August 14, 2012

On the Grill: Pizzas, Part 1

Funny shaped (but tasty!) homemade crusts on the grill.
Recently, Ryan and I have happily inherited—for a limited time, that is—a fantastically enormous fancy propane grill. Formerly, our backyard was home to only a charcoal grill, which has not been used since sometime last fall on account of the ridiculous amount of time it takes to get started and the fact that neither of us wants to stand outside and deal with it for any amount of time at all. (Sorry, Charcoal.)

But with this propane grill, it's just a turn of the knob here, a flip of the igniter switch there, and voila! Flames!

We invited family over for dinner last weekend. With four adults and one child partaking in the meal, I planned out four large pizzas in hopes we'd have plenty for leftovers the next day... or I'd have one to mess up. Happily, all were met with the family meal seal of approval. This post will happen in two parts: crust and toppings. It's a lot of info, but now that I learned the gist of grilling pizzas, I think I can do it faster next time.

Grilled pizzas are perfect for a dinner party, but take a few tips from me.

• Keep the menu simple (prep and organize all the toppings ahead of time).
• Have at least one "normal" pizza that less adventurous eaters will recognize.
• Grill the crusts ahead of time, but don't cook them all the way because they'll be on the grill again with the toppings. A couple of ours got pretty charred on the bottom (rookie mistake!).
• Once you grill the crusts, take them back inside to put on all the toppings... and take 'em back out to grill. This cuts down on the work you'll be doing outside. 
• Don't load up the crusts with too many toppings; they will only be cooking on the grill for a few minutes, so you want to be sure they all cook through.
• To cut down on prep time, you can make a few recipes of dough and store it in the freezer. When you're ready to cook, bring the dough to room temp about an hour before cooking. The actual process of grilling the pizzas goes very quickly; it's the prep that takes some time.

Four funny crusts, all in a row.
The Crust
Adapted from Mark Bittman's pizza dough recipe.
Makes dough for two large pizzas.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole grain spelt flour
2 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 1 1/4 cups water

In a food processor, pulse together the dry ingredients. With the machine running, pour in the olive oil. Slowly pour in the water with the machine still running. Watch the dough and determine how it looks after about one cup of water; it should be forming a ball and collecting together nicely. If it still looks dry, add more water (no more than 1 1/4 cups total). If it gets too sticky, add a little more flour—one tablespoon at a time.

Roll the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times. Coat a large mixing bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil, and put the dough in the bowl. Turn it to coat in oil, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature until doubled in size. If you'll be letting it rise for more than a few hours, but it in the fridge. About an hour before you wish to cook it, set it on the counter and bring it to room temp.

Split the dough into two pieces. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch (very thin). Prick the dough all over with a fork, and let it rest for 20–30 minutes before cooking it.

Preheat the grill. You want it to be between 400 and 500 degrees inside. Brush one side the uncooked crust with olive oil. Using your hands, flip the oiled side onto the grill over high heat. Brush the other side with olive oil. Cook it until the first side is browned and the crust begins to bubble. Using tongs, carefully flip the crust over to cook partially on the other side (do not let it get charred; this will be the bottom of your pizza and will be fully cooked once you add toppings).

Take the partially cooked crusts inside to add toppings, and then put back on a medium-high grill to cook for about 5 minutes, or until toppings are heated through and cheese is melted.

Check in tomorrow for four pizza topping suggestions!