#11  
Old 08-19-2009, 04:26 PM
ksm ksm is offline
Peasant
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Rhode Island
Posts: 39
Default Re: big party...keep it hot

berryst and all,

We'll be in a similar situation next week. Invited my freshmen students to come over, assuming about half would show; so far all 32 said they would! (Behold! The power of pizza.) I'm desperate for advice.

How long did you fire your oven prior to the event? You were speculating about 3.5 hours. Did you do that? About how long did you keep it at the "top temp"?

How about keeping the fire going while cooking pizzas? Dumn suggests smaller (2" diameter) logs of hardwood. Did you do that? How much of a flame did you keep going on the side?

Last question: what sort of surface did you use for people to make their pizzas? Could I give folks sheets of non-stick aluminum foil to make their pizzas on and then slide them onto a peel? (I have two metal peels + the turning peel.) I thought about parchment paper, but am worried about moisture from the high hydration dough.

All advice gratefully welcomed -- especially since we've only been working with the oven about a month.

Kathy
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  #12  
Old 08-19-2009, 07:21 PM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: San Antonio
Posts: 1,719
Default Re: big party...keep it hot

Hi Kathy!

You don't have to heat load an oven to do pizza - just get it up to temperature.

Once your oven is "clear" (the soot has burned off) you are effectively in business. Should be about 45 to an hour 15 depending on your oven. But if you have been using it you should know how long that takes. To be "safe" an hour and a half of big fire should be more than plenty.

I typically then take out most of the coals and all but the largest remaining "logs" and let them burn and the oven equalize - and let the hearth come down to the 750 F range. As soon as it hits that range you are ready to cook! And as dmun says, keep logs (2 inch is fine) burning to keep the oven at temp. If the hearth gets cool, just stop and rake some coals over the floor for a few minutes, then shove them back under the logs and rebrush the hearth and go back to cooking. If you keep good flames the dome should be no problem!

Good luck! 32 college students sound like an army!
Jay
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  #13  
Old 08-19-2009, 08:23 PM
ksm ksm is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Rhode Island
Posts: 39
Default Re: big party...keep it hot

Jay,

Thanks for the very quick reply & very helpful comments.

Yes, it seems to take about an hour for the oven to clear, but the floor temp (at least where there is no fire) still seems cool-ish. After re-reading some of the posts, I think I'm not building the fire wide enough (keeping it too much in the middle). So will try that before the big event.

Also, after reading your advice, I don't think I've been doing the "fire during the pizza making" quite right. Probably leaving in too many coals and not keeping enough of a fire/flame going.

How did you handle making all those pizzas? Did people just eat in shifts?

Thanks, again.

Kathy

P.S. 32 college kids will certainly provide entertainment!
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  #14  
Old 08-20-2009, 07:42 AM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: San Antonio
Posts: 1,719
Default Re: big party...keep it hot

Hi Kathy!

I build my fire so it pretty much fills the oven for the last half hour. That puts coals everywhere to heat up the hearth. If the whole hearth isn't hot it will tend to lose heat pretty fast and you won't be able to easily get it hot.

You want the hearth in the 750 degree range where you will be cooking pizzas. If you don't have an infrared thermometer, toss some flour or semolina on the hearth (1/4 t. is enough) and count to three at a one second pace. The flour will be white, white, black on the counts of 1, 2, 3. If it is over about 5 seconds your hearth is too cool.

And yes, you want quite a bit of flame. It's flames that keep the oven hot and radiate heat down from the top to toast the top of the pizza and give the speckled caramelization that most of us like. I like my flames going up to near the top of the dome. And...if you haven't seen any posts on it, most of us put the fire to the SIDE - not in the back. This has two benefits: 1) you won't shove a pizza into the fire, 2) you will have a greater temperature profile and room to move pizzas from hotter to cooler (up front) areas on the side where you are cooking.

I typically do a total of one pizza a person and I deliberately keep my crowds down to about 20. I typically just do the pizzas about one every four-five minutes (and sometimes two at a time) and keep them rolling out. We decide what pizzas we are serving in advance (usually 4 or 5 different ones) and I make, say, 4 margharitas, then 4 Italian sausage and mozz, then 4 quattro formaggio, etc.

When I do smaller groups I usually leave the dough on a tray but when I do big groups I like to have the dough in individual bags to keep them from drying out.

You are almost doubling my max group size! My approach may not acccommodate a group that big. Others on the site involve guests in pizza prep but newbies usually put too much on the pizza, get sauce on the peel and under the pizza, and things can easily get sticky. When I do that I use aluminum pizza pans (like at pizzarias - I have about 20). I like them because I can put the pan directly in the oven and if they are "glued to the pan, the baking will solve the problem.

Good Luck! Please report back on your adventure!
Jay
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  #15  
Old 08-20-2009, 12:25 PM
ksm ksm is offline
Peasant
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Rhode Island
Posts: 39
Default Re: big party...keep it hot

Jay,

You are the best! Great info. Now I have a much better idea about firing the oven for pizzas. A problem in our previous trials was that not all the hearth was hot enough & it tended to cool down. Should have figured it out about the fire filling the oven for the last while, but didn't -- as my students would say, "Duh." (This may also explain the need to refire a bit before baking bread the other night.)

The restaurant supply place had those "pizza screens" and we were wondering about them for this event, but the pizza pans would be even better. We know what you mean about the creative ways pizzas get built. This past weekend, we ended up with one of those accidental calzones that others have mentioned on this forum. Our guests were gracious and did not complain -- we had warned them that they were guinea pigs for the evening!

I'll post after the event (next Sat. 8/29). Fortunately, there's still time to make a couple more trial runs. Messing around with the pizza oven sure beats putting a syllabus together, especially for a died-in-the-wool procrastinator!

Again, thank you.
Kathy
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  #16  
Old 08-20-2009, 01:12 PM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: San Antonio
Posts: 1,719
Default Re: big party...keep it hot

Hi Kathy!

We ALL have our blind spots and share of DUHs.

I think you have the title for a really good book, "The Accidental Calzone! Life's lessons learned from a forno!"

I have a couple of the "screens" but I like the old fashioned solid aluminum pans - about 13 inches in diameter. I know I found them at a restaurant supply place and I think I only paid about $2 each (or I wouldn't have 20 of them!) Even a few could be a great help for you can let people "build their own" and the pan will protect you from the normal exuberance! I have cooked them all the way on the pan (when overloaded) or on the pan for about a minute then pull it and move it to a peel and back in the oven "naked" on the hearth to finish it.

One final mantra for you. "In the world of WFOs sparcity is next to godliness!"

Good Luck!
Jay
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  #17  
Old 08-21-2009, 07:04 AM
ksm ksm is offline
Peasant
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Rhode Island
Posts: 39
Default Re: big party...keep it hot

Jay,

Once again, great advice -- and an enjoyable post. We'll see how things go. Fortunately, there is no rain in the forecast and the temperature is supposed to be decent. Now if the pizza will be as well! Stay tuned....

Kathy
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  #18  
Old 08-22-2009, 05:44 AM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: USA
Posts: 1,436
Default Re: big party...keep it hot

Hey Guys,

I agree the aluminum pans are the way to go, Especially for whole wheat pizza, the dough is always so sticky and must cook on the tray before it releases. Plus like someone said, guests ALWAYS put way too many toppings and sauce on their pizza....

As for Fire, I keep 2 fire bricks on the side of the oven, I throw a log on top every so often and it keeps the dome heated well and the log can breathe well, the coals pile up underneath and help keep the floor heated as well.

Its amazing to me what a great learning experience my brick oven has been, from building techniques and products to cooking and heat retention.

I havent made an accidental calzone "yet" (Im sure It wil happen)but your right, sounds like a great title for a pizza book.....

the last pic is a bacon and egg pizza, It is actually my favorite. You can put the bacon on raw, let it cook for a few, then put the eggs on, otherwise the eggs will hard boil

Enjoy
Mark

Last edited by ThisOldGarageNJ; 08-16-2010 at 06:49 PM.
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  #19  
Old 08-22-2009, 10:22 AM
ksm ksm is offline
Peasant
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Rhode Island
Posts: 39
Default Re: big party...keep it hot

Mark,

Thanks for the confirmation about aluminum pans and the idea for fire bricks on the side.

On another note, I saw your post about wooden dough boxes. Your wooden bowls are beautiful! Almost as good looking as the pizza pix you posted here!

Kathy
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  #20  
Old 08-22-2009, 12:27 PM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: USA
Posts: 1,436
Default Re: big party...keep it hot

Kathy,
Thank you for the compliments.... I will admit the brick thing was'nt my idea as Im sure I read it here somewhere on the forum. Believe it or not those were some of my first pizza's.. It doesnt take long to learn, You will be making them like that in no time
Enjoy

Mark

P.S. make sure you look up Dirty Steak

Last edited by ThisOldGarageNJ; 08-16-2010 at 06:49 PM.
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