I love making pizza with the kids. Number one, they are always psyched to hear that pizza is on the dinner menu which means we can skip the overly dramatic groans. Number two, they love to help — and giving them the ability to make their own dinner is a skill that might come in handy moving forward. Sure, it’s certainly easier to pick up the phone and order one, but I can assure you that what you make at home is just as good as delivery (if not better), considerably cheaper, and healthier. And when the kids go to school the next day and say they made their own homemade pizza for dinner, a little vision of yourself as Martha Stewart crossed with Maria Montessori will light up your ego.
I generally make my own crust. And I know many of you are probably getting ready to click away at the thought of that — but don’t. I do this because I have a breadmaker — which is a guilty pleasure for someone who loves to cook, not because it makes wonderful bread, but because it’s so damn easy. They are super reasonable to purchase and you just need room to put it somewhere. The food lover in me knows that the resulting bread is but a shadow of a real hand-kneaded and shaped loaf of bread, but the mother in me thinks it’s pretty wonderful to even get close to the real thing using my own ingredients. No high fructose corn syrup in my bread. And on the weekend it might be nice to make the dough from scratch and by hand … but during the week, I’ll take a machine to help me out while I’m trying to do first grade homework with a two year old hanging on my leg.
The great thing about using a breadmaker for pizza dough is that it simply does all the legwork (up to the baking point). You dump the ingredients in, turn it to dough cycle, and it does all the mixing and kneading while you go on school runs, feed the baby, or hide in your closet with a good book. And for those who work outside the home, most machines also have timers to auto start. That all being said, however, you can also buy ready to make pizza dough from most grocery stores and even some pizza shops.
Whole Grain Pizza Dough (makes 2 lbs. — enough for two pretty large thin crust pizzas)
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 t sea salt
1 package active dry yeast (a little over two teaspoons)
1 3/8 cups room temperature water
3 T olive oil
Combine all ingredients in breadmaker and set to “dough” setting (mine takes 90 minutes). When the cycle is finished, remove dough to a bowl that has been coated with olive oil. Rub oil onto dough and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and park in the fridge til your ready. If you don’t have a breadmaker, you can certainly make it by hand — it would probably take about 5 minutes of kneading and then at least one rising cycle (of about an hour). I haven’t done it with this recipe, so I am not positive how it would turn out. Because of the whole wheat flour, this dough is best for very thin crust pizzas.
Portion out about half of the dough for one large pizza. (You can alternatively take the entire recipe of dough and portion out 4-6 smaller pieces if everyone wants to make their own pie.) I generally don’t use a pizza stone, but you can if you like. I have read that you can preheat a pizza stone and then put your baking sheet right on top of it to get both a crispy crust with less risk of the pizza sticking. I am going to try that next time. What I generally do is take a half sheet pan (with edges), line it with parchment, and sprinkle with corn meal. I then roll out the dough right on that so I don’t have to transfer it. Half of a portion of the dough will fit a half sheet pan almost perfectly (very thin crust). I have a small wooden rolling pin that is perfect for this job and the dough usually cooperates nicely. It will just take a few minutes (maybe 5?) to get it really thin. Preheat your oven to a very hot temperature — I usually do 450 F on convection.
Easy Plain Old Cheese Variation
Once crust is rolled out and very thin, spread with several tablespoons of your favorite pasta sauce and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella, parmesan, or other cheeses you might like. We used to do soy cheese when my daughter had dairy allergies and that worked just fine too. Season with Italian herbs and salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in the lowest portion of your oven for 10 minutes or so until it is very bubbly and the crust is brown and crispy. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil if your kids will tolerate the green. (mine love it…)
Spicy Spinach White Variation (can also use kale, chard, or other dark leafy greens)
1/2 cup olive oil
Two cloves chopped garlic
Red Pepper Flakes
4 cups (packed) spinach
Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Mix about 1/2 cup of olive oil with salt and freshly ground pepper, two cloves of chopped garlic, and a teaspoon (or more) of hot pepper flakes. Warm this gently in the microwave or on top of the stove.
Chop about four packed cups of washed and stemmed spinach. Heat a saute pan with a couple of teaspoons of your olive oil/garlic/pepper flake mixture. Saute spinach until wilted, adding a bit of water if it starts to stick. Set aside.
Roll out second crust using same method in half sheet pan (with edges) lined with parchment. This pizza should probably NOT be baked directly on a stone or flat sheet because the oil drips out and could make a nasty mess in your oven. When rolled out very thinly, take half of remaining olive oil/garlic/pepper flake mixture and spread all over crust making sure to distribute garlic and pepper flakes somewhat evenly. Sprinkle sauteed spinach all over pizza and cover with mozzarella and parmesan. (other cheeses are great here too…) Drizzle remaining olive oil/garlic/pepper flake mixture over cheese and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake in lowest portion of your oven for about ten minutes until cheese is bubbly and the crust is brown and crispy. Sprinkle with freshly chopped basil.