November 14th , 2010 → 5:45 pm @ Susan

Traditional wood-fired pizza ovenOne of the main features of Casa Lucia is the beautiful traditional wood-fired pizza oven.  We make sure there is always a plentiful stock of wood for our guests, and there are always plenty of herbs in the herb garden next to the oven to add to your personal concoctions.   Making pizzas is a wonderful and healthy way to cook.  We love having big familypizza nights where everyone gets involved in kneading, rolling, chopping, and inventing!  You’re only limited by your imagination and appetite on pizza night!  

Wood for the outdoor pizza ovenFor the purists, nothing beats making your own pizza dough.  Make sure you use the OO flour and look for the fresh yeast in little cubes in the refrigerated section – both are readily available at all supermarkets.  For those who want a shortcut, you can buy ready-made pizza dough, also available in the refrigerated shelves.

outdoor-kitchen-and-pizza-oven-april-2010How to use the Pizza Oven

Clean and prepare fire-Clean oven interior of any remaining ash using long-handled oven tools. Sweep clean oven base using long-handled metal brush. Dispose of ash in base of grill next to oven.

Note: DO NOT BRING ASH INTO HOUSE OR EMPTY INTO KITCHEN RUBBISH BIN – ASH CAN BE A FIRE HAZARD AND OFTEN CONTAINS BURNING EMBERS FOR DAYS AFTER OVEN HAS BEEN USED

About 12 inches inside oven build small mound of scrunched up paper (6 sheets of newspaper) with kindling (small dry twigs/sticks – find on land behind house if note in store) and top-off with several small logs (a bit thicker than a broom handle and 12/18  inches long – found under oven or in wood shed at back of house).  Note: paper/kindling needs to be very dry

Lighting and maintaining fire- Light paper to start fire. When fire is burning well (10 – 15 mins), gradually add larger logs to build up fire over next 30 – 40 mins. Larger logs will be on left side of wood store at back of house.   Note: Do not use wood pieces that are too big (i.e. larger than your forearm) as larger pieces of wood don’t burn well inside oven, despite the heat.

After fire is well established, use long-handled oven tools to push fire either to center of base or to side of oven. This will create your cooking space inside oven on base. After moving fire, use long-handled brush to sweep cleared space of ash so cooking space is clean.  Note: Before moving fire to middle or side, ensure fire is burning well; pizza ovens are fickle and fire can ‘stall’ after moving it – if it does, just put some more kindling / small logs on top of embers/fire to encourage flames to restart.

Temperature /  Maintaining temperature

Measure oven temperature using hand-held thermometer ‘gun’ (in kitchen draw with utensils). Oven can get as hot as 1,000 deg F (there is a Far’ / Cent’ mode you can toggle between on gun) but a temp of 400 F will be hot enough to cook pizza. Ideal pizza temp would be 550 – 750 deg F.  Add additional logs on top of burning fire using long-handled tools or tongs – take care with the heat – use gloves provided! It can take 1 – 1.5 hrs to get fire hot, stable and oven to a good temp’ for pizza cooking (500 – 750 deg F).

Cooking Pizza in Pizza Oven

The outside granite top area next to pizza oven is ideal to prepare pizza bases – rolling out the dough and also as a staging area to have all toppings laid out to build your pizza.  When your pizza base (dough) is ready (homemade or pre-purchased) dust the long-handled pizza paddle (red handle) or shorter wooden-handled paddle with flour. (Ensure paddle is v. clean and dry before use).

Gently lay pizza base on paddle and then add toppings, starting with tomato base sauce and then cheese, meats, vegetables etc. When complete, carry pizza on paddle to oven and gently lay pizza on pre-cleared base inside oven to cook and remove paddle.  Note: for best results, build your pizza on the paddle and then place in oven – try to avoid building pizza on another surface and transferring to paddle and then to oven.

IMPORTANT: You need to use paddle to ‘lay’ pizza on base of oven – PADDLE NEEDS TO BE REMOVED AND PIZZA COOKS ON BASE OF OVEN – NOT ON BASE OF PADDLE INSIDE OVEN.

Note: if you’re having trouble with pizza ‘sticking’ to paddle, make sure pizza base dough is not too wet and that paddle has been adequately ‘dusted’ with flour before putting base on before ‘building’ pizza.

After placing pizza inside oven, cooking time will vary from 2 mins at high temps to 5 mins at cooler temps.  When ready (toppings on pizza will ‘bubble’) remove using paddle – take care with the heat!

NOTE: YOU MAY WANT TO PRE-COOK THE BASE (without toppings) IN THE OVEN FOR 1 – 2 MINS , REMOVE, AND THEN BUILD PIZZA (on paddle) AND RE-INSERT IN OVEN. THIS WILL GIVE YOU A CRISPIER PIZZA BASE IF DESIRED.

There is enough room in the oven for 2 – 3 pizzas to be cooked at the same time, depending on size. Be aware that someone will need to constantly watch the pizza cooking as in high temps pizza can cook in 90 seconds – you can get ‘overdone’ pizza in no time, if not careful!

Hint: If you use too much tomato sauce on pizza base, pizza can sometimes be soggy (despite fact than oven is v v  hot) Be judicious with sauce if you want to have a crispy base. Also, try making pizza ‘bianco’ – without tomato sauce – and experiment with local ingredients; zucchini, pecorino cheese, fresh anchovies, lightly fried sage leaves (plenty growing in herb garden next to pizza oven).

Using Pizza Oven to Cook Meats and Vegetables

Prepare and light oven as described. Clear space inside by pushing fire to one side; you will now have your cooking area inside oven.  There are several 1 ½ inch deep metal cooking tins (usually kept in kitchen cupboard under coffee machine or in cupboards of outside kitchen) Use these tins to roast potatoes, vegetables, meats etc. in the oven.

TIP: Coat base of tin with olive oil and warm for 2 – 3 mins in pizza oven before putting in vegetables / meats.

Use some rosemary from herb garden next to pizza oven to add local flavor to roast vegetables – especially potatoes.

TIP: If cooking steak using pizza oven, for best results, wait for fire to burn wood to red-hot embers then, using long-handled oven tools, drag embers to middle of oven base. Use raised grill (found in cupboard of outdoor kitchen) and put steak on top of this and then slide grill/steak over hot coals inside oven. For best results use a thick cut of meat. Red-hot wood embers will cook and char the surface of the meat and intense internal temperature of oven will also help cook the meat internally. Note -  cooking time can be very quick indeed when placing meat directly over hot embers in oven – take care not to overcook! 

Let Danilo and Elysa take care of it for you!

For those times when you just want to relax and let the experts take over, why not let Danilo and Elysa come in and prepare the pizzas for you?  They will prepare and cook a variety of pizzas, using freshly made dough and fresh ingredients from the market that day.  They also prepare a delicious home-made dessert to round off the meal.  This is a great, relaxing evening of fun for everyone.  €25 per person.   

festa-on-the-terraceENJOY!

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