For the second summer, we are offering a series of maker programs for ages 8-18. While we don’t have a dedicated maker space, we do have a strong desire to convert library resources into a temporary maker space each week and amazing community experts willing to share their knowledge and craft. These programs are way to much fun to not do because of a lack of dedicated space. In fact, I’m slowly trying to make the whole library a maker space in varying degrees. Don’t tell my coworkers… Just kidding! They are maker fans, too!
Our two hour pizza making session was inspired by the book Starting From Scratch (Owlkids Books, 2014) by Sarah Elton. The book covers everything from the science of cooking, our sense of taste, cooking tools, and how to read a recipe in a friendly format for kids 10 and up. I love to cook and introduce kids to good food, so when I received the book I immediately knew we needed to make food this summer. I just wasn’t quite sure how to make it happen so I stewed on it for awhile. Then, a friend came to mind. He has a mobile wood fired oven and loves the library so I emailed him with my crazy idea- let’s make pizza at the library! He said yes, because he likes crazy ideas too, and really it wasn’t that nutty. There were nuts though.
My friend (and a couple of others) handled the oven while I focused on the science of making pizza and the how-to. The session began with a quick video showing a 7 year old doing cool tricks while tossing pizza dough. I then asked the crowd of almost 70 why could he do that? There were actually some really cool responses that had to do with the physics of tossing dough, but no one spoke up about the magic of gluten. So we spent a few minutes going over the ingredients in dough, the reactions that take place during pizza making, and what each ingredient does. The pizza dough was made beforehand, but we had all of the ingredients on hand to showhow it all works.
Have you listened to the Science Friday episode Food Failures: Knead to Know Science Behind Bread? It’s worth listening to!
After dough, we talked about toppings, what everyone likes on pizza, and the building blocks of taste. We even discussed super tasters and terroir as it relates to cheese (and chocolate, wine, coffee, etc.). Both ideas fascinated the crowd of mostly 8-14 year olds.
Then it was time to make pizza! We had a large group packed into a meeting room with two large tables. Since the room is carpeted, we laid out a big plastic tarp to avoid a long clean up. On the two tables we had a variety of ingredients (identical on each table). Each person washed their hands at the sink and were then handed a small ball of dough. They could roll out the dough with a rolling pin, use a crank my friend brought, or try the method I saw on the America’s Test Kitchen video A New Way to Work with Pizza Dough.
Next came the toppings. I challenged everyone to try something new, even if it was only on half of the pizza. Most created pizzas beyond the expected pepperoni and cheese. We only had 4 peels, so a mom quickly came up with the idea of flouring a paper plate for each person and letting them top their pizza on the plate instead of waiting for the peel. Then they could go outside to wait for the peel and their pizza’s turn in the oven.
Once outside, pizza makers waited in line for their turn. Everyone was surprisingly patient. Fortunately the weather was excellent. It didn’t hurt that everyone could watch the dough rising as the fire did its magic inside the oven. We also had sampling table so some pizzas could be cut into sharing bites. Most people ate their pizzas outside on the grass or under the entryway’s overhang not far from the oven. All of the library visitors were curious about the oven and what we were up to!
Materials: (for 50-60 personal size pizzas)
mobile wood fired oven
any pizza dough recipe