My brother likes buying things.
Like most males, he doesn’t buy a lot of things but when he does shop, he buys big-ticket items. A windsurfer. A vintage electric keyboard or guitar. A top-of-the-range bicycle. A wood-fire pizza oven.
When he and his then flatmates went in for a $1200 wood-fire pizza oven six years ago my parents and I shook our heads. How often would they use it? It was one of those indulgent purchases you make when you are on a good salary and unburdened with the expense of kids or a mortgage.
But then he invited us over for a pizza party and we saw the light.
Yes, the cost per usage ratio is high. Realistically, it only gets an outing a handful of times a year, making the pizzas the most expensive ones we’ve ever eaten.
But on those rare occasions when my brother fires up the wood oven, those invited experience pizza nirvana.
We were lucky enough to experience it a couple of weekends go, when my brother and his wife decided to throw a pre-Christmas pizza party for 60 friends and family.
In the lead up, my heavily pregnant sister in law made 28 pizza bases and all the toppings from scratch. That’s right – from scratch. The fact that she did so with her usual good humour, grace and lack of hysterics just shows you the type of amazing woman she is.
(My brother is lucky to have her. We are lucky to have her.)
During the party, my brother and his friend Andrew took turns cooking the pizzas and garlic bread.
Here are the results. First up, a Garlic Bread appetizer:
Salami, Cherry Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella and Fresh Basil:
Mushrooms Two Ways, Taleggio and Fresh Basil:
Ham & Pineapple:
My favourite: Marinated King Prawns, Spanish Onion, Lemon and Chilli:
What are your favourite pizza making tips and toppings? Would you buy a wood-fire pizza oven?
- 375 grams strong white bread flour (strong flour is over 11.5 protein – check the label)
- 125 grams wholemeal flour (Dayle uses Lauke wholemeal bread flour from Goodies and Grains at the Adelaide Central Market while Russell uses stone-ground wholemeal flour [biodynamic 80% light which has the coarser bran sifted out])
- 375 ml room temperature or slightly warmer rain water or filtered water (too hot kills yeast, too cold inhibits yeast)
- 1 packet of dried Tandaco yeast
- 2 level teaspoons salt
- 1 level teaspoon sugar
Use a mixer with a dough hook if possible. You can do the same thing buy hand… but it’s hard work.
- Combine the white, wholemeal flour and yeast in the mixer bowl.
- Dissolve the sugar and salt in the warm water.
- Put the mixer on the lowest speed and slowly add the water, sugar and salt. Continue to mix until a rough ball forms. This should only take a minute or two.
- Remove the dough to a floured bench and gently knead into a ball. Don’t overwork the dough.
- Place in a high edged bowl to rise… sometimes Dayle uses a saucepan. Cover with oiled cling wrap and a tea towel and let rest for 20 minutes. At this point you can put the dough in the fridge to use the next day, or freeze it.
- If you are using it immediately, leave until it has doubled in size (height increase of 50% or so) this usually takes maybe an hour all up.
- If you have refrigerated your dough overnight, remove it an hour before use to a floured bench, divide and gently knead into 4 balls, place on a tray and cover with oiled plastic. Leave to rise for an hour and it is ready to use.
- Stretch the dough into shape rather than rolling it so as not to squash the little air bubbles that make it puff up in the oven.
- Brush oil on the base before putting the sauce on to stop the base going soggy.
- Less is more with toppings, leave a few spaces to help the base cook.
- Baking paper is your friend – as the dough is soft and a bit sticky, it is hard to handle.
- Dayle usually pushes the dough out onto a sheet of baking paper to make transfer to the oven easier. Put the whole lot in the oven (base on paper) and then after 1 minute or so you can easily slide the pizza off the paper and directly onto the stone to complete the cooking.
- Margherita – brush pizza base with oil, add a small amount of tomato pizza sauce, and spread with basil leaves. Place a cherry tomato and piece of fresh buffalo mozzarella on each leaf, then season with salt and pepper.
- Mushroom (adapted from Pizza Modo Mio by John Lanzafame). Pan fry in olive oil one chopped small onion, 2 garlic cloves, 15 mushrooms, and chopped parsley until soft, the blend until smooth and add salt and pepper. Thick slice field mushrooms and cook in a frying pan until golden. Spread pizza base with mushroom puree, add some basil, grated mozzarella, fried mushrooms and top with slices of Taleggio cheese.
- Prawn. Marinate prawns in olive oil, lemon rind, basil and mint overnight. Brush pizza base with oil and some tomato pizza sauce, then add grated mozzarella, basil leaves, sliced red onion, cut chilli and prawns. Spoon some lemon juice over each prawn and season with salt and pepper.
This post is dedicated to Andrew, pizza lover and IT gun. With thanks and love to Dayle.