Turn your kitchen into a history lesson and a pizzaria
Photo: Dave Carlin
Homemade pizza is a fun activity for the whole family.

By Tina Wasserman
OK, the holidays are over but the stay in place order is ongoing. If you have school-age children at home then you are working on math problems and social studies issues (they are possibly studying the Constitution, which is very timely). And, after all that is done, you are looking for some cool activities to do with the kids so that they don’t get premature arthritis in their thumbs from playing video games.
I find it heartwarming to see that many are turning to cooking as a creative outlet during the pandemic. That made me think. I wrote an entire book about cooking with children that could bring fun, tradition and family history into the equation. For those who don’t have the book (Why not?) I want to share some recipes and activities with you that could also include the grandparents on Zoom calls to get a dialogue started with the children about their own family heritage.
Since many of you are working with dough and possibly ordering pizza I thought I would dedicate this issue to that wonderful pie from Napoli!
Here are two recipes for pizza dough, one with a little honey and one made with whole wheat. Both taste great topped with cheese and vegetables so choose whichever you like. Making your own dough is quick and easy and tastes so much better than the store-bought variety.
Two Pizza Doughs
Honey Wheat Pizza Dough
3 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 package Rapid Rise Yeast
1 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

  1. Place the flour and yeast in the food processor workbowl and pulse on and off to combine.
  2. Place the remaining ingredients in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and stir to combine. Heat the cup in a microwave oven on high for exactly 1 minute 15 seconds.
  3. Turn the processor on and immediately add the hot mixture to the workbowl. Process until a ball of dough just begins to form.
  4. Knead on a floured surface for 15 strokes. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (15-20 minutes). You may cover the dough and refrigerate it for up to 3 hours.
  5. Punch down dough and let rest for 5 minutes before making pizza.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
2 ¾ cups flour
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 packages Rapid Rise Yeast
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 cup hot tap water (about 130 degrees or hot to touch but not enough to burn)

  1. Place both flours in a processor workbowl. Pulse on and off twice to combine the flours. Add the oil and pulse on and off 2 more times.
  2. Stir the yeast into the water and let it sit for a minute until the yeast begins to bubble. Add the yeast mixture and the salt to the workbowl. Process until a ball of dough begins to form.
  3. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for a minute. Lightly grease a bowl with a little additional oil and then turn the dough in the bowl to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and then let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Punch down dough. Let dough rest for 5 minutes before shaping into pizza crust.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Pulsing a food processor on and off is a perfect time to incorporate counting into the cooking activity.
• Although the dough should come out of the work bowl easily, never let a child put their hands in the work bowl when the blade is in place.
• If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer to measure the temperature of the water, then just microwave the water for 45–60 seconds to achieve the hot but not scalding temperature needed to grow the yeast.

Kitchen Conversations
• Touch the dough and try to stretch a little piece of it right after it is mixed in the processor. What does it feel like?
• After the dough rests does it feel different? Why do you think?
• The gluten or protein in the flour needs to rest and relax, or else it tightens and won’t stretch well to fit our pizza pans.
Flatbreads have been eaten all over the world for thousands of years. Even the challah brought to the Temple in Jerusalem as an offering each week was a flat bread much like the pita bread we know today.
The first Italian pizzeria, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, was founded in 1830 in Naples. It is still selling pizzas to customers today! However, it was another pizzeria in Naples that is responsible for the classic cheese pizza we know today. In 1889, Queen Margherita and King Umberto I visited Naples and went to the Pizzeria Brandi to taste their first pizza. The pizzaioli (pizza maker) at the restaurant was a man by the name of Rafaele Esposito. He created three different flavored pizzas for the king and queen, but the one she loved the best contained the three colors of the Italian flag: red (tomatoes), green (basil), and white (mozzarella cheese). To honor the queen, the pizza was named for her, and restaurants all over the world still list pizza Margherita on their menus.

1 recipe pizza dough of your choice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 green bell pepper, cut in half and then cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, cut in half and then cut into strips
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
8 ounces fontina cheese, grated
26-ounce jar of pizza sauce or marinara sauce
16 basil leaves, torn into pieces
½ cup diced mushrooms
½ red onion, sliced into thin half rings
Extra olive oil for greasing pans

  1. Make the pizza dough of your choice, and divide into 2 pieces.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 10-inch skillet for 10 seconds. Add the bell peppers and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Combine the grated cheeses in a 2-quart mixing bowl and set aside.
  4. Heat the oven to 475 degrees. Lightly grease two 12-inch pizza pans or two cookie sheets with a little extra olive oil. Set aside.
  5. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough to make a 9-inch round. Make sure that the center of the dough is thinner than the edges.
  6. By hand, stretch each piece of dough from the center outward to make a round that is at least 1 inch larger than your round pan or around 12 inches if you are using a baking sheet. Place dough on the oiled pans.
  7. Spread ½ to 1 cup of sauce on each round of dough. Do not use too much sauce
    or your pizza will be soggy. Scatter the basil over the sauce, and then top with the cheese mixture. Top each pizza with some of the sautéed peppers and the remaining ingredients.
  8. Bake about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before cutting.
    Yield: 6–8 servings

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Children love to decorate their own pizzas. Why not have an assortment of seasonal vegetables arranged in small dishes so that they can pick and choose which vegetables to place on their pizza?
• Young children should not sauté the peppers, since the water content in the pepper will make the oil spatter.
• A 5-year-old could help put the
cold pizza pan in the oven (especially if you are putting the pan on a big wooden pizza peel first). However, an adult needs to remove the hot pizza, because the oven is set on a very high temperature and the oil used to grease the pan could drip and burn a child.

Kitchen Conversations:
• Did you know soldiers were responsible for the popularity of pizza in Italy and in North America? Although Italians were eating flat pieces of bread — focaccia — for centuries, it is part of Italian mythology that the Roman soldiers stationed in Jerusalem grew to like the Jewish flatbread, which was probably matzo, and when they returned to Italy after the destruction of the Second Temple, they brought their love of the bread with them along with the Jewish slaves.
• Have you ever gone on vacation, tried a new food while you were away, and wanted to eat it often when you came home? What food was it? Can you make it or buy it in your town?

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