Teen Ranch Pizza

Thirteen hungry boys (if you count my husband as a boy) sat around the dark eight foot table in anticipation of dinner.

1974.teen ranch

Our first ranch family – minus one boy.

My husband and I were serving as house parents at Teen Ranch in Marlette, Michigan.

Ten ranch boys, our two sons and my husband John savored the aroma of fresh crust, oregano, tomato sauce, garlic, ground beef and pepperoni as they ate their salads.

It was my first attempt at making homemade pizza.  Sure I had used packaged mixes to make crust.  But this was really from scratch – yeast and all.  The dough rose and even smelled good at that stage.  Preparing enough pizzas for fourteen people was a challenge.  I doubled the recipe to make enough pizzas.

The recipe was obtained from a seasoned ranch cook.  Cindy Smith was so good to share her pizza recipe with me.  I scribbled the recipe down on a piece of paper and placed in my purse.  A few weeks later I tried to decipher the recipe that was crumpled up but survived that much time.   By the appearance and smell of the dough baking, it must be a success.

Two large pizzas were placed on the four foot lazy susan of the eight foot dark table and the guys began to move the turn table slowly (this was the rule) so that each boy would have his turn in sliding a piece of the delectable pie on his plate.

Jim was the first to dig in.  He took a large bite and said, “Yuk!”

I was shocked and said, “What’s wrong?”

He said, “It is sweet!”

Several more boys agreed with Jim’s verdict.  But they were so hungry, they ate their fill.

Sure enough the dough was sweet.  I checked my recipe again and found that I had used two tablespoons of sugar instead of two teaspoons of sugar.  Never made that mistake again.

Over the years, whole wheat flour was added to my pizza recipe to give it a different texture and also to be a little healthier.  Wish I had known that at the ranch – you just can’t eat as much of the whole wheat pizza – it is more filling.

While I learned to make pizza, bread and pies large enough for fourteen, the ranch boys learned to drink sweet tea, and eat southern – like pinto beans and cornbread.

This is one of the many memories that will be shared in our book Shekinah Lane to be published next year.  Our ten years at Teen Ranch were some of the most memorable and rewarding times of our lives.

Here’s the recipe for six pizzas (I doubled for the ranch, now half for us):

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Dissolve: 4 pkg. yeast in 1 c. warm water and 1 tsp. sugar

Mix together – 8 c. flour (I use plain flour and about 2-3 c. whole wheat flour), 2 c. water, 1 c. oil, and 2 tsp. salt

Add yeast mixture, knead (I knead in my Kitchen Aid Mixer), shape on pans or let rise:

The dough will be soft.  It is best to grease your hands with shortening and spread out to thickness you desire on cookie sheets, or pizza pans.  I also use Pampered Chef stones which makes a crisp crust.

You can use marinara sauce – I make my own with tomato sauce, garlic, oregano and other Italian spices.  Place sauce on pies, then mozzarella cheese, your choice of toppings and bake in very hot oven 450 – 500.

Enjoy!

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