Thursday, 31 July 2014

Pizza on the must be smokin'

Like most good ideas, this one happened by chance. With the ongoing absence of a wood oven in my life I’d become quite creative (and perhaps a little obsessed) in my quest to create a delicious and authentic pizza at home. I’d made the dough enough times now to be confident that it was a winner but I wasn’t fully satisfied with my cooking method, which I’d borrowed from the incredible Pizza Pilgrims. (Who, it must be said, I can’t speak more highly of, they’re like my pizza idols.)

The base would start off in a smoking hot dry pan then it would be topped and left to puff up a little before flashing under a smoulderingly hot grill to melt. The result was good however, I had 2 issues with this method. The speed at which it had to be topped coupled with the fact that I had to transfer from pan to tray to be able to fit it under my grill meant I had to be very meagre with the toppings. Although an authentic pizza didn’t have a lot of toppings on it trying to explain this to hungry dinner guests who wanted the works on their pizza never seemed to end too well.

Secondly, I have an incredibly sensitive smoke alarm, and live in an apartment with lots neighbours. Said smoke alarm was not a fan off pizza nights in Nev’s kitchen and felt the need to voice this dislike at several intervals during the night. The particularly offensive alarm could only be soothed into remission by one of my dinner guests standing below it waving a tea towel up and down like a banshee for at least 30 seconds. While admittedly this is a great way to burn off some of the calories from the impending carb overload it didn’t make me particularly popular with either my guests or my neighbours. Something had to be done.

I inherited a little BBQ a few weeks ago. Some of my neighbours who were moving house had decided to leave it behind so I adopted it. At least I’d assumed that was the reason it was gifted to me….However, now looking back, it seems more likely this was a subtle hint. An act undertaken to encourage me to start cooking more outside- due to their suspicion that I had an intrinsic inability to cook anything without setting it on fire. At least this way, if I did set it on fire then I was outside anyway and more importantly well away from the dreaded smoke alarm.  Alas regardless of reason I was now the owner of a neat little BBQ and so began to wonder….could I cook my pizza in this?

The verdict? Well put it this way I’d still give my right (actually better make that left) arm for a wood oven but I think it’s a great way to cook a pizza; it’s quick, the base was crisp and no noisy alarms! Win! Also it’s a brilliant way to entertain a few friends, the style of cooking and eating lends itself really well to the BBQ and outdoor atmosphere, and although you can only cook 1-2 pizzas at a time you’re all in the garden together and people can always share, choose their own toppings and generally get involved. Make a couple of garlic pizza breads to start for people to nibble on while they wait or throw together a big antipasti board as a starter for sharing. I’d fully advise having a go instead of your next traditional BBQ! Enjoy.

NB I have created this recipe for people who wish to make and eat their pizza the same day, but If you want to make the authentic Naples style sourdough pizza then see the recipe at the end, great if you have a wood oven or use the frying pan/grill method if you’re lucky enough to have a normal smoke alarm!

Mini BBQ Pizzas
Makes 7-8 small pizzas, garlic pizza bread or pesto breads

NB if you have a sourdough starter, use this instead of the yeast, or add a little yeast as well if you’re short on time, but don’t forget to add less water.

500g Canadian very strong flour
10g sea salt
7g sachet fast action yeast
about 300ml water, you may not need it all
400g can really good plum tomatoes, use San Marzano if you can
Sea salt, pepper
Fresh basil leaves
2 x 125g balls mozzarella, patted really dry (or the pizza will be soggy) and cut into small cubes
grated fresh Parmesan

Then you decide, nice options include: 2 tbso of soft butter mashed with 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic, sliced salami, broccoli red chilli, sautéed mushrooms, prosciutto, ricotta, egg, wilted spinach, roasted peppers, marinated artichokes…..The possibilities are ENDLESS!

1 Make the dough

Put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, add about 200ml of water then while the machine is mixing add enough water to form soft dough. Continue on a slow speed for 7-8 minutes, until you have shiny, soft dough that feels elastic, smooth and soft but not sticky.

Remove the ball of dough and shape into a rough ball, put on a lightly floured surface cover and leave to relax for about 20 minutes before shaping.

2 Shape

Using a dough scraper or knife to cut into balls, about 120g each (about 200g for individual size not mini). Shape into round balls. Place on a well-floured tray, spaced apart as they will spread, cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours at room temperature or about 12 hours in the fridge for a slow rise. If it’s a hot day cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm and shady place.

3 Get the BBQ going

Light the BBQ about 45 minutes before you want to eat and make sure your toppings are all prepped and organized nicely. Also have a plate with about 150g of flour on top; this is for shaping the pizza base. A bottle of olive oil and some black pepper ready.

4 Make and cook the pizza

Place your pizza stone or good quality pizza tray straight onto the hot coals (once they are white) add the lid and allow to heat up. Take each base in turn and place on your circle of flour (see pics to help) gently press out with your fingers to form wider circle with a rim for the crust. Spread on some sauce then your chosen toppings, not too many if you want a really crispy base. Slide onto the hot pizza stone, replace the lid and cook for about 4-5 mins, until crispy and melted. If you want a really bubbly crisp top you can flash under the grill as well just before serving. Repeat with the rest!

For a calzone, place fillings on one half, fold over to seal, brush with garlic butter and cook for a few mins more, then  brush with more butter before serving.

Proper Sourdough Pizza
Makes about 10 x 10inch pizza bases

Day 1:

500g Canadian strong flour, or strong bread flour
25g fresh yeast
100g natural yogurt
500ml cold water

Mix together, cover and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 2:

1 kg Canadian strong flour, or strong bread flour
20g salt
about 400-600ml cold water

Weigh out 200g of your starter, you don’t need the rest but you can freeze it, or keep it in the fridge if you’re making pizza again soon, or sourdough.

Put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with the 200g of starter. Start with 400ml of water then add more as you need to while the dough is mixing.

Using a dough hook mix the ingredients in the food processor on slow speed for 7-8 minutes, until you have a shiny, soft dough that feels elastic, smooth and soft but not sticky.

Remove, cover and leave for 20 minutes to rest.

Shape into balls, about 200g each. Place on  floured tray, spaced well apart as they will spread, cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours but up to 48 hours. Continue with recipe above