Between work and a bit of traveling, we haven't posted in a while. We have a few posts lined up though, including a couple give-aways, so check in throughout the next few days! We have a pretty beat-up gas grill on our porch. The grate in it had been looking pretty bad, and I couldn't find a replacement locally. I did find a supplier on the Internet, and within two business days, I had a new grate for my grill...one size too large. It still fits, but it sorta projects out the front of the grill and slants a little bit. I probably can't grill sausages on it, but I figured it would work for my first attempt to grill pizza.
For our honeymoon three years ago, Christey and I went to Paris, Rome, and Venice. We loved the thin, personal pizzas of Italy, the thin crust and variety of different ingredients. I made homemade pizza dough and whipped up a tomato sauce. Christey and I formed our own pizzas (hers: thinly sliced mushroom, pepperoni and feta, mine: mushroom and sardine) and I grilled them on our new, somewhat slanted grill.
The dough itself is a mix of several recipes I found on epicurious.com. A packet of yeast is emptied into a cup of warm (105ish degree) water and left to bloom a bit. Three cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of sugar. I have kneaded dough by hand many times, and it never turns out well, so I used my Kitchenaid with the dough hook.
A quick mix to combine the dry ingredients, then I added the warm water and yeast, and turned the mixer on low.
The dough is mixed/kneeded until something magical happens to the gluten proteins (baking is part science, part magic to me). A good way to test this is to make a tiny pizza with a chunk of dough and stretch it until the center is translucent. If the dough falls apart before it can get this thin, then it needs more kneading.
I sprayed a stainless bowl with some cooking spray, rolled the dough in the spray, and covered for an hour to an hour an a half when, hopefully, the dough would double in size.
While the dough was rising, I worked on a basic tomato sauce. I chopped a shallot, minced a couple cloves of garlic, and minced some fresh oregano.
I heated a saucepot with some olive oil, then sauteed the shallots until they were almost caramelized. I added the garlic and stirred for about 30 seconds -- heating garlic will remove the harsh sulfurs and give that great garlic mellowness, but if it's in hot oil too long, it will get bitter and crunchy. Typically, I throw in the garlic, stir, and wait for that first blast of garlic smell to slug me. Another few seconds after that, to allow the heat to penetrate to the center of each minced nugget, and it's ready. While the oil was still hot, I added a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, and reduced that down almost to a film (the liquid in the vinegar keeps the temperature down, and the garlic and shallots soak up that wonderful flavor). I added the tomato sauce, brought the heat down to a simmer, and added the oregano.
The dough did behave itself for once, and was light and airy. I punched it down, cut it into fourths, and let the chunks rise for another half hour or so under some paper towels.
Stretching the dough is an art in itself. One of the hallmarks of Naples-style pizza is the thinness of the center of the crust, and yet since I was grilling the pizza, I was afraid a too thin crust would break or burn on the grill. I used a gentle stretching and pulling method with a bit of flattening here and there -- basically a half-assed style of "winging it". Christey opted for a more traditional "throw it in the air" style. Mine ended a little oblong, which never really handicapped most of the pizza we had in Italy. Christey's ended up being respectably round and pizza-like.
Pre-grilling the dough seems to be the key, according to my blog-skimming grilled pizza research. I sprayed one side of the dough, flipped it on the grill, then got nervous and checked the bottom a lot. Once it was cooked with a nice set of grill marks, I worked on the next crust.
Back inside, I sliced a bunch of criminis thinly. I also thinly sliced some fresh mozzarella. For my pizza, I opened a can of sardines and carefully removed some fillets from the backbone. Finally, I grated some Parmesan Reggiano.
The crusts went ungrilled-side-down (flour on the cutting board underneath helps). I spread the sauce, then Christey put pepperoni, mushrooms, crumbled feta, and the mozzarella on hers. I put mushrooms, the sardines, and the mozzarella on mine.
Back outside, I put both pizzas on the grill, put the heat on medium, and closed the lid. Except I peeked a lot.
Done at last!
Deconstruction: Christey wanted to shoot this using natural light instead of our normal setup (which can be seen on our "About Us" page above). It is summer, and the days are long, but I still had to work on a timetable so we wouldn't lose the light. I think these photos turned out pretty well. Sometimes, they're almost as rustic-looking as the pizza.
The pizza itself was outstanding. It wasn't the same as what we had in Italy, of course, but it was pretty close. The crust was nice, and I probably could have gone a little thinner. It was crunchy in the crunchy parts, and chewy in the chewy parts, and had a great yeasty taste. I enjoyed my sardine pizza -- very similar to sardine and anchovy pizzas I had in Venice with local fish. These came out of a can, but it brought back some fun memories.