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First large party - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community


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First large party

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  • First large party

    Ok, folks, I need some help. My oldest son is graduating from college in a few weeks and wants to have his graduation party here, with pizza, for lots of people. I am expecting as many as 30- maybe more, but geez I hope not.

    How much dough to make? How to figure out amounts of toppings? Holy cow it's daunting- I've not hosted pizza for more than 8 or 10 people before.

    I have no idea how to go about raising that many dough balls- I don't have enough cake carriers to put more than 16 balls into. Can I do it in sheet pans inside plastic bags with air blown in, like I do bread? I can't possibly retard it overnight, either, since I don't have a fridge big enough, so what recipe to use?

    I am not planning to use caputo for this dough, since I doubt most of the kids will properly appreciate it. I hate to waste lovely flour on those who would probably think that a Boboli is the height of home made pizza...

    Any advice you all have would be really appreciated- I want this to go well, I'm inordinately proud of my boy! He's made it through in 4 years and done quite well! Grad school next, but that's on his dime....


  • #2
    Re: First large party

    I used to use ziplocs with oil in them to retard dough balls. You say you don't have the fridge space, but prepping the dough the night before makes party day so much easier. I would consider asking a neighbor for fridge space, or maybe even using a big cooler with cold packs in it to retard the dough...
    My Oven Thread:


    • #3
      Re: First large party

      First off Congratulations on your eldest son's graduation. We just celebrated my eldest grand daughters graduation from WWU, such events are real milestones (also have a way of making one realize one's age)

      For my parties I use separate containers for each doughball. I have not had luck with placing lots of doughballs in the same container, seems they end up gluing together and getting the balls out without major degassing has proved troublesome. I use two quart yogurt containers or some similar sized containers I purchased at Walmart and made by Rubbermade. They store in minimal space and filled I have no problem stacking as many as 8 high.

      As for toppings sauces I try to go for something that doesn't take a huge investment in time and which also can be "created as needed" with minimum effort. The "created as needed" is the key part for although having some labor intensive sause or ingredient is perhaps "better" when it runs out what does one do?

      For sauces I have found that running Di Napoli "Classico Tomato and Basil" sauce thru a ricer produces a great sauce that can created as need requires. This stuff gets lots of compliments, tastes and texture like you spent hours over a stove. And when one runs low one simply opens another quart jar and a moment thru a ricer and you have sauce ready for pizza. Available at Costco and I usually have a case stashed. Also at Cosco is fresh mozzarella chesse in vaccum sealed two packs, if unopened they last a reasonable length of time.

      Have a assistant who has run thru the prep with you so if things start to run low you can simply ask them to make more. They run off to the kitchen an a few minutes later you are back up and running. Same for at he rest or the toppings. Basil, meats, tomatoes etc. just pre cut and package in reasonable sized containers one runs low asssitant brings a new one. Figure you will have extra when it's over and so you make calzones to put in the freezer or send home with the guests.

      We to are planning a first pizza party of the season to happen in a month (when my renovation of the downstairs will be complete). We are planning a potluck. Guests bring what they want to drink and either a salad or a dessert. We are expecting 50 +-. Which, as you are expecting to feed 20 year olds, would mean about same amount of pizza dough. I figure a 12 inch pizza for each person, this always has ended up with excess dough but, like I said flour is cheap. The stuff I use costing less than 20 bucks for a fifty pound bag. But everyone has their own idea of what they simply must have for their pizza dough. Some more sophisticated than others and I am sure there are those who will stick their nose in the air at my dough, but it works for me, I like it and my friends like it. So those who require "better" can go feel "holier than I" and are not invited. So as for quantity,my suggestion is since flour is cheap (at least the stuff I use and what you are saying you wish to use) so make lots of dough. If I remember correctly, I calculated my 12 inch pizza skin costs less than 20 cents each so 50 pizza skins would cost less than two six packs.

      Since they are college kids, just have lots of beer and all will end up well.



      • #4
        Re: First large party

        Congrats on the reason for the party! We often do fairly large parties and have found that the most successful (and fun for the group!) way to go is to have as much done in advance as possible, and recruit helpers. For the dough, I find that weighing out 8oz balls and keeping each ball in a 14 ounce zip lock disposable container works well. The dough can be frozen in these same containers if it turns out that you made too many (to use once frozen, just bring them out of the freezer the night before and keep in the fridge until 2 hours before you plan on using them). The cooler with ice packs sounds like a good way to go if fridge space is an issue. For the sauce, I make it up in advance and store it in the same sized zip lock containers (it also can be frozen).
        Mrs. Neil2


        • #5
          Re: First large party

          Hi Elizabeth!

          First, Congratulations!

          Second, I second Wiley. Commercial sauce, cheap mozz (but Costco's is pretty good), and plenty of pepperoni and/or Italian sausage. (They are good and easily prepared in large quantities in advance - boil the pepperoni for about 15 seconds to reduce the oil - and leftover meat can be frozen.) I would also suggest one pizza per person. That salad, and beer and they won't starve.

          Good Luck!


          • #6
            Re: First large party

            I've never had luck with a tray of dough balls, myself. I use individual lidded containers coated with cooking spray, but I think sandwich sized ziplocks would be a perfect alternative without having to go to the store and buy a bunch of plasticware.
            As far as recipe, I use the 500/325-375/5yeast/10salt from here if time is an issue. I actually like this recipe better done day-of than retarded overnight anyway. If I have an overnight, then sourdough is better, IMO. You could always do some ahead and some day-of if you're worried about storage and quantity and prep time, or retard/hold in a cooler.
            One pizza <250g. dough portion per adult has always been MUCHO PLENTY, IME, especially if there are other edibles.
            The restaurant size cans of San Marzano knock offs at Costco plus some salt and fresh oregano zizzed with an immersion blender are my stand-by sauce. I portion one big can into sandwich sized ziplocks and freeze. For 30 pizzas, two ziplocks worth would be plenty.


            • #7
              Re: First large party

              Hi Elizabeth,
              long time no communicate! Must be the weather, (well, you've got to blame something).
              I often have to cater for a larger number of guests when I get the oven going.
              The last one was for15-20 and I made a single batch of dough using 2 kg of flour, ie ending up with almost a 4kg mix. This gave me 32 pizzas. I made it the night before the lunch time meal and proofed it in the fridge in a couple of 4l ice cream containers with lids on. Well, they almost pushed the lids off after only 2 hours but fine next morning. In future, I think that I prefer to get up early and make them 3-4 hours prior to cooking.
              Each 500g flour mix (or what they call a 1kg mix) I divide into 8 portions and get 8 approx 10" pizzas from them. I divide the mix and put then into flat trays up to 6 per tray but they often join when proofing but they simply pull them apart. Much less washing up after when everyone has gone and left you to do all the cleaning up, right!
              I find that they are ideal as I can only get through one but the others come back for more and enjoy them as they are hot. They also have the ability to assemble half and half toppings.
              I have plenty of mozzarella and 'tasty' shredded cheese, (any left over freezes for next time well), plenty of thinly sliced meats, (ham, pepporoni, salami, meatworst etc), seafood, (small prawns halved, sliced calamari and red salmon, octopus and the traditional vegetable toppings, sun dried tomatoes, pineapple, onion, capsicum, peppers, mushrooms and whatever you prefer. I also have several sauces but I prefer
              Mot of this can be frozen or used soon after for salads, but I often use any left over dough balls and make up pizzas that I freeze for convenient meals or snacks.


              Prevention is better than cure, - do it right the first time!

              The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know

              Neillís Pompeiii #1
              Neillís kitchen underway


              • #8
                Re: First large party

                Congrats! You'll have a great time no matter what, but to make things easier...

                Try recruiting helpers for the toppings the day before. I hosted a few parties for 15-20 and started with a stick of pepperoni about 15" long and two pounds of pre-cooked Italian sausage and it was more then enough. Get as much done the day before and store in ziplocks.

                Be sure to take the dough out early enough so it relaxes and warms up.

                I usually go through 1 1/2 quarts of sauce. I found that by having 4-5 separate cheese filled ziplocks I could take out a new one only when needed.

                For dough, I have done separate dough containers and larger bins and for myself it was a bit easier wit the separate containers just because they could stack easier in the fridge. You'd be surprised how many you can stack and tuck away.

                "Grad school next, but that's on his/her dime...." I'll hopefully use that line soon, too
                My Build Thread


                • #9
                  Re: First large party

                  Oy. Now it's looking like 50 people. I ordered 50 deli containers with lids from ebay, so I can put individual balls in to rise. I don't think I need 50 pizzas, though, but I can freeze the dough for later.

                  What do you all think about parcooking some of the pizza bases ahead of time? I should have a couple of hours to prep things, and if I cooked just the base of 10 to 20, I could get toppings on and get them in and out of the oven fast enough to feed the army of young adults.

                  Have any of you done this? I'm thinking just cooked enough to firm it up, not browned or anything. While I realize it isn't optimal, it would sure help with the time pressure.

                  I'm going to get toppings and dough prepped the day before (I don't want to be madly chopping and mixing on my boy's big day any more than I have to!).



                  • #10
                    Re: First large party

                    For 50 people if pizzas is the only thing you are making then i would make 5kg of flour. Prep it in the morning and have everything else ready that you want to add (i try not to have too many ingredients as its gets too much). Then have 1 helper and start pumping those pizza's. You will find even if you made 60-70 pizzas (which i have done plenty of times) they will all go.

                    Enjoy and remember to enjoy the process as thats what cooking is all about


                    • #11
                      Re: First large party

                      Hi Elizabeth!

                      I don't think i would par cook them. If you keep the oven hot they will cook faster than you can probably make them so....

                      Good Luck!


                      • #12
                        Re: First large party

                        Good news on the graduation!!!

                        Some things to consider:

                        Do 2-3 pizzas at a time - or however many is your max at once.

                        Cut the pizza slices smaller - into 16 slices at the start so everyone gets a piece at the start and revise sizes at the evening progresses.

                        Prepare the biga the night before and prepare the actual dough the morning before. Biga should ferment slower that IDY and minimise over proofing.

                        1 pizza per person is what I cater for.

                        Enlist the help of someone with a Hobart mixer as you will be needing about 8,1 kg of dough (30 x 270g). This is a lot of dough to mix by hand!

                        Keep toppings simple (I tear most of my toppings up - like mushrooms). The more margherita's you do the better - people don't really care what is on top as long as they have go something to eat.

                        Wrap each ball in lightly oiled cling wrap which makes for more efficient packing in the fridge.

                        Good luck - you will have a great night ... but prepare to do a lot of work!!!
                        / Rossco


                        • #13
                          Re: First large party

                          Well, I'm taking a break from manufacturing dough. I decided to go ahead and do barbeque as well, since at the beginning of the week the forecast was iffy. So I did 4 boston butts in the wfo Wednesday night- I smoked them for an hour in there and then closed it up overnight. Perfect in the morning!

                          Now I'm in the process of doing 4 1500g (flour) batches of dough, which by my calculations should do about 48 dough balls of the size I usually make. I might make them bigger, though, to get more slices for the hungry masses. If I have it left over I can always freeze it, that way I can do more "spontaneous" pizza, if you can call something which requires that much oven heating "spontaneous"...

                          I am planning on roasted red peppers, pepperoni, some sausage, onions and mushrooms, and that's it. If they want any weird stuff they can buy it.

                          Also on the menu will be hummus and chips, guacamole and chips and salsa and chips (chips are on sale this week!) as well as salad.

                          Well, gotta go make more dough. This is putting a strain on Dinah the mixer. If I had the money to spend on a new mixer (I don't just make bread, so I need something that whips cream, etc. as well) what should I look at?



                          • #14
                            Re: First large party

                            I've found that the thing that slows operations up is guests making the bases from the dough balls. They take ages rolling out the dough and just as long selecting what to put on top. You need to always have pizzas ready to shovel in. I know it sounds like a cop out but if you get half your pizzas with ready made bases then every second pizza can be one with a ready made base. They are so much easier to handle and you can shovel more into the oven at a time. It's also fun to show your guests how much better a freshly made base is. I catered for a party of 80 and made 70 pizzas in 2 Hrs using this method and my oven is only 21" After that, now I find a party of 20 easy.
                            Kindled with zeal and fired with passion.


                            • #15
                              Re: First large party

                              So, graduation was a big success all around-lovely weather so it could be outside, sunny but not hot.

                              Later on, it actually got a bit chilly (lent out a whole lot of sweaters!) which made the oven a very popular spot! I made probably 30 pizzas, went through about 2 pork butts worth of pulled pork, and there were new grads and not grads yet all OVER my house, along with assorted parents and grandparents.... I lost track of how many there were, but we had a great time and the oven and pizzas were a bit hit.

                              The tips on bottled marinara for sauce and using bagged shredded cheese were right on- I also had pepperoni, mushrooms and roasted red peppers and a bit of Italian sausage as well. For the properly appreciative I had a stash of caputo flour dough, real mozzarella and basil leaves. We also made a nutella, strawberry and turbinado sugar pizza quite late- it was fabulous!

                              Thanks for all your suggestions- it was a big help and next time I won't be so nervous!