This beautiful pizza was baked in the brick oven that my Opa built decades ago at the family cabin that he loved so much. It’s not a fancy place, and this oven is small, but it holds a lot of memories. I spent many summers playing hide-and-seek in the woods and cards inside in the evening, fishing, and eating what we caught alongside Oma’s amazing bread. We never made pizza in the brick oven; that’s a tradition I started a few years ago when I visited the cabin with friends. My grandparents are gone now, and my summer friends and I are all grown up and most of them have stopped going to the lake. As far as I know nobody else uses the old brick oven, but baking in it makes me think about my grandparents and all the good times we spent in this place.
This is the best pizza I’ve ever made. The crust takes a bit of planning ahead, but the sauce and toppings are easy. I found the recipe for the crust and sauce in A16 Food and Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren.
This recipe makes enough for about 4 medium-sized pizzas with a thin crust. I made a variety of toppings for mine.
What you need for the crust:
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 & 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups “oo” flour or all-purpose (I used all-purpose)
What you need for the tomato sauce and toppings:
one 28-ounce can of tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them)
1-2 teaspoons salt
1 link of cured chorizo sausage
small black olives
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, bashed up a little with a mortar and pestle
about 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
What you do:
1. Begin preparing the dough a day before you want to make the pizza. You can do this by hand, but it’s just a bit more work. Pour the water into a mixer with a dough hook and then sprinkle the yeast on top. Leave it for about 10 minutes and it should become foamy – if it doesn’t your water was the wrong temperature, or the yeast is dead. Stir in the olive oil and salt. Add the flour and mix on low for 2 minutes. Knead on medium-low for about 10 minutes – it will pull away from the bowl and begin to look smoother. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead once more on medium-low for 10 minutes – it will be smooth and quite soft. If it seems much too sticky you can add a little more flour. Coat a bowl with a little olive oil and then coat both sides of the dough with olive oil, placing the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge over night.
2. In the morning remove the dough from the fridge and punch it down. Fold the sides of the dough under and put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it sit in a warm (not hot) place until about 2 hours before you need it.
3. Punch the dough down and divide it into 4 pieces. Form them into balls and cover them with a damp towel for about 2 hours. By this time the dough should have doubled in volume. If it starts to get a skin on it you can spray it with a little water.
4. To prepare the sauce, just put the tomatoes and juice into a bowl and squish them into little bits with your hands. Add the salt.
5. Cut the chorizo into thin slices and fry them briefly. I like to do this to get a bit of the fat out, but it isn’t a necessary step. Put the cut chorizo onto a paper towel to soak up excess fat.
6. Preheat the oven to 500-550 F.
7. To form the crusts, shape the dough into a disk with your hands. Push down in the centre with your palm and pull the dough out gently with your other hand, rotating slightly until you have a crust that is about 10-12 inches/25-30 cm in diameter with a slightly raised edge. (I cheated a little in the beginning and used a rolling-pin.) Dust your baking pan generously and place the crust on it. I don’t have a proper pizza stone or pan, but the cookie sheet I used worked just fine.
8. Spread some tomato sauce onto the crust, then sprinkle with the anise seeds. Add some chorizo and olives, then toss on a little cheese. Avoid over-topping your pizza, as it will end up soggy.
9. Bake for 6-7 minutes, until the crust is crisp and golden, and the top is bubbling. I made and baked the pizzas one at a time because the brick oven only fits one pan. This was a great way to do it, as it allowed us to sample each pizza as it came out of the oven, then tend to the next one.
Wait just a minute before eating so you don’t burn your mouth, then dig in!