Friday, August 14, 2009

Here's Your Fresh Hot Pizza...Summer Style

It's grilling season, folks. (When isn't it? This is New England...we've all fired it up in the snow before. Haven't we?) If you've never tried making grilled pizza before, give it a go this summer. It's a great way to enjoy homemade pizza without heating up your oven in those balmy temperatures, and a nice way to spend an evening with friends.

It might seem a tad risky tossing a disc of soft, pliable pizza dough on the grate of your grill, but it works.'re gonna have an accident every now and then...but that's life on the grill. Summer is not the time to sweat a topping (or, uh, an entire pizza...kabob...burger, what have you) falling between the cracks. Laugh it off and tell someone to mix you another drink.

Going into tech week for my last show, nothing could have been nicer than being invited over to Jeff and Brad's (great friends and cooks both!) for some grilled pizza. (OK, fine...and a lot of wine...) I scored a great recipe for pizza dough off of Brad that works really nicely on the grill and has almost a flatbread type quality as opposed to a more traditional (spongier?) pizza dough. (My apologies for not citing its exact source. It may be from the esteemed Steve Raichlen and/or some 90's Food Network show.)

You can make your life easier, if you have a KitchenAid standmixer with a dough hook attachment. Just dissolve the yeast in the water then add all the ingredients to the mixer bowl and have at it with the dough hook. However, I'd urge you to give the hand mixed and kneaded method in the recipe a try at least once so you know how to do it - as you may find yourself, as I did last weekend - 'roughing it' in a kitchen in the Berkshires sans KitchenAid. I'm placing another dough recipe that I use a lot for indoor or outdoor pizza later in this post for those of us too lazy to hunt down johnnycake meal which is still manufactured in Rhode Island, Home of the Johnnycake.

Grilled Pizza Dough Recipe Passed Down from So and So to So and So to So and So...

1 envelope active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water
pinch sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup johnnycake meal
1/4 cup fine ground white corn meal
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour (more as needed)

1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water with sugar. After 5 minutes, stir in the salt, johnnycake meal, wheat flour and oil. Gradually add the white flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until a stiff dough has formed.

2. Empty the dough onto a floured board, and knead it for several minutes, adding enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. When the dough is smooth and shiny, transfer it to a bowl that has been brushed with olive oil. To prevent a skin from forming, brush the top of the dough with additional olive oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place, away from drafts, until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

3. Punch down the dough and kneed once more. Let the doug hrise again for about 40 minutes. Punch down the dough. If the dough is sticky, knead in a bit more flour. Dough should be very soft however.

4. Divide dough into 4-5 pieces and roll out or hand-shape into 10-12 inch circles (or rectangles...whatever...) and store on inverted lightly oiled cookie sheet. Go for uniform thickness around 1/4-inch thick.

For toppings, set out a spread of your favorites. The pizzas are not on the grill for long, so make sure any toppings that SHOULD be cooked are cooked beforehand, as they may not have enough time and heat on the grill as they would in a traditional oven. I'd suggest the usual suspects: cooked and crumbled sausage, mushrooms, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, but anything goes. Try sliced grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, sundried tomatoes, anything.

Same goes for cheese: mozzarella, fontina, parmesan, romano...sure! But play around with brie, goat cheese, smoked gouda, gorgonzola or any other cheese that strikes your fancy.

Pizza sauce is not required, but welcome. Other options might be pesto, salsa or just a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil. Essentially, where all topping/saucing is concerned with grilled pizza, take the less is more approach. You want to avoid making them too heavy and unmanageable with toppings, and also don't want to make them soggy with liquid or so over-loaded that the toppings can't melt/heat up before the dough starts burning on the grill. This is all a general balance you'll find with experience (and you'll find it pretty quickly, never fear...).

The basic method is this:

1. Make your dough and have your shapes (perfect circles absolutely not necessary) rolled out on a board or the back of a sheet pan. Have your toppings all meezed out, preferably at room temperature and ready to go.

2. Over a medium gas or charcoal grill, spray grill grate with cooking spray or brush with olive oil, then use your fingers to lift a disc of dough from the pan to the grill grate. Quickly give a light brush of olive oil to the top side of the dough. Cook the dough for a few minutes until you see grill marks beginning to appear when you lift the edge a bit with tongs.

3. Flip the pizzas over on the grill and top the pizzas with whatever sauce/cheese/topping combo you feel like. (It helps if you've kept a part of the grill cooler than the rest; you can flip them over to the cool side while you top the pizzas, then slide them back over to the warmer area.)

4. Check the bottoms by lifting the edges with tongs. You want color, even a little black is good for flavor and character, but you don't want 'burned.' Guage how hot and melted your toppings are getting. If you feel like they're not cooperating, you may want to go lighter on the toppings and close the grill cover after you've topped the pizzas to give more of an oven effect. Just keep checking the pizzas so you don't burn the bottoms.

For a different take on the pizza dough above, and slightly quicker prep as there's only one rise, try:

B.'s Basic Pizza Dough

1 envelope (or 1 scant T.) active dry yeast
3/4 - 1 C. warm water
1 t. salt
2 - 3 C. all-purpose flour

1. Dissolve sugar or honey in warm water, then stir in yeast and let it rest for a few minutes.

2. Put remaining dry ingredients in bowl of KitchenAid mixer fitted with a dough hook and pour in wet ingredients. Mix dough, adding flour as necessary, until it is smooth and springs back some when pressed with your finger. (Uh...yeah...turn off the mixer when you attempt this, please...)

3. Scrape dough from bowl/hook into a bowl coated with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for an hour or so until doubled in bulk.

4. Punch down the dough, divide into two sections for larger pizzas or four for smaller pizzas. Let the dough rest on lightly floured surface (this is known in bread-making parlance as 'benching') before you attempt to roll it/shape it.