Have you ever been to a catered pizza party? Me either until this week. Our friends Angie and Guy won a pizza party in a raffle and invited 30 of their closest friends to a Christmas Pizza Party. I didn’t know about the catered bit before I got there or I would have taken a good camera. All these photos were taken with my phone.
As we walked up to their house, we saw an awning and what looked like a pizza oven in the driveway. I knew there were a lot of people going and I was hoping it wasn’t pizza made on the BBQ grill.
We said our hellos, met new friends, had a drink and then I headed outside to meet Simone Wright who owns Fire’n’Dough. She’s been catering all over Southeast Queensland with her pizza ovens for 6 years from her base in Redland City, between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. I saw all the pizzas being rolled out very thinly and I asked if extra flour was the secret to her crust.
“No, the recipe is the secret,” Simone said, “the flour just keeps it from sticking to the pans.
With all the pans lined up and hungry people sitting around the pool, it was time for Simone and her helper Courtney to begin the cooking. One bite of that nearly paper thin crust and I was back outside and asked her where she learned to make this outstanding pizza. She went to Italy and learned how to make proper pizza. Of course that’s how you’d do it if you wanted to be the best.
“All those heavy pizza bases covered with tons of ingredients is not how they make pizza in Italy,” I was told. These pizzas were all about the ingredients and the crust was just a vehicle to get them to my mouth. They made a garlic pizza, plain tomato and cheese, capsicum and onion, mushroom, hot chili peppers, pesto and many more.
I went back in and partied and ate more pizza and then I had more questions so I went back to the driveway and asked where she got her pizza oven. They have the one she was using and they have a double oven setup as well. Both are hand made. They bought a standard box trailer and put cement sheeting over it and on top of that they built a pizza oven from a kit from their local Bunnings Hardware. (US people think Home Depot)
John came outside and I said I thought we needed a pizza oven out back and he laughed and said, “Before the smoker? I thought you wanted a smoker?” A woman can want more than one thing, right?
Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite of pizza, Simone announced that it was time for dessert pizzas. First she spread applesauce over the pizza crust and on top of that she sprinkled some crumble mixture. The pizzas flash baked for about 4 minutes and then she drizzled caramel sauce on top.
The second choice was the pizza crust smeared with chocolate ganache, topped with fresh raspberries and marshmallows and into the oven. The marshmallows got toasted. Once out of the oven, she put whipped cream on each piece. Okay, I’ll agree that this pizza doesn’t look all that terrific but it tasted SO good.
When I make thin crust pizza I use Jamie Oliver’s recipe that makes 6 to 8 medium pizzas. My friend Angie does hers on a pizza stone in her BBQ grill. She puts the stone in and turns all the burners on. When it’s as hot as it gets, she turns the heat off under the stone and plops the pizza on. I haven’t tried cooking pizza this way, have you?
- 7 cups strong white bread flour or Tipo "00" flour or 5 cups strong white bread flour or Tipo "00" flour, plus 2 cups finely ground semolina flour
- 1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
- 2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dried yeast
- 1 tablespoon raw sugar
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2½ cups lukewarm water
- Sift the flours and salt onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a large measuring cup, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.
- Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.
- Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands - this is called punching down the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straightaway, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas - this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas.
- Timing-wise, it's a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Don't roll them out and leave them hanging around for a few hours, though - if you are working in advance like this it's better to leave your dough, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. However, if you want to get them rolled out so there's 1 less thing to do when your guests are round, simply roll the dough out into rough circles, about ¼-inch thick, and place them on slightly larger pieces of olive-oil-rubbed and flour-dusted aluminum foil. You can then stack the pizzas, cover them with plastic wrap, and pop them into the refrigerator.
- Add your favorite sauce and ingredients and cook at a really high temperature in a pizza oven or in your home oven on a pizza stone.