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A few weeks ago, a bushel of us meadowlings got together for an impromptu salt block pizza party. It was a Friday night. We were coming from a long day of work. We didn't have our sh*t all the way together. But we did have pizza dough, meats, cheeses, various sauces, and random bits and bobs from the fridge. So onward we went into the night.
Pizza is the ultimate template for ingredients: fresh, favorite, or far-flung. Just about any sauce will provide a base, just about any topping will elevate it, and just about any herbs and spices will tune the flavor to perfection. But what really sets everything on fire (figuratively speaking) is the dough sizzling and bubbling on the wicked hot salt block. The block protects the pizza from the direct heat of the grill, and at the same time puts an enormous amount of energy into the dough to cook it evenly and crisp. I prefer charcoal because it gets hotter and adds a bit more flavor, but a gas grill works great, too.
The concept is simple enough: get a salt block piping hot. Shape the dough and throw it on the super hot salt block, cooking each side for a minute or two. Then pile on your sauce and toppings and cook for a bit longer to get everything all crispy and bubbly.
I have to say, we have some pretty damn creative culinarily geniuses on our team. There was pesto and pepperoni and mozzarella; pizza with anchovies, basil and red sauce; pizza with prosciutto, burrata, olive oil and flaky salt; pizza with red sauce and three cheeses. And on, and on, and on - nine pizzas in total. Crispy, juicy, bubbly, saucy, salty perfection!
1 cup warm water (110ºF to 115ºF)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons The Meadow extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons Bitterman’s Fleur de Sel
2 ¾ cups bread flour, plus more as needed
Olive oil, for coating
½ to 1 cup sauce - marinara, puttanesca, pesto, bechamel, bbq - whatever you like!
1 cup cheese - mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola, goat cheese, gouda, manchego, etc.
3 cups toppings - prosciutto, pepperoni, pancetta, bacon, chicken, anchovies, garlic, cremini mushrooms, red onion, olives, etc.
Garnishes - red chili flakes, olive oil, crushed oregano, basil, chives, hot honey, hot sauce, etc
Flaky salt, for serving
To prepare the dough, combine the water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl, stirring until mixed. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, the salt, and flour and stir into a kneadable dough.
Turn onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, but try to add as little flour as possible.
Coat a large bowl with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and add the dough, turning to coat it with the oil. Cover and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour, or overnight in the refrigerator.
An hour before you are ready to start grilling, put the salt blocks on an unheated gas grill. Heat the grill to low, cover the grill, and warm the block for 20 minutes. Raise the heat to medium and wait another 20 minutes. Raise it to high and wait another 20 minutes. A laser thermometer aimed at the center of the block should register around 550°F. If using charcoal, bank a chimney of red-hot charcoal briquettes to one side of the firebox. Put the block on the grill grate away from the fire and cover the grill. In 20 minutes, add a dozen more pieces of charcoal to the fire and, using grill gloves, move the block so that it is over the new coals. In 30 minutes, your block will be 550°F and ready for grilling.
While the salt block is heating, get your sauce and toppings together. Cut 2 or 4 pieces of foil, depending on whether you are making 2 medium pizzas or 4 individual pizzas. Coat one of the pieces with mild oil. Divide the dough into 2 or 4 pieces. Put one piece of dough on the prepared foil and cover the other piece(s). Press and stretch the dough on the foil into a circle ¹∕8 to ¼ inch thick. Don’t bother making a rim around the edge of the crust unless you like it for aesthetics. Coat the top of the dough round with mild oil. Repeat with the remaining dough and foil, oiling each dough round well and stacking them up.
Invert a circle of dough onto each salt block. If you can fit 2 pieces per stone, do so. Cover the grill and cook each round until bubbly on the top and lightly browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Invert the dough rounds so that the cooked side is up. Drizzle with a little of the flavorful oil. Spread the sauce over the top, leaving a rim all around. Scatter the cheese over the sauce and arrange the toppings over the cheese. Close the grill lid and grill until the cheese melts and the bottom is browned, about 6 minutes more. Remove to a cutting board.
Drizzle the pizzas with the remaining flavorful oil and top with the garnish.
Cut medium pizzas into 6 to 8 wedges; cut individual pizzas into quarters and serve!
Recipe adapted from Mark Bitterman's Salt Block Grilling