Outdoor Wood-Burning Pizza Oven - Pizza

I love making pizza. I love it. It’s just a great all around cooking experience. Ingredients that I love. Flour, yeast, a little cheese (or not), tomatoes, chiles, arugula, carmelized onions, everything delicious - and tactile – you get to knead - but not for so long that you get bored. It can be a group experience or a solitary endeavor and of course pizza is so delicious. I love pizza. That’s all I can say. So when Alan and I first started talking about getting an outdoor wood-burning pizza oven I really wanted it so badly that I offered to break my birthday, Valentine’s day, Christmas, and Anniversary gift rule - which is strictly enforced in my home. I (foolishly) suggested that perhaps the outdoor wood-burning pizza oven could be my birthday present. After all, it is an expensive item and I REALLY REALLY wanted it. That would have been my birthday in 2011. Alan thought it an unusual idea since my gift-giving rules are strictly enforced but he agreed. So the deal was done. We agreed. My birthday present. A kitchen item. The backstory on the gift-giving rule (and these are not just 'guidelines' these are strictly enforced rules) is that when we first got together, and probably as we neared our first gift-giving holiday, I went over my gift-giving rules with Alan. These are the rules: no sports items (bicycles, kayaks, weights, work-out clothes, gym memberships, etc); and no kitchen items or household appliances or items (pots, pans, dishes (even luna garcia dishes), vacuum cleaners, coffee pots, couches, etc). I just wanted him to know up front what the deal was. As I've said, strictly enforced, but the thing is, I really really wanted this outdoor wood-burning pizza oven. So I capitulated (he knew I would eventually) and we agreed and it was all good. But then it never arrived. June turned into July and then August and then Fall and then Winter and then Spring. No outdoor wood-burning pizza oven….

I think Alan thought that I had forgotten about the birthday present outdoor wood-burning pizza oven. It didn’t come up in conversation this past winter or spring. But then at the beginning of summer we went up to Jenny’s brother’s house in Topanga – Nate. We went up to Nate's with Pablo to make tamales. Nate is a composer for television shows (most recently Twilight). He’s a really interesting, warm, nice, person and his studio is incredible and his talent remarkable and totally impressive and so is his instrument collection - I couldn't believe it. He has this amazing house in the Canyon with a view to the ocean and on and on and a gorgeous outdoor kitchen with an outdoor wood-burning pizza oven, of course right?

 Nate

Nate

So we made tamales and then in the afternoon Alan showed up and of course he was impressed with the whole thing. And then - and of course, for my birthday in June, he gave me an outdoor wood-burning pizza oven! Year 2! Clever eh? And now I’m waiting. I know it will arrive. My husband is a man of his word if ever there was one. But my patience is wearing thin I must admit…..and I did feel that it was necessary to re-state and re-implement the gift-giving rules – just to avoid confusion in future years.

At any rate, the outdoor wood-burning pizza oven is the centerpiece of my as-of-now imaginary outdoor kitchen which I have been designing for 20-years. It’s Earthstoneovens.com – Model 90 and then you build a stone façade/casing on the outside of it so it looks really cool. Check it out on the internet. I’m really hoping that one day it will show up on my doorstep and we’ll get to it. Until then…. I continue to dream and design.

 Pizza

Pizza

PIZZA

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I have tried probably close to a half-dozen different pizza dough recipes. This one is by far, hands-down, my all-time favorite. I’m convinced that it’s the ‘double-rise’ method that makes it so good, but then I don’t know for sure as I’ve never understood the chemistry of pizza dough. When I make this dough I make several batches. I cut each batch in half for 2 smallish pies and I always freeze a batch or two for a later day. Just pull the frozen dough out of the freezer in the morning, put it in the refrigerator, and by evening it will be ready to roll.

Dough

You need at least 7-hours to make the dough or make it the night before and let it do the second rise in the refrigerator.

Ingredients:

¾ cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

1 ½ tsp active dry yeast

1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for the bowl

1 tsp kosher or sea salt

about 1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions: Put the warm water in a bowl and sprinkle the surface with yeast. Let stand for 2 minutes to soften the yeast then whisk with a fork to blend. Let stand until bubbly about 10 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil and salt then begin adding in 1 ½ cups flour gradually, beating with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated. The dough will be moist and sticky.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead with floured hands until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, incorporating as much of the remaining ¼ cup flour as needed to keep the dough from clinging to your hands or the work surface. The dough will remain moist and a little tacky but should not be sticky. Shape into a ball. Oil a bowl, transfer the dough to the bowl and turn the dough to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

Punch the dough down. Reshape into a ball and recover the bowl. Let the dough rise again for 4-hours. You can also let this ‘rise’ take place in the refrigerator over night so that the dough is ready the next day.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator about 30-minutes before you are going to start making the pizza pies. Punch the dough down, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, and shape into a ball. Dust the surface of the dough with flour, cover with a dish towel and let rest for 30-minutes.

You can also freeze any dough that you do not plan to use that day. It freezes up great.

Chile Oil

You can make this days in advance and keep for weeks afterwards. So excellent! This is way more than you’ll need for the pizza but it’s great to save and use for everything because it gets better with age!

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic finely minced

½ tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp dried oregano

Mix all ingredients together let stand for a minimum of 30-minutes before using it.

The Pizza Pie

Cornmeal for dusting the pizza

½ pound low moisture whole milk mozzarella cheese grated

Large handful of arugula

Other items for other kinds of pizza

Cooking Options:

There are lots of different ways to cook pizza. We have made it on a stone in the BBQ – make sure you put the stone into a cold BBQ and let it heat up with the grill. The burners should be on high and the grill should be about 575° to 600°.

You can also put the dough directly onto the BBQ grill. For some reason the dough does not fall through the cracks. Then flip the dough before you put on the toppings. Quickly open the top of the BBQ and throw your toppings on and then quickly close the top of the BBQ to finish cooking the pizza.

You can also roll the dough out on a cookie sheet – very thinly – and put the toppings on and bake in the oven on a 450° to 500° oven.

Of course you can buy a pizza oven ….. which brings me to the point of my story here …..

Directions: Dust a rimless cookie sheet generously with cornmeal (I have also used flour but it’s wrong to do so). To prepare the dough for the toppings you can stretch it with your hands like they do on TV and at the pizza parlors or you can roll it out with a rolling pin or pull and stretch with your hands.

Brush the dough with the chili oil

Spread tomato sauce lightly over the dough (less is more) (I like to use Rao’s marinara sauce. It’s my favorite but we used Newman’s Own mushroom tomato sauce tonight and it was great). Sprinkle the top with, shredded low-moisture mozzarella, romano, parmesan, ricotta – whatever you want to use and again, less is more.

Tear a few basil leaves up and throw on the top of the pizza pie or throw some wild arugula on the top instead – or in addition to. It’s hard to go wrong with a pizza!

 Pizza

Pizza

 Pizza

Pizza

 Pizza

Pizza

If you’re grilling the pizza on a gas grill or a pre-heated stone, stretch the crust and put on the pizza peel. Work fairly quickly so the pizza dough doesn’t stick to the peel. Brush the crust with the chile oil, and tomato sauce. Top the stretched crust with the cheese spreading evenly but leaving a ¾ inch rim uncovered. Brush the rim with the chile oil and drizzle more of the chile oil over the pizza. Raise the lid of the grill as little as possible to keep it hot hot hot. Slide the pizza onto the baking stone and quickly close the grill. Cook until the crust smells well browned, even a little charred, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, scatter the arugula over the cheese and brush the rim with the remaining child oil. Cut into wedges and serve and eat! And now make another one.

 Pizza

Pizza

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