Column: Baking pizza in the parking lot

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By Joe Drozda and Bob Bley

Not to be “survey happy,” but asking people what they like to eat is helpful in designing a menu. It turns out that a recent Harris poll found that pizza is America’s favorite comfort food over chocolate, ice cream, chips, burgers, steak and mac and cheese. Another survey by polidaddy.com found that crust of a pizza was considered its most important part. So, this week lets make a menu which has pizza with good crust, baked at your tailgate.

To further research this subject, we had pies at numerous places including Lombardi’s (America’s first pizzeria) in New York’s “Little Italy” and Pizzeria Uno in Chicago (the first deep dish pie in the U.S.). We were most impressed with the crispy crust created by Lombardi’s very hot stone-based oven. So, as we created our version, we baked our pie with our grill on a pizza stone. The pie cooked in less than ten minutes and had that chewy crust we liked best. We got some help with the crust from Barry Abes, owner of the extremely popular Greek’s Pizza on Main Street in upscale Carmel.

Barry helped us develop an easy recipe to make dough which allowed us to make crust just like those famous pizzerias.

Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup cold water

1 pkg dry yeast

1/2  tsp salt

1 1/2  tsp sugar

1/2 cup oil

Directions:

Proof the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm (90 degree) water. Stir the sugar in very gently until the yeast and sugar are dissolved. Then add 1/2 cup of cold (40 degree) water to shock the yeast. Place this mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer, Now add the dry ingredients of flour and salt. Using a dough hook gently knead everything until the dough starts to form. Now add the oil and knead the dough until it feels smooth and elastic. The dough should be kneaded with the hook for about 15 minutes on medium speed. Now remove the dough from the bowl/hook.

If you want thin crust, separate the dough into four small balls. For regular crust make three balls. Oil the dough slightly with your hands then place the balls onto an oiled tray or into small bowls and cover them loosely, but air tight, with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Place the tray into the fridge for 24 hours. The balls will more than double in size.

On game day take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm for a good hour in your vehicle as you drive to the stadium.

At the tailgate lot, place the pizza stone on the grates of your gas grill, and with the lid down, let the stone warm for an hour to 500 degrees. Put a ball of dough onto your floured peel and stretch it into a circle slightly less than the size of your stone. Using the peel, slide the circle onto your pizza stone for just a minute. Use tongs to lift the edge of the dough and slide it back onto the peel to remove it so that you can dress it by adding sauce, cheese and other toppings. Always keep the lid down and the flame on high even when not using the grill to keep the stone hot. Place the dressed pie back onto the stone and cook with the lid down for six or more minutes. Use tongs to check the crust to ensure it is to your liking.

Remove the completed pie and let it stand for a few minutes until you cut it into pieces. Repeat the process changing toppings to please all your guests.

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