Homemade pizza nights {+ whole wheat pizza crust recipe}

There was a lot I loved about the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but one of my favorite ideas I got from that book was regular homemade pizza nights.

Friday nights are always pizza-movie nights. Friends or dates are welcome... We always keep the basic ingredients for pizza on hand... All other toppings vary with the garden and personal tastes.

~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Not a day goes by that my five-year old, Gigi, doesn't ask if someone can come over to eat with us. The girl lives and breathes community and hospitality even at such a young age.

I, too, love having guests over, but logistically some nights and meals are easier than others. As a family of five, we do have to stick to a budget that requires that not every meal makes enough for extra mouths.

But pizza... now there is a meal that it is easy to share. It's a tasty meal any time of year if you ask me, but long summer nights are just begging for friends to come over and share in the feast.

I find that homemade pizza is the perfect meal to invite friends or family over to enjoy with us. My recipe makes two decent sized pieces and it will easily feed two families of five (with young kids, that is).

There are so many recipes for making pizza dough. Amy from Mom Advice follows the same tradition with her family, and she shared a few different recipes on her blog, where she also details the ridiculously awesome savings that could result from making pizza from scratch rather than ordering out every week. And if you'd like, you can even try Barbara Kingsolver's recipe.

I've found the perfect recipe that works for me and my KitchenAid mixer, combining two recipes and figuring out how I can avoid rolling out the dough on a floured surface and kneading it (I always cringe at doing that step). I cook mine on two Pampered Chef stones.

I like to serve my pizza with a salad and my favorite Buttermilk Ranch Dressing. And maybe some homemade ice cream for dessert.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

makes two 10-12" pizzas

adapted from Bob's Red Mill Baking Book and the KitchenAid Stand Mixer Instructions and Recipes

Ingredients:

1/8 tsp. sugar

1 1/4 cups warm water

2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

1 3/4 cups unbleached white flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp. salt

4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

1. Dissolve the sugar in the water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and stir it to dissolve. Let stand for five minutes until foamy.

2. Add 1 1/2 cups white flour, 1 cup wheat flour and the salt to your stand mixer. Mix with the bread hook or paddle on Speed 2 for about thirty seconds or so until the flours are mixed. You'll see that it makes a natural well in the center.

3. Add the olive oil and water/sugar/yeast mixture and using bread hook, mix on Speed 2 for about one minute. I usually use a spatula to scrape the sides down and into the middle.

4. Add the rest of the wheat flour and continue mixing on Speed 2 about two minutes or until the dough cleans the side of the bowl and clings to the hook. Let it mix/knead for a couple more minutes. If necessary (too sticky), add the remaining 1/4 cup of white flour, little bits at a time (you may not need all of it).

From Bob's Red Mill Baking Book: You want your dough to be "smooth and shiney, with good elasticity. The dough should feel springy and be slightly moist. Too much kneading may result in a tough crust."

5. Grease a large bowl with olive oil. Afterwards, rub that oil into your hands before you wash them-- bonus mid-baking moisture treatment! Place the dough in the bowl and cover it with a towel. Place it in a draft-free place (I usually warm my oven for a few minutes and then turn it off and put the bowl inside). On a warm day the counter is probably fine.

6. Let rise for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.

7. Punch down and use within two hours. You can also wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it but I haven't had great luck with this.

To Bake:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees with pizza stones in the oven. After ten minutes of preheating, carefully remove stones and set on potholders on counter (my stones have racks they sit on which helps a lot). Sprinkle cornmeal over the stones.

Divide your dough in half and stretch and spread it out on the stone (very carefully; they are super hot!). Work quickly so the bottom of the dough doesn't cook too much on the stone. (I find that without the hot stones, the dough doesn't cook all the way through.)

Spread with your toppings of choice! (That's my dad sneaking Gigi a pepperoni). I often like to use pesto, pizza or marinara sauce (leftover from earlier in the week works great!), mozzarella, bacon, red onions, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, fresh basil, red peppers or whatever I happen to have on stock! I also like to sprinkle more cheese on top of my toppings.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is nicely browned.

Do you make homemade pizza or have a weekly invite-someone-over tradition?

Homemade Magic Shell ice cream topping

Getting started with homemade ice cream