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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Potluck Pizza Party

Home pizza done right!
We used to have these church get-togethers at our house where we made homemade pizzas. Friends would gather in teams around a dough ball, smash it flat, roll it out and then decorate it with sauces, cheeses and veggies. This was an SDA group, so the cuisine du jour was lacto-ovo vegetarian. Everybody brought their favorite topping ingredients and cheeses. We the hosts provided the pizza dough (see the recipe below).  It takes just a few minutes to make up a pizza ball. Start an hour or so before the event and you can make up plenty.  

Have any of your guests who have a pizza stone or pizza pan to bring them along. And you'll need a sturdy pizza cutter and a stack of paper plates.  I usually find a volunteer to make a gigantic bowl of salad and have people bring their favorite salad dressings to show off. The handy thing is that a lot of the leftover pizza toppings can be tossed into the salad.

Homemade pizzas are also a great place to test vegetarian meat substitutes. For instance if you want to make a vegetarian sausage pizza, you can use Loma Linda's Little Links or Worthington Saucettes or crumble up some Morningstar Farms Sausage Patties. You may want to brown them in a skillet before putting them on the pizza. Just slice the links into little round disks, fry lightly and scatter them over the pizza. I also like to brown some Loma Linda Redi-Burger or Worthington Vegeburger or Morningstar Farms Grillers Recipe Crumbles and then scatter them over the pizza. Just put a lot of loose cooked vegeburger in a bowl and let pizza makers add as much as they'd like. If you like chicken, Worthington Fri-Chik or Worthington Low Fat Fri-Chik diced up and browned makes a nice topping as well.

The crust is the secret to the whole thing. This never-miss medium to thin pizza crust recipe came from a bread machine recipe book where it was called "New York Style" pizza. I toss in a little whole wheat flour and sprinkle the bottom with corn meal to give it a little Texas touch.



Start with a dough ball.
By making it a potluck homemade pizza party, you not only get healthier pizza, but you also have a fun activity for everybody to do at the party. Lots of friendly conversation, sharing of pizza "secrets" and sharing of ingredients and experimentation. I like to put out a little fresh spinach. Someone inevitably groans until someone adds it to the pizza and tastes it. It's quite good. Everyone will bring all kinds fo stuff from traditional olives, mushrooms, onions and peppers to more creative veggies like artichokes and chives. Some pineapple will inevitably show up and if you're in Texas, watch out for some clown to spike a pizza or two with jalapenos or habanero peppers and cover it with cheddar to hide the trap. Goat cheese is also acceptable as are other unusual cheeses. In Texas somebody inevitably brings a big block of Mexican Cheese, which is an acquired taste.Your pizza is only limited by your imagination.

Ingredients for One Crust:
Cover a 16" pizza stone for a thin crust.

  • 2/3 cup warm water – 110° to 115°
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal (optional)
  • Whole wheat flour (substitute measure for measure for white flour if you want to fiber up your crust a little)
Directions for making crust:
Spread the sauce thinly over the crust.
Top with cheese and toppings.
  1. Dump the dry ingredients (not the yeast or cornmeal) into a mixing bowl
  2. Put the yeast into the warm water and whisk to blend.  Allow it to sit for maybe 10 minutes till it starts to bubble at the edges.
  3. Add all the liquid ingredients and any sediment in the yeast water cup to the mixing bowl and mix it all up with the dough hook.  You can knead it by hand, but I highly recommend you give the barely formed dough ball to the guys in each group and give them the job of kneading the ball for ten minutes (or till they start to whine and then you can probably let them stop, although the crust won't be as crisp and may crumble. You want a very smooth dough ball when you are done kneading. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour till dough is just barely dampish on the outside, but not sticky to touch.
  4. Lightly oil the pizza baking sheet or pizza stone. I like olive oil, but any vegetable oil will work. Sprinkle a little corn meal over the surface of the stone.
  5. I'm not too proud to use a rolling pin to flatten out the pizza dough, but some clown in the group will inevitably try to twirl it in the air like you see on TV.  Make sure your kitchen floor is very clean so you can just brush off the dough and go ahead and use it.  Lay the dough
    Hot from the oven.
    over the pizza stone and spread it to the thickness you want. I like a flat thin crust pizza and this recipe is perfect for a thin crust on a 16 inch pizza stone. I like to raise the edges so they keep the sauce and melting cheese from running over the side and mucking up the oven.
  6. Preheat oven to 450° to 500°.  The higher temp is better with thin crusts. Go lower if you're doing a thick crust. 
  7. Each group then gathers around its pizza crust and decorates it with pizza sauce, cheeses and toppings. Depending on the size of your oven, you can only do a couple at a time, but they only take 8 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of crust and ingredients. Let the edges darken and the cheese melt till it bubbles a little or the crust won't cook through. See the picture for an idea of how it ought to look. Use the middle rack as much as possible. If doing two at a time put the top and bottom racks as close to the middle as you can get them. Fortunately pizza isn't very thick, so the racks can be close together.
Makes enough crust for one 12-16 inch pizza

Conclusion:

As the pizzas come out, everybody will want to sample each other's handywork. Cut the pizzas in 8 to 16 pieces at first. As the later pizzas come out, you'll be able to cut larger pieces. Push the salad or people will forget it's there.

Sneaky Trick:

You can do this in a big hurry if you just go out and buy a bunch of ready-made pizza crusts - enough for everyone to have a whole pizza; they tend to me a small to medium pizza size.  Then you just deal out the pizza crusts and turn the young-un's loose.  Takes about 10 minutes each to cook from a ready-made crust. 

This make-it-yourself pizza party is a lot of fun for all ages and a particularly good way to generate good fellowship, stimulate conversation and help forge new relationships among people who may not know each other well.  Kids get a kick out of it too, you just have to make sure they wash their hands first.

Tom King © 2013

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