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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Grilling pizza

It gives me great pleasure to be the pizza maker in this marriage.  I make the dough from scratch, then divide it up and freeze the extra dough in individual balls.  Then I roll it out, put it on a pre-heated cornmeal-sprinkled pizza stone, bake it, top it, bake it, slice it, serve it, eat it.

I created my own recipe for a honey whole wheat dough via trial and error in 2003-2004.  I made it for myself until Kristen moved in.  Once she expressed enthusiastic approval, the recipe went into our regular cycle of bi-monthly dinners.  Very little change in the recipe, but lots of changes in the toppings.  And that's the way it went for about seven years.

Then during one fortuitous week, a couple months ago, we visited with two sets of friends with whom we made pizza.

The first one, Kristen's friend Jessica, GRILLED her pizza dough.  The idea startled me.  For the first few weeks of owning my grill, almost everything that I put on it had fused to the grates.  Now she was putting floppy pizza dough on her grill.  And, to my amazement, it worked!  And it was delicious.

Then we visited our (newly-married) pals, James and Jess, who had made a scratch dough recipe for the first time.  It was a very simple recipe, but I loved the texture of the dough.  As I watched it bake in the oven, I thought, "If it tastes good, this is the recipe that I would try to grill."  It tasted good.  Very very good.

Who dat?! What a shlub.

A couple of weeks later we tried the recipe.  Somehow we had run low on white all-purpose flour, so I had to throw in a bunch of whole wheat flour.  Nonetheless the texture was great.  Then came time for the grilling.  I'll admit, I held my breath as I eased the dough onto the grates.  But sure enough, it never stuck.  And the result was fantastic, like a Mediterranean flatbread pizza.

(At a later date, I'll post my Honey Whole Wheat dough recipe, which is for baking rather than grilling and results in a thinner crispy crust.)


So let's get it to it.  Here's the recipe from the great chef Mark Bittman -- it can also be found in his book How to Cook Everything and also in this exact format on his blog --
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the oil through the feed tube.

2. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is still dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time.)

3. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. (You can cut this rising time short if you’re in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.) Proceed to Step 4 or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap or a zipper bag and freeze for up to a month. (Defrost in the bag or a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature; bring to room temperature before shaping.)

4. When the dough is ready, form it into a ball and divide it into 2 or more pieces if you like; roll each piece into a round ball. Put each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rest until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.
Now, this procedure specifies using a food processor, which I really recommend.  I've been mixing my own honey whole wheat dough recipe by hand for years, but the next time I'll use the processor for it. For Bittman's recipe you can use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, then a dough hook when it gets tough.

My notes:  You can use one packet of Active Dry Yeast instead of two teaspoons of instant yeast.  I use two cups of white flour to one cup of whole wheat flour, then white is used for all additional flour; resulting somewhere between a 2:1 to 3:1 ratio.  The more whole wheat flour, the more water will be required.  Add the water slowly or else you'll end up with a dough puddle.  Once pulled out of the processor, it needs very little kneading.  If you tend to make pizza for two folks, then this recipe is good for three separate six-slice pizzas.  You can freeze the extra dough for three to four weeks.  When you defrost it later, make sure you leave it out until it has that nice extra-soft texture.



Before attempting this, you should google "grilling pizza" and take a look at how other folks do it.  I've combined a bunch of different people's procedures into this one.

(Please note: I do this on a gas grill.  You may need to do some additional googling if you're using charcoal.)

-- Preheat the grill at a medium-low flame.

-- Don't roll your dough out too thinly.  You will need to pick it up without it falling apart.  So leave it with a little bit of sponginess.  In fact, I don't roll it out much, flattening it mostly with my hands.

-- Important:  Make sure that the top and bottom are floured.

-- Place the round-ish result on a pizza peel or big cutting board and bring it out to the grill.

-- Bring your toppings out where they can be easily accessed.

-- Place the dough on the grill.  Easier said than done, right?  The thicker the dough the easier it is to do.  I lift the dough with both hands, fingers spread wide, then ease it down that way.  If you're hip enough to have a pizza peel, then slide that dough onto the grill grates.

-- There's no exact minute-count here.  But at a medium-low heat give it two minutes, then take a peek at the underside.  After that, I like to rotate the dough every 15 seconds for another minute or two, just to make sure everything is cooked evenly.

-- When you like the look of the underside -- lightly-browned, brown, or charred -- flip it over.  It should flip very evenly.

-- Now throw your toppings on!  Quickly!  Okay, not so quickly that you're losing stuff into the flame.  A lower-stress approach would be to turn the heat down low.

-- When you're done with the toppings, rotate the pizza around halfway then bring the grill cover down.  If your heat is still medium-low then this might take only a minute.  If the heat is low, then a little more than a minute.  Again, I like to keep rotating the pizza a little bit every 15-30 seconds to make sure that it's evenly grilled.  (I have a cheap grill.)

-- When it's ready, scoop it back up onto your peel or cutting board.  Slice.  Eat.

Your pizza will look exactly like this.  (Source)

If you do give this a try, I hope you enjoy the process and the results.  Let me know if you have any questions, notes, or alternatives.  Thanks!