Wood-fired pizzas (or the next best thing)

I think it would be awesome to have a wood-fired pizza oven but the reality is…I will never have one.  But here’s a technique that will get you close.  It involves a pizza stone, a paddle, fresh dough and toppings.

Purchase the largest stone you can find or maybe it’s a combination of two stones. 

Place the stone(s) in the oven on one of the center racks and remove the other racks so you have room to maneuver with the paddle.  Turn the oven on to its highest “bake” setting, usually around 550 degrees.  HOWEVER, I noticed in the directions that came with my stone that it recommended that the temperature be introduced gradually.  So what you can do is set it to 350, let it preheat…take it to 400, let it catch up and then finally take it to 550.  The whole warming time might be close to 20 or 25 minutes.

Have some freshly made dough…

that has been rolled out and docked (poked with a fork throughout).  Set that on top of the paddle but make sure there is plenty of cornmeal sprinkled on the paddle to keep the dough free and loose once it is set on the paddle.  The size of the pizza round should not exceed the width of the paddle or the width of the stone.  You might need to experiment a bit so you get just the right amount of dough to match your equipment.  The crust should be very thin for best results. 

Once the dough is on the paddle, add your toppings and then take to your super-heated oven. 

With quick jerking motions transfer the pizza to the stone.  This will take a little practice but will come in time.

Set your timer for 10 minutes and allow pizza to bake. 

Check it after that and if the edges are brown and crusty and the cheese is bubbly, your pizza is ready and can be removed from the oven with the paddle.  If you are going to be eating right away you can cut and serve from the paddle but if you are holding it for any length of time transfer the pizza to a baking rack to prevent the crust from sweating and losing it’s crispiness.

AND….if you have a barbeque you can duplicate this entire process by putting a stone in there, cranking it up to it’s maximum heat and then baking inside with the lid down.  The BBQ gives it a nice flavor but generally does not accomodate a very large pizza.  Very fun to try, though.  Give it a try, fine tune as you need and you will have added a wonderful item to your cooking repetoire!

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