Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Entertaining your Family: Pizzas on the Grill

So, my daughter just turned two. We decided to have a small birthday party for her, and invited a few of her little friends but really, it was mostly adults in attendance. So, what do you serve 3 two year olds and 8 adults that everyone will enjoy equally as much?


Who doesn't like pizza? I didn't want to go with take-out though (it's just not my thing), and my mom had just sent me a really great pizza crust recipe which meant there really wasn't much of an option - we had to make our own. Plus, I figured out a way to make it fairly easy on myself - cook them outside. This way, everyone could build their own pizza - cheese flying everywhere and all - but it wouldn't be too much of a mess in the kitchen. Then, we could just toss them onto the grill and not have to deal with a 500 plus degree oven in the middle of July. Brilliant right? Well,'s how it went...

I made the dough in advance, and had it rising just as guests were arriving. Then, I gave each "family" a crust which they could roll out and top with a variety of toppings that I had pre-cut and set out.

Here is the first pizza on the go...We decided that with everybody working to get their pizza ready we actually needed two stations - a crust rolling station and a topping station. Here is the birthday girl and her dad rolling out their pizza on the new "dough" station:And, here is a look at all the toppings set out. I was sure to include all the basics (pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms, olives), but I also added some fun things as well like grilled Italian sausages, goat cheese, and pesto. Everyone used the toppings they liked best. Some even topped half the pizza with some ingredients and the other half with others.
Once everyone built their pizza, on the grill they went. Grilling them was a bit of an experiment that I had tested out a couple of weeks earlier to work out some of the kinks. I have a dual burner gas grill, and I found for this particular model the best way to grill the pizzas was to turn both burners up pretty high until the BBQ reached a temperature of at least 500 degrees. Then, working quite quickly at this point, I turned off one side of the grill, slid the pizza onto the side with no heat (you will need to make sure that pizzas are built on a well-floured surface, and you may need an extra pair of hands to ensure the whole thing slides smoothly onto the grill), and then I quickly closed the lid of the BBQ. I left the lid closed for a good 10 minutes before checking on the progress of the pizza. The pie is done when the crust if crunchy, slightly browned, and the cheese is bubbly. 10 - 14 minutes in total.

Unfortunately, by this point I was pretty busy with the party and didn't get a chance to snap any picture of the pizzas cooking, or the finished product. But, they turned out quite well. As with any party though, I would have done a few things differently if I were to do it again. Due to the fact I could only cook 1 pizza at a time, it took almost an hour and half before everyone had eaten. There were a couple of pizza crust leftover at the end that we made as "extras" for people to snack on, but in hindsight I would have made these first so that everyone could snack on pizza even before "theirs" had been cooked. If you have a bigger grill though, this problem could be easily solved (or of course they can always be cooked in the oven).

The crust though was fantastic. I love it, and will always have some in my freezer from now on. In fact, I don't think I can ever see myself using pre-made pizza crusts again. I do happen to like thin-crust pizzas though, so if a thicker, doughier crust is more your thing, this may not be the recipe for you.

Thin Crust Pizza Dough

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
4 cups bleached flour (I use half all-purpose, and half whole wheat)
2 teaspoons sea salt, fine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl

1. Sprinkle yeast over water; let stand until yeast is creamy, 5 to 10 minutes. (If yeast does not appear creamy, discard and start over with new yeast.)

2. In large bowl, whisk together flour and salt; form a well in centre. Add yeast mixture and oil; stir until dough just comes together. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead vigorously for 10 minutes. Cover with a damp dishtowel and let rest for 10 minutes, then knead vigorously for 10 minutes more. Lightly oil a large bowl. Form dough into a ball, transfer to bowl and turn to lightly coat with oil. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Note: I did this step in my stand-mixer using the dough hook. I found it a lot easier than kneading by hand for that long

3. With dough still in bowl, punch down with your fist (dough will be stiff), then fold sides over one another, turn dough, tightly cover bowl again with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hour or up to 24 hours.

4. Divide dough into 4 pieces; shape pieces into balls and place on a lightly floured work surface, leaving a few inches between balls. Loosely cover with a damp dishtowel (not terry cloth) and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours (if skin forms on dough while rising, lightly spray surface with water).
Note: If you want to freeze a portion of your dough, I do so here. Simply divide your dough, and set aside what you are planning to use to rise, and freeze the rest. When you want to use the frozen dough, let it defrost in the fridge overnight, and then allow to rise for a few hours as detailed above.

5. If you have a pizza stone, heat it in the oven while the dough rises. Heat for at least 45 minutes before baking pizza in an oven set at between 500 and 550 degrees.
6. On a lightly floured surface, press each dough ball with your fingers to begin to shape into a round. Use a fist and hands to gently stretch the dough to a 10 - inch round. (A floured rolling pin can be used to help roll out dough). Working fairly quickly, add your toppings (pizza Margarita is nice and simple and will showcase this crust nicely). Slide onto pizza stone or onto a baking sheet, and bake until cheese is melted and bubbling in spots and edge of dough is crisp and golden, about 7 minutes.
I used 6 balls of dough for this recipe. I had two in the freezer from when I conducted my "experiment", and you honestly couldn't tell which was which. Freezing them turned out just fine.
So, if any of you are thinking of trying this out for your next party - drop me a line! Let me know how it worked for you! At the end of the day all of our guests enjoyed it (from kids to adults), which means it was a success in my books!


Jennifer said...

Grilled pizzas are a great idea for an "all-ages" party. I like your selection of toppings too.

Jeff said...

I love grilled pizza parties. Everyone outside and a massive hey what do you want on yours party. Plus roll them small enough and everyone has their own personal pizza.