Monday, October 17, 2011

Earth Oven Pizza

Ever wonder what's better than pizza? EARTH OVEN PIZZA!!!
Fresh made dough, cooked in a clay oven, next to a live fire is just about one of the tastiest foods you could ever put in your mouth.  There is just so much satisfaction in eating pizza that you rolled out with your own hands and then cooked in an oven which is also made with your own two hands.   It just tastes better this way!
I recently completed an Earthen Oven in my backyard in preparation for a workshop I would be teaching later.  (my building process will be outlined in future posts) 
Shortly after completing the insulation layer, we had my 31st Birthday Pizza Party and tested out these Earth Oven Pizzas I'd read so much about.  I'd like to share our recipe for the dough (which turned out really well) and the process for cooking them.


First off, get your fire going hot.
Start by using small kindling up near the oven opening and once it's burning well, push the fire back farther into the oven and continue to feed it.  Continue this process until you have a clean, well-burning fire burning towards the rear of the oven; you will start to see the flames actually curling up out of the opening.  Watch out!!!  I melted the back of my jacket while trying to warm my bum. (not cool) Keep feeding the fire for the next 45 min. - 1hr.

Once the oven is so hot inside that you can't hold your hand inside of the oven for more than a couple of seconds, and you have a nice bed of hot coals around the perimeter of the oven, you're ready to cook!

Roll out a small handful of dough on a non-stick surface.  We had an old piece of granite in our backyard which worked well for dough rolling.  Sprinkle some flour or cornmeal down to prevent sticking.  The dough should only be 1/8" - 1/4" thick once rolled out and a 10" - 12" circle makes for a good personal size pizza and easy to handle once in the oven.

Arrange your sauce, toppings, and cheese on the pizza.
Transfer the pizza onto a pizza peel; be sure to sprinkle the peel with flour or cornmeal to prevent sticking.
Stoke the fire again prior to cooking pizza; be sure you have a well-burning, hot fire going.
Slide the pizza in with the peel.  With a quick 'jab,' the pizza will slip right off of the peel and on to the hot firebrick hearth. (custom pizza peels as seen in the below picture by my partner, Matt McQueen of Handcrafted, LLC)

Instantly, you will start to see the cheese bubbling, the dough curling up, and that wonderful aroma starts to hit you in the nose!
After approx. 1 min, rotate the pizza around 180 degrees.  You could use your peel, but we found a long handle spatula or long handle tongs worked well for this rotation.
Let the pizza cook for another 1-2 min. and once it looks evenly browned around the edges and browned on top, use your spatula or peel to remove pizza from the oven. (notice in the picture below how the coals and the fire spread around the full perimeter of the oven interior vs. burning only in one spot)

Now dig in!!! Please realize that you will never think of pizza in the same way again.  :-)
You should be able to cook 3 or 4 pizzas before having to re-stoke the fire.  Continue to stoke the fire and keep a live fire going as long as you want to keep cooking.
The pizzas were a huge hit at the party and we easily fed around 35 people with no problems.
Cooking around the oven outside made for a great atmosphere and everyone fully enjoyed the experience, so much so that we had a second round of hungry pizza lovers later in the night!  Being that the oven was still so hot, we were able to add more wood and simply blow (with a narrow tube) oxygen into the rear of the oven and it lit back up instantly!

Stay tuned for more back yard oven recipes!
Send me comments or recipes of your own.


Here is the recipe we used for the pizza dough:

2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
2 1/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons of sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt

Dissolve the yeast in warm water and let stand for 5 min.
Add sugar, oil, and flour and stir. Add salt last and stir.
Kneed dough until soft, smooth, and elastic (about 8-10 min).
Transfer the dough into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Wait until the dough doubles in side and then punch down.
Cover and refrigerate or use instantly.
Remove from refrigerator about 1 hr. before using; allow to become room temperature.
(this recipe will make approx. ten personal size, thin crust pizzas)


Unchoosenid said...

Who is the hippie stretching out the cheese? Tell Aunt Meagan hello :^).

Unchoosenid said...

BTW, where did you get that big canoe paddle that you're using to put the pizzas in the oven?