It’s no surprise that the most outrageous grilled pizza to pass my lips was dished up at Steve’s 30th birthday surprise. It’s also no surprise that the entire affair (homemade mozzarella and farm-fresh toppings included) was orchestrated by Shanti, one of my favorite ladies and bakers in the world (and the help of Steve’s beautiful, generous family).
I’ve known Steve for just over a decade now. We met at the University of Pennsylvania in his Pine Street college abode, which he shared with my love, Bobby, and several other dear pals (though on some debaucherous occasions “dear” may not have been my choice word). I’m happy to report, Steve has grown into a fine gentleman, as cool as they come. So cool, in fact, that Bobby often manages to borrow a pair of Steve’s shoes or other hipster garment, indefinitely.
But Steve’s got more than style. With an engineering degree under his belt, Steve has dedicated the greater part of this last decade to environmental design. He helps companies improve and restructure their energy resources to move towards a LEED certification for buildings that will ultimately result in energy and cost savings, and a happier planet. Thank you Steve!
Though he couldn’t have anticipated the convivial, artisanal, farm-fresh feast conspired by Shanti, I’m fairly certain he would agree that every dish held a perfect bite. Over the past couple years, as Steve has thumbed and tagged his way through the Modernist Cuisine series (a scientist’s food dream), his quest for ultimate flavor is ever more refined. Shanti shares his passion for edible perfection. One of my favorite pastimes is listening to these two lovebirds talk about a single ingredient in a dish and how it was cooked, as if they are narrating the greatest Olympic feat in world history, play-by-play.Steve’s party was one big, deep belly laugh, starting with his reaction. His smooth, even-keeled swagger didn’t skip a beat as nearly fifty people shouted surprise to the tune of his giggles! Three decades of friends and family gathered in his parent’s Great Gatsby-esque garden under a grape vine arbor, swapping stories, battling with baguettes, sipping spritzers and cold beer, twirling on the swing, playing garden games, cloying to the pizza grill, and ending in one giant slumber party. Thank you once more, Steve, for giving us the greatest reason to fill up on life!
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Sickly Amazing Grilled Pizza Pies
A Shantilly Picnic Recipe, from the baker herself.
Shanti and Josh made divine margherita and mushroom-sausage pizzas, adorned with tomatoes, basil, onions and other seasonal, farm-fresh delights. Grilled pizza is made by laying a stretched piece of dough directly on the grates over hot coals: cooking the first side, flipping it, topping it, then returning it to the fire to cook the second side. As the second side cooks, the cheese melts, and the sauce warms. It’s as simple as that. The three key elements to making pizza dough at home are: high heat, kneading technique, and starter and fermentation technique.
- Spring water – 550 grams
- Oo flour – 425 grams
- Bread flour – 425 grams
- Whole wheat or Rye sourdough starter – 170 grams
- Kosher salt – 30 grams
- Add everything to a large mixing bowl except for the salt and 25% of the flour, and mix with a wooden spoon or by hand for 1-2 minutes until fully incorporated. At this point you MUST let the mixture rest for 30 minutes or up to an hour. This rest period is called autolyse and it allows for better absorption of water and gives the dough a head start on gluten structure development. So cover the bowl and just walk away.Ok, welcome back. Add the salt and the remaining flour and knead the dough by hand for 5-10 minutes to incorporate. The end result should be a wet soft dough.
- Now begins the 4-hour bulk fermentation. During the first 2 hours, leave the bowl of dough at room temperature. Every half hour, fold your dough (also called turning or “stretch and fold”): stretch the dough and fold it in thirds letter-style, lengthwise. Then repeat the maneuver in the other direction. (Wild Yeast has a great step-by-step description). After the first 2 hours of folds, put the dough in the fridge for the final 2 hours.
- When the 4-hour bulk fermentation is finished, remove the dough from the fridge and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide and shape the dough into 5 approximately equal, loose round circles, and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. After the 15-minute bench rest, work the dough into 5 tight boules (or balls). Place each individual boule into it’s own lightly oiled container (tupperware or bowl) and put them in the fridge for 18-72 hours.Pull the dough out of the refrigerator at least an hour before you plan to make your pizza and prepare the grill for high, direct heat. Prepare a small bowl with olive oil for greasing the grill grates and for brushing the pizza. Prepare the toppings so they are ready to go on the pizza – tomatoes, cheese, basil, and anything else you wish!
- Shape the pizza dough by flattening it with your hands on a slightly floured surface. Either use your fingers to stretch the dough out, or hold up the edges of the dough with your fingers, letting the dough sag and stretch in the middle, while working around the edges of the dough (like they do in the movies!). You don’t have to aim for a perfect circle. Once the grill is hot, dip a tightly folded up paper towel in olive oil and use tongs to hold the paper towel and brush the grill grates. Use a lightly floured pizza peel (or rimless cookie sheet) to slide the dough onto the grill. Close the lid and let the dough cook for 2 minutes.
- Once the pizza dough has browned lightly on one side, remove the dough from the grill and flip the dough over so that the grilled side is now face-up. Keep the grill covered so it retains its heat for the next step.
- Paint the grilled surface of the pizza with a little olive oil and sauce, and add your toppings. Slide the topped pizza back onto the grill (reduce the heat slightly if possible) and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until the bottom begins to char and the cheese is bubbly.