By Alan Miles
I consider myself a good father — at least where pizza is concerned.
When my kids were growing up, my pizza-making was a fatherly skill that was universally appreciated. Dad’s pizza (featuring homemade pizza dough) was one of a handful of meals that all four kids agreed to like. And since more than a single pizza was required for our family of six, there could even be a degree of customization. (The one unchanging ingredient through the years has been eight ounces of tomato sauce per large pizza flavored with about 1/4 cup Frontier Pizza Seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon Frontier Garlic Powder.)
My oldest daughter decided she was “allergic” to onions in sixth grade — a condition that has persisted into adulthood — so onions were left off half a pizza. This opened the door to other special requests (within the constraints of what was in the refrigerator on pizza night, of course), and soon there was a section of pizza to suit every family member. Sliced tomatoes on top sprinkled liberally with basil always topped the list of requests.
Although our kids did some cooking with their mother when they were young, they didn’t help me much with making the pizza. Instead they would stop by the cutting board to snarf handfuls of chopped vegetables, mushrooms and cheese as appetizers.
Once our kids grew up and had kids of their own, however, I suddenly found myself with plenty of help making pizza. In fact, helping Papa make pizza has become an activity that leaves toys (even the train set!) abandoned and chairs pushed — often with some effort — over to the kitchen counter. Nana even sewed pint-sized aprons for the helpers.
My kids enjoy the opportunity to converse with each other in the living room while the little ones are out in the kitchen with me, and the grandkids and I have a great time putting together pizzas for the gathering. We often eat later than scheduled, though — the “help” I get doesn’t result in faster prep time.
Oiling the pizza stones and adding the toppings and cheese are fun for everyone. Sometimes distribution of the toppings is a little uneven. A pizza may have a microenvironment of dense spinach forest on one side and a spinach desert on the other, but that just makes picking your piece a little more interesting.
The real thrill is making the dough for the crust. There is so much enthusiasm for mixing and kneading the dough that we usually provide a separate bowl for each little pair of hands. That way everyone is free to knead to their heart’s content — sometimes after the main pizza is well in the oven — and even experiment adding water and flour to get the dough “just right.” Sometimes these individual efforts end up as six-inch pizzas or bread sticks that are shared by their proud creators.
We use a simple recipe for homemade pizza dough that uses whole measurements of ingredients, making it easy for the kids to help make the dough:
Whole Measure Homemade Pizza Dough
Makes enough dough for one large (15″) pizza.
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1. Put water in a large bowl. Add yeast, salt, sugar and oil and mix thoroughly.
2. Add flour. Stir to an even consistency, knead well and form into a ball.
3. Place dough in a warm area and let rise until approximately double in size, about 20 minutes. I preheat the oven to 475 degrees at this point and let the dough rise on top of the stove.
4. Spread on oiled pizza pan and add sauce and toppings.
5. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
I suspect my wife will cook up one of my favorite dishes on Sunday, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s Father’s Day every time the family gathers and we throw together a batch of dough and make pizza.
What do you cook with your kids (or grandkids)?
About the Author: Alan explores ideas and issues related to a sustainable lifestyle — from cooking and culture to social and environmental responsibility. He enjoys Shakespeare, but not as much as college basketball (Go Hawks!). Alan is a family man, liking nothing better than spending time with his wife of 35 years, his four kids and four grandkids.