There is a way to make great pizza; pizza with a crackling crust and the tang of smoke, cheese that bubbles in pools around bits of garden veggies laced with fresh basil. The BBQ grill! I developed this method several years ago during a hot, hot week in August when Cameo and Miriam each had a friend over for the week-end. They’d spent the day playing at the river at a nearby park, and wanted our traditional Friday night pizza for dinner. “Oh no, girls, it’s way too hot to turn the oven on,” I remember protesting. And Sam said, “Why don’t we try cooking them on the brill? You make the pizza; I’ll take care of grilling them.” And so we each did our part – and it worked!
If the instructions appear lengthy it’s because I tried to explain in detail for your success. Grills differ in their baking qualities. You may need to tinker with the controls until you achieve an ideal temperature that works for you every time. Then it becomes easy, truly. And practice makes perfect.
Summer weather aside, this recipe also works well in a preheated 450 F oven. A baking stone is nice, but not essential. I like to use a 16-inch performated pizza pan, lightly oiled and sprinkled with fine cornmeal. One batch of dough makes a generous 16-inch pizza, done in 12-15 minutes.
For the crust:
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons flax meal, optional
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Ripe garden tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick, or halved cherry tomatoes
Mozzarella string cheese, unwrapped and sliced into 1/4-inch coins
Sprigs of fresh basil
For rolling: all purpose flour, parchment paper, rolling pin
1. Place flours, flax meal, salt, sugar, and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add water and olive oil and beat until smooth, either by hand with a wooden spoon or with a heavy duty stand mixer fitted with a flat paddle. When dough forms a ball (it will be sticky) switch to the dough hook and knead by machine 4-5 minutes, or turn it onto a lightly greased and floured countertop and knead by hand 6-8 minutes until smooth and elastic.
2. Wash your mixing bowl, dry it well, and grease it. Place dough in bowl, turning to coat it with oil. Cover with a bread cloth or plate and let rise until doubled, 1 hour.
3. Turn dough onto a lightly greased work surface and gently deflate with the palms of your hands. Divide dough cleanly into 2 or 3 even portions. A chef’s knife works well for this – carefully grease the blade first. Shape each portion into a smooth ball, tucking the ends under, and place on a square of parchment paper. Gently roll into an 8 to 10-inch circle on the parchment with a lightly greased rolling pin. If dough sticks, sprinkle very lightly with all purpose flour. If the paper slides around you can mist your work surface with water to provide traction. Repeat for remaining pizzas.
4. Preheat your BBQ grill on medium-high for 10-15 minutes. Now comes the fun! Top each circle of dough with tomato slices and mozzarella cheese pieces. Slide a pizza with its parchment baking onto a rimless baking sheet and head outside.
5. Reduce grill heat to low, slide pizza with parchment paper onto the grill and immediately close the lid. Depending on the size of your grill you may have room for 2 at a time. Check your pizza(s) in 12 minutes, rotating them on the grill if necessary for even baking. Don’t open the lid unnecessarily. Pizza is done when bottom crust is browned and cheese is melted, perhaps a little bubbly. Remove pizza and slide it onto a wooden board or cooling rack (discarding parchment). Top with a few sprigs of fresh basil before serving. Repeat for remaining pizzas.
6. Congratulations – you did it! Now dive in and enjoy your homemade pizza!
Other topping suggestions:
pre-shredded mozzarella or “pizza blend” cheese
browned Italian sausage, ground beef, chicken, sliced pepperoni or salami
Your favorite veggies – thinly sliced zuchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, kale ribbons, baby spinach, sliced olives, artichoke hearts, fresh basil, snipped chives, rosemary leaves…
Top each circle of dough with a small amount of sauce (too much sauce makes soggy pizza), a sprinkle of cheese, and your favorite toppings. For well-baked pizza be spare with the toppings, keeping them thin in the center and thicker around the edges. Grill as directed above.