch it down as needed.
  • Use fine-ground cornmeal for any cornmeal pizza dough recipe.
  • If you have a kitchen aid mixer or food processor, use them to make the dough.
  • If your dough isn’t rising fast enough, create a warm and humid environment for it to speed up the process.
  • Just clean off your table and spread it with flour for people to work on.  It’s a beautiful mess.
  • A Baking Stone is a must.  If you have one, you must make pizzas on it or you will never fully appreciate its value.
    • A round one works well, but a square is more versatile.
    • Sea salt or cornmeal on the pizza stone will prevent the dough from sticking.
    • If you’re baking on the grill and don’t have a baking stone, use a recipe that requires oven baking the crust first.
  • Carmelized onions are always better than raw.
  • Don’t forget how tasty simplicity can be – my favorite minimalist pizza is a Margherita with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes.
  • Try different combinations on your pizza – it doesn’t all have to be the same.
  • Make a pizza with all locally-made/grown toppings.
  • A Pizza Peel is a great tool to transfer your creation to and from the oven/grill.
  • Arm-length oven mitts are worth the small investment.  My worst burns to-date (on both arms!) are from pizza making…thank goodness they’re symmetrical.
There are so many pizza recipes out there – including some no-knead (but why would you take out that fun??); you’ll have no problem finding one that suits your tastes.  Our favorite of late is Julia’s classic dough recipe:

Rosemary’s Classic Pizza Dough
(adapted from Julia Child’s, The Way To Cook)

For two 16” discs

The yeast mixtureIngredients:
- 1 package dry-active yeast
- ½ cup tepid water (not over 110°F)
- 1/8 tsp sugar

Additions to the yeast mixture
- ¾ cup cold milk, plus more, if needed
- 2 Tbs olive oil

The dry ingredients
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (measure by scooping and leveling)
- 1 ½ tsp salt

Special equipment suggested: a food processor and baking stone.

Mixing the dough.  Whisk the yeast ingredients in a measure and let bubble up 5 minutes or so to proof.  Measure the dry ingredients into the bowl of the processor.  Blend the ¾ cup of milk into the ready yeast mixture.

Turn on the machine and process in the yeast, then the oil, and droplets more milk, if needed, just until the dough masses on the blade of the processor.

 

this needs a few more drops of milk

The dough will be very soft.  Let it rest 5 minutes, and it will develop enough body to be processed 2 seconds more in the machine.  Then turn it out onto your lightly floured work surface.

Knead 50 strokes by hand, give a 2-minute rest, and knead 20 strokes more to make a soft, smooth dough.

Rising – about 1 ½ hours.  Let the dough rise in a covered bowl until doubled in bulk.  Turn it out onto your work surface, and it is ready to cut and form.

*Ahead-of-time-note: If you are not ready to bake, punch the dough down and set the covered bowl in a cooler place, where it will keep safely for an hour or more.  You can chill or even freeze it, but then it must be brought to room temperature and start to rise again before you form and bake it.

Preparation to bake.  Place the pizza stone in the middle level, and preheat the oven to 450°F.  Form dough gently with your hands into smooth balls.  Cover loosely and let rest 10 minutes.

Forming the pizza disk.  Form the dough into a 14- to 16-inch disk about ¼ inch thick by rolling it out and stretching or tossing in your hands.  Press it in shape as necessary with your fingers.

Baking 7 to 10 minutes.  After topping, slide the pizza onto the hot baking stone in the oven.  Bake until the edges have puffed, the cheese is bubbling, and when you lift up the edges you can see that the bottom has crisped – it should be a patchy brown.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Clay November 16, 2012 at 10:48 am

I don’t know what made me think of your blog today, but I am glad that you posted this recipe. Marci and I had a great time making pizza with you and Rick. It has been too long–we need to get together again!

Reply

mervincarne8 July 23, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Those pictures look delicious! I’ll have to give this a try.

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