Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I've Had to Move and Leave my Oven Behind

After more than five years of wood-oven pizza making in our backyard - and 50,000 blog visitors - it was with mixed emotions that my wife and I moved to a new opportunity in San Antonio.

Since our beautiful oven was encased in stone... anchored to a six-foot deep foundation... it's certainly not something portable that we could take with us.

Luckily, we have an outstanding VPN-certified pizzeria, Dough, near us in San Antonio. We are becoming regular customers there.

Part of the reason we built an oven was that the wood-oven pizza trend had not yet come to the Dallas / Fort Worth area (or at least not close enough to our old home). After getting hooked on the world-famous Pizzeria Bianco before moving from Phoenix, we felt like we built the oven out of necessity. In the past seven years, a lot of amazing "real" pizzerias have opened in the DFW metroplex, including:

We hope that trend continues.

Living now in a condo in San Antonio, we don't really have the option of building a new oven... but someday, I'm sure we will again.

Some pictures from the last pizza party:

I'll miss our pizza oven... it brought us a lot of joy - and a lot of pizza!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Guest Post: How to Create a Stone Pizza Oven in Your Own Home

Guest post by ClayOvens.com

While you can make a perfectly acceptable pizza in a domestic oven, they pale in comparison to those cooked in one of the massive clay pizza ovens you see in pizzerias. One reason for this is the sheer amount of heat these ovens generate, which your own oven can’t quite stretch to, making it hard to create those crispy, doughy, delicious pizzas they make all across Italy, from Napoli to Turin.
Hard, but not impossible. There is a way to make pizza the authentic Italian way with a makeshift stone pizza oven in your very own kitchen. Follow these easy steps and you’ll be making pizzas that may even turn a few heads in Sicily.

Pizza Stones
Pizza stones are exactly what they sound like, unless you imagined them to be the stones found in the centre of a pizza that produces more pizzas when you plant it. That would be awesome. But no, they are actually stone slates that pizza is placed on in the oven. The slates spread heat evenly to the pizza base and give it that authentic, stone-baked quality we love so much.
Now, before you rush out and buy some, you need to know the following:
  • They vary significantly in price.
  • Do your research, more expensive does not necessarily mean higher quality.
  • Don’t go for the very cheapest ones. They probably won’t work as well and there is a good chance they will crack.
  • They will make a more authentic pizza but your oven is still a regular, if modified oven. A real stone oven produces much better results that you will be lucky to completely replicate. That will cost a lot more.
How to modify your oven
Adapting your oven is the easiest, most affordable way to create a stone oven, although if you have the time and money, you could always build a real one from scratch but that’s a whole different story.
These modifications will not be permanent so you will still be able to use your oven normally when you’re not in the mood for pizza. To pull this off you might need to buy a pizza stone to act as your base.
Follow these simple steps and before you know it you’ll be enjoy the best home-cooked you’ve ever had:
  • Measure the dimensions of your oven, otherwise your stones won’t fit and that’s no good.
  • Buy enough fire bricks to build an enclosure within your oven.
  • It is vital that the fire bricks are unglazed as the glazed ones contain lead that will really ruin the flavour of your pizza. Also, it’s poisonous. That’s important.
  • Also, make sure they are actually fire bricks, they also go by the name of refractory bricks.
  • A far as the base of your pizza oven is concerned you have two choices. Either create a floor of bricks on the bottom rack of your oven, or simply cover the rack with foil and lay down one brick on top of it.
  • Another layer of bricks on the top oven rack will provide a roof.
  • Prop more bricks on their side on the base to create the walls. Thicker bricks will stand up more easily, you don’t want them falling into the pizza. If you do, you’re weird.
  • Pre-heat your oven to its maximum temperature and leave the stones to absorb the heat for 30 minutes to an hour. As the stones get hotter they centre the heat more intensely within the pizza oven, providing all the degrees you need for an authentic pizza experience.
  • This pizza oven is going to be a lot hotter than what you’re used to so open with caution and make sure your hands are suitably protected. If you think a regular oven burn hurts you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.
  • Put the pizza in and give it a good 10 minutes. It is best to keep an eye on it to make sure you don’t burn it. But get it right and you’ll soon be enjoying the best home-cooked pizza you could ever hope for.
  • Give the bricks time to cool before attempting to remove them. Or just simply leave them in and only eat pizza. Either way, the pizza oven is quick and easy to assemble and disassemble so you can enjoy a decent home-cooked pizza whenever you want.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Art and Science of Wood-Fired Cooking

Here's a great article about Andrea Mugnaini and her wood oven company, Mugnaini Imports, Inc. in Watsonville, CA.

There are some great pictures in the article, as well.

What sets the wood-fired oven apart from other stoves? According to Mugnaini, they have great flexibility and versatility, but each chef adds a personal touch through decisions made in heating and banking the fire, choice of hardwood for burning, and preparation of food. The ovens are not limited to pizzas. 
“You can cook meat, eggs, pasta, rice…everything, even dessert,” Mugnaini said. 
World class chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, Mario Batali and Guy Fieri have purchased Mugnaini ovens.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Forno Bravo Pizza Making Video

This video shows the whole process, using one of their Primavera series home wood-burning pizza ovens.

Thanks to Forno Bravo for producing this video! I have their Artigiano oven in my backyard.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pizzas I Made Today

Here are pictures of two pizzas I made today for a brunch gathering.

The first is a bit of a "breakfast pizza" in that it has olive oil, a bit of Swiss chard (which going going to be mainly used on the second pizza pictured below), some uncured applewood smoked bacon, mozzarella, a few dollops of tomato sauce and two eggs.

I was afraid the eggs were going to overcook, so I put them on after the pizza had been in the oven for a minute or so. I used egg rings to try to keep them in place (see the second photo, inside the oven). The eggs were still very runny when the pizza was done, so I wish I had put them on from the get go. The eggs continued cooking after taking the pizza out of the oven... the one was pretty runny, but it actually turned out OK. The runny yoke was something to mop up with the crust - yum! This was a hit.

The second pizza comes from this recipe for a Swiss chard and bacon pizza. This is a white pizza, with olive oil, chard, bacon, and fontina cheese (I added some mozz for the second one I made, pictured below). The chard was really piled up high, but then cooked down nicely in the oven (the chard was raw before the oven). 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Back to Bianco's

I was lucky enough to be back in Phoenix for a conference, so I was able to go back to Pizzeria Bianco. I got a table with my friends after just a one-glass-of-wine wait (maybe 20 minutes) at 7 pm on a Monday.

The pizzeria


Rosa, add sopressata

Wise guy

Thursday, February 9, 2012

NOT the way to get your hands on a commercial dough mixer...

From the Washington Post:

For the times when your Kitchen-Aid seems to not be getting the job done....
The former mayor of a Los Angeles suburb has pleaded guilty to stealing a commercial food mixer from the local school district so he could make dough for his home pizza oven.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Home Fire Started by Pizza Oven

From Canada: "Pizza oven fire brings charges"

From the article:
Caddick said firefighters arrived at the scene Wednesday morning to find smoke escaping from the house. The firefighters took “quick and decisive action” to contain the fire, which started in a wood burning appliance. “It appears to have started in a wood burning pizza oven and got into the wall around the oven,” Caddick said.
I wonder if the oven was built too close to the house? This is something you can't be too careful about - both the oven and any coals that you have when you're done using the oven. You can't get that blow around or get anywhere near your house or your neighbors...

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