Fire up pizza perfection

by Andy Bryenton

Have you joined the outdoor dining trend, and purchased a wood-fired pizza oven? Would you like to, but think that crafting pizza better than the pros looks difficult? Relax — nothing could be easier. The secret is in making your own pizza bases, and getting the temperature just right.

The other trick is that you’re cooking on the hot bricks of the oven, not the fire itself. Bank up the fire as hot coals at the back, and sprinkle a little flour on the spot where your pizza will go. If the flour burns in a couple of seconds the area is too hot. Wait a while, until it’s just right — a sprinkle of flour thrown in should slowly turn brown. As you wait for the perfect temperature, prepare your dough.

I added two teaspoons of yeast and one teaspoon of sugar to half a glass of warm water, then set aside for 10 minutes or until the yeast has activated and begins to foam. Now put the flour and salt in a conical mound on the bench. Make a well in the middle with your fingers, and pour on the yeast water and oil. Slowly add extra warm water as you mix with one hand and add with the other. You will need enough water to fully incorporate the flour. Once the flour is all incorporated knead it vigorously for five minutes.

Cover and rest the dough in a warm place to rise. It should double in size fairly swiftly; when this has happened, knead it vigorously for a minute then divide into three portions, which should similarly be left to rise. Now roll out the dough to fit the pans. There’s no need to try the ‘spin and flip’ trick so beloved of television pizza chefs! Spray down the pans with olive oil and get ready to get creative with toppings.

Commercial pizza restaurants have proven that there is no limit to the toppings and combos, which can be added to a pizza. Woodsmoke will infuse a new flavour to many ingredients, however, so you’ll bring out the best in cured meats like salami and prosciutto, smoked chicken and fish. eam up with crumbly feta, roasted capsicum, roasted garlic, blue brie, and of course, lashing of underlying mozzarella for that stringy cheese sensation. A perfect beginning for each base is a thick red sauce fashioned from tomato paste, a little olive oil, garlic, a dash of chilli sauce and caramelised red onion. All that remains is to keep turning your creation to evenly heat and melt those delicious toppings, and you’ll have a restaurant-quality wood-fired pizza in no time.