Monday, October 13, 2008

Pizza Night

Last night was pizza night. I don't keep my camera in the kitchen so you will have to use your imagination to conjure up a picture of how the pizzas came out. The toppings came from the garden, the pantry, and the fridge so you can glean some idea of what I tend to keep on hand.

Pizza number 1 had peeled, seeded and diced fresh picked Carmello tomatoes, shredded whole milk mozzarella, diced pancetta, and a final sprinkle of chopped basil and parmigiano.

The second pizza had manchego cheese, sauteed sweet onions and fresh from the garden sauteed Piquillo peppers. Piquillos are usually roasted and skinned, but I didn't feel like going to the trouble this time around. I julienned the peppers and slowly sauteed them with the onions, minced garlic, and a few branches of fresh thyme until they were meltingly tender. The skins were a little tough but not so much as to be a bother. The flavor was still fantastic.

The final pizza was a little too weird for our friends that had stopped by. He looked at the thin sliced Yukon Gold potatoes (from the farmers market) that had been tossed with chopped Georgian Crystal garlic and olive oil that I was arranging on a cast iron griddle pan and dubiously inquired about what those were for. He looked even more dubious when I said they were going on a pizza. Too weird! She looked squeamish when I told her that the potato topped pizza would also have octopus on it. They left before pizza #3 made it to the oven - not because they couldn't take my weird pizza, but because they had an hour and a half drive home and needed to get up early this morning. Or perhaps it was the brussels sprouts that I was preparing to roast that made them look at their watches! Anyway, the potatoes are roasted until soft but not browned before they go on the pizza. The pizza is made with gruyere cheese, topped with the roasted potato slices, then cut up pieces of octopus (canned in olive oil) and I also used the last bit of diced pancetta left from the tomato pizza.

My pizza dough is based on a recipe from The Rose Pistola Cookbook. The dough uses a small amount of yeast and a biga made the day before with a tiny amount of yeast. The biga ferments slowly in the fridge and the dough ferments slowly as well. The result is a very flavorful, bubbly, and chewy thin crust.

I baked the pizzas in my little Beehive Oven. Pizza done in the beehive comes out far superior to oven baked. The pizza stone in my oven requires an hour to preheat and the hottest it gets is 550 degrees F. The beehive only takes a half hour longer to heat up but the temperature gets up to 700+ degrees F. on the floor and the dome gets to over 900 degrees F. Pizzas bake in just a few minutes and come out with a good crisp crust with nice little burned spots on the edges and the toppings aren't overcooked. The small size of the beehive means that you can only do one pizza at a time and they have to be rotated to evenly brown the edges - big deal, I'm not operating a pizzeria here. I burn a mix of almond and oak and use trimmings from my own oak trees for kindling. I've been very happy with my little wood-burning oven - it turns out great pizza, bread, roasts, etc.

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