Pizza Night

 Posted by on August 25, 2014  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
Aug 252014
 

Ever since the girls were very little, Friday night has been pizza night at our house. It’s a nice way to wind down a busy school/work week, and it’s easy for me because the amount of prep is minimal.

I’d like to give you a peek into pizza night at our house, and I’ll start by sharing my super-easy method of making pizza dough. Over the years, I’ve tried many different pizza crust variations, including the little crust mix packets at the store (blech!) and a delicious bread machine recipe that, unfortunately, needs to be started at least 2 hours in advance to allow for rising time (and I don’t always remember to do this). I seem to always come back to the fantastic food processor pizza dough recipe from Amy Dacyczyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette. If you haven’t bought this book yet, I simply cannot recommend it highly enough. Some of the information is, of course, outdated, as it was written 20 years ago, but there is still so much you can learn if you’re serious about the frugal life (I have literally worn my copy out. My husband has taped the covers back on more than once).

This dough comes together so quickly, has a crisp but chewy texture, and tastes fantastic!

To make it you will need:

1/2 to 3/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (I have successfully subbed half whole wheat flour in this recipe)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

First, combine 1/4 cup of warm water with yeast and sugar. Stir to dissolve yeast. Let stand 5 minutes until bubbly.


In a food processor, blend flour, oil and salt for 5 seconds. Add yeast mixture and process 10 more seconds until blended. With processor running, slowly drizzle in warm water, until the dough pulls together into a ball. Process until the ball travels around the bowl of the processor a half dozen times or so.

If you don’t have a food processor, you can combine the flour, oil and salt in a mixing bowl with a fork. Then make a well in the center, pour the yeast mixture, and another 1/4 cup warm water into it, and stir until it forms a ball. If it seems too dry, gradually add small amounts of warm water until it’s the right consistency. Turn the dough ball out onto a lightly floured surface (I prefer to use a Silpat) and knead by hand for 4-5 minutes, until it’s smooth and elastic.

This recipe will make two large, thin crust pizzas, or one thick-crust pizza. If you’re making more than one pizza, put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cutting board and divide with a dough blade. If you’re making just one pizza, place the dough ball in the center of an oiled pizza pan. Cover with a bowl, let rest, then pat or roll out with a pastry roller.

Bake the pizzas in a preheated, 425-degree oven on the lowest rack, for 15-20 minutes. If you’re baking two pizzas at the same time, rotate them halfway through the cooking time.

A few tips:

-Pizza sauce is very simple to make. We like a thicker sauce because it doesn’t make the crust soggy, so I simply combine a 6-ounce can of tomato paste with an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce. I add one teaspoon each of basil, oregano, and sugar, and a generous pinch of garlic salt, and stir. Easy!

-For my family of 5, I make 1 1/2 batches of this dough. I divide it in half, and use one half for a large pizza for my husband and I. I divide the other half into 3 equal pieces because the kids like to make individual pizzas.

-I buy sliced mozzarella cheese, instead of shredding a block of mozzarella. It costs only 19 cents more per pound at Aldi, and I find that not only does it save time, but the kids use less so it goes farther. Please don’t buy pre-shredded cheese, unless you enjoy eating wood pulp, otherwise known as cellulose, which is added to keep the cheese from clumping. Gross.

-You can make a “stuffed crust” pizza by putting half sticks of mozzarella string cheese around the perimeter of the pan, and folding the crust over them. Make sure to pat the dough up the edges of the pan so you have enough to fold over.

-I like to preheat my ovens to 500 degrees for about a half hour, while I make the dough and prep the toppings. I reduce the heat to 425 right before baking the pizzas.

-I don’t have a pizza stone, but I’ve never really needed one. I have great success using pizza pans with holes in the bottom, for obtaining a perfect crust. This one is my favorite: Calphalon Nonstick Pizza Pan, 16-Inch

-To prevent large air bubbles in the dough, I “dock” it all over with a fork before adding the toppings.

Our kids love to make their own pizzas, so I give them a small portion of dough and a Silpat (one of my favorite kitchen inventions ever), and they can make any shape, and use any combination of toppings they want.

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Bee doesn’t like pizza sauce, so she uses butter and olive oil on her crust instead.

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DJ was so proud of this pizza because he designed it himself. It is, of course, a dinosaur.

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Cakes tried to make Olaf from “Frozen.” It didn’t quite work out like she hoped.

The kids love to top their pizzas with this turkey pepperoni,

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but my husband and I love “cheeseburger” pizza.

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The toppings on this pizza are mozzarella and American cheese slices, seasoned ground beef, green olives, chopped onion, and dill pickle slices. It’s soooo good!

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Mmmmm….

Pizza night is one of the only times, other than holidays, when my second oven – a vintage 70s, built-in –  is put to use!

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We like to all sit in the living room and watch America’s Funniest Home Videos on Netflix, so we can laugh and guffaw, and exclaim “OWIE!” and “Oh, NO!” over and over again, while we eat our pizza.

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I’ve found that these little family traditions mean a lot to the kids. They don’t care that we don’t order in pizza…it’s way more cozy and fun to stay at home and make it themselves anyway!

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  11 Responses to “Pizza Night”

  1. Oh, thinking of cozy at-home pizza nights makes me look forward to fall and winter! Our kids love the tradition of that simple time together too, whether we’re watching a movie together or playing our Wii. (We only use our Wii for occasional family games nights so that it’s a special treat, and we all enjoy it!). It’s harder to find the time for these traditions as the kids get older and busier with activities, but that makes it all the more important. Thanks for the reminder to make this a priority now that the school year is about to start!

  2. Great post! We rarely order pizza or eat out for that matter. Homemade pizza is a regular thing in our home too with the kids making their own pizzas. I’ve heard you mention The Tightwad Gazette many time over my years of reading, so today I requested it from the library. I’m hoping to gain all the wonderful knowledge you’ve shared!

  3. At home pizza night is way better anyway! You can customize, and control the quality of the ingredients. Ordering out is so expensive especially for a family of five. We are also a family of five, and I love doing this too. They will have warm memories of pizza night, and probably carry on the tradition with their own families. I am a long time reader, love you blog. Thanks for keeping it real:)

  4. My mom did this with me growing up as well, though she used pizza dough you can buy in the freezer section of the grocery store. Now that I have kids of my own she buys pre-baked crust from a local bakery and keeps them in the freezer. My own kids get so excited at the thought of making their own pizza and we now combine it with a movie from Netflix on Friday night. It’s so fun to recreate the traditions and it really does make a relaxing end to a busy week! I’ll have to try the food processor dough again!

  5. I’ve been making the Tightwad Gazette pizza dough for years – it really is the easiest, most forgiving homemade dough, I always come back to it even when I get tempted into trying other recipes. I made it last week and my eight year old helper accidentally added too much water so that the dough was a bit stickier than usual and I almost added a bit more flour – BUT it turned out the best I’ve ever made it, very light and airy. I love your kids’ creative shaped pizzas! Mine love to do their own as well. I gave my three year old a bit of dough and she played with it like play dough for a long time, then kneaded some sauce into it, put in some olives but then ate them – I baked it anyway and she actually ate it! Pizza night is the best – thanks for sharing yours!

    • Your little girl sounds like DJ. He messes with his pizza dough forever before it actually gets baked, so nobody ever wants to eat any of his leftovers!

  6. Love this article!~ I agree w/other comments: looks like a cozy, fun family tradition! 🙂 *Do you fully brown the ground beef before you bake your cheeseburger pizza (looks wonderful!)?… Thanks! Tiffany C.
    P.S. Love the heart-, dino-, & Olaf-shaped pizzas {especially the dino’s teeth, haha!}!! 😉 😀 🙂

  7. Sounds so wonderful!! I’ve always steered away from homemade pizza nite because I’d go to the store and felt like I’d spend just as much on ingredients as on take-out. But I always bought the crust (I.e. Boboli) which is where I was going wrong. I don’t have a food processor, do u have any suggestions for a good, reasonably priced brand? Thanks!…

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