Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Grilling Pizza

The pizza-blogosphere has been furiously replicating the pizza-grilling meme recently. This is something I've been meaning to try recently, as word is that the result is closer to a pizza cooked at the proper 850°F — well beyond the capabilities of my oven! So since I was due to bake some bread and had some leftover mozzarella, I thought I'd test this out and share the results (well, the photographic record of the results).

First things first: this is all about the crust, obviously. The thought is that the grill can produce that lovely char that NY-style pizza enthusiasts crave. I decided to adapt my usual bread recipe slightly to produce some leftover dough. Here's what I did (this will produce two pizzas and a small boule of bread; if you want just pizza dough, check out Jim Lahey's method or there's Jeff Varasano's bible): Mix four cups all-purpose flour, one cup semolina, two teaspoons yeast, two teaspoons salt. Dissolve a good squirt of honey (maybe as much as 1/4 cup) into 2 cups of warm water. Mix the wet team and the dry team together with your hands (my preference) or a wooden spoon. This leads to a pretty sticky, shaggy dough. Once the ball came together enough to manage, coat it in several tablespoons of EVOO, and let sit in the bowl for 18 hours covered with plastic wrap.

At this point, the bread and pizza dough part companies. I don't think it matters how much goes to one or the other. I wanted two 9-10" thin crust pizzas, so I took about a fist-sized piece of dough and left the rest to rise for another two hours before I baked it in my dutch oven preheated to 450° (35 minutes lid on, 15 minutes lid off). Following Varasano's advice, I wanted my pizza dough to develop a bit more, so into the fridge it went. Another 48 hours or so, it's doubled in size. Divided again, it doesn't look like much dough, but is plenty for that lovely thin crust.

Now it's time to pre-heat the grill while you get toppings ready. My thought about sauce was keep-it-simple. So a can of mashed-up San Marzano tomatoes (yeah Wegman's!), some garlic, salt, pepper, and basil goes in a saucepan.

Other toppings all had the benefit of being either fast cooking (mozzarella, goat cheese, ricotta) or pre-cooked (sautéed onions, bacon, basil, roasted red pepper). I wanted to make sure this stuff was all ready to go, since once the cooking started, things were going to go fast. Outside!


Grill is rocket hot now (next time I will check how hot). I slide the dough off the paddle. There's minimal "droopage" of the dough through the grates. It's cooking FAST.

In about the time it takes me to wipe my hands on my apron and take this picture, I smell burning. Yep, there's definitely some charring going on! Flipped it over, turned the grill down on that side, drizzled a little olive oil, and started topping.

This one got a variant of the traditional margherita style: dollops of sauce alternating with cheese, and basil and the roasted red peppers. After a couple of minutes to cook the other side of the crust, just turned OFF the burners under the pizza and left the far left burner on high.

Another couple of minutes, and we have this loveliness:

And the "undercarriage" shows some nice char. Maybe a bit too much this time.

I cooked the next pizza slightly differently. This time I oiled the crust before I flipped it, which I think kept the char down a bit. I also spread the sauce evenly and topped a bit more liberally (with the onions, bacon, goat, ricotta, and mozzarella cheeses). And as long as I'm living dangerously, I decide to see what happens if I add a few wood chips to the business side of the grill. Note the smoke emanating from the left side of the grill. Since I'm a BBQ maniac, I wouldn't have had a problem if this tasted like BBQed (rather than grilled) pizza. . . . Hey, this is science! In fact, it was pretty subtle (not in there long enough to get really smoky) — I just got a hint of woodsmoke.

Here they are:

Have some timing kinks to work out still (the first one was overdone and the second was a hair underdone), but I'd do this again. The crust was definitely crispy yet chewy, with a nice char that I just can't get with a pizza stone in the oven. And aside from the indoor/outdoor hassles and having to use toppings that needed little further cooking, it wasn't more difficult than using the oven and probably the closest I'll get to Grimaldi's until I build my outdoor pizza oven. Yes, that will happen before I die. The sooner, the better!

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