Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Burning Pizza On Your Grill

A Pizza Margherita (Nice topping, poor crust, baked in my feeble old oven)
YES! You can do it, by reading my description of how I fumbled through it.

I'd read much about cooking pizza on a gas or charcoal grill. In fact, with the help of fellow blogger Tancho, we'd played with this concept a few years ago, with tentative results. I was also chafing under the constraint of not having a working stove or oven for almost a week. More about that later.

The essence of baking pizza on the grill is to first quickly bake a crust directly on the grids above the burning coals. The grill marked dough piece is then removed, turned over, and a very light amount of pizza sauce and of toppings is applied to the baked side. The pizza is then placed back on the grill, the cover is lowered, and the toppings heat up as the cheese melts, say, 3 minutes in all.

The moment of truth
A nice, browned bottom is important
It's essential to have all your ingredients "mise-en-place".
One of the challenges of this approach is the series of movements onto and off the grill. Care must be taken that the dough doesn't stick. Toppings must be pre-cooked and of minimal quantity. These movements must be deft and confident. And, in the end, it's not classic pizza, but a sort of grill baked flat bread with pizza type toppings.

About a year ago, I hit upon the idea of preheating a clay comal in the charcoal grill, then peeling the already topped pizza onto the comal. In theory, this is a workable solution, but there were snags in practice.

The principle snag was sliding the raw pizza off the improvised cookie sheet "peel", although dusted with cornmeal. I got a little better at this during the recent Sunday cookout, but never expert. To further test this concept, we invited a neighbor lady and her daughter to be our guests. They were pleased, I know, but I was not totally satisfied. More practice will be required.

Here's the meal we had:
Sra. Salud brought her specialty, Caldo de Pollo, for a starter.

Caldo de Pollo (iPad photo)
I was feeling very ambitious, so two days before I made a biga  of a very small amount of yeast, water and flour, refreshing it twice at about 12 hour intervals. Then the dough was mixed the day before, and after one full rising at room temperature, formed into balls and refrigerated overnight. This made a definite improvement in crust flavor, but was somewhat hard to work with until it had completely warmed back up.

Dough balls resting prior to extending
I was out of mozzarella, and had unfortunately substituted an inferior Queso estilo Oaxaca, plus some grated Asiago and Parmesan Reggianito. So I think that was why the cheeses barely melted. Since then, I bought some Precious™ 5- Cheese Blend at Costco in Morelia. It's very good, but expensive, at over $90 pesos for 907 grams. Costco also has their Kirkland brand shredded mozzarella, but it comes in 5 pound bags, which is too much for me to use at once. It runs about $200 pesos.

The first pizza was a Pizza Vegetariana of grilled seasoned eggplant slices, sweet colored peppers and onion.

Pizza Vegetariana. 
Next, a Pizza of Spinach and cheese. The spinach should have been precooked more before placing on the pizza.

Spinach Pizza. A bit stringy.
Next up, a pizza of homemade Italian style sausage and purchased Italian style salami.

Pizza Mixta. Note the browner than usual crust. Good.
Overall, I think these pizzas passed the Taste Test. But although they came close, they did not fully pass my Browned Crust Test. When I do it again, I'll have the moves down better.

Approved by Inspector # 4
An ideal crust bottom.
 (browned in a cast iron skillet on another occasion.)

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