Christmas has passed, it’s too cold to go outside, the kids are still home on holiday break, and they need something to do. Why not hold your own pizza night? Making pizza dough is far easier and less work-intensive than it sounds, and dinner has to be made anyway. And when you get the kids involved in the fun of making dough and doing their own toppings, they may just want to keep helping out with dinners down the line.
Don’t have a real oven? If you’ve got a toaster oven, you can bake one toaster-oven-size pizza per person. (This may lead to wait time, but siblings can each decorate half, then eat the first pie while the second is in the oven) If you have neither oven nor toaster oven, perhaps today is the day you and the kids suit up for a trip to Carrefour and snap up a toaster oven.
The best thing about this pizza dough recipe is that it’s fast, flexible, and kids can easily get involved at any stage. Depending on how old your kids are and everyone’s appetites, you may want to double so you end up with two crusts. Here’s what you’ll need to make one large-ish pizza:
2 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat or plain white all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) honey
1 cup warm water*
*The water should be warm enough to activate the yeast, but not so hot that it kills it. Various cooking sites pin the temperature between 110-120℉ (about 43-49 degrees ℃). If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, heat some water and mix it with cool water. Test the temperature with your finger. It should feel pleasantly hot to the touch. If your water happens to be too cool and the dough doesn’t rise, fret not. The crust will still taste great after it’s baked.
In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil, then the honey. Add about half the water and mix. Add the rest of the water a few tablespoons at a time until the dough comes together and is wet but not too sticky. It’s likely you’ll have a bit of water left over.
Knead the dough for a few minutes (you can do this on a clean counter or, if you don’t want another surface to clean, do it in the bowl), then shape it into a ball, and let it rest in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a wet towel, and put it somewhere to rise. (The oven is a great place to let it rise, just don’t turn on the heat. Also, don’t forget that you left it in there then preheat the oven as the plastic wrap melts all over your dough. Not that this has ever happened or anything.)
Let the dough rise one to two hours until it’s doubled in size. Remove the plastic wrap, press down to remove air, and let it sit for a moment while you prep the tray. Tray prep is important, as pizza dough sticks as it bakes. The best way to prevent sticking is to line the tray with parchment paper, smear some cooking oil on the parchment paper, then sprinkle a bit of flour on top of that. Press out the dough into the tray, flattening it according to your taste for a thin or thick crust.
Now the kids can prep their ingredients (or they can do this as the dough rises). Slice vegetables like peppers or mushrooms, prepare any of the meats they like (chicken or beef should be cooked most of the way through before going in the oven) and of course, cut or grate your desired cheese(s).
Let the kids go to town on their toppings. If adults want to get creative for their pizza, consider cracking a raw egg or two over the toppings and adding salt and pepper. It will cook through in the oven. If it makes you nervous, you could always fry or poach the egg and put it on top of the finished pizza.
Bake the pizzas on high heat, around 250 degrees Celsius, for 10 to 12 minutes. Since all ovens and toaster ovens here in Beijing operate with different idiosyncrasies, keep an eye on your pizza. Once the cheese melts, bubbles and browns, and the crust gets light brown, it’s time to take it out of the oven. Let it cool for a minute or two, then dig in and think of a way to convince the kids to do the dishes, too.
Photos courtesy of flickr users rdpeyton, sean dreilinger, ruscaplauke, and Art History Images (Holly Hayes)