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Author Notes: I've always wanted to have a wood-fired pizza oven in my back yard, but failing that, a charcoal grill works wonders.. One of the most fun birthday parties I've ever thrown for myself was the year I invited a bunch of friends, whipped up a pile of pizza dough, laid out a giant assortment of toppings, and set everybody to grilling their own. It was delightfully messy and everybody got to create their own memorable masterpiece. —Abra Bennett
For the pizza dough
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 packets yeast
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 5 cups bread flour, or use all-purpose flour
- additional flour as necessary for kneading
- additional olive oil for the bowl
For the toppings (my suggestions, you can add and subtract as you like)
- 6 cups pizza sauce, homemade or purchased
- 2 cups pesto, homemade or purchased
- 2 cups ricotta, homemade or purchased
- 2 cups roasted garlic cloves, homemade or purchased
- 2 cups sliced sautéed onions
- 2 cups sliced sautéed mushrooms
- 2 cups diced sautéed green peppers
- 2 cups pitted black olives
- 2 cups browned Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
- 2 cups sliced pepperoni
- 4 cups shredded mozzarella
- small bowls of crushed red pepper, fennel seed, and dried oregano
- anything else your heart desires
- It's much easier to use a mixer to make this large quantity of dough, but of course you can also make it by hand as people have done for centuries. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or large bowl) combine the water and sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it stand until it's foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the oil, then the whole wheat flour and the salt. When those are mixed in, begin adding the white flour, one cup at a time. Mix the dough until it comes together and the sides of the bowl are almost clean. The dough should still be a little bit sticky. If necessary, add a little more flour, but be sure the dough remains elastic.
- Using olive oil, lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in it and turn it over so that the whole dough ball is coated with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let it stand in warm draft-free area until the dough doubles, about 1-1 1/2 hours.
- After the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down and knead it lightly in the bowl for a minute or two. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (it helps to use a kitchen scale for this so that everyone gets the same amount of crust to work with).
- Light a charcoal grill, using wood chunks if at all possible, high-quality briquets otherwise. Let the fire die down to a super-hot glow with no active flames.
- Now, depending on your guests, you can either pre-cook the dough rounds just before they arrive, or let each person work with her own dough. In either case, this is what you need to do. Roll or pat out each piece on a lightly floured surface to a 9" round.
- Pre-cook the crusts like this: place each crust on the hot grill and cook just until the underside is crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Flip the crust and grill for another minute. The dough should not be burnt, but it will not be cooked all the way through either.
- Now you're ready to top the pizza. I suggest covering the whole dining table (or other very large work surface) in aluminum foil to facilitate cleanup. Place all of the toppings in the center of the table and give each person one of the pre-cooked crusts. Instruct them to place the toppings on the well-cooked side of the crust, because the lightly cooked side will get more cooking once the toppings are in place.
- Using baking sheets to ferry the topped crusts to the grill, let each person grill her own masterpiece. It's best to do this with the cover on the grill, to help melt the cheese and bring the toppings together. Depending on your fire, this last step should take 3-4 minutes per pizza. This means that everyone won't sit down to eat at the same moment, but both those eating and those grilling will be happily occupied, and every pizza will be crafted to the diner's exact specifications. People LOVE to do this, and it's amazing how many people have never made their own pizza before.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Pizza