For this party I am making 4 different pizzas and several pizzettas, or individual pizzas, for the children. The different toppings reflect the preferences of the individuals at this particular party. But there are an incredible number of different versions. I did a google search and the results--97,700,000 in .27 seconds.
In any case, here is one place to start. This is a basic recipe that I have been using for a long time. Although I modified this recipe over the years, I think the original source was Wolfgang Puck's. The Wolfgang Puck Cookbook, Recipes from Spago, Chinois, and Points East and West There are some fantastic pizza recipes in that book, as well as a number of other great dishes.
One more thing to keep in mind about this recipe is that the quantities and the cooking times are an approximation. Depending on the flour you are using, the humidity, the temperature, etc., you will probably have to add some additional flour or water. Likewise, the oven that you use, and it’s actual temperature, will affect your actual cooking time for the pizza. After you have made the dough a few times, you will begin to see and feel the proper texture. You will, likewise, learn to judge the cooking time for your pizza by the color and texture of the crust and the cheese.
To make enough dough for 3 to 4 large (8” to 10” pizzas) or 4 to 5 pizzettas, I use:
3 cups of flour (bread flour, 00 flour, all-purpose flour, all work fine) You may need a bit extra as you mix and knead the dough
1 1/2 cups of warm water (I just use the back of my hand, but the temperature is generally around 110 degrees F)
2 teaspoons, or 1/ 4 ounce active dry yeast
1 tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
a good pinch of salt to taste.
I generally make the dough in either a KitchenAid mixer, or a food processor. But you can make the dough by hand as well.
With the mixer, I add the flour and salt to the mixing bowl and mix for a few minutes with the paddle attachment. I then add the mixture of the warm water, honey, extra virgin olive oil and yeast to the flour and mix with the paddle for a few minutes (Most recipes call for mixing the yeast and warm water first and letting it sit for a few minutes to see if the yeast is working. If it is you will see a cloudy, bubbly top to the mixture. If you are not sure about the age of your yeast, it is a good idea to follow that step.) Replace the paddle attachment with the bread hook attachment and mix slowly for several minutes. At this point check to see if dough is coming together properly or if it needs additional flour or water. When I made this recipe today, I needed to add an additional 1/4 cup, plus several good size pinches of flour, to get the proper consistency. The goal is to have the dough come together in a ball as it pulls away from the side of the bowl. Continue to knead the dough in the mixer for another 4 or 5 minutes until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and starts to form into a ball. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured board and continue to knead the dough by hand for several minutes. You will probably need to lightly flour your hands, because the dough will be a bit wet and sticky. As you knead the dough, it will absorb some additional flour from the board and after 4 or 5 minutes it will feel smooth and perhaps slightly sticky. You will also feel the dough starting to push back as you knead it. When you are finished the dough will feel smooth, and a bit elastic.
If you use a food processor, the process is pretty much the same. After you add the flour and salt to the bowl, pulse it several times, and then add the mixture of warm water, yeast, honey and olive oil. Process the dough until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
You may need to add a small amount of additional flour to achieve the proper consistency. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it by hand for several minutes, until you have a smooth surface with the dough starting to push back.
Mixing by hand, add the flour and salt to a bowl, form a well in the middle of the flour and add the mixture of warm water, yeast, honey and olive oil. Mix it by hand, or with a large spoon, until it starts to come together. Place the dough on a lightly floured board and knead it by hand for 8 to 10 minutes. Once again, it may be necessary to add a small amount of additional flour until you achieve the proper consistency and texture for the dough.
Once the dough is mixed: Form the dough into a smooth ball and place it in an oiled bowl. Rub some olive oil on the top of the dough, cover it with plastic wrap and keep it in a warm place in the kitchen for several hours. You may also keep the dough covered in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days. Keeping the dough in the refrigerator will improve the taste and texture of the crust. When you are ready to use it, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. If you want to make pizza with children, this also allows you to prepare it in advance and just let them do the fun parts- pounding, spreading and topping.
The dough will probably double in size and can be gently pushed down before using. This rising process gives you the texture you want in the final pizza, so be gentle. Of course, when children are helping, slamming it down seems to be the only way to go. But it still works fine in the end.
About thirty minutes before I am ready to cook the pizza, I divide the dough into a 2 to 4 smaller balls, depending on the size of your pizzas. I generally use the amount of dough in this recipe for 3 10” to 12” pizzas. The individual balls of dough should be put on a lightly floured pan or tray and covered with plastic wrap or a towel to rest for thirty minutes.
Preheat your oven, or grill to its highest temperature. This will probably be 500 degrees F in most ovens. My electric convection oven has a temperature of 550 degrees F, and my gas grill has a top temperature of around 650 degrees F. I use a pizza stone in both my oven and on my gas grill. I preheat the pizza stone in the convection oven for about one hour and 30 to 40 minutes on the gas grill. The pizza stone that I use in the gas grill has a metal base to raise it off of the grill. The one for the oven is similar, but without the base. If you don’t have a stone I recommend buying one. It really makes a big difference in the final pizza. But you can also bake the pizza on a metal sheet sheet pan. A number of recipes now use a cast iron pan and cook the pizza partially on the stove and finish it under the broiler. Mario Batali has a good explanation of this process, and some great pizza recipes, in his new book Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking.
Another useful tool is a pizza peel. I use a wooden one and it is great for placing the pizza on the stone in the oven as well as removing it. But you can also flour the bottom of a sheet pan and use that to slide the pizza into the oven.
The next step is to stretch the dough for the pizza. You can either do it by hand or use a rolling pin. By hand, you press the ball of dough down with your palm and working from the middle, gently push the dough out into a circle or whatever shape. You can also pick up the edge of the flattened dough and gently stretch the edges of the dough. Holding the dough up will also cause the balance of the dough to stretch as well. At this stage, I lay the dough over the top of my two hands, which are in the shape of a lose fist, and gently stretch the dough further into a circle. While doing this I gently flip the dough up slightly and rotate the disk of dough over my fingers while stretching it. Actually after doing this a number of times you may want to try spinning the dough in the air. It does help give you a dough that is nice and thin in the center and slightly thicker around the edge. Plus it is great for entertaining the children at a party. But the gentle use of a rolling pin will get you there too. You are now ready to add toppings. (Please see the specific Pizza Party Pizza recipes or use your own favorite toppings. )
The cooking time is approximately 7 to 10 minutes. But it depends on the actual temperature of your oven. I generally check the pizza after 3 or 4 minutes, and rotate it on the stone. You will quickly become comfortable with the appropriate timing for your pizza in your oven.
Remove the pizza from the oven, let it rest for a minute or two, slice, and serve.