Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grilled Pizza

Again, I doubted. And again, I was proved wrong.

I had wondered, "Is there a point to grilling pizza? Is it worth doing? Why would I want to do something like that?"

Well, it turns out there's every reason to grill a pizza. It was a revelation. It was inspiring. It was delicious.

The pizza, if you have a good dough, achieves that perfect balance of crispy and chewy. The bottom gets a bit of a char, which is something like what you would get with a pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven, which some purists say is the only way to cook a pizza. Someday I'll have one of those awesome contraptions in a flowery, verdant backyard, but for now, the grill will do nicely.

In addition to the awesomeness of the crust, the mozzarella somehow becomes more creamy and tasty, the tomato sauce more sweet and flavorful, and the olive oil drizzled on top of the pizza becomes more noticeable-in a good way.

I wasn't even especially hungry yesterday, but I ate a whole pizza. In fact, as I write this, I find myself wanting more pizza. Maybe this discovery wasn't such a good thing--like Nick says, it's sometimes not a good thing that we cook so well. I haven't put on my pants in a long time, and I'm not really looking forward to it. Elastic waistbands for me, please.

So basically, I really recommend that you try grilling a pizza if you haven't already done so. I don't know why I hadn't done this before, as I'd always been conflicted about what time of year was best to cook pizza, because I don't like to buy basil, which means summer is the time to make this recipe. But it's not always a great idea to heat your oven to 500 degrees in the summertime. I suppose, though, that the grill bread inspired the confidence to attempt this cooking method. In fact, it may even be easier than cooking the pizza in the oven. I'm a convert.

You can use the classic margherita recipe below, or you can make any other kind of pizza, like the white one here. Just go easy on the toppings, or you'll end up with a soggy pizza.

Pizza Margherita
(From Cook's Illustrated)

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup water at room temperature
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • Salt
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4 -inch slices and dried on paper towels
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Very good extra virgin olive oil

For the crust: In the measuring cup, whisk the yeast to dissolve. In a food processor, process flours, salt, and sugar until combined, about 5 seconds. With the machine running, slowly add liquid through the feed tube. Continue to process until the dough forms satiny, slightly stick ball that clears the side of the work bowl, about 30 seconds. 

If dough is not the proper consistency, add more flour or water as needed. Divide the dough in half and shape into smooth, tight balls. Place on a baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with non-stick cooking spray and let rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For the topping: In clean bowl of food processor, process tomatoes until crushed, two or three one-second pulses. Transfer tomatoes to fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Allow them to drain at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to release liquids. Just before shaping pizza rounds, combine drained tomatoes, sugar, garlic, half of the basil, and a 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl.

To shape and cook the pizzas: When dough balls have doubled in size, dust dough liberally with flour and transfer to a well-floured work surface. Press one ball into 8-inch disk. Using flattened palms, on a lightly floured pizza peel or a metal pizza pan turned upside down, gently stretch the ball into a 12-inch circle, working along outer edge and giving dish 1/4 turns. Occasionally use the tips of your fingers to make divets on the surface of the dough--this will help it stretch.

Preheat the grill, high heat. When it is hot, just before you're ready to cook the pizza, dip a paper towel in a bit of oil, and using tongs to hold the paper towel, thoroughly oil the grate. Have your toppings ready.

Let the dough slide off the peel or sheet pan, onto the hot grates. Close the grill and cook for 3 minutes. At this point, lift the dough up by one edge (if you can't do this because the dough is still sticking to the grill, wait a couple minutes till it releases) and peek underneath. If one side is browning faster than the other, give the pizza a spin. Close the lid again and cook for another 2-5 minutes until the bottom is browned and the top of the dough is forming bubbly air pockets.

Using tongs, slide the pizza back onto its conveyance vehicle, and flip the dough over so that the browned side is facing up. In the meantime, keep the grill covered but reduce the heat to low. Top the pizza with half of the tomato sauce and half of the cheese slices.

Slide the pizza back on to the grill, and cook for another 2-5 minutes, checking occasionally, until the bottom is browned and the cheese is melted. Again, give it a spin if one side is browning way more than the other. 

 Remove from the grill and sprinkle with Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Spread half of the remaining basil over the top. Repeat with the second pizza. Cut into wedges and serve.

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