Most kids eat a lot of pizza. But do they ever stop to think about what really goes into making one? Recently we dedicated an entire day to a start-to-finish pizza-making adventure, which began at a farm and ended at a wood-burning oven. Yes, it was an all-day affair. Yes, we probably could have made a microwave pizza in less than a minute and called it a dinner. But at the end of our adventure, the kids were proud of their creations, the pizza was delicious, and we felt like we gave them a little bit more than just the food to chew on.
We started the day off with our kids and their cousins at a local farm picking tomatoes. We wound up picking a combination of larger heirloom-style tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.
Happily, we found a few rows that were practically exploding with fruit:
We also grabbed a half-gallon of fresh whole milk from the dairy at the farm we visited, with the goal of making our own mozzarella cheese. Then we headed back up to the farmhouse with all of our treasures, moving quickly so we wouldn’t get caught in the summer storm that loomed overhead.
Back at the house, Chef Joe led us through the mozzarella-making process, which is surprisingly quick and easy. The kids were amazed to learn that it takes a half-gallon of milk to make just one ball of cheese. We’ve printed the complete homemade mozzarella cheese recipe in our Recipe section.
Next we cooked down the tomatoes and basil to make a simple summer tomato sauce. (Check out our tomato sauce recipe here) and prepped the toppings and the pizza dough. (We also cheated a little on the whole “homemade” thing; we didn’t make our own pizza dough. This time we bought some fresh dough from a local pizzeria).
Once the oven was heated, we were ready to go. With the high heat of the wood-burning stove, the pizzas were ready to eat in about three or four minutes (give or take a day’s worth of prep work).
Do you even need to ask if it was delicious? Of course it was. Luckily we had the benefit of Joe’s pizza-making experience to avoid rookie errors. If you’re making your own pizza at home, here are a few tips:
1) Take it easy on the sauce: Even if it’s the most delicious tomato sauce you’ve ever made, resist the temptation to ladle on too much sauce or the pizza will get soggy.
2) Lighten up on the flour: While you’re shaping the dough, don’t go overboard on the flour. Too much flour will cause the dough to lose its moisture and its elasticity.
3) Keep temperatures constant: Try to keep the ingredients at roughly the same temperature. If one topping is ice cold while the others are warm or room temperature it can make for uneven cooking.
4) Think thin: If you’re adding toppings (fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc.) slice them thinly; they’ll cook up better that way.
5) Hot, hot, hot: Of course not everyone has a wood-burning pizza oven. But in general, when you’re cooking pizza at home, the hotter your oven, the better the pizza. Even if you don’t have a wood-burning pizza oven, make sure your oven or grill is set to at least 450 degrees so that the pizza will get that perfect, irresistible crisp.
Special thanks to Chef Joe of Friday Night Out Catering, and to his kids, for the all-day pizza adventure!