Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pizza oven part 6: The first pizza!

by Birch

I remember it this way: It was a crisp, autumn Saturday night. June and I were newly married, fingers laced together as we made our way across rain-slicked cobblestones to Patsy Grimaldi's under the Brooklyn Bridge. The smell of fallen leaves, the bright notes of coal smoke, baking dough and garlic danced in the air. After a long wait for a table, a pizza topped with roasted red peppers and mozzarella arrived at our table. The thin crust was bubbly with char from Patsy's super-heated brick oven. The cheese was sparsely applied and melted into a soft milkiness.

Fast-forward to autumn in Maine with Fern and Blossom. The back-porch pizza oven had been curing with seven days of small fires to help heat-temper the masonry and avoid cracks. I started our first pizza fire with some dry oak split into narrow sticks to burn hot and fast. The fire was slow to catch, and using a flat shovel, I managed to shift it from the center of the oven to one side, where it seemed to draw better. I discovered that there was a clockwise turn of air through the oven, with cooler air drawing in through the door, past the fire and up towards the chimney. Finally the fire began to build and within an hour, I had flames licking across the inside doom of the oven, but the floor was only warm. After another hour, the floor was nearly 400° according the reading on my pocket infrared thermometer from Radio Shack. That would be hot enough to crisp the bottom crust.

Speaking of pizza crust, I had mixed our favorite dough while the fire was starting. It's a simple recipe that June devised with a secret ingredient (yogurt!) that makes a nicely supple, soft dough.

Basic Pizza Dough

1 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plain yogurt (nonfat will work just fine)
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour (King Arthur's is what we use)

In the mixing bowl of a stand-mixer (or a large mixing bowl if you ware working by hand), add the water, yeast, salt, olive oil and yogurt. Stir until the yeast begins to dissolve. Add the flour to the liquid and using the dough hook, start the mixer on slow. (If by hand, stir until a loose dough is formed and then knead on a lightly floured surface.) As the dough comes together, increase the speed of the mixer to medium low until the dough is a smooth, but sticky ball, about 4 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl with olive oil, transfer the dough to the bowl and let rise until doubled--about an hour and a half. Divide until two equal balls and let rest for about an hour on a floured surface covered with a clean dish towel.

We spent time preparing the pizza toppings while the dough finished rising and the pizza oven heated. Fern carefully cut slices of fresh mozzarella. Blossom shredded some cooked chicken and mixed it with barbecue sauce. June caramelized red onions on the stove, sauteing them over low heat with a shot of balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar. I finished a tomato sauce made with chopped tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs.

Finally everything was ready. I used one ball of dough to pat out a thin disc on a floured cutting board. I tossed a bit of coarse semolina flour on our pizza peel to keep the dough from sticking (you can use cornmeal, too). We topped the pie with barbecued chicken and onions. I got it into the oven with one nervous flick of the wrist then got to work on the second pie, which we kept simple with just tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.

The crust began to swell and the cheese bubbled. I gave the pizzas a half turn to cook them evenly. The pizza toward the back of the oven wasn't cooking as fast and the crust was still a bit doughy, but in a few minutes it caught up with the other pie closer to the fire. In about ten minutes they were both done and out of the oven, ready to eat. Our feast was a celebration of a fourteen month long effort of concrete and brick construction.

We got lucky with that first firing. But subsequent tries have not always been as successful. Once after a heavy rain, the oven floor never really did heat up as well. I went for it anyway and the pizza was nicely browned on top, but still doughy on the bottom -- and it stuck. Yikes, what a mess. The other time we put two pizzas in the oven and there was a desperate chicken emergency. Fern and Blossom checked on the birds and found their second-favorite-chicken, Marmalade in terrible distress. She was dying. It was ghastly, and I sent a sobbing Fern and Blossom into the house with June, while I tried to comfort the poor bird until she expired. (What does one say to a dying chicken at such a time? Needless to say, I surprised myself with a more tearful goodbye then I imagined I was capable of.) The pizzas burned to a blackened crisp that night, but we weren't all that hungry anyway.

Life goes on. And pizza is a circle. A symbolic representation of the cycle of life? Maybe. Or sometimes pizza is just pizza. It's something to think about as one year ends and another begins. Happy New Year from all of us!


Hullabaloo Homestead said...

Poor chicken...and poor Fern and Blossom!

Thanks for sharing your pizza story. I'm sure as with any cooking technique, it may require some fine tuning till you get it just right everytime. Good luck!


Unknown said...

May you have many, many more successful pizza nights in 2010!

The Cutting Edge of Ordinary said...

Happy New Year all. Sorry to hear about Marmalade, poor girls. Give thema hug from me.

On a lighter note, pizza looks great!

Sharon said...

Oh that dough recipe is intriguing! I'll give it a try on my next batch!

JGH said...

Dare I say it? It looks better than Grimaldi's!

June said...

Lisa: We are having a tough time disassociating pizza night from the loss of dear Marmalade. Thanks for the sympathy.

Thanks, Amy! Birch got a load of new firewood for Christmas. We'll be firing it up often.

Lisa! Thanks for the hug. (And the pizza was great!)

Hope you love the dough recipe, Sharon. I've used it for many years, sometimes with more yogurt and less water. It's lovely.

Jen!!!! You just made Birch's day. He measures all pizza by Grimaldi's. I'm with you. His IS better (plus we get the fun of making it). Kinda hard to beat Grimaldi's place-in-the-world though...if you like bridges and cityscapes.

Catherine said...

Oh! I am green with envy!

ebp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

Oh my god that looks amazing! Sorry to hear about the chicken.

sarah said...

I am going to try that dough soon. Really soon. Who would have known.. yogurt. Interesting. I am always hungry when I leave here.. you are fantastic cooks!

Wren said...

Congratulations on your pizza! Looks wonderful!!!! So sorry to hear about marmalade...

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Michael said...

Great blog. We would love to share you wood-fired oven experiences.
Michael & Sandy Jubinsky
Stone Turtle Baking and Cooking School
Lyman, ME

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دريم هاوس said...

افضل شركة جلي بلاط بالرياض لا شك أن رونق البلاط أو الرخام يساهم في تحسين المظهر في الفلل والقصور كما يضفي بريقا لامعا على مظهرها مما يعني أن اتساخها و تغطيتها بالأتربة يجعلها تفقد ذلك البريق .
تقدم شركتنا أفضل خدمة لجلي البلاط والرخام وإعادة مظهره اللامع والبراق له مع توظيف كافة المعدات الحديثة لديها و أمهر عمالة مدربة على هذا الغرض .
للشركة باع طويلة وخبرة سابقة في تنظيف الرخام والبلاط للفلل والقصور والمنازل ومداخل الشركات والمكاتب والمؤسسات
لسنا الوحيدين لكننا الأفضل في عالم جلي الرخام والبلاط وإعادة مظهره البراق ولمعته وبدون تجريحه أو خدشه وهذا سر تميزنا عن باقي الشركات … اقرأ المزيد

المصدر: شركة جلي بلاط بالرياض

افضل شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض حيث نقدم خدماتنا لأركان المدينة بالكامل ونغطيها بدون اي مشاكل كما اننا نقدم جميع خدمات التنظيف والتي نتميز فيها عن منافسينا من الشركات الاخري المتعددة في نفس المجال حيث نعتمد علي ارخص الاسعار التي نقدمها إلي العملاء في شركتنا لضمان الحصول علي ثقتكم الغالية والتي اهم ما يشغلنا… اقرأ المزيد

المصدر: شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض

افضل شركة تنظيف مسابح بالرياض  من الطبيعي أن تجد المنازل قد اتسخت أو مُلئت بالغبار و الأتربة مع مرور الوقت خاصة مع تغيرات الفصول .. مما يزيد نسبة الإصابة بالأمراض لذا فإن عملية التنظيف بالنسبة للمنزل بما في ذلك الجدران و السلالم و المفروشات.
لاشك أن الأطفال يفضلون كثيرا اللعب في المسابح خاصة في الأوقات شديدة الحرارة في فصل الصيف.
لكن ذلك يعقبه اتساخ في أرضية المسبح أو في مياهه وتزداد هذه المشكلة تعقيدا حينما يكون حجم المسبح كبيرا الأمر الذي يجعل المنزل أو الفيلا تبدوا بمظهر خارجي أقل جمالا ورونقا .
تضمن الشركة تقديم خدمات التنظيف الشاملة للمسبح وبمعدات و أدوات صيانة على أعلى مستوى من الجودة والنقاوة
إن جميع أشكال المسابح تفتقر إلى عزل وهذا لقيام مؤسسة عزل المسابح والحمامات بالرياض بحفظ المسابح وإطالة عمرها كما أنها تمنع التسربات التى قد تتم بأحجام هائلة أو يتم إهدارها , كما أنه مع القيام بعملية مؤسسة عزل المسابح والحمامات بالرياض يحاول أن المحافظة على المواد التى تستخدم لتنظيف وتعقيم المسابح والتى يتم وضعها لتنقية المسابح من مختلَف الجراثيم أو البكتيريا والتى قد كان سببا الضرر القوي للإنسان والذى يكون له إحتكاك مباشر مع المسابح وغيره .
الأمر الذي يسبب له الأمراض التى تتغاير شدتها وخطورتها ولذا الداعِي يلزم الإهتمام بقيام بعملية شركة عزل مسابح بالرياض وجعلها وجوب قسوة , والحرص على القيام بها قبل إستعمال المسبح , وهذا لتجنب إنتشار الميكروبات والجراثيم و البكتيريا والتى قد كان سببا الأمراض والحساسية لأشخاص الشخص والمجتمع والعائلة خاصة الأطفال وكبار العمر .

بما في ذلك من شفط وتنظيف و تعقيم و أيضا علاج حالات التسرب التي قد تحدث أحيانا بعد تصميم المسبح
تعد عملية ضرورية و يجب أن تتم من حين إلى آخر و بصفة دورية.
تختص شركتنا بكافة أعمال التنظيف المنزلية ,والتي قد تتطلب مجهودا بدنيا شاقا قد يعجز أفراد الأسرة عن إنجازه وبشكل احترافي بما في ذلك تنظيف الجدران و الرخام و المفروشات و المسابح و حتى الحديقة مع إزالة الروائح الكريهة و رش المبيدات الحشرية .… اقرأ المزيد

المصدر: شركة تنظيف مسابح بالرياض