October is Pizza Month! Almost all kids love pizza, whether they’re picky or adventurous eaters. I have one child who only eats cheese pizza, and one who eats everything from pineapples to anchovies on his Italian pie. While it takes some time, spending a fall afternoon making homemade pizzas is a great way to promote family bonding, have fun in the kitchen, save money on dinner (homemade pizzas are usually cheaper than the takeout kind!), and warm up your house by running the oven. Here are my best tips for making excellent homemade pizza (this makes two medium-sized pizzas; if you have kids who eat a lot of pizza, double the recipe):
- Mix your dough. I use white flour and little yeast packets, but you might choose to substitute 1/3 of the flour with the whole wheat variety and use bulk yeast. My recipe is this: Mix 1 cup warm water with a packet of yeast and a cup of flour. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir with a wooden spoon, then begin mixing in more flour: Altogether, you’ll use 2 1/2 to 3 cups; you’ll need to work it in gradually until it’s not too sticky. Knead it for 5 minutes (coat the counter and your hands with flour first), then place it in an oiled glass dish, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it sit for an hour.
- Continue preparations. Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Place an oven rack on the lowest setting. Then punch the dough down and divide it into two balls (or four, if you’re doubling the recipe). You could also divide it into smaller balls to allow each person to make his or her own pizza. Let them rest on the counter for 20 more minutes. While they’re resting, assemble the rest of your ingredients: pizza sauce (I use homemade spaghetti sauce, but you can use jarred spaghetti or pizza sauce if you want to); shredded mozzarella cheese; and a variety of toppings!
- Assemble your pizzas. Roll your dough out into circles or squares (hint: use a drinking glass if you don’t have a rolling pin), and put the kids to work assembling the pies! First, spread the sauce, then sprinkle on the cheese, then add toppings! Some of our favorites include sliced mushrooms, olives, pepperoni, thinly-sliced tomatoes, small chunks of canned pineapple, artichoke hearts, and cooked and seasoned ground beef.
- Bake the pies. Bake at 500 degrees for 12-20 minutes, depending on size and thickness of the crust. It’s best to do just one sheet at a time to allow plenty of airflow. Bake the kids’ pizzas first, because they’ll have time to cool while your pizza is baking.
Enjoy your homemade pizzas with a movie in the living room as part of a family fun night, or try eating outside on the deck or patio as a fun fall lunch. Happy Pizza Month!