You might not realize it, but the Big Green Egg, in addition to being a great smoker and grill, also works great as a 'brick' oven for breads, pies, and yes, pizza. We've posted BGE pizza recipes here before, but I had an idea for something different. What if, rather than just making one or two pizzas for ourselves, we provided dough, sauce, and toppings at a party, and let the guests make their own pizzas? This sounded like a lot of fun, and practical too, since it is easy to get or make dough and sauce in quantity, and the pizzas only take 7-10 minutes to cook. We tried this idea out while at a historical reenactment camping event this summer (Yes, I know, pizza isn't period to the middle ages. I don't care. It tastes good.) and it was a big hit. Not only was the pizza tasty, but the 10 or so people involved all pitched in to help make the pizzas, and we hung out, drank beer, and had a great night while munching on each of the pies that came out of the Egg. While that was fun, I decided to buy, rather than make dough while camping, and so I decided to replicate this experience at one of our recent Sunday open houses.
Though I liked the pizza dough recipe that we've used in the past, I decided to branch out and try something new, so I turned to the Internet and searched for 'best pizza dough', and was referred to Heidi Swanson's review of Peter Reinhart's pizza recipe on her site, 101 Cookbooks. This looked like a good recipe, and since I was planning in advance, I had the time to try the technique of letting the dough to rest overnight, which Peter claims to enhance the flavor. Heidi's write up made this sound really good, so I decided to give it a try. I realized as I was writing this up that I had received Peter's book for my birthday back in July, and recently tried another of his recipes as well (to be posted at a later date…).
I used our Cuisinart Stand Mixer to whip up two batches of the pizza dough, enough to make 12 pizzas, and as per the instructions, kept them cold overnight. We grabbed some toppings, including a mix of mozzarella and Romano cheeses, pepperoni, peppers, onions, mushrooms, black olives, and probably some other things I can't remember. When it came time to cook, I set up the Egg while our guests busily rolled out the dough, and added their choice of sauce, cheese, and toppings to their pie. We did this sequentially, so one pie was being made while the previous one cooked, and we cut each one into small pieces when finished so everyone could keep eating the whole time. This kept people engaged while still giving them time to hang out and enjoy the party. Everyone had a really good time, and said they would like to try this again. The dough worked really well, and the guests liked it, so I'd consider that a success too. Combining that with the fact that you can make it ahead of time and freeze it, I'm definitely going to use the dough recipe again. One note though – while the recipe said this makes 6 pizza crusts, we found that the 6 oz. size wasn't quite big enough to make a pizza to fit our 14" stone. We solved this problem by breaking up one dough ball per batch and combining it with the others to make five rather than six.
- Stand mixer (optional)
- Big Green Egg or other high temperature oven
- Pizza peel or large, flat cookie sheet
- Parchment paper or cornmeal
- Rolling pin
For the Dough (makes six 6-ounce pizza crusts)
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups ice cold water
Your choice of pizza sauce and toppings
- At least the night before cooking, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, stir in the oil and cold water until all the flour is absorbed. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes. The dough should be smooth and sticky, just sticking to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough comes off the bottom, add a bit of water. If it is too wet, add a bit of flour.
- Sprinkle your counter or a piece of baking parchment with flour. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Sprinkle flour over the dough and shape into a ball. Either place the balls on an oiled sheet pan, or lightly coat each ball with oil and put into a zippered freezer bag, which is what I did. Place into the refrigerator overnight.
- 2 hours before you are ready to make the pizza, take the appropriate number of dough balls out of the refrigerator. Put the dough onto a floured flat surface, coat your hands with flour, and press the dough into flat discs about 1/2 inch thick, and 5 inches across. Mist the dough with spray oil, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest for two hours.
- Prepare your oven, heating to 550-600 degrees Fahrenheit or higher if possible. Note that most indoor ovens can't hit and hold this temperature comfortably. Set as high as you can, and adjust the baking time as needed. In my large Big Green Egg, I set up for indirect cooking, using my plate setter legs down. I put the three little green ceramic feet that come with the Egg on top of the plate setter, then put my pizza stone on top of that. I let the stone heat up with the Egg to minimize the chance of a cold stone cracking when put into a warm oven. Although the Egg can get hotter than 600 degrees, I try not to go higher when cooking indirect, as the plate setter directs the air around the sides of the Egg, and can fry the gasket at very high temps. It also consumes a lot of charcoal to cook really hot for long periods of time.
- Shape the dough using your method of choice. I'm lousy at tossing pizza crusts, so I used a rolling pin. Place the rolled out dough on your pizza peel or cookie sheet, first sprinkling the peel with cornmeal to allow the dough to slide.
- While the dough is on the peel, coat lightly with your pizza sauce, and add cheese and toppings. Note that you don't need too much of any of these, and putting too much on the pizza can interfere with the proper baking of the crust.
- Slide your pizza onto the stone, and bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the crust is browned, the cheese has melted and caramelized, and your toppings look properly cooked. When ready slide the finished pizza onto a cookie sheet or another peel, and put your next pizza in. Cut into small pieces and serve immediately.