Pizza Party

We had a pizza party the other night.  This isn’t the most original of ideas, but it was a great family activity and a fun twist on dinner, so I’ll share the details.

I love to make pizza dough.  With a bread machine, it’s embarassingly easy.  Just dump, plug in, and come back an hour later.  Shape your dough, let it rise a bit longer, then top and bake.   Can’t be too much easier, really.  Considering the ingredients are just flour, salt, water, oil, and yeast- items we always have in our pantry- it actually takes less time to make it from scratch than if I were to pack everyone up and head to the store for a pre-made crust.  And I have fun playing around with the recipe.  I’ll post the crust instructions at the end, but this story is more about the party than it is about the pizza.

My kids love to help in the kitchen.  They both love to stir, dump, mix, whisk, get utensils, take things to the table, inspect ingredients, watch the stand mixer operate, peer into the oven, and – of course – sample the cuisine.  They are always hovering around when I’m working in the kitchen, and they always ask to help me cook.  So it seemed only natural to let them make their own pizzas.

I started out with a ball of homemade dough and divided it into two larger and two smaller balls.  Each divided portion became an individual pizza.  The kids, of course, got the small ones.  I shaped the crusts and then let them rest on a floured board, covered with a towel, while I prepared the toppings.  We had a bowl of sauce, of course, and a large bowl of cheese.  Then I got a condiment server and filled the compartments with anything in the fridge that looked like it could go on a pizza.  There was pepperoni, hot sausage, diced ham, chopped fresh tomatoes, green peppers, and minced fresh basil from our garden. Once all the ingredients were ready, it was time to make pizza.

Everyone came to the table and sat in their places.  But, instead of eating, we started assembling.   First, I had each person “paint” their crust with a pastry brush dipped in olive oil.   Then we spooned on some sauce.  DD2 didn’t quite understand that there was still a baking step involved, and she tried to eat some of her raw dough at this point.  DD1 had figured things out, though, and was busy picking cheese out of the bowl and alternately eating it and sprinkling it on her pie.  DH got in on the action and helped the kids with toppings.  We passed all the bowls around, and everyone put whatever looked good to them on their own pizza.  When the pies were all piled high with ingredients and covered with cheese, we transferred them to oiled baking sheets and popped them in the oven to bake.

While we were waiting for our pies to come out, DH and I enjoyed some wine.  We found plastic champagne glasses left over from our wedding, so I poured homemade lemonade into those for the girls.  They love to clink glasses and say “cheers”, so that took up a few minutes of the baking time.   Then we had some watermelon as an appetizer.  Finally, the pizzas were done baking.  We should have taken pictures- they looked fabulous!

After letting the crusts cool for just a minute, each pizza was returned to its creator. DH helped the girls get started by cutting the pies into slices.  DD1 thought the round pizza cutter was fascinating.  She had DH slice into her pizza over and over with it, until there were about 15 little tiny pizza wedges all over her plate.  DD2 wanted to keep hers whole and pick pieces off the edge.  There was hardly a bite left over, on either of their plates.   That, to me, is the sign of a successful meal.  But everyone agreed the whole evening was fun, and we can’t wait to do it again.

Bread Machine Pizza Dough

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  •  1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp active dry or bread machine yeast
  • a handful of fresh basil, minced

Place all ingredients in the bread machine according to your manufacturer’s directions.  I have a Breadman Ultimate and make this dough on its regular “dough” (not the “pizza dough”) setting.  When dough cycle is complete, place dough ball on floured board and knead briefly.   Let rest 10 minutes.  Divide as desired and shape crusts.  Let shells rest for approximately 30 minutes, covered with a towel.

To bake: preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Top pizza, then place on oiled cookie sheet or pizza pan that is lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.   Bake for approximately 10-20 minutes, depending on size of pies and density of topping.  If making a large or deep dish pizza, you should prebake the shell for a few minutes before putting on any toppings, to keep it from getting soggy.  We did not pre-bake our pizzas.  The small ones baked in just about 10 minutes, while the larger ones were in for about 13 minutes.   Pizza is done when the edges of the crust are brown and the cheese is bubbly.  Serve hot.

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