Pizza, Pizza on the grill

I LOVE pizza, it is one of my favorite foods and is great hot or cold whether for dinner, lunch or breakfast. I have cooked pizza in the oven , on the grill (weber, gas or BGE) but they have all lacked “something” that you get at a great pizzeria. I especially enjoyed those over 30 years ago when I worked for Philips and stayed for training in New Haven, CT where I became enamored of garlic as a pizza topping. 

I use a Large Big Green Egg for most of my grilling, smoking, BBQ adventures. However, as is for pizza, it is lacking as I would ofren end up with burnt crust and watery or undercooked toppings. So one night while searching for ideas, as I was thinking of making a pizza oven adapter, up popped the web site for the Pizza Porta.  Basically an adapter that turns the BGE into a pizza oven. I ordered one (for my birthday) set up for 2 pizza stones and long handled aluminum peel (I do have to look the part as I attempt to finesse the pizzas).   Apparently due to COVID and lots of folks baking bread pizza stones were in short supply. I have my BGE stone and ordered a Kamado Joe pizza stone form Ace. Don’t even think of using a thin Pampered CHef stone on the grill – It WILL crack after a few uses.

First time use of the Pizza Porta was a circus / carnival of errors.  I threw in a bunch of hard lump charcoal but did not clean out the ashes or remove the cherry log pieces that had been used for a prior roast . LOTS of smoke and being unskilled with a pizza peel coupled with a too wet crust (80% hydration), led to 4 pizzas of fairly weird shapes and a fair amount of toppings being fed to the grill Gods.   This was edible and the kids / grand kids loved it but there was a lot of room for improvement.  The goat cheese , speck (like prosciutto), pistaschios (drizzled with honey after baking) was the best.

Second use was only slightly better. I forgot to place the ConVegtor (head deflector) on the grill under the stones. This meant the bottom pizza (Teal’s of course had a very charred crust (not just black in spots but charred).   Lets not repeat that mistake . However switching to a 60% hydration dough recipe made the dough slide off the peels,  more nicely (but still a bit fussy) and we only lost one slice of pepperoni to the grill . However the dough for mine was underdone (yet not blackened)

I was still worried about getting the dough consistency right for my meager pizzaiola skills and I was also looking for diastatic malt powder for the crust. This lead me to PennMac.com  which not only had the malt powder, but also pizza screens, incredible olives and other goodies (yes the surcharge for perishable goods in summer is worth it.  They do an incredible job packing the goodies).

So now armed with more tools, I made a new batch of dough. 60 % hydration and instead of using a poolish I used sour dough discard (actually most of the starter I had in the fridge).   The dough recipe will be another post.

Pizza Porta in BGE, heatermeter, peel and tools

After an all day rise, we cut the dough into 2 balls which rested on the counter  (80F) for a couple of hours and then formed the crusts. Just gentle pulling and pushing (no need for a rolling pin) . The crusts were placed on the 12″ screens and docked (poke holes to prevent big bubbles).   These were baked at 500F for 2 minutes, taken out and inverted onto another peel, ready for topping . I was having a hard time getting the temp anywhere near  500-600F so I enlisted the help of Heatermeter and the fan helped a lot but still would not go above 500 (need a bigger fan) .

Teal’s was one of our go-to favorites: home made tomato sauce, shredded, slivered onions, shredded part skim mozzarella,  dabs of fresh mozzarella  and turkey pepperoni.

Mine was: tomato sauce (heated), italian seasoning, shredded onions, shredded mozzarella , but slightly sparse, 6 cloves of garlic slivered and pre-cooked in olive oil, sliced black olives and a few pieces of pepperoni.

Each was cooked for a total of 10 min at 500F rotating between bottom and top pizza stones.

Darn good eats. Not perfect yet, but we are definitely  getting closer. Technique still needs a lot of work as I nearly lost a bunch of toppings. The BGE ash clean out tool does work as a great pizza grabber when it just does not want to get on the peel .  Pizza crust is nicely brown with very dark spots but not charred.

 

Fast and Easy Focaccia

Spring in Wisconsin means there is yard work to do. This weekend I was pulling buckthorn, dividing perennials and getting the garden ready.  Body hurts and I want some comfort food. We had decided on leftovers for today and I chose the pasta and meatball bake. However I  wanted some fresh bread  or bread sticks to go with it.    Gardening and sourdough bread baking dont really go together.  Rise & fold times are missed and cleaning off all of the dirt before playing with the dough is a pain.  However I still craved fresh bread.

After showering and applying a hot pack to my back, I was surfing the internet searching for ideas.  At this point it was 5PM and teal was getting hungry and would not tolerate a long drawn out process (neither would I- I wanted near instant reward).  One stood out as a quick from scratch idea: https://thesaltymarshmallow.com/quick-homemade-cheese-bread/ .   This would morph into a sort of foccacia bread.

Quick

Preheat oven to proofing temperature  approx.  100F

1 Tbsp instant yeast   (I use SAF instant)

1 tsp sugar

1 c luke warm water

Mix and rest for 10 min – it should start to foam in the mixer bowl.

Add 2 Tbsp Olive oil and scant 1 tps salt.

Slowly add about 2.5 c flour  – I used bread flour. Add the rfirst 2 cups and assess the consistency . Add more as needed so that it pullsa away from the side of the bowl and mix for 5 min on 2 (second slowest speed) on the Kitchenaid mixer.

Cover the bowl with a towel and place in the oven for 30 min.

Get your sheet pan ready. Slather with olive oil (including the sides)  about 1.5 -2 Tbsp.   Lightly cover with corn meal

When the 30 min has passed the dough should easily have doubled (thanks to lots of well fed yeast) . Start working it out on the counter with a little flour, (no rolling pin) like you see the pizza guys do.  Move it to the sheet pan and stretch / push to fit (my pizzas are normally circular so it needed reshaping.

Preheat oven to 450F

Add 2-3 Tbsp olive oil to the top and spread around and then sprinkle on the goodies:

5-8 Tbsp grated parmesan (yes the green can cheese)

1-3 tsp granulated garlic

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 Tbsp dried rosemary crushed

1/4 c shredded cheese .    I did not want “cheese bread” but if so inclined, cover it with a lot more  (4 cheese mexican and mozzarella mixed if going heavy)

Rest on the counter (bread not me) until 50 min point.

Place in the oven for 10-12 min until lightly browned. If the middle bubbles way up, get one of the kids to stab it and let the steam out.

Remove and place on a rack to cool enough so you can rip off pieces without burning yourself too much.  Enjoy with a good beer or wine (and maybe forget about the rest of  the  dinner) .   And it was done by 6 PM!  No frozen or tube food involved.

 

 

 

Sourdough Bread Basics 2- Rising, Forming and Baking

Now that we have the bread dough it is time to let it rise. There will be 3 rises and then baking.

End of the first rise
Rolling the dough
Rolling more
Dough ball after turning and rolling the second time

Rise 1,   1 hour  At the end of the hour, the dough will have doubled in size. Scrape the dough for the bowl with your fingertips and turn out onto the countertop which has been dusted with flour.  You can fold the dough in theirs each way or do as I do and roll it. Grab an edge of the dough ball, and start rolling that towards the center. Keep doing this until you have rolled all of the surface in – typically 3-4 turns. Pop any large bubbles along the way. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repat, starting on one end. Now it will be back into a ball shape. Return it to the bowl and cover with the damp towel .

Rise 2, 1-1.5 hours   At the end of this time scrape the dough from the bowl as before onto the floured counter top. If making loaves, split the ball in half with a pastry scraper and  then work each piece individually as before, rolling  inwards and form a pair of loaves. I place them on my pizza peel which has been liberally coated with corn meal.    Place the pastry scraper upside down between the loaves. Cover with the damp towel .

If you are cooking as one large boule in a dutch oven , roll the dough as before and the place the ball in the center of the oiled dutch oven and put the lid on.

Rise 3,  2-3 hours

Loaves formed for 3rd rise
Loaves risen and ready for oven

Before the end of the rise place your pizza stone in the oven on the middle rack. Place a sheet pan on the bottom rack or the bottom of the oven. Pre-heat oven to 440F. Set for convect.   If yours does not have convection baking set for 460F.

Heat 1 cup of water to boiling (2 min in my microwave).

Transfer the loaves to the pizza stone. The scraper can help if they are sticking.

Pour the hot water in the sheet pan and quickly close the oven.

Tops slashed.
Nearly finished with temp probe in place. Look below and you can see the sheet pan

Wait 2 minutes then quickly score the top of the loaves in the pattern you desire. I use a bread knife and like one long slash in each about 3/8″ deep. No need for a fancy lame or other tool – just the bread knife.

Waiting before slashing the top, lets the skin of the dough set up a bit, and avoids deflating the loaf.

Work quickly to keep the steam in the oven.   Now you can have the kids watch see the slash open up as the bread rises further. This is known as the “oven spring”.

Set the timer for 13 minutes. At the end insert the thermometer probe close the middle of the loaf. You want 200- 205F.   I like the remote probe of the Thermoworks  ChefAlarm as I can leave the probe in and close the oven door. The alarm is normally set for 203F so I can wander around the house and do other things while the bread finishes and not worry about forgetting to pull the bread out of the oven (again).

Once the temperature is reached open the door and pull out the rack to let it cool for 3-5 min before transferring to a wire rack on the counter to cool. If the bread cools too fast, it may cave in a bit in the middle.

Done

The sourdough bread freezes well and makes fantastic toast, grilled cheese sandwiches and garlic bread.  King Arthur flour sells nice light weight bread bags to use for storage.

 

 

Finishing Olivia’s Bed and Dresser

Finished footboard

This finishing schedule is my go-to when I need robust color. I learned the basic technique a number of years ago in a class that was put on by the Wisconsin Woodworker’s Guild featuring Jeff Jewitt. Jeff also runs Homestead Finishing.

I wanted the bed and dresser to look like they belonged together, however the bed is red oak and the dresser is cherry so an exact match is not feasible.  The dresser had been my Dad’s and was a mid-century brownish grey color. When I scraped and sanded the old finish off the dresser, the cherry had wide swaths of sapwood in the top and drawer fronts. This was too jarring for my taste. So after removing the top, I sanded the underside of it to match how the top would be and made some tests with dye and stain. This proved my theory, that dye and stain could even out the sapwood -heartwood variation nicely.

Underside of top with wiped on dye and stain
Finished top – flipped but in same orientation as the underside shot

The original finished was scraped and sanded off down to bare wood.
The colors of the cherry then showed through. However there was a lot hf difference between heartwood and sapwood. This may be why the factory finish was so opaque.

Finish schedule

  • 2x Light spray coats of Transtint medium brown dye in alcohol per label instructions.
  • 2x wash coats of 2lb cut blonde shellac also sprayed on.  These must be light coats or the shellac with dissolved dye will bleed back out of the pores resulting in “pimples”. This can be severe on the Oak
  • Scuff sand with green Scotch Brite pad. This is roughly equivalent of 220 grit sandpaper.
  • General Finishes Nutmeg gel stain . Wiped on liberally and wiped off after 10 minutes.
  • Allow to dry for one week as the oil based stain would otherwise cause adhesion problems for the following finish coats
  • 2-3x coats of General Finishes water based polyurethane – matte lustre . These were sprayed on for the head and foot-boards of the bed, brushed on all other pieces. Each coat consisting of a tack coat and flow coat from opposite edges of the pieces.  On other pieces I have used the General Finishes Endurovar or Precat Lacquer. However this was done mid-winter and this was the least obnoxious finish for indoor application (and without risk of explosion).
  • Dresser top was also rubbed down with 0000 steel wool to eliminate the last brush marks.

Progress photos

View of the headboard after the dye and shellac has been applied and the gel stain is half applied.

Headboard with dye and wash coat of shellac and half of the gel stain applied.

The headboard and footboard had plywood scraps attached to the bottoms of the legs this mad handling of them MUCH easier with no worries of tip-overs.

Pedestal drawer fronts
Dresser drawers and top
Bed base with platform and drawers
Dresser ready for hardware

 

Rebuild in progress

I am in the process of overhauling my website and postings. In the meantime you can find my old boatbuilding website here: Riviera Construction Project.

In the last few years I have been letting my projects, comments and photos get scattered. This has resulted in a mix of items on Facebook, columns I have written and   various forums with the unfortunate consequence of not having a single place to go and find my prior posts which are located at:

  • Glen-l boatbuilding forum  – I was active while building and did a column for the monthly newsletter for a few years
  • Wisconsin Woodworkers Guild – I wrote a monthly column while I was president.
  • Facebook – Lots of posts , notes and photo albums including the majority of my dive photos, but not very accessible to the general public
  • Youtube – I have a Youtube Channel that will be gaining more content. Currently mostly dive videos.
  • Southbend lathe yahoo groups – Superb resource for those interested in South Bend Lathes . Huge help when I rebuilt my SBL 13
  • HID Dive Lights yahoo group   – This is where I documented much of my dive light builds
  • Hobby Machinist – Another great resource and most helpful while I rebuilt my Bridgeport Mill
  • CNC Zone – Current CNC router project resource

and more – you get the idea. Lots of scatter.

So now I will be consolidating everything back here. It will take some time to gather the various pieces back as well as get the new content posted.

The impetus for all of this is my newest project. It is a CNC router. This is another scratch built project.   I want to document the build and resources as I did with the boat and not just have it in another web site’s forum.