Hints (Hints on cooking Pizza, Roasts, etc) in a Wood Fired Brick Oven)
Proofing - Rising Dough
Hint on pizza dough rising: Place dough ball in a pan sufficient to allow for tripling in size, into a oven. Place a towel over dough container. Place a pan of warm water on bottom of oven, with dough container on the rack above this. Close door and let rise twice, punching down when it has doubled in size. Ready when it has doubled a 2nd time. Using the warm water in the oven provides a moist, warm controller environment for the dough to rise in.
There are also many fine references on the web on how to build proofing boxes using innovative and low cost items such as a cooler with a low wattage light bulb inside. I will be trying one of these soon and will add some information on my experiences.
For enhanced flavors, prepare the dough the night before and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator. You will be amazed at how much additional flavor develops in this overnight rise. I use 1 gallon zip-lock baggies, that have been coated inside with olive oil. You will need to "punch down" the dough every few hours at first until the rising slows.
Freezing and Reheating
Make your pizza's the size of 1 gallon Ziploc freezer baggies (approximately 12 inches). Cook as normal. Cool. Place in gallon baggie and freeze. I have recently discovered 2 gallon freezer bags which are great for larger pizzas.
To serve, take out of baggie and place on center rack of a cold oven. Place foil or a pan on the rack below the pizza. You can omit the foil if the pizza has a solid (no holes) crust, or if you put a pan on the shelf below the pizza to catch any drippings.
Cook at 400 for 20 minutes (until crispy on bottom and toppings heated). Baggie retains flavor and moisture. Pizza taste and smell close to fresh made.
I can smell the wood oven every time I reheat one of these frozen pizzas.
Note in the picture on the right how the crust still has the crispy oven marks and texture. Now don't get me wrong, a fresh baked pizza in the wood oven is best, but this isn't a bad substitute when you are craving one of your wood oven pizzas :)
How to do large numbers of pizzas
We have tried two different techniques.
1) Pre-bake crusts. Mix, let rise, and then when ready, shape into desired size and slide into the oven for 30 to 60 seconds (depending on oven temperature). The pre-baked crusts stack well and will hold up better under heavy load (large amounts) of toppings. You can do a large number of these before guests arrive and then spend more time working with everyone to "create their own"
2) Pre-shape crusts. Similar to pre-bake. Mix, let rise, and then when ready shape into desired size. I then place the pre-formed crust on a pie pan or floured card board (12" size is what I normally use). You can then stack these with wax paper between or on a rack (see my pictures) and let them rise again a bit before cooking. I use this approach more than the pre-bake, but the pre bake has its advantages as well.
Low Smoke Fire Starting and Maintaining.
I have created an entire page on how to build and maintain a low smoke , neighbor friendly, fire. Click on the following or use the top navigation to go to Fires - Build and Maintain
How to work with large pieces of firewood
This is an area I struggled with for some time. I tried using standard wood splitting wedges and large mallets. Finally I discovered a relatively low cost solution, a 10 ton horizontal, 2 speed (manual) wood splitter. Click on the following or use the top navigation to go to Fires - Build and Maintain to see the wood splitter and what it can do.