Tuesday, October 30, 2012

4th Annual XC Pizza Feed

I'm learning.  The first time we did this, it was a spur of the moment idea of Hubby's.  I got a call about 3 PM, while, thankfully, I guess, I was at Costco:

"We just got finished previewing the course for tomorrow's district meet, how about if the team comes over for Pizza Night?  I already asked them... We'll be there in about 2 hours."  

But the crowd was pretty small and things went well... so I let him live.  ;-) 

That initial time, it was only the cross country team district qualifiers, and they had so much fun, the next year, we decided to include the whole team.  Mistake.  The crowd was too big.  Even a double oven couldn't cook fast enough to keep up (especially the Monogram oven, which was NOT good at reaching or maintaining a consistent temperature), and being very unpracticed at baking for crowds of over 40, I wasn't properly prepared.  I had to make new batches of dough twice during the evening, after vastly underrating the eating abilities of teenaged athletes during a feeding frenzy.

For last year's event, we went back to hosting the post-district-course-preview dinner, which meant cooking 'only' for 26.  As shared at that time, I partially precooked the crust to save time, and hopefully, keep hungry hoards from lining up at the oven.  That was certainly better than the previous year's fiasco, but it was difficult to get the pizzas cooked properly, as it was so different from my usual routine.  But, thankfully, made notes of how much crust dough I needed for this year, which was helpful.

This year I meant to make 3 large batches of dough several days ahead.  However, I had neither the time nor the fridge space.  So the morning of the feed, I divided the dough I'd put together the previous Friday, and created 3 plus-sized batches, plus the 1 inter-mixed. (Mixing in the dough which I take from, then add to, every week, would mean better, more sourdough-like flavor.)  1 dough recipe usually uses 2 3/4 cups water, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp instant yeast, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 6 1/2 cups of flour.  Each of these started with 4 cups of liquid and ended with approximately 8 2/3 cups of flour.  I wanted to be able to make 18 to 21 pizzas.

I skipped the pre-baking, and just made sure we had all the other ingredients prepped well ahead of time.  

Also, my priceless helpers thoroughly cleaned the kitchen between prep and pizza making time.

I started forming crusts just after 4 PM, and my helpers assisted with the toppings.  Our first guests arrived as the 2nd pair of pizzas finished at 5:30.

We were able to stay ahead of the team, getting pizzas on the table well before they were clamoring for more.  

The Wolf ovens kept up very well until the last 6 or so pizzas.  Those were a little lighter on the bottom than I would've liked, but I can't blame the ovens, which had no recovery time and lots of door-openings.  

As the baking wound down, we were able to wipe up, meaning the kitchen wasn't a disaster by the time the team vacated and we were ready to collapse into chairs.

I was surprised to see that by the last of the teens drove out of the driveway, it was only 6:30!  They'd only been here an hour, but it seemed like much more.

Not that they were at all a problem.  It was just that every 8 minutes it took to bake another couple of pizzas seemed like 20 minutes, in my stress to make sure we never ran out of food.  Maybe next year I'll know to relax, because this plan seems to work!


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