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Beatrice Ojakangas: Grilled pizza and peaches pack a one-two punch

When baking pizzas on a grill, we have had to make a few changes in the method.

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Grilled pizza and grilled peaches for dessert. (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)

Remembering good old times is one of the best pleasures of the day. Parties. Friends. Cooking together tops the list of fun things we’ve done with friends. We would invite a whole bunch of people, such as the church choir or the geology department or another group of friends, to make pizzas. We would ask each person to bring one topping for a pizza. I offered to make the pizza dough. Amazingly, we always had more than enough to feed the whole party.

Lately, we’ve been doing more outdoor cooking. Admittedly, when baking pizzas on a grill, we have had to make a few changes in the method. We’ve discovered that there is more than one way to do it. One way is to cook the pizza crust directly on the grill, or on a pizza stone that is heated on the grill. Either way, the pizza cooks more quickly than in the oven.

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Grilled pizza topped with fresh veggies and garnished with arugula. (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)

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To prebake the crust on the grill, we transfer the crust onto the grill one of these ways. One method is to roll the crust out on a piece of parchment paper and flop it onto the grill so that the top side is down, and then peel away the paper. Another option is to cook one side of the pizza crust until it’s lightly browned, flip it over, and then add toppings.

Oh, and we’ve gotten into discussions about what kinds of flour to use for the crust: all-purpose, bread, whole wheat or 00 (a finely ground Italian flour). Mostly, I have used regular, all-purpose flour and bread flour. What’s the difference? Bread flour has more protein (gluten), which provides a slightly firmer crust when cooked. Those who opt for the type 00 flour have to go through the bother of ordering it online. Then you’re faced with two options: Red 00 flour or Blue label 00 flour. I used blue 00 flour. As far as I’m concerned, good old locally purchased bread flour works just fine. I’m waiting to be proven wrong!

Just last week, I made three pizza dough crusts — one with 00 flour imported from Italy, one all-purpose flour (General Mills) from the local grocery store, and one of bread flour (Dakota Maid). There was very little difference between the three crusts. I used the same proportion as in this following recipe.

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Pizza topped with sliced mozzarella, tomatoes, bell pepper and fresh basil. (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)

Grilled Pizza Dough

1½ cups lukewarm water (about 105 degrees)

1 package (about 1 scant tablespoon) active dry yeast

3 cups flour

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2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

Suggested toppings:

Minced garlic, 2 or 3 cloves

¼ cup olive oil

Tomato sauce as desired

Chopped fresh tomatoes

Chopped or sliced black olives

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¼ to ½ cup roasted red peppers

1 to 2 cups sliced lightly sautéed mushrooms

Sliced and/or shredded mozzarella or other cheeses, as desired

For the dough: In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Proof for 10 minutes or until frothy. Gradually mix in the flour. When about half the flour is added, stir in the oil and the salt and then add the remaining flour. Stir until a shaggy dough forms. Let the dough stand for 10 or 15 minutes, then turn out onto a floured board and knead by folding the dough over onto itself just until the dough is well mixed — this might take about 25 folds. Let stand until dough rises until it is puffy. (You can even put the mixed dough into the fridge overnight if you wish.)

Divide the dough into three equal parts. With your hands or with a rolling pin, on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out or stretch the dough to a circle about 10 or 12 inches in diameter. Let rise for about a half hour until the dough looks puffy.

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Grill the pizza crust on one side before adding any sauce or toppings. (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)

In the meantime, preheat the barbecue grill. If using a gas grill, heat to about 450 degrees. If using a charcoal grill, bank the hot coals on the right and left sides, so that there will not be a direct fire under the center of the grill. Prepare the fillings. Heat the olive oil and garlic for 30 seconds in the microwave. Set aside. Punch the dough down and divide into three parts. Form each part into an oblong shape and flatten on a sheet of parchment paper.

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Cook the pizza crust on one side, flip over, and brush with tomato sauce before adding fresh veggies for topping. (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)

Pick up one of the pizza crusts and flop it onto the grill and then peel away the parchment paper. The dough will begin to puff up almost immediately. Cook the crust for about 2 to 3 minutes until there are grill marks on the bottom side. Flip the crust over and arrange your choice of toppings onto the cooked side of the pizza. Close the lid of the grill and continue to cook 5 to 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted and toppings are cooked to your liking. Cook remaining pizzas using toppings as you desired. Makes three pizzas.

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Grilled peaches garnished with mint. (Susanna Ojakangas / For the News Tribune)

Grilled Fresh Peaches

Whole, fresh peaches

Butter

Optional: Cinnamon sugar or brown sugar, ice cream

Cut cling-free peaches in half and remove the pit. Brush with melted butter and grill about 3 minutes, brushing with the butter continuously. Great when sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, or topped with dark brown sugar. A scoop of ice cream on the side goes well, too! Plan on one peach per person, or two if they are really small.

Beatrice Ojakangas is a Duluth food writer and author of 31 cookbooks. Find her online at beatrice-ojakangas.com.

Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
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