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Relax About the Dough – Tips for Using Dough from the Store

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A nice pie with a great crust made with store bought pizza dough and some fresh mootz.
A nice pie with a great crust made with store bought pizza dough and some fresh mootz.

Some folks prefer to do things the hard way, others just have better things to do. We do some of both depending on the circumstances. When it comes to making your own pizza dough, it may not be for you (or, just isn’t for you today). If that’s the case, the easiest alternate route to great KettlePizza pizza is to pick up some already made dough in the supermarket bakery department (or at your local pizzeria), and make pies on your KettlePizza with that. Store bought dough makes a great crust, but a little advanced planning (and a few other tips) can ensure a successful result. Here’s what we learned from the pizza dough we bought from our Publix supermarket in Nashville.

Publix Pizza Dough
Four one-pound bags of Publix dough. The two puffy bags on the left have been resting in the fridge for two days. The bottom right for one day; the top right was bought this morning.

A very important point to keep in mind whether your make your own dough or buy it: yeast doughs must have rest and relaxation before you can make a pizza. This is good advice for the pizza cook as well!

Some store-bought dough tips for you:

A cold hard ball of dough is impossible to stretch into a pie and, even if it stretches a little and acts like it’s going to cooperate, the dough is likely to stretch unevenly and eventually tear. This frustrating situation we call the dreaded stretch-back leads to wads of dough flying about the patio or kitchen and a sad KettlePizza all fired up with no pies to bake. Cold dough = no pizza for you (not right now anyway).

Publix Pizza Dough
The frustration jumps right out at you, doesn’t it? The dreaded stretch-back and fatal tear with the cold ball of dough bought this morning. No time to rest and relax in the fridge. Avoid the situation at all costs.

The easy solution? Plan ahead and bring home the dough a day, preferably two days, before KettlePizza night. The best way to develop gluten and flavor is a slow rise right in the refrigerator. You don’t have to do anything but put the bags of dough in the refrigerator right in their plastic bags and forget about them for 48 hours (even up to 72 hours). You’ll notice two days later that the plastic bags have significantly puffed up and the dough feels light to the touch and airy. This is a very good development.

Publix pizza dough
One-pound bags of dough separated into two or three pieces depending on the size pie you like or how many topping combos you need blank canvases for.

When it’s time to make pizza, open the puffed bags carefully and handle the dough gently so as not to force all the air out of the dough. Pizza dough is often sold in one-pound bags, so cut the ball of dough either in half for two larger (about 9 to 10-inch) pies or into thirds for smaller (about 5 to 6-inch) pies. We use a stainless dough scraper/cutter for a quick, clean cut. Place the balls on a floured surface and cover with plastic wrap or a warm damp towel. Let them rest protected from the air while you’re getting the KettlePizza up to pizza temperature.

Here’s the beauty part—with a nice, soft, relaxed ball of dough with well-developed gluten the ball stretches easily and brings our your inner pizza chef. Hold the dough with your fingers from the edges and allow gravity to gently stretch the dough downward.

Publix Pizza Dough

You can also use your knuckles to expand the dough; just push it out in a circular motion.

Publix Pizza Dough

Now your pie is ready for your favorite toppings and will puff up nicely in the hot KettlePizza.

Publix Pizza Dough
Handle the dough gently as you stretch and allow gravity to help you. A light touch helps keep those nice air pockets intact for a knockout puffy crust.
Publix Pizza Dough
Good air pockets keep the crust light, not dense, heavy, and too chewy.

A little forward thinking and planning ahead so you can let the dough develop on its own in the refrigerator will make for a relaxed dough, a relaxing KettlePizza night, and a relaxed you.

KettlePizza Kits — Baking Steel vs. The Dome

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KettlePizza Domed Pies

KettlePizza offers a nice array of kits with several different options, but today we’re going to take a quick look at the difference between using the Baking Steel top vs. just the Weber dome (KettlePizza without the Baking Steel).

We’ve been making plenty of pizza with the Serious Eats KettlePizza Special Edition Kit that includes the Baking Steel. The benefit of the steel is essentially a hotter oven and a faster cooking pie that results from the extremely hot steel radiating heat down over the pizza while it cooks. The Baking Steel also creates more leopard spotting on the top and edges of the crust.

When the Baking Steel is in place under the Weber kettle lid it is super heated by the flames coming off the burning wood chunks in the firebox at the rear of the kettle. The more the wood burns, the more the flames roll across the bottom of the Baking Steel. The pies cook very quickly in under five minutes.

Without the Baking Steel top in place, the KettlePizza works more like a domed wood burning oven and runs at a slightly lower temperature. As a result, the pies take a little longer to cook, 3 or 4 minutes more depending on your oven temperature.

A couple of tips for making pizza without the Baking Steel:

— After the pie has been in the oven about a minute it should be set and moveable. Gently lift it off the stone and rotate the pie with the peel, long metal tongs, or a metal spatula to expose all the edges to the burning wood in the rear firebox. Continue rotating all during the cooking for a beautiful brown and spotted edge.

— Remember, you are creating a pizza oven so don’t remove the Weber Kettle Lid to refuel with wood and let all the heat escape. Keep the precious heat in the oven. You won’t be adding anymore charcoal as the wood becomes the new coals as it burns.

–Keep the wood coming. One of the beauties of KettlePizza is that it truly creates a wood-burning oven which is how it can reach temperatures much higher than straight charcoal can provide. Adding dry, seasoned wood chunks at a steady pace keeps the oven temperatures high for consistent baking. We put chunks in all three sides creating what we call in Nashville the “half ring of fire.” When you notice the flames beginning to subside (and see the temperature gauge falling toward 600 degrees or lower), add a couple more chunks by sliding them across the stone and into the back (or firebox). Use long tongs or a small fireplace shovel, or with a little practice, you can toss them in with a flick of the wrist.

–Find a good source of fist-size wood chunks like mild-scented oak or pecan that easily slide onto the burning coals. This isn’t about smoking, it’s about cooking with fire. Smoky woods like hickory or mesquite are a little heavy for pizza.

KettlePizza

–Finish off the pizza with the heat of the dome. When your pizza is about done, slide it onto the metal peel and lift the peel inside the oven as high as the opening allows. This hovering method lets the intense heat radiating off the kettle’s dome finish melting the cheese, cook the toppings, and brown the crust as needed. It’s a nice finishing touch that makes for a spectacular pie.

KettlePizza Leftovers — The Beauty of Making Extra

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KettlePizza

One of the joys of firing up your KettlePizza oven is knowing you’ve got leftover pizza ready for lunch or dinner over the next few days. And if you plan a little, you can create even more last minute pizza options. That’s the beauty of making extra. Even better, delicious leftover homemade KettlePizza beats any brand of frozen pizza any day.

You know the KettlePizza drill—you’ve got your dough relaxed and ready to stretch out on the peel, your sauce, cheese, and other toppings all lined up, and the KettlePizza temperature gauges are in the “Pizza Zone.” Now is the time to strike while it’s hot.

Mindy’s go-to dough recipe  makes 6 medium pies, so that’s what we typically make for a KettlePizza session. That leaves us with the better part of 4 pies for later, unless the kids are home from school in which case that number plummets to zero pies for later.

As food writers we do quite a bit of cooking at our house, usually more than we can eat ourselves. So, we’ve had to develop some reliable freezer management practices to get the most out of our efforts and avoid wasting good food.

First, we always keep a supply of quart and gallon size sealable plastic freezer grade bags, freezer masking tape, and Sharpie pens in the top kitchen drawer. How many times have you popped something into a bag or plastic container and into the freezer only to discover months later that you have no idea what’s inside and how long it’s been there? A quick note with a marker to name and date your leftovers on the bag or on freezer tape stuck onto the container can mean the difference between enjoying something you made later, or tossing out the icy frozen mystery food. Keep in mind that you can keep frozen cooked pizza at least a good couple of months without worry of freezer burn.

We always cut the pies into slices so we can heat up just what we need. Slices are easier to store and easier for snacking and fitting into the toaster oven, too. The good news also is that you can spot the frozen triangle slices pretty easily in the freezer.

The key is proper thawing and reheating to get the best result possible. As with all foods, the best practice is to thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter, to prevent encouraging bacteria from developing in foods above 34 (refrigerator temp) degrees. So, as you head out the door to work in the morning, put your frozen pizza bag in the fridge and they’ll be ready for dinnertime.

Another great thing about a slice of pizza is that it really doesn’t need to be thawed to reheat well. So, you can go right from the freezer to the heat at the last minute for maximum last-minute flexibility.

KettlePizza

KettlePizza Reheating Tips:

–No matter how you reheat pizza the key is to not leave your post while the pizza heats up. Even when frozen, a slice of pizza only takes a couple minutes to get good and hot and the cheese and toppings safely heated. Too much heat and the crust will become hard and cracker-like, and the cheese and sauce will burn. Don’t leave your post!

–For a few pieces we just use the toaster oven. It heats up faster and creates less kitchen heat than the conventional oven. They usually hold 2 to 4 slices depending on your oven and slice sizes. Set it at about 400 degrees and set the slices right on the rack. Check your progress after a couple minutes and when the slices are hot and bubbly, slide them onto a plate with your cooking tongs.

–For lots of pizza, preheat your regular oven to about 375 degrees and set the pizza/pizza slices either right on the racks, a baking sheet, or a perforated, nonstick pizza pan. If you have a heavy load of toppings and cheese that might drip onto the oven bottom, use a pan and save making a mess.

–Use your backyard grill. Medium heat is plenty hot enough to reheat pizza. Set slices on the grates, close the lid and check them after a couple minutes. Using tongs move the slices around as necessary to deal with grill hot and cold spots to ensure even heating.

–Use you KettlePizza oven. If you’re making new pizza but have some frozen and want to enjoy that, too, slide your leftover slices right onto the KettlePizza stone and watch them bubble back to life.

KettlePizza: Increasing Facebook friend counts since 2010

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PicMonkey Collage2.

Guest post by Gav Martell of www.grillinterrupted.com, author of the cook book, “Grill Interrupted,” a MasterChef Canada Season 2 finalist, and winner of Toronto’s Inaugural Winterlicious Tin Chef Competition (exclusively for home chefs). Gav bought his first KettlePizza last February. Once the snows of Ontario gave way to Spring, he was finally able to fire up his Made in the USA KettlePizza.

Every winter I wait patiently for summer to arrive. Not because I won’t grill through the winter – I’m happy to light up the barbie as much in the cold as I am during the summer months. Sure, it takes a little more bundling up and my wife is forever yelling at me for leaving my snowy boots on a small towel in the corner of our kitchen by the back door… but all-the-same I’m out there rain or shine, sleet or snow. Happily, stubbornly grilling my way through whatever mother nature can throw my way. However, there is no substitution for the glorious days of summer when the sun is high in the sky, the kids are playing in the backyard, the bbq is fired up, and we get to hang out with friends enjoying some good food.

This year in particular summer could not come quick enough. Back in December I bought myself a KettlePizza kit – an adapter to a standard Weber kettle grill that turns it into a backyard pizza oven. I’ve done pizza on the grill many, many times but am often faced with the challenge of keeping the heat in. A challenge as I constantly need to lift the lid to check on the pizzas and move them in and out of the bbq. Inevitably I end up with pizzas that are cooked on the bottom, but not quite done on top. The KettlePizza kit resolves this problem by adding a middle band to the kettle grill that acts as a pizza oven door and enables the heat to stay where you want it. There is no longer a need to lift the lid off the top. Brilliant. Beautiful wood-fire charred pizza beckoned… I just needed the snow to thaw.

This past Sunday I finally put the call out on Facebook. What better way to inaugurate my new pizza oven then an open invite to all of my friends to come by and sample my wares! I spent the better part of the day fine-tuning my pizza-making techniques. The KettlePizza was sublime in its simplicity and success was not difficult to achieve as soon as the grill was fired up. The steps were as easy as:

1) assemble the KettlePizza kit

2) light the charcoal and hard wood

3) wait for grill to reach “pizza” cooking temperature (approx 700 degrees)

4) Get grilling!

PicMonkey Collage

The KettlePizza paddle and pizza stone made feeding the pizzas in and out a breeze, and otherwise it was really just a matter of occasionally feeding the flames with some additional hardwood to keep the temperature at a high enough level. Charcoal alone can get the grill hot, but it’s the hardwood that pushes it up into the “pizza hot” stratosphere.

Over the course of the day I had a lot of people stop by and help, and even more people stop by and eat! We cranked out about 20 pizzas over the course of 3 hours and made some solid Grade-A wood-fired pizzas. Brushing garlic-butter and sprinkling Parmesan on the crust really helped propel my backyard pizzas to ridiculous levels. There’s nothing better than spending the afternoon hanging out with friends and sharing some good food. The KettlePizza removed all of the obstacles to making great pizza on a traditional grill and had very little fuss or muss to worry about so I could focus less on minding the grill and more on hanging out and enjoying some great food! I’ll definitely be putting out the “pizza signal” on Facebook again the next sunny Sunday I get.

pizza-man

image from SeriousEats.com

Brewmaster’s Pizza Dough via @Chefmathu

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Matthew Dean
Chef Matthew Dean

When we spotted Chef Matthew Dean’s gorgeous picture of a pizza fresh off of his Made in the USA KettlePizza, we just had to ask for the recipe so that we could share it with all of you. Chef Dean, who earned a degree from Le Cordon Bleu in baking and pastry, is a Food Fanatics Chef — one of more than a dozen culinary experts throughout the US who partner with chefs and restaurateurs to help their business thrive and succeed.

Matthew, named one of the 40 under 40 in the North Central Illinois region for his work with local restaurants and community organizations, said he received a KettlePizza as a present last Christmas and told us that “cooking with your product is a blast so thank you.” Well, right back at you, Matthew, and before we share your recipe for Brewmaster’s Pizza Dough, we want to share with the KettlePizza community the quote you live by:

The moment a chef stops asking for help and refuses to share his own personal knowledge, is the moment he will meet failure in his career.”

That’s just one of the attributes that makes the KettlePizza community so unique: the constant asking of questions among KettlePizza customers and the subsequent sharing of tips and successes.

Here’s Chef Dean’s recipe. We’ll be anxious to hear how you make out!

Brewmaster’s Pizza Dough (recipe for two small pizzas)

  • 1 cup Lager or IPA beer @ 115 degrees
  • 1.5 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Mix in your mixing bowl and let this sit in a warm place for 15 minutes or until the yeast begins to react.

2 cups flour (Caputo or a high quality unbleached AP flour will do)

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or sunflower oil

Mix this all together on low-speed until combined.

Add an additional cup of flour

Mix dough then add several tablespoons at a time until the dough no longer sticks to the mixing bowl.  Continue to mix on Chef Matthew Deanmedium speed for 5 minutes adding additional flour if it begins to stick again.  Lightly oil the dough and place in a container and cover with plastic wrap then let rise until doubled in a warm place.

Punch dough down and remove from bowl to a lightly floured surface. Knead dough until smooth and split in two separate pieces.  Coat dough lightly with oil and place in a container covered with plastic wrap and allow to rise one more time.

To make the pizza, gently press dough out into a circle, carefully hand stretching till approximately 1.4″ to 1/8″ thick.  Do not use a rolling pin and it is ok for the edges to be slightly thicker.  Place onto a pizza peel dusted with corn meal so the pizza will slide off with ease.  Build your pizza and slide onto your prepared pizza stone in your KettlePizza.  **The dough should be tacky. If too dense, it will take too long to cook.

Follow Chef Dean on Twitter @Chefmathu

Don’t Disappoint Yourself, Your Guests or Your KettlePizza — Choose Kingsford!

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We use an expression in the grilling industry. It goes something like this:  you get what you pay for.  KingsfordBagLogo_1_1

It’s prime time when it comes to the grilling season.  As a result, we’re all inundated with “deals” on everything from grills to grates to flavor bars to lighter fluid and charcoal, and just about anything else you can put in or near a grill. And while saving a buck or two on certain grill accessories may make sense, saving a few dollars on a key grilling ingredient only to wind up with an inferior product that won’t perform and is likely to lead to disappointment…well, let’s not!

There’s another expression we’re fond of in the grilling business: If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Among other main grilling ingredients, it’s particularly important that you don’t skimp on the brand of charcoal you’re putting in your kettle-style grill — whether you’re cooking with a Made in the USA KettlePizza insert or the grill straight up.  If the flyer or newspaper ad you’re looking at is encouraging you to purchase a no-name brand of charcoal, or if you’re local hardware or big box store has pallets of a no-name charcoal piled high near the point of sale, walk away.

Don’t be lulled into the appearance of a good deal by a wannabe charcoal brand. Instead, walk right over to where the Kingsford Original Charcoal is stored, and drop a bag or two into your carriage knowing that you’ll be pouring into your grill some of the finest charcoal available.

We will not use any other brand! Kingsford Original Charcoal is the choice of KettlePizza founders!

Here’s why we think Kingsford — which is the leading manufacturer of charcoal in the U.S. with 80 percent market share — is the best.

  • Kingsford creates that real smoky flavor we all love. How? By making each each briquet with natural ingredients and real wood.
  • Kingsford has improved an already great product by adding what the company calls Sure Fire Grooves®.  Kingsford coals now light faster than ever.
  • Veteran barbecue experts, including cooks at barbecue contests and grilling book authors, use Kingsford and only Kingsford.
  • A great product deserves a great website. If you love to grill and haven’t visited the Kingsford website, make your way over there.  The site has outstanding info on how to select the perfect grill for your needs, the best ways to light charcoal and manage grill temperature.
  • The people at Kingsford appreciate great food.  They have a killer recipe page organized by main ingredient with easy-to-follow instructions.

KP KettlePizza Interior 3So next chance you get, pick up a bag of Kingsford, turn on the music and fire up the KettlePizza.

A Backyard, Wood-Fired Pizza Oven or another Tie for Dad on Father’s Day?

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Instead of another last-minute tie for Father’s Day, why not buy something dad will really appreciate — like a wood-fired pizza oven from KettlePizza.

Selecting a thoughtful Father’s Day gift is an annual challenge. Studies show that over-analyzing the Father’s Day gift-buying process leads to gift buying paralysis,often resulting in a last-minute purchase like the dreaded Father’s Day tie. Don’t be that person!

KettlePizza is eradicating Father’s Day gift-buying paralysis forever and promoting a more deliberate approach by making No ties for father's dayavailable for sale its entire family of Made in the USA pizza oven kits that turn a kettle-style grill, like a Weber, into an affordable backyard, wood-fired pizza oven. KettlePizza is a great gift idea for dads who enjoy grilling — as well as for foodies, sports fans who enjoy ‘home gating’ for the big game, shoppers who enjoy giving American-made products as gifts, and anyone who likes to entertain with friends and family.

“Men’s closets throughout the USA are jammed with ties. Wide ties, thin ties, silk ties, linen ties and cotton ties. And most just hang there, unworn year-after-year,” said Al Contarino, KettlePizza president/co-founder. “We’re saying ‘enough with the ties already.’ Dads are too nice say to their kids or significant other, ‘I have enough ties for two life times.’ We’re nice too, but we’re not afraid to say it, so let’s cool it with the ties.”

Father’s Day coincides with the height of the summer grilling season for many Americans, and what better way to celebrate both occasions than with an at-home grilling experience that will create wonderful memories year-after-year,” said Contarino. “Dads who enjoy charcoal grilling can add new recipes to their cooking repertoire with our kits. KettlePizza kits turn a regular kettle-style grill into a wood-fired oven for authentic flavor at a fraction of the cost of a custom brick or stone oven.”

KettlePizza’s product line includes the original pizza oven kits, as well as aluminum pro-grade pizza peels, hand-crafted Cordierite baking stones, and other accessories, all of which are available directly at http://www.kettlepizza.com.

KettlePizza is a major sponsor of the Rotary Nashua West Rockn’ Ribfest, New Hampshire’s premier family event, which will be held over Father’s Day weekend, June 19 – 21, in Merrimack, NH.

About KettlePizza™
Founded in 2010 by inventors and entrepreneurs Al Contarino and George Peters, KettlePizza™ is an all-American small business success story. From humble beginnings in Al’s barn to distribution partners across the country and around the world, KettlePizza offers grill aficionados and families that enjoy home cooked meals or entertaining friends an authentic wood-burning pizza oven experience. KettlePizza has multiple patents pending and was named 2013 Retailers Choice Award at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas and 2012 Vesta Award Finalist at the Hearth, Patio Expo Atlanta. For more information visit http://www.kettlepizza.com.