Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another run at Good Pizza™

And now for something entirely different. I've been working on pizza lately for a couple reasons. First, I like pizza. OK, one reason. I think I can make a healthy pizza too. I've been trying whole wheat dough for the crust. It's a bit of work, but I hope it will be worth the effort. For this batch I'm using a recipe I found at this blog. Unlike the previous recipe I tried, this one uses 100% whole wheat. I started it two days ago and took the two dough components out of the refrigerator at 11:00 AM.  The biga (with yeast) is on the right and even in the refrigerator it has risen.

At about 2:30 PM I combined them (using molasses instead of honey) and then let it rise for a while on a heating pad.

After turning it out, I cut it into four parts and spread one out on my 14 inch pizza peel (my new toy. :D ) The first pizza I made used pulled pork for meat and I added peppers, onions, mushrooms and several kinds of cheese. Before adding the toppings, I spread some EVOO infused with garlic on the dough. I'm not sure if that's the proper way to make a pizza but I like the garlic.

I had lit two full chimneys of lump charcoal in the Performer and preheated the firebrick in the oven to 250°F. The bed of coals spread pretty much across the entire charcoal grate. I threw a couple chunks of oak in for some smoking wood. I allowed some time to preheat the firebrick (while building the pizza) and then it went on the fire. I also tilt the lid a little to provide a gap of about 1/2" on one side. Without that the fire seems to starve for air.

Weather was warm (relatively) at 41°F with wind light at about 10 mph. the sky was overcast but bright.

Below are some time/temp milestones for this cook.

timetemp comment
4:15 PM420°/230°
pre-warmed firebrick on the hot grill
4:35460°/600°Heating up fast!
First pie on!
Cheese melting and toppings curling.

First pie off! (Forgot to check time.)
4:58500°/685°Second pies on (on CI griddles.)

Second pies off!

(lid/brick) => (Performer lid thermometer / IR thermometer reading off the firebrick)

The first pie was slightly burned on the bottom. In fact, it left some charred material on the bricks. Yet the cheese had not yet browned. Toppings were cooked, but not quite to my liking. With the firebrick getting even hotter, I decided to use cast iron tortilla griddles for the next pies. I divided the next lump of dough in half again and built two pies using some smoked chicken. They cooked more evenly top to bottom. The only problem was that one cooked faster than the other and overcooked a bit. Fortunately one was just about perfect (and that's the word that Cindy used to describe it.)

The first pie looks OK on top, but the bottom is a little charred.

This one baked on the griddle was just right.

(It looks a little burned at the edge in the picture, but that is just how the whole wheat dough browns.)

If I'm going to use a peel, I really ought to get a second one. It would be nice to have one free to build the next pizza on before I remove the previous one from the grill. I'm not eager to move the assembled pizza (on raw dough) any more than absolutely necessary. The other thing I need to do is get the heat balance between top and bottom right. That means either more heat on the top or less on the bottom (firebrick.) One thing I might do is just continue to use the cast iron griddle. I can get a 14" CI pizza griddle (not Lodge, unfortunately) at Bed Bath & Beyond. I might also try modifying the arrangement of the firebrick and coals. I could leave one of the side bricks out and mound the fire toward that end of the cooker to put more heat over the platform and less on the platform itself. Of course that would result in less even heat and I would have to rotate the pie for more even cooking. I still have half the dough left so I'll have an opportunity to take another shot at this Friday.

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