Pizza party for 35. Fire/pizza management and statistics
Pizza party: Oven, dough and pizza management
Last weekend, on Saturday night, there was a pizza party in home.
I had a lot of parties with around 20 invitees.
Never complained and with great feedback each time.
This one, with a crew of 35, showed several challenges and a loooot of fun.
Due to lack of time there were three dough batches.
The first one was prepared with 48 hours of antecedence. TLNY style with preferment, 1400 g of flour (49.4 oz), 63% hydration, 1% oil, 1.75% salt, 20% preferment (50/50 ratio).
75% of flour in 75% of water with the preferment, hand kneaded (mixed), 30 min autolyse, a little knead, then the rest of flour and water were kneaded in. Followed by salt, brief hand knead and finally the oil. Brief knead again. Five minutes of rest. Divided and shaped in 8 balls of 300/310 grams (10.9 oz) and two individual pizza dough.
Each ball was airtight closed in an oiled Ziplog type bag (a little pressure was applied over the balls resulting in flat circles instead).
The batch was placed in the refrigerator to rest.
The second batch, prepared with 24 hours in antecedence, was TLNY style, hand kneaded too, with 1600 g (56.5 oz), 63% water, 0.8% oil, 1.75% salt, 10% preferment (50/50) and 0.15% IDY.
The process was like as the previous one, with the IDY been added after autolyse, combined with the left of the flour and water.
This batch gives 9 310/320g (11 oz) dough balls.
The third one was not really a batch, just one big foccacia dough.
In the night before the party, using preferment and flour, a little -almost solid (80/20) piece of dough (may be 80/100g -3.5 oz) was prepared as a biga.
In Saturday morning, this biga was divided in little pieces and mixed with 350g (12.4 oz) of flour and 200g (7 oz) of preferment, slightly hand kneaded, this ‘pastry’ was incorporated with 150g (5.3 oz) of water, 1 Tsp honey, 2 tsp salt and 10 Tsp Evoo until a oiled (and very wet) dough ball was obtained.
The dough fermented at room temperature by nearly two hours, almost doubling in size. Deflated, stretched and gently folded three times in three hours. Since the dough seems to be ready to bake, it rested into the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation.
Normally I use to use some newspaper and several branches or light pieces of wood to begin the fire, increased with three or four eucalyptus stems with 60/80 cm (2.5 ft) and 10/15 cm (four/five) inches in diameter when the fire is on. When the path of the flames is stabilized these embers are pushed to the rear of the oven and new similar stems are added, increasing the flames and the temperature rating.
In the average fires, the hearth reach the 400°C (750°F) and the ceiling of the dome goes to 600°C (1100°F) in an hour and half.
After that, the flamed embers are arranged on the right side of the dome (I prefer those there, to have a lot of space to bake two pizzas maintaining an eye on them), the coals are retired and the hearth (just the free space without embers) is brushed and cleaned with a wet cloth.
This arrangement lets the hearth temperature go a little high (the ambient temperature is around the 1000°C (1800°F)).
For me, the range of hearth temperature between 410/450°C (770/840°F) is the best to bake without spend a lot more of wood or time.
This Saturday night was a rainy one.
The oven is protected in the barbecue area, however the courtyard (or ‘Cuisiner’ playground if you like) is divided by a big open space.
I need to confess that I was a little worried because the quantity of invitees, the space to share with them, the tables, chairs, dough, pizzas, sauce, beer, more beer and then the rain being the night star. It was party time minus 1 hour. Uauhhh. Let the fire begin and go to install something to protect the people from rain!!! I had asked to crew to do not be delayed!!!
The oven was full charged with big stems, the fire creak in heavy flames. I was sure that this hell in the hole was going to melt the hearth. I was not worried with it. I let it going and went to install a big truck canvas closing the open ceiling.
Ok, first visitor arriving, thin rain over the canvas, big fire in hole, fist four dough out of the refrigerator, already at ambient temperature, all under control...
Surprisingly, the ambient temperature in the oven was around the 1000°C (1800°F), the dome temperature was 650°C (1200°F) and the temperature of the hearth was…75°C (170°F)! What? 75°C means that the increasing rate of the hearth was 10°C (18°F) by hour? I feel myself a dead man!
The crew was increasing. Let think, let think. Beer, please, beer to all…
Ok. This was the mistake. The 4/5 inches stems were ‘arranged by themselves’, one sided the other on the hearth, this arrangement created a ‘bed’ of wood over the hearth, this ‘bed’ acted as a heat shield to the hearth. The big hot flames heated the entire dome, however the hearth was protected from heat!.
Several embers were removed, the others were moved to the dome side, the hearth was brushed and cleaned.
Thirty/forty minutes and 8 beers after, the hearth was at 450°C (850°F), the ceiling bricks at 650°C (1200°F) and the ambient temperature around the 900/1000°C (1800°F).
All the invitees were there.
The party was extended by more than 4 hours and little pieces of wood were added to the sided fire, just to maintain the flames going.
From time to time, the hearth was brushed and cleaned.
Ah, Gosh! The oven is ready, there are a hungry feel in the air, even my dog is looking at me.
The first pizza will be the one that always had delighted the invitees, my always first choice, the Marguerita. It is ok Shaping the dough, sauce, muzz, basil, hot oven…
This dough was out of the refrigerator almost two hours, near of the oven ambient. It was shaped a little thinner too. The peel was retired in only one movement. Figure that?
This only movement stretch out the delicate dough, the center collapses, bonding in the hearth. Oh, I am a dead man again…
May I have another beer, please?
Disposed the first pizza, mind refreshed, the second one (Marguerita too) was a winner. And so, the 18 that follow those (wisely removed from the refrigerator!)
The foccacia made furor.
The last three, brigadeiro (regional sweet dessert) and granulated chocolate, condensed milk and banana and ice cream pizza were devoured by people with space to nothing more.
I was, then, a living and smiling man.
Party and pizza management
Three or four friendly invitees were instructed where the beer and refreshment were.
All the invitees were asked to take the drinks by themselves.
The first half dozen pizzas were baked almost without interval between each other. May be were spend 15 minutes to serve all the six.
Remember that the invitees were waiting there by one hour!
There were several wood pizza forms waiting for each pizza and so to many assistant to slice it.
Each pizza was sliced in little pieces, like a third of a normal slice. Everyone serves himself either using plates and plastic cutlery or hands and napkins.
I had a list with the pizzas type and order to bake.
A big bols with sauce (one day old), another with muzz and lots of little vessels with individual toppings were on the big table (half a tennis table).
A live branch of basil (what a smell…) gave the natural touch to this table.
A lot of tables and chairs were distributed all along.
The remainder pizzas were baked as necessary. Several of those were topped as asked by the invitees. The rate of pizza baking returns to expected as normal.
The teenagers topped theirs individual pizzas and loved the challenge.
Other ones helping me with the pizza work.
Some one was in charged to draw out the water from the canvas…Rainy night!
Fourth and last message
In this party, where 35 persons eating and drinking (and thanks God, smiling) during more than four hours, were consumed
Eighteen 35 cm (14‘) pizzas plus a 50x37x4 cm (20’x15’x11/2’) foccacia (nearly, a half pizza/invitee)
Three kilograms (106 oz) of mozzarella (200g – 7oz /pizza)
5 kg (176 oz) of flour (250g – 8.8 oz/pizza)
2 lt of sauce (110g – 4oz/pizza)
700 ml of beer/invitee (quantity of beer divided by quantity of invitees, no division)
400 ml of soda/invitee (quantity of beer divided by quantity of invitees, no division), meaning 1100 ml of liquid by invitee (was a rainy night with 22°C – 71°F)
4 lt of ice cream (220 ml/invitee)
10/12 eucalyptus stems with 60/80 cm (2.5 ft) and 10/15 cm (four/five) inches in diameter
The pizzas were baked at 410/450°C (770/840°F) by something around 1 ½ minutes.
Normal time to reach this temperature in this oven 11/2, 2 hours (did not happen this time)
Always be positive (truly positive and do not so far optimistic).
Be prepared to little plan deviations.
Anticipate your needs and prepare your equipment (clean the oven, verify the firewood, take a look at your fire tools)
Prepare the dough as normal. Calculate the necessary quantity. Go to the safe side.
Divide and organize the toppings.
All the toppings will be at ambient temperature when being used.
Prepare something special or any activity to the children.
Know your oven.
Prepare and maintain the fire going on. Do not over charge it. Give space to the flux/flow follow the natural path.
A lot of little embers will do a better job than few coarse ones.
Have something/same place to discard the unnecessary coals.
Take out the dough from the refrigerator just when necessary to slightly reach the ambient temperature.
Have a list with the pizza type, topping and order to be baked.
The peel/peels will be clean and maintained in place.
Verify that the semolina/cornmeal/flour or any that you will use to slip the pizza on the peel is near of this last.
Be sure that the unbaked pizza runs free on the peel (by shaking the peel)
Transfer the pizza from peel to the oven hearth with little movements of the peel to front and rear (this will maintain the pizza shape).
Know where the baked pizza is going when coming out of the oven.
Prepare several wood/cardboard pizza containers.
Identify who, when and where is going to slice/serve the pizza.
Show your invitees where the drinks are. Or ask to somebody to serve them.
Somebody will need open the main door to receipt the invitees, specially the last ones.
Remember that will be not easy to have a pair of seconds to eat some slice. May be you could give a bit at your wife´s slice.
Will be easy to spend a second drinking some beer. Beer is never too much or too cold.
Many single seconds without none pair of seconds equal oven movement and pizza dropping. Be carefully.
Do not worry, be happy
I love the pictures showing the flame licking up into the flue. That is when I start to get nervous...
Way to go! That is just what we all hope for. Man, that was one hot oven.
SOunds like you did a great job of managing it all I can hardly wait till mine is up and runnng.
Thanks for all the detail on this. You spent an enormous amount of time making pizzas for 35 people, and I'm suspecting almost as much in sharing it with the forum. Well documented, well done, and completely appreciated. One question: why no division on the beer per person. Very odd.
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