Friends BYOI(Bring Your Own Ingredients - crust, sauce, cheese, toppings...and drinks) and take individual turns making their "prize winning" pizza for sharing. Everyone helps out on clean-up. It's a gathering of friends for fun, laughs and pizza.
How to make pizza dough
Three ways to bring your pizza dough to Pizza Nite:
buy uncooked pizza dough from a pizza joint(easy and fun)
buy a ready-made cooked pizza crust from the grocery(easy but not fun)
make your own pizza dough from scratch, as follows: (challenging and most fun)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 cup warm water (between 85° and 115° F)
2 tbsp yeast (I like my dough a little yeasty. You can use less)
2 tbsp sugar or honey (I use Muscovado sugar)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Making the sponge/poolish Mix water, sugar, yeast and 1 cup regular flour in a bowl. Cover until it starts to bubble (first rising, around 45 mins). This can now be used. However, if you want a more flavorful pizza dough, keep this covered in the fridge overnight or a full 24 hours.
Kneading Mix the rest of the ingredients (flour, salt and oil) and start kneading (tip: press on with your body weight, not just your arm power). The dough should be soft without being sticky. Too sticky, add flour. Too hard, add water. You're done when the dough bounces back when you poke your finger onto it. Cover until double in size (2nd rising, around 45 mins).
Scaling and shaping Punch the dough to take the air out. You can cut it up and use only what you need. You can cut it up into 3 and shape them into balls - one of those balls should be good to make one 13" regular pizza. You can freeze the 2. Flatten one ball into a circular shape. I usually flatten it on the same tray I will bake on so I don't have to make a transfer - I just apply a little oil on the tray before flattening. Using both hands, one on top of the other, press from the center outwards to stretch it in all directions. You can flatten it more by using a rolling pin (or wine bottle). Take a fork and put puncture holes all over the dough to keep it from bubbling up while cooking (which also holds the sauce in place). Wait until double in size (3rd and last rising).
the dough is now ready for baking
For a more complicated pizza dough but much better, here's a video by Vito Iacopelli
How to make pizza sauce
Two ways to bring your pizza sauce to Pizza Nite:
buy a ready-made pizza sauce from a pizza resto or from the grocery
make your own pizza sauce from scratch, as follows: (challenging and most fun)
Basic Pizza Sauce
ripe fresh tomatoes (use just enough for sauce consistency)
fresh peeled crushed garlic (according to taste)
bunch of fresh basil (in Thailand, there are 3 types...use the sweet basil with green stem, not purple) or oregano
1 small can, tomato paste (great thickener and holds the sauce together)
teaspoon of sugar (not to sweeten, but to reduce acidity)
pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper
generous amount of olive oil (quarter cup? really, up to you for consistency)
puree the fresh tomatoes in a blender and strain on a sieve. Keep the liquid and the pulp.
combine basil leaves, garlic and the tomato liquid in a blender and liquify. Transfer all to a pot and heat up. Remove immediately the moment it boils. Strain the liquid and discard the pulp
add the liquid, sugar, the tomato pulp, salt, pepper and tomato paste in a blender and puree again
on slowest blender setting, start pouring small amount of olive oil into the sauce until well blended. Adding oil last prevents the oil from separating
sauce is ready. Pack in serving size containers and freeze
Genesis It's funny to think that what spawned this whole party thing was when the Dos Amigos crew (a merry band of ex-Chapters friends who like eating at the Dos Amigos restaurant) got together for dinner and found difficulty communicating with the other folks on the other side of the long table. I mentioned I have a round table at home that seats 8 and it would be groovy to carry a dinner chat while being able to see and talk to everybody.
pizza night with Angele, Amir, and the Dos Amigos crew
Prepping Much of the day has been spent cleaning up the house and preparing stuff for the pizza party. I haven't hosted anything like this where guests bring their pizza topping and roll up their sleeves to make pizza on a pizza stone. The pizza is shared with everyone. Everybody gets a slice. The next guest makes another pizza and so on. It takes about 30 minutes for the next pizza to be ready so it was a fairly good pace. I hoped they find this whole thing amusing.
Pizza and Wine Creative genius was displayed that night. Pizza with spinach and sauteed chicken breast on pesto sauce, pizza on smoked salmon with capers, goat cheese, artichokes, etc. As timing would have it, my freshly bottled (homemade) Pinot Chardonnay and India Pale Ale just made it for drinking that night...good stuff. Centre stage however went to dessert...rich and creamy Little Debbie's Devil Squares...all of $1.09 for the entire box.
Ending Thoughts This was the first pizza gathering that spawned all the pizza nites that were to come ahead. Creative pizza making, great company and awesome conversation - the main ingredients to pizza nite were defined that night.
More importantly, the event underscored good moments spent with good friends. Good stuff like that should happen more often.