Experience: Make Your Own Pizza

Making your own pizza is a very simple, but fun activity that every child should try at least once in their lives, and by this, I don’t mean sprinkling a bit of cheese and some pre-packaged toppings on a ready made based. I mean making a pizza from scratch, base and all. This might seem daunting at first, but it’s actually very easy, even for those who have never cooked before, and making your own pizza is a great first step in teaching kids how to make their own healthy food rather than simply living on ready meals. The recipe below is based on my own personal one for a traditional Italian base, and is very simple to make, but there are many other possibilities out there if you want to try a different one.

A homemade Italian-style Pizza

Homemade Italian-style pizzas like this one are both fun to make and a great introduction to cooking food from basic ingredients.

What do I need? You will need a bag of good quality plain flour, a packet of quick acting yeast, a cup of warm water, a pinch of salt, a tube of tomato puree, pre-grated cheese (it is best that you have a mix of both mozarella and chedder for this), a small onion and some pepperoni slices, You will also need a baking tray of some description to cook it on.

What preparation do you need to do? There is no preparation needed to make your own pizza. This recipe specifically doesn’t mention exact weights of ingredients that have to be measured out in advance as it is much more fun to just dive straight it. This approach will also give your child more confidence to just play around with the amounts need to achieve a specific aim, and this will make them more confident at cooking in general.

How long will it take? Making your own pizza will take about twenty minutes, but you will need to leave the dough to rise for three hours in the middle of the making process.

What age of child is this suitable for? With your help, you can make your own pizzas with children of all ages, but I would probably wait until they were at least five before letting them take full control over the process. However, adult help will always be needed to put the pizza into the oven and to remove it afterwards, as well as to cut it up.

How much mess will it make? I’ll be honest here, this may well get messy, and it is very likely that you will end up with a good deal of flour everywhere, but it’s still worth doing at least once.

What do I do? To make your own pizza, follow the ten steps outlined below.

  1. Open the packet of yeast and empty its contents into the mug of warm water, and then stir until it is all mixed in.
  2. Pour flour into a small bowl (I use a breakfast bowl with steep sides). You should aim to use about 200g.
  3. Add the pinch of salt.
  4. Pour the warm water and yeast into the bowl and mix thoroughly. You are aiming to produce something with the consistency of peanut butter. If you find your mixture is too runny, add more flour. If it’s too thick, add more warm water. Once you have the right consistency, beat it vigorously with a spoon for three minutes (this mixes air into it and helps it rise).
  5. Once the dough has been mixed, add a heap of flour onto your worktop and empty the mix on top of it. Now cover it with flour and slowly fold it together. Keep adding flour and folding it until the mix is the consistency of play-dough. You now need to kneed it with your hands for five minutes, adding small amounts of flour whenever it gets too sticky, but not so much that it loses its squashiness.
  6. Take a second bowl, and dust it with flour. Then take a piece of your dough about the size of a tennis ball, roll it until it is round and put it into the bowl, making sure to coat it in flour. Now cover the bowl with a dish towel and leave it somewhere warm for three hours. During this time it will rise as the yeast feeds on the carbohydrates in the flour and produces carbon dioxide as a waste product.
  7. After three hours, turn on your oven and set it to around 200 degrees C/400 degrees F. While the oven is warming, sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and uncover your dough. It should have risen nicely. Now dust your hands with flour, slowly scoop the dough out and drop it onto the flour on your worktop. Next, with the heel of your hand, slowly flatten your dough out, working from the centre outwards. You should eventually end up with a thin circle of dough roughly twelve inches in diameter.
  8. Place the base on a suitable baking tray and place the tomato puree in the middle of it. Using the back of a spoon and a circular movement, spread it out until all but the very outer edges of the dough is covered in a thin layer.
  9. Add a mixture of the pre-grated mozarella and cheddar cheese in a ratio of about 50:50, and aim to just cover the tomato puree.
  10. Chop up the onion (you will need to do this for younger children) and sprinkle it onto the cheese before placing the slices of pepperoni on top. Finally, place your finished pizza in the oven and leave for between twenty and thirty minutes (check it regularly to ensure that the cheese is not burning). Once the cheese is bubbling across the whole pizza and looks like the image above, remove it, slice it up and serve it – remembering that it will be very hot at first, so you might want to wait a few minutes before eating.

What core life skills does this experience help develop? This is a great introduction to teaching kids how to make their own food, and will lead to discussions about healthy eating, both of which are essential for raising happy, successful adults.  You can also use it as the basis for discussions on how ready-made food purchased from supermarkets compares to homemade food, and how they might differ in ingredients and levels of fat, sugar and salt. Making your own pizza will also help to develop the ability to follow instructions, and provide an introduction to discussions on why the yeast is required to make the base rise, and what is happening, which in turn can instill an interest in science by showing how it is relevant to every day life. Making your own food from scratch is also great for encouraging picky eaters to try new foods and develop a more healthy attitude towards eating in general. However, you need to make sure that they feel in control of what they are making, and don’t force them to try the pizza at the end if they really don’t want to eat it.

Variations: If you want to vary this basic experience, then you can use different toppings, such as mushrooms for vegetarian children, or just plain cheese and tomato for the unadventurous. You can also make a great cheesy garlic bread by replacing the tomato puree with garlic puree and leaving off all the toppings other than the cheese. Finally, if you have a child that is intolerant of gluten and/or dairy, you can replace the flour and yeast mix for the dough with one made from almond flour, and the cheese with a cheese alternative.

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About The Author: This post was written by Colin Drysdale, the creator of How To Raise A Happy Genius.

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