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When the moon
hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie,
That’s amore.

~Lyrics from Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore”~ (Yep, I sing this tune every time I make pizza with my son. :0)

About three years ago my little guy and I shared a special moment in the kitchen –we became “pizza chefs” for our first time together.  We donned our aprons–Hayden his monkey one and me my floral one–and together we rolled out the pizza dough, topped the pizzas, and baked them. I captured the occasion with photos and posted our experience at my blog (at Blogger).

Here's my little guy (3 years old) making his first pizza.

A couple of weeks ago, we made homemade pizzas from scratch. My little guy, now six, eagerly slipped on his apron and jumped in to help make the pizzas. He mixed together the ingredients for the dough, kneaded the dough, rolled it out, shaped it, and helped to top the pizzas. (Scroll down to see the series of photos I took of our great cooking adventure.)

I think his favorite part was kneading the dough and tossing it in the air (just like they do it on TV :0). This is my favorite part, too. Ah, how I love to work with my hands in the kitchen. And what better way than kneading dough.

Making delicious pizza in your home kitchen is not too difficult. And it’s especially rewarding when your kids help you. Here’s some tips (some learned from my own experiences, some read in cookbooks) on how to make the best pizzas in your home kitchen:

  • One of the best places I’ve found for placing the dough to rise is in my microwave oven. Before placing the bowl in there, I usually run the microwave on high for about 1 minute with a cup of water. I then remove the water and place the bowl of the dough in the warm microwave (of course, you don’t want to run microwave while the dough is in there :0).
  • For pizza with a thin, crisp crust, use a pizza stone. Preheat your oven to 500°F. Place the pizza stone in the oven before beginning the preheat. If possible, preheat the oven for one hour.
  • For pizza that is crisp and chewy, use bread flour.
  • When making whole-wheat dough, your flour should be one-half whole wheat and one-half either unbleached all-purpose or bread flour. Using only whole-wheat flour results in a very dense pizza crust.
  • Pizza peels are handy tools for sliding uncooked pizzas onto stones or tiles. Coat the pizza peel either with semolina (preferred according to some cookbooks) or corn meal to prevent the dough from sticking to the peel.
  • Keep an eye on the pizza because it tends to cook fast with the oven’s high temperature. I usually check it every five minutes.
  • Experiment with toppings. You may be surprised which combinations you like best.

So let’s make some pizza . . .

This pizza dough recipe is from The New Basics Cookbook with a slight modification.

Servings: Two 12-inch pizzas; four 6-inch pizzas; or eight 3-inch pizzas (appetizer size).

Ingredients:

1 cup warm water

1 package active dry yeast

2 ½ to 3 cups unbleached bread flour *

2 TBSP olive oil

½ tsp salt

*Can substitute with unbleached all-purpose flour.

Pizza Dough Directions:

(1) Combine the water, yeast, and 1½ cups of the flour in a large bowl. Mix well.

(2) Add the oil, salt, and remaining flour. You may need a little less flour, so add the last half gradually. With your hands or a large wooden spoon, work the ingredients together until the dough holds its shape.

(3) Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic, 5 minutes.

(4) Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rest until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

(5) When dough has risen, place it on a lightly floured surface, divide it into 2 to 8 parts and roll each into a ball. Cover them with a towel and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.  The dough is now ready to be shaped, topped, and cooked.

Shaping the Dough

On a well-floured surface, press out the dough to form desired size of pizza pie. Repeat with other dough balls.  As you can see from the pictures below, we used a rolling pin to press out the dough. This especially works well for kids. My little guy loved this part, and I must say, I was quite impressed with how well he did. In fact, I don’t think my pizza pies have ever looked this beautiful. Okay, maybe there’s a chef in the making here. :0)

If you are using a pizza pan, lightly oil the pan and sprinkle with cornmeal or semolina. If you’re using a pizza stone, sprinkle cornmeal or semolina on a pizza peel, which will be used to transfer the pizza onto the stone in the oven. Place the shaped pizza dough onto the prepared pan or peel. Top pizza as desired (see below for some ideas).

Topping the Pizzas

So here’s my advice on topping pizzas: Be creative! Don’t be afraid to try something new. You never know what might soon become a favorite.

Each time I make pizza, I try something new with the toppings. For our recent pizza making night, we were feeling a bit ambitious and decided to make three pizzas~each one topped differently. Normally, we only make two, which takes less prep time and is easier.We topped our first pizza with pizza sauce, sliced chicken sausage (we used Aidell’s Pineapple & Bacon Smoked Chicken Sausage, but you can substitute chicken sausage for turkey sausage), sliced red onions, sliced red bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes, and feta cheese.Okay, so I did learn something new with this pizza. Don’t put the sun dried tomatoes on the pizza until the last minute or two of baking.Because you’ll be cooking the pizzas at 500°F, the sun dried tomatoes will burn. Fortunately, I was able to pick off the burnt ones and replace them with unburnt ones. :0)

We topped our second pizza with pizza sauce, pepperoni, pineapple chunks, and mozzarella cheese. Yep, this one was especially made for our little guy. You can vary this one by replacing the pepperoni with Canadian bacon (a Hawaiian pizza).

And finally, we topped the third pizza with barbecue sauce, bacon, sliced red onions, sun dried tomatoes, and crumbled goat cheese (we used a fig goat cheese, which along with the barbecue sauce, added a sweet touch to this pizza). Yep, you’ll want to wait on adding the sun dried tomatoes to this pizza until that last minute or two of baking.

Baking the Pizzas

Preheat your oven to 500° F about one hour before you plan to bake the pizzas. If you’re using pizza stones, place them in the oven when you turn on the oven.

Transfer your topped pizza from the pizza peel to the stone, or place the pizza on the pizza pan in the oven.  Cooking time varies depending on whether you’re using a stone or pan. I use a pizza stone, and usually the pizza is done within 10 minutes. I keep a close eye on them because at this temperature they can easily burn.  For the pizza pan (which isn’t preheated in the oven), bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

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