Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Rising Time: 30-40 minutes
Baking Time: 15-20 minutes
A staple of teen gatherings, pizza is a favorite meal for the whole family. Many families have a standard “pizza night” where dinner is brought home in a large square box featuring everyone’s favorite toppings. Whether they choose to go to the neighborhood pizza parlor, pop in for takeout, or pay someone to deliver the pizza to their homes, families love pizza for its flavors, textures, and simplicity. Pizza is basically a whole meal, served in neat, triangular slices. If the toppings are chosen with care, a person can enjoy every food group in a single slice.
Many Mediterranean cultures enjoyed flatbreads embellished with various toppings, including the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. However, the culture that crafted what we now call pizza was that of a southwestern Italian area called Naples. In the 1700s, the area called Naples was a busy waterfront settlement. Many of those who worked in this region were considered working poor who barely eked out an existence in tiny single room shacks.
Most of their lives were spent outdoors with few amenities. Because things like tables, dishes, and silverware were not a part of their everyday lives, these paupers ate food purchased from outdoor vendors that could be eaten with their bare hands. Prim and proper upper crust visitors were appalled at the manners of these individuals.
One favorite item that lower-class Neapolitans ate with their hands was pizza. There were several varieties of yeast-risen bread dough topped with other things, but a favorite was a flatbread crust topped with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil.
In the late 1800s, many Neapolitans immigrated to the United States in search of better lives and greater financial opportunities. These people settled in many Northeastern cities, including Boston, New York, and Trenton. They brought with them their recipes for pizza.
In the early 1900s, the first pizzeria opened in Manhattan, and non-Italians became just as fond of the delicious pie as the Neapolitans. The food trend spread across the United States, and after World War 2, pizza became a world-wide symbol of all things American, despite its ethnic background.
Did you know that pizza dough is fairly simple to make from scratch? Preteens and teens love cooking their favorite foods, so why not enjoy homemade pizza night and create your own family’s specialty pizza? Simply follow the pizza dough recipe below and top with your favorite toppings.
Pizza Dough Instructions
- 2 1/4-3 cups of flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 package of quick rise yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Oil and cornmeal for preparing the pizza pan
- Pizza toppings of your choice
Step 1: In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the yeast, salt, and sugar.
Stir it well, and add in the warm water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix the dough thoroughly with a wooden spoon. A little at a time, start adding in extra flour. After a few minutes of mixing and adding flour, the dough should start to ball up and stick together.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, or keep mixing the dough with the mixer’s dough hook. Knead the pizza dough for 5 to 7 minutes until the dough is smooth, shiny and elastic. Don’t add too much flour because you want the dough to be slightly sticky.
Step 2: Drizzle some oil over the dough and inside the bowl, placing the dough in the bowl coated with oil to rise.
Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel, and place the dough ball in a warm spot in the kitchen for about half an hour to rise.
Step 3: Lightly oil the pizza stone, and preheat your oven to 425 degrees with the pizza stone in it or a heavy pizza pan.
Cast iron is wonderful for baking pizza.
Step 4: After about 30 minutes, the dough should be about doubled in size.
Punch it down, and let it rest for about five minutes. The resting time helps the dough be a little more stretchy for when you try to put it in the pan. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle a little bit of cornmeal on the surface. Working carefully so as to avoid burns, place the dough in the pan, stretching to cover the surface. Using your fingers, create a ridge around the circumference of the pizza stone to create a crust.
Step 5: Top with pizza sauce, herbs, mozzarella, veggies, or whatever else you like on your pizza.
Bake in the center of your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned and the tomato sauce is bubbly. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
April Freeman enjoys creating all kinds of recipes for her friends and family from her country kitchen in Middle Tennessee. She and her family raise beef cattle, chickens, and all sorts of fruits and veggies on their farm, and she specializes in featuring farm-fresh foods in the recipes that she creates and serves. April says that her slogan is “Are you hungry?” and she feels that one way of showing love and connecting with others is to serve delicious favorite foods to others. Her favorite thing to cook is pies of all kinds.