Pizza night is an institution in most households and ours is no different. It is well known that serving pizza for dinner is often the path of least resistance amongst children, and every parent appreciates at least one mealtime per week that is completely free of protest. Pizza night has changed drastically from the days of my childhood when my father would pick up a fresh, greasy pie from the pizzeria down the street. Today, most parents wisely choose to forgo caloric laden pizzas from local and national chains in favor of fresh, healthier pies made in their own homes. Recipes for homemade pizza are widely available, and, with the development of the oven-friendly pizza stone, the coveted pizzeria slice can be replicated in anyone's kitchen. In fact, it is now a widely practiced family activity to make homemade pizzas together with your children, a form of quality time that I fully endorse.
When my toddler makes pizza with me I let her place the mozzarella on top of the sauce. She usually plops down a few slices and then looses interest, preferring to lick the sauce off the crust with her finger. No matter though, when she is older I am sure she will join me for longer periods of time until she can do the whole thing herself. To kick off our family pizza nights these days I start with our favorite whole-wheat rosemary pizza dough. This recipe was given to me by my friend Kristina, mother of adorable Sophia, who is a very accomplished cook.
I loved this dough from the first time I made it because it bakes into a beautiful crispy crust, and the whole-wheat flour with dried rosemary makes it simultaneously fragrant, healthful and flavorful. The dough is a cinch to prepare, even the most novice dough-maker will not have any trouble. I find it easy to make right before I want to cook the pizza, since it only needs to rest for a scant 10 minutes. However, if you want to prepare it during naptime, just leave the final dough resting, covered, in a bowl on the counter top for the afternoon. When you are ready to roll it out for dinner punch it down and give it a few more kneads, then bring out the rolling pin. Once it is stretched nice and thin, layer it with your favorite toppings and pop it in the oven.
When it comes to topping our pizzas there is practically no limit to what we will try. I love to use all sorts of different vegetables, cheese and meats, and recommend that you explore your favorites with your family. In fact, if you have a favorite topping combination please let me know, I am always looking for new ideas. My husband threw out our pizza stone during a move last year because he thought it looked dirty (it was, in fact, seasoned), so I have had to resort to baking our pizzas in my jelly roll pan. I find that the pan works almost as well as the stone, though I do intend to replace the stone at some point this summer. If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor pizza oven or a grill, (unlike us city dwellers), by all means bake your pizza with those devices, the crust will probably get even crispier then it does in the oven. In any event, no matter when your family pizza night falls, I wish you crispy crust, melted cheese and lots of family fun.
Naptime Whole-Wheat Rosemary Pizza Dough - inspired by my friend Kristina
1 packet yeast (.25 oz) - make sure it is not expired!
1/4 t. sugar
3/4 c. warm water, (no hotter than 110degrees, so as not to kill the yeast)
1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. coarse salt
2 t. dry rosemary leaves
4 oz. Muir Glen Organic Tomato Sauce (or your preferred pizza sauce of choice)
Topping Ideas: Grated cheese, sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, prosciutto strips, mushrooms, sausage slices, fresh basil, roasted eggplant, pepperoni, caramelized onions, grilled peppers, bbq chicken, arugula - and just about anything else you can think of!
What are your favorite toppings?
1. Preheat oven to 450. Empty yeast packet into a small glass bowl. Add sugar and warm water and let sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the yeast should be activated, and the water will be absorbed.
2. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, add the flours, salt and rosemary and combine.
3. Once the yeast mixture has absorbed the water, combine the flour mixture with the yeast.
4. Knead the dough with your hands and a dough scraper on a well-floured surface for about five minutes, making sure everything is full incorporated. As you knead it, keep sprinkling flour on the surface to make sure it doesn't get too sticky.
5. Coat the rolling pin lightly with flour and roll the dough out until it is round to fit on the pizza stone, or rectangular to fit on the pan.
6. If you are using a pizza stone sprinkle it with some cornstarch to prevent the dough from sticking. Or, if you are using a 12x18 jelly roll pan, sprinkle a few drops of olive oil on the pan, brush it around, then dust it with flour.
7. Transfer the dough to the stone or pan, taking care not to tear it.
8. Spread the dough with sauce and toppings.
9. Bake for 15 minutes or more, until the crust turns golden brown and crispy.
Naptime Recipe Props: Pizza is infinitely flexible when it comes to flavors. It is also easy to keep healthful, just be careful with the cheese and add lots of vegetables, the kids will love it.
Naptime Stopwatch: I can usually have this meal on the table, from start to finish, in about 45 minutes. It takes longer if people are helping me top the pizza, so allow time for that if the kids are working with you.
Naptime Reviews: Everyone in my family loves pizza night, I have even made this when the grandparents are visiting. There is no limit to the possibilities, and never anyone who will turn it down!