· Food For Thought
You can make pizza on any barbecue. The high heat produced by a barbecue is ideal for quickly melting cheese and baking crust.
HOWEVER, a ceramic pizza stone makes the process easier and the pizza tastier. For this recipe we used an outdoor, wood-fired pizza oven which are available for purchase at the world’s best barbecue stores.
The pizza oven has a large, rectangular ceramic stone in the middle oven. The middle oven is completely insulated and provides an ideal, high temperature environment for cooking pizza. We’re assuming that you’re all capable of picking some tasty toppings for your barbecued pizza without our help (we like feta cheese, basil and dry pepperoni).
The recipe we use for our pizza shells is as follows: This dough is easiest to make in a food processor. You can, however, make it by hand (there's just a lot of mixing and kneading that way).
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup warm water (between 95° and 115° F.)
- 2 T yeast (2 tablespoons, I like my dough a little yeasty. You can use less)
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Pour in warm water. The water should be about 85 to 115° F. Test it with your hand. It should feel very warm, but comfortable.
Add the honey and salt. Mix on low for about 20 seconds. Add the yeast and mix on low for another 5 seconds.
Add 1 cup of flour, mix on low for 10 seconds. Add the olive oil and mix until blended (about 15 or 20 seconds more). Add the rest of the flour (and any other additions) and mix on high for about a minute or two.
The dough should turn into a ball and roll around the processor. If the dough does not ball up because it's too dry, add water one tablespoon at a time until it does. If your mixture is more like a batter, add flour one tablespoon at a time. Adding water or flour as needed to get the right consistency will assure you always get a perfect dough. Just remember to do it in small amounts.
Once the dough is balled up, place the ball on a floured board and knead for about a minute. This builds the gluten which helps the dough to rise and become fluffy when cooked.
Place the dough in a plastic grocery bag or a covered bowl and store in a warm, dry area to rise. After about 45 minutes the dough should have about doubled in size. Show it who the boss is and punch it down. That's right; give it a good smack so it deflates.
Let it rise for another hour to an hour and a half. The dough is now ready to be rolled out. You can punch the dough down one more time if you want and wait another hour or two before rolling out. The choice is yours.
You're now ready for the next step: Rolling out the dough!
Making the Pizza
Build a fire in the firebox of the oven. Start with small, dry pieces of wood, let them catch fire and then add the bigger pieces. Long, thin pieces of wood work the best. DO NOT use soft woods such as pine and spruce as they will leave your foods with a resiny taste. Sort of like retsina but without any of retsina’s redeeming qualities.
Allow the unit to heat up. Look closely at the picture to the above to spot a few “don’ts”. Firstly, make sure that the damper in the chimney is left in the ‘open’ position. Whent the damper is closed you get a LOT of smoke coming out the front of the oven. Also, open the door on the top, secondary oven as it is not sealed and the fire will draft better if there is some air in that oven. Thirdly, can you see the aluminium pan in the middle oven? It’s an aluminium pan that is stamped with “Do not leave in oven during use”. Read that warning. We didn’t. The pan warped. The oven will take about half an hour to warm up. Mind you, we’ve only tried using it when the temperature is firmly below zero. It will probably heat up a lot faster when the ambient is more comfortable.
While you’re waiting for the fire to heat up the oven, move back inside and get your pizzas ready. Start by sprinkling a liberal dose of cornmeal on your work surface. The cornmeal makes it easier to slide your raw pizza onto the ceramic cooking surface. It will also help prevent burning.
Work your pizza shells into a thin circle.
Add your ingredients. Too many ingredients will make the pizzas heavy and hard to place on the ceramic cooking surface.
Top with cheese.
Have a look outside and make sure that the oven (or bbq) is warm enough. About 300 - 350 degrees is what you need. Give the ceramic stove some extra time at this temperature to heat all the way through. The pizza should start cooking as soon as it hits the stone.
Slide the pizza onto the ceramic cooking surface (that’s the tricky part) and let it cook. Once the inside of your oven (or barbecue) is up to temperature and the pizza stone is hot, the cooking process happens FAST. Do NOT go into your house for a few tighteners or to turn on the Xbox. Stay with your pizza.
Remove the pizza when the cheese has melted and the crust is brown.
Enjoy. If this isn’t one of the best pizzas you’ve ever had, we’d be truly surprised.