Friday, September 23, 2011

DIY Pizza Party

Calling up your local pizza place and ordering a quick pie is a perfectly fine "Mom-what's-for-dinner?" solution. But I've found that making your own pizza can be a fun activity for the whole family. Invite over a few friends and their kids, offer up a selection of fun toppings, and you've got an instant, at-home pizza party.

Sure, making your own dough can seem daunting—all that kneading and proofing—so feel free to leave that step to the pros: Some pizza shops will sell you a ball of dough, so ask around at your favorite parlors. Or just pick some up at the grocery store.
Lucky for me, I'm friendly with a fantastic chef who handles the dough making for me.

Chef Gino can make pizza with his eyes closed.  We were introduced by our friends at the Garden School Foundation when he made fresh tortellini at our first ever Family Festival. In our area, Chef Gino's fun and educational Pizza Parties are a huge hit. I asked if I could tag along to a recent party to find out if mere mortals (read: non-Italian chefs, just multi-tasking moms like us) can do this at home. Turns out, yes we can! Although this party was geared toward families with kids, I can imagine this as a fun baby shower activity or even just something different to do on an evening with friends.
Here's how it works:

Prep, Prep, Prep 

By making (or buying!) the dough and sauce and pre-shredding the mozzarella cheese the day before, you can avoid frantically running around the day of the party.

Of Course all mini-chefs must have clean hands to cook. Remember: 20 seconds minimum of scrub time.

Lining the table with aluminum foil makes clean up a breeze, or even better, use freezer paper instead of aluminum, you can wipe it with a wet cloth while it's still on the table, then roll or fold for reuse, instead of throwing away!

Dust each pizza 'station' with flour so the dough won't stick to the work surface, then measure out about a cup-sized dough ball for each person. Next, either place the dough at each station—or do like Chef Gino and make a game of passing out the dough by rolling it down the table to each mini-chef!

Let's Get This Party Started!

Forming the pizza pie is easy enough: Simply shape and flatten out the dough with your hands. Giving it the old toss and stretch is fun too!

Put some tomato sauce in the center, then spread it out over the dough, leaving about a half inch border. Add some cheese and a few toppings or fold everything up to make a calzone. Yummy!

Oven Time 

Be sure to label the pizzas before putting them in to bake. Write each chef's name on a piece of foil with a sharpie then place next to his creation.

Making Pizza and Memories

Let guests savor the memory of your pizza party long after the last slice has been devoured with a fun gift. Personalized, pint-sized aprons are a unique take home for the goodie bags.

You can also have kids make a pizza-themed picture frame while the pies bake. Just use different colors of construction paper or craft supplies (think beads, string, etc.) for the toppings, cheese and sauce and place everything on a round piece of cardboard. Take a photo of each chef working on her edible masterpiece, then send the print home the following week to add to the frame.

Another option: Have kids decorate their own chef hat. Use paint, markers, glitter—whatever—to jazz up paper hats.

Buon Appetito!

Here's a how to video :

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 cup warm water (between 100° and 110° so you don't kill, or chill, the yeast)

1 package or 2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 cups all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour

toppings of choice


Preheat oven to 400°.

Measure warm water into a large bowl. Add the yeast to the water and stir until dissolved. Add sugar, salt, and oil and stir well.
Add the flour in small amounts and stir well after each addition. Add just enough flour so the dough is not sticking in clumps to your hands or the bowl, winding up with a well-formed ball.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and, using your hands, knead for 2 to 3 minutes. Let the dough rest 5 to 10 minutes to rise roughly double in size before using.
Once the dough is ready, spread it on an oiled pizza pan (or pie pan or aluminum foil). Apply toppings of choice. Bake in oven for 20 minutes.

Visit Chef Ginos Website