In any weather, I'm always eager to light a fire and bake some pizza!
Are you with me? No wood-burning oven in your yard? No worries!
Our Baking Education Center has tips and tricks for perfect pizza that go beyond fancy ovens.
Let's take a look at a recent class, baking in a brick wood-fired oven with Richard Miscovich. Richard, an instructor at Johnson and Wales, led 12 students in the 2-day class, with pizza baked on Friday night, and hearth breads the next day.
OK, I admit it's mostly the intense heat of the wood-burning oven that gives this particular pizza its allure.
But let's take it from the top (or bottom) – let's talk dough.
Here we have balls of dough resting – white on top, whole wheat on the bottom.
Resting is a very important step in the pizza-crust process, and often overlooked in our haste to get dinner on the table. But much of a crust's flavor comes from its long fermentation during the dough stage.
Additionally, the bran in whole wheat flour softens over time, giving the dough better strength; so resting is even more important with whole-grain doughs than it is with those made from all-purpose flour.
After the dough has fermented several hours, the class divides and pre-shapes it into balls. And they rest yet again, in a large tub sprayed with pan spray.
Now, after the gluten has relaxed, we can easily stretch a thin crust without it tearing or springing back.
Students find it easy to shape a round crust when they start with a round piece of dough. Toss the dough up in the air if you like, but we prefer pressing it out on a lightly floured surface. Or place the dough over floured knuckles, and gently stretch.
If round doesn't happen, rectangular pizza is very tasty, too!
Potatoes on pizza – didn't I read about that somewhere? Look back at PJ's potato pizza post for a great whole-wheat pizza crust recipe.
The whole-wheat pizza dough recipe used in Richard's class is more similar to that used in our Thai chicken pizza. Make the whole-wheat crust as directed, and top as you wish.
Into the fire they go! The potato pizza is in the blind spot, but you get the idea – the oven is VERY hot.
Here's a full-length shot of the oven our students use in the classroom. Behind the beautiful stone facade is fire brick and insulation. The heat is intense!
To get a brick-oven effect in your home oven, bake directly on a thoroughly preheated pizza stone. Set your oven to its maximum temperature (usually 500°F or 550°F). And give the stone a chance to become saturated with heat (at least 20 to 30 minutes), so it radiates when the pizza is loaded.
At high temperatures, the bake is quick.
Go light on toppings, to avoid soggy crusts and undercooked toppings. Remember, this crust is so flavorful it doesn't need fancy adornments.
The pizzas above were baked in our new, indoor wood-burning oven.
But, if you took a class in our Baking Education Center more that a year ago, you might remember this oven, which used to be inside a classroom. The oven didn't move, just the building surrounding it. When our old facility was dismantled, the oven was preserved. The oven (still) sits between Route 5 and our new bakery, school, and store.
Now when you visit us, you may catch a glimpse of me baking in a wood-burning oven either indoors, or out.
Want to learn more? Read about our classes here.
Happy pizza baking! Chime in and share your favorite pizza tips in the comments below.