Backyard Pizza Session


Mike’s checking the temp on his oven floor!

Last weekend was insane-o! My friend Mike invited me to his house in NJ to play with his wood-fired oven. He built it from a Forno Bravo kit and that thing really cranks! Mike’s company DoughMate makes sweet home-size dough trays and it’s really cool to see how working with the pizza industry has overrun his life. He was using an amazing experimental tray, but it’s so top secret I’m not allowed to publish photos. Lucky for us, the pizza is enough to keep the eyes occupied.

The oven interior is pretty small but Mike was able to bake two pies at once. Gutsy move, Mike! This photo shows two Margherita pizzas baking side-by-side. Each lasted about 2 minutes on the oven floor and they tasted excellent. One of these babies had garlic and the aroma was nose-tacular.

Mike’s pizza making skills come from watching some of the best pizza makers on Earth. Since Mike sells proofing trays to most pizza makers in the USA, he gets to hang with the best dough jockeys out there. But pizza trays aren’t very sexy, so I’ll skip right to photos of the finished pizzas, which are.

 
 

That first pie is your Margherita. Ye-haw! Next up was a mighty tasty salami and white onion. Then there’s the gorgeous arugula and prosciutto with shaved parmigiano.

The last one was an experiment. Nutella pizza isn’t anything new, but neither of us had ever made one this way before. Earlier in the day, I saw the pizzaiolo at Zero Otto Nove in the Bronx slashing holes through a piece of dough. He was docking the dough so the center wouldn’t rise during a naked bake - that’s when there’s no cover to protect a dough from rising in the oven. The goal was to remove a puffy-crusted base from the oven and apply some Nutella afterward. So that’s what we did. It worked out alright, but we didn’t get a big rise on the lip because the oven had cooled from all the other pizzas.

We went digging around for some powdered sugar to finish the job and found a bag of lonely marshmallows looking for a home. We thought it would be fun to toss them on the pizza and hold it up against the oven dome for a few seconds to get some browning. It was definitely fun and definitely delicious.

 

Thanks to Mike and Linda for hosting such an amazing evening of pizza making with their lovely outdoor wood-fired brick oven!

Lombardi’s Restores Oven Interior

Most coal-fired pizza ovens require daily maintenance to keep their fuel burning evenly and the pizzas baking evenly. This doesn’t require much, merely a few fresh shovels of coal and a quick dusting of the oven floor. But Lombardi’s in Soho steps it up a notch with an annual multi-day shutdown, complete with brickwork and insulation fixes. Over the past few years, the oven has had interior issues due to its old age (the oven dates back to the late 1800’s) so a more thorough job was necessary this time around. The ceiling had become warped and misshapen, leading to an uneven heat across the hearth. The renovation restored what is likely the original arched oven ceiling shape. This curve allows for even heating and more efficient fuel consumption. Lombardi’s fired her up today and pies were coming out quite nicely for an oven that had been cold for days.

 

The picture on the left shows the interior of the oven as it was being repaired last year. Yes, that is me inside. Yes, the floor temperature was over 300 degrees F. Yes, I had a piece of plywood preventing me from touching the actual oven floor. No, I didn’t have a ton of room to move around. The picture on the right shows the newly redesigned arched ceiling, which allows for more even baking and plenty of room to crawl about!