Remember that thread about toddler pizza parties? When Matt Parrott from Standard Pizza Co. mentioned he was helping out with one, I asked him to recap it for us. Whoomp, here it is. Standard Pizza Co. is a mobile wood-fired pizza outfit located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.—Adam
When I found out my daughter's 3 and 4's Preschool had pizza day every year, I was intrigued. I asked the teachers what it entailed, and while I didn't let their stories of frozen bread dough and an old electric range appear to upset me, I was horrified on the inside. I offered the services of my mobile wood-fired oven and offered to make the dough and sauce and provide the cheese—as well as instruction.
At Standard Pizza Co. we specialize in a Neapolitan-style high-hydration dough, close to 68%. I knew this was going to be way too hard for the kids and most of the adults to work with, so we knocked the hydration down to a much more manageable level for everyone to work with.
We portioned out five-ounce dough balls for the kids and still did our three-day cold-rise treatment. We broke the class up into three groups of about 10 students each. This made it much easier to work with the kids, as there were about eight parents there to help, also. After bringing the kids outside to get a good look at our Maine Wood Heat copper oven and talk a bit about it, we brought them back in to make pizza.
We used 12-inch square parchment squares that we pre-floured and put the dough ball on for the kids. This was a great time-saver and made things move along. After giving everyone a brief tutorial on pushing out the dough—and stressing to everyone not to stretch—the kids did a surprisingly good job forming their dough into circles.
From there we moved to a separate, highly supervised sauce table, making sure to use only a little bit—though that really didn't happen. Then it was the topping table. We asked the kids to bring in their favorite pizza topping, and those ingredients were all laid out on another table for them to choose from. Everything from canned mushrooms, to olives, to pepperoni, and more canned mushrooms.
The kids then brought their pizza, which was still on the parchment, but now also a paper plate with their name on it, out to the oven. This is where we really took Annual Pizza Day to the next level.
Watching the kids watch their pizza go from dough ball to puffed-up personal pizza perfection right before their eyes in a little under 90 seconds was awesome. They were all amazed at it coming to life in the oven. While terms like "oven spring" and "peel" went right over them, the look in their eyes meant they got it. It was a challenge to turn these little pizzas with the peel, answer questions from the kids and parents, and remember whose pizza was whose, but I had a lot of help and only slightly burned one pie.
If you are going to try to do a party like this for kids, I recommend having plenty of adults to help, pre-portioning your dough on a floured surface, and working in manageable groups. Labeling plates also cuts down on the possibility of someone getting the wrong pizza, which at a young age could be rather catastrophic.
Standard Pizza Co. had a great time doing this for my daughter's Preschool and can't wait till next year.
Thanks, Matt, for sharing your experience and tips! Not everyone is going to have a trailer-based WFO, of course, but I think these tips can be applied to any smaller-scale home-based party. Hasta la pizza!